November 18, 2017

Democracy is not a dictator sport: direct action is crucial to political progress

There is little debate over the effectiveness of the American people who have relentlessly applied pressure on elected officials throughout the past year. Health insurance was saved, investigations were launched, bans were lifted, all as a result of the people taking the streets and overloading legislators’ message machines to demand that elected officials listen to the communities that they represent in this country.

These feats are truly remarkable; they remind me that what we are fighting for is having an effect, and more importantly, that it is worth it. Admittedly, I dream that our collective action and grassroots organizing will eventually define a movement in our history books that has created systematic change for the future of Americans.  I don’t want the dark stains on our democracy and attacks on fellow Americans of 2017 to define this era of change, so for the sake of our nation, and our brothers and sisters that make it so great, I write to you today to say we must keep going in reclaiming our time, values and existence.

Last week I attended the Women’s Convention in Detroit, Michigan with other Webster students. We went to invest in our own capabilities to make change in our communications. I left the Convention feeling inspired about the intersectionality of our work and the incredible people on our side. However, leaving the Convention meant returning to a world where we have only just started the uphill battle. While we have shown we are a force to be reckoned with, we are far from ending the attacks on the middle class, marginalized communities and citizens of the world, a truth reiterated by Convention leaders. So, I have compiled five ways in which I have learned how  we can all take direct political action.

One, we need to know our elected officials. Each of us have city, state, and federal officials that need to be held accountable to the constituents they represent. We must know their voting records, attend their town halls (or demand they have them), follow them on social media, email, or other preferred methods of communication.

Two, we must take action by making calls, tweets, and comments on Facebook, to let them know how we feel about an upcoming vote or which issues they need take action on. We need to tell our stories via  email or  letters so they can advocate on behalf of us.

Three, we must take to the streets through protest and knocking on doors (canvassing). We can’t leave disenfranchised people behind anymore; we must listen to them and act on their issues because they intersect with ours. We must talk with our neighbors, family, and friends, sometimes about critical and uncomfortable topics. We must find a way to bring them into our work, or at least respect it.

Four, we must be civically engaged on a local level. We need to sign the petitions that seek to earn enough signatures to put constituent sponsored issues on the ballot (Minimum Wage Increase, Clean MO Campaign Finance Reform, Audit St. Louis, etc. contact me to sign or to have petitions at your next meeting.) We can join and participate in advocacy organizations for an issue most pertinent to our life, and then use that platform to lead. We need to consider joining a board or commission after graduation, from school boards to parks and recreation. We need to have a presence at city halls or municipality meetings. We can take initiative to elect or reelect people that serve us by volunteering on a campaign.  Finally, quite plainly, run for office. Perhaps this is the area in which we have the most work to do, since our long-term complacency led to the takeover of our communities and our states.

Five, vote like your life depends on it. Because for many of us, it does.

No matter the type or extent of our role in this movement, we must depend on each other to take action because we know what happens when the voice of one is considered insignificant.  We the people, we the patriots, have the power to shape tomorrow through policy and culture changes that progress the movement that we have started and one that could result in the successful achievement of a more inclusive and prosperous future.

Get resources on how to contact legislators at Sunnen Lounge on December 5th from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m as students come together to support Dreamers in a day of action or contact the me at mprice11@webster.edu

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