In the past couple weeks I’ve helped with two events to train people on how to advocate with elected officials. It seems there is a new energy afoot after the Women’s March, and a lot of people who have not been engaged are asking how they can be active now.
The choices can appear overwhelming – but they don’t have to be.
I asked my eldest daughter, a budding activist, to pull some ideas off the Internet to help others. Here is her recommendations. BTW, she’s the blond one in the picture, and is now 24.
I know for me at least things feel overwhelming and terrifying lately, with so many horrible things happening so quickly. It can be demoralizing. But a few different activists have suggested something that’s helped me a lot, which is to narrow your focus to three issues you care about. This doesn’t mean nothing else matters or that you’ll ignore / stay uninformed about everything else, just that you’ll focus the bulk of your energy and actions on “your three.” Because no one can do all the things all the time without burning out, and we can’t afford to burn out.
Mikki (a woman who posts a daily newsletter mentioned below) elaborated on this idea, and suggested breaking down those three things into
- something to be a leader on
- something to be a follower on
- something to make a habit of
So for example, I’ve decided this is how I’ll spend my energy:
- taking leadership on arts and culture (I’m studying to get my Master’s in arts management and I work with a local activist theatre group, so this is already something I spend a lot of time and energy on; leadership will mean immersing myself more fully and trying to do some organizing around censorship issues and the funding of the NEA)
- being a follower on Black Lives Matter (this includes reading / listening to black activists, showing up to marches where white bodies can provide a buffer between black protestors and police who might otherwise get violent, etc)
- making a habit of keeping up-to-date on health care issues (including mental health issues, reproductive rights, access to hormones for trans people, insurance / ACA issues, etc) and calling / writing to my representatives two or three times a week on these issues
I’m also following a few different action item newsletters which can be helpful when looking for things to do that can make a difference:
- This daily newsletter is informal / conversational, which I like; it’s written by one young woman (Mikki; her twitter is here) who’s not afraid to be emotionally honest about when she’s feeling discouraged, angry, excited, etc., which makes it feel very real, like a conversation with another person who cares about the issues as much as the reader does. See below for more on this.
- This is a sample issue of a thorough weekly newsletter I follow — the subscription link is at the top of the page. You can see that this newsletter includes a lot of action items, which can be overwhelming, but is really useful in that it outlines all the steps (complete with reps’ contact info) necessary for each individual item, and then you can pick and choose which ones you’re willing / able to carry out.
- Swing Left is an organization / movement that includes a newsletter: you put in your zip code and they match you with the closest swing district, then send out information whenever there’s an opportunity for you to help push that district blue so it goes for a Democratic rep / reps in the next election.
- The ACLU and SPLC weekly newsletters are also really good. They tend to be more like traditional newsletters and less focused on action items, but iirc signing up does also put you on their list for “push” emails so they notify you when there’s an urgent action item (for example the ACLU emailed me tonight asking me to make a call as part of a Hail Mary push to delay or prevent the Jeff Sessions appointment).
- Perhaps most important is for people to identify local organizations, or local chapters of national organizations, that they want to support, and get involved at least in part by signing up for those newsletters.
- Also newsletters aren’t the only or necessarily best way to stay up-to-date; finding activists / organizations you want to support on Twitter, Facebook, etc is also a good way to stay involved. So is subscribing to a local newspaper.
- Staying up-to-date with reps on social media is really important too!! I’m on twitter a lot so I made two twitter lists to check regularly: one that consolidates all tweets from my Hawaii reps, and one that consolidates tweets from reps all over the country who I think are saying and doing interesting / important / insightful things (whether or not I agree with them).
I hope all that is helpful to you!
Very best wishes, and good luck,