Action this Week – August 16, 2019

A Very Special Guest at Our August IMV Meeting

More than seventy Mohawk Valley Indivisibles met an unexpected guest at our August meeting on Wednesday. Rep. Anthony Brindisi took time out of his busy in-district activity schedule during the August recess to spend some time with his progressive constituents in the Mohawk Valley.

As one of New Mexico’s Indivisible Group Leader’s put it when she heard about the event, “Your group is on the map if your MoC will drop by for a surprise Q and A session! Way to build power and influence!”

Rep. Brindisi answered questions for more than 45 minutes about immigration, and protecting asylum seekers from the Trump administration, gun violence, impeachment, agriculture, and services to veterans. He also talked about infrastructure, broadband, and reducing drug prices.

A highlight of the conversation: A youth attendee from Utica shared her idea for regulating gun purchases based on the psychological assessment process used prior to medical approval of gender reassignment surgery.  Rep. Brindisi praised the young speaker for her engagement and courage in speaking out, and expressed appreciation for her input.  Remember when Rep. Tenney addressed even middle schoolers with sarcastic and denigrating responses?  We can’t go back to that!

Citizen Action Education Committee Activism in Utica School District

We heard from several members of Citizen Action’s Education Committee, including a parent and some students. They have been attending Utica Board of Education meetings for more than a year, and regularly speak during the public comment periods.  They have addressed the Board on topics of diversity and inclusion, transparency and communication, and the importance of having a Code of Conduct focused on creating a learning environment where every student feels welcome and safe, instead of a policy that treats students like inmates in a prison.

It is hard to fight entrenched power and corruption, but this group is tireless. They have filed Freedom of Information requests, challenged the Board to start following public meeting law, and have continued to ask questions about what decisions are being made without any public comment or involvement.

Many more parents in Cornhill would like to get involved but they face barriers related to transportation to meetings, child care, and food.  (Parents, especially low income parents, need to have a meal for themselves and their kids if they are going to attend a meeting after work!)   A number of IMV members signed up to provide one or more of the three items: rides, on site child care, and food to be delivered to the meetings. Thanks to all those who did!  If you want to add your name to the list, email centralny@citizenactionny.org.

Recently, some of the students have become involved in the effort for a more positive school climate, and have decided to form a youth activism group within Citizen Action. IMV passed baskets around the room and raised $368 to help them start up their group.  If you were’t able to be at the meeting and want to contribute to these hard working youth activists, just click here.

That monetary collection was in addition to the many food donations that IMV members brought to the meeting to be delivered to the Rome Community Schools food bank so that kids and families have enough to eat as shelves are running low at the end of the summer.

Allyship with low income people and people of color–those most directly impacted by unjust policies and systems–is an important part of our progressive, Indivisible values.  Thank you to our generous members!

#DefundHate Week of Action: What You Need to Know Now

Jen DeWeerth and Sarah Reeske gave a brief overview of Indivisible’s National Campaigns Network Gathering  in Arlington, VA over the weekend.  There were 300 Indivisible Group Leaders present from across the country including Hawaii and Alaska–from the reddest red states and districts to the bluest blue districts. We heard stories of capacity building, bird-dogging, primary challenges to entrenched incumbents, electoral victories in state legislatures, and flipped districts.  Indivisible’s 2020 two step plan is simple: Defeat Trump and Save Democracy.

Right now the top issue we are working on is the #DefundHate National Day of Action Basically, the appropriations process is our best chance to act to stop Trump’s deportation machine. If you care about ending Trump’s racist immigration policies—like separating, caging, and tear gassing families—make a call today and tell your Member of Congress (MoC) to cut funding for ICE and CBP, and get rid of the slush fund that will allow ICE to continue terrorizing immigrant communities.

Democrats will need to stand strong together in order to deprive ICE and CBP of the massive increases they’ve been receiving to militarize the border, and put thousands of people in unsafe and inhumane detention centers.  It’s our job to make sure Rep. Brindisi stands strong.  So, we will start calling his office daily from now until the appropriation bill is passed in September.

For now here is the big ASK of every one of you: 

1. Tell us you’re all in for the September fight by texting Defund Hate to 977-79. We’ll send you the latest updates on our plan for the Week of Action, and you’ll find out the details of the epic rally we are planning for Sept. 13th.

2. Call Rep. Brindisi right now at 1-844-909-0232 to tell his staff you demand that he vote to cut funding for ICE and CBP in this September’s budget. You’ll get a simple script and be connected directly to his office.

Cutting off the funds that Trump is using for his reign of terror and incarceration is the most important thing. Want to know where ICE detention facilities are? Hint: there are A LOT of them in NY).  If you’re also interested in what Congress SHOULD be paying for to make things better at the border, and better for asylum seekers, please take a look at at this list, prepared by Indivisible partner, the National Immigrant Justice Center.  There ARE things that can be done, but it may take defeating Trump before the American government will do them.

IMV August Survey Results

Sarah Reeske shared the results of our August member survey at the Wednesday meeting. 73 people participated in the online survey.  THANK YOU to all who answered the questions!

Overall, our members are satisfied with their representation in Congress and they plan to continue to do the work to re-elect Rep. Brindisi in 2020 that they did to help him defeat Tenney in 2018.  However, people are nervous about the 2020 election, and want to make sure that we defeat Trump and save democracy.  So, if that is you, you’re in the right group, because that is our plan!

If you want to read Sarah’s summary in a google doc, here it is. Onward!

IMV Book Club Monday, Sept. 9th:  “Don’t Think of an Elephant”

The IMV book group is reading  “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” (“The All New” 2014 edition) by George Lakoff. This best selling book on framing is good background for our September meeting topic on messaging and communicating with people who are less progressive than we are. We will have a discussion on Monday, September 9th, 7-9 pm at the Kirkland Town Library (History room). If you have any questions, feel free to email Jennifer at jgeiger777@gmail.com.

Weekly Vigil for the Migrants Detained, Separated

IMV has joined with Pax Christi to hold a weekly vigil for the families separated at the border.  We will not hold the vigil on Wednesday, Aug. 14th because of the conflict with our monthly meeting, but we will gather again on Wednesday, August 21st.  We will meet at Oneida Square Roundabout (new location) for maximum visibility on Wednesdays from 5:30-6:30 pm.  Please bring your posters.

We will hold the vigil at least until the Sept. 13th Defund Hate National Day of Action.  Let’s not let anyone forget the people trapped in detention centers with inadequate food, water, space, hygiene, and medical care, many of them children.

A Note from the Editor

Wow, just wow!  I had the chance to attend New York State Indivisible’s Convening in Albany in late July where we had two days with about 80 or 90 Indivisible Group activists from across the state, and a number of the national staff.  Sarah Reeske was the key organizer, and she blew the lid off the event.  We learned about everything from early voting in New York (it’s going to make GOTV very different!) to how Indivisible groups can use technology (our own Voter Activation Network) to grow our numbers and build power.  We had training on making our movement inclusive and oriented toward racial justice, and we built a statewide plan to win in 2020.

Then, just last weekend, I attended Indivisible’s first ever national meeting, the National Campaigns Network Gathering. We heard from Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin (you can pre-order the book!) about how their google doc Guide born out of their own post Nov. 9th experience with other former Congressional Staffers led to a massive political movement in which we all play a part, and which fueled the Blue Wave of 2018.

For me the most powerful part of the weekend was the chance to talk with people from all across the country who had experiences just like ours.  One after the other I met other progressive people who came away from 2016 worried about Trump and the future of democracy in our country, and decided to do something about it, not alone, but with neighbors and friends. On Monday, after the Gathering ended, more than 200 group leaders stayed an extra day in Washington, DC in order to lobby on the Hill.  It was a great start to our #DefundHate campaign!

IMV was one of about 60 groups nominated for an award, for our efforts to defeat #OneTermTenney, especially our epic TenneyTrump Rally on August 13, 2018 that brought together more than 2000 protesters to the streets of downtown Utica. We lost out to the entire statewide network of Colorado Indivisible groups, who not only flipped a district, but flipped them all, along with the Governor’s mansion and a whole bunch of state offices!

However, we had our own New York state story about how we worked together and helped get rid of the IDC in 2018 and pass a whole platform of progressive legislation in Albany in 2019.  Many of our IMV members worked on those issues as part of statewide issue coalitions on including election reform and climate protections, and will continue to work on those issues and health care in the next session.

I could not have been more proud of all that we have accomplished since our early days at the start of 2017, nor more energized by being part of a national movement that is truly ground up.  Ezra and Leah were clear: they didn’t start a group and then build a membership.  They put out a document, we all built the groups in every city, town and rural area, and then, over time, an organization emerged to support us.

We believe that if we keep working together, we can hold Trump and his GOP supporters accountable.  We can shape the 2020 Democratic primary and win in 2020, and we can start to see our values reflected in changes to immigration policy, health care, and campaign finance reform, and voting rights.  

We know what it takes, because we’ve been doing the work. The question is whether we will keep going.  I for one am not going to stop.  And I know you won’t either.  Because we have a vision of a better America, and we didn’t just mourn, we organized.  And…

Democracy is not a spectator sport.   

 -Jen DeWeerth