Personal Action Tool Kit

activist-slogan-1What is A Personal Action Tool Kit? We are in a new world, a world where it is no longer okay to sit on the sidelines. Even those who are seriously over-extended, need to find ways to raise their voices and join with others to counter threats to our liberty and sense of justice. After a brief discussion of some important more general suggestions for sustaining your activism, this kit includes an array of links to resources, organizations, and information that can be tools for your personal activism.

This evolving Tool Kit is designed to make it easier to take sustained action with additions announced in our blog. Click the blue follow button on the right to follow the blog which includes daily actions, links to articles and resources, and frequent exhortations to stay engaged. While some of the links and actions are specific to New Mexico, most are not.

comfort-zone-2Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. Not all the items in this Kit will be for everyone. The concept is to present options so that most people will find things that align with your priorities, but there are just a few things that everyone should consider and the first and most important is that it is time for all of us to find ways to get out of our comfort zone. These are not typical times and typical actions will simply not get things done. If each of us don’t find new ways to express our outrage, everything we hold dear to us is jeopardized. Our children’s future is at stake. Getting out of one’s comfort zone can mean:

  • Overcoming historic reluctance to discuss politics and to encourage political action among friends, colleagues and family. You have built-in trust and credibility among those with whom you are close. They will listen to you and they will admire your own activism. You may have friends who are currently inactive who have tremendous resources, skills, affluence or influence. Reaching out to others with whom you are close can significantly magnify the impact of your activism, as each person you activate may activate others.
  • Engaging those with whom you know you disagree.We all have a few friends or family members who have a more conservative view of things; some may have voted for Trump. But as more and more regressive, greedy and hateful policies emerge from Washington, you may find common moral ground with friends who are also offended, who feel things have gone too far. Keep in touch with these people. Retake Our Democracy offers training, video, articles and other resources for learning how to communicate more effectively with those with whom you disagree on issues. Most of this involves listening more, pressing on issues less, and seeking areas where you may agree in terms of your common needs and interests. Click here for a summary of communication strategies.
  • Consider new, bolder forms of activism. Never canvassed before?  Never been arrested for civl disobedience?  Never attended a legislative hearing or city council meeting?  Maybe it is time.
  • Increase the amount of money you contribute and the kinds of organizations to whom you contribute.  Examine the list of organizations to whom you contribute and consider if they represent those populations most threatened by current policies. Consider expanding your list to include groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, national and/or local advocacy groups for immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ and Planned Parenthood. Their assaults must be matched by our resistance.

Form an Affinity Group.  Perhaps the single most important step you could take to sustain your activism is to form an affinity group, a small group of your closest friends who live nearby. An affinity group provides a consistent framework for encouraging and sustaining your activism; it provides a social structure that can be fun and provide a safe context for considering actions you might have found outside your comfort zone. Make an agreement to meet once a week or alternate weeks at the same time so that the time is securely booked. At each meeting, discuss what each of you are doing individually: what small successes have you had; what challenges have you faced.  Each time you gather, plan to do one action from this toolkit together: plan a trip to the state legislature or city council together; host a house party together and invite a wide range of friends; participate in a sit-in or protest; get together and write letters to the editor or to an elected official. The Affinity Group will make your activism more fun, easier to sustain, and will deepen your friendships.

Retain Your Astonishment at What Is Morally Reprehensible.  It is important to retain your capacity to be offended by the offensive. In the face of daily assaults on all we hold dear, it would be easy to become accustomed to the offensive.  Their strategy is that doing so much, so quickly that your ability to react lessons and gradually what was once morally offensive becomes normal. This can’t happen. They win if it does.

SwingLeft: Contact Friends & Family in Other Parts of the State and Country. This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do. And you can do this from home and you can do it every single day.  Share with friends and family the critical importance of becoming active and help them see how easy it can be. For example SwingLeft is a cool little app through which you can plug in any zip code and it will show you the boundaries for a currently red-held US House Swing District nearby Click here to access this app. It also includes a wide variety of information on each district, including lists and descriptions of major population centers, major industries and employers, environmental issues, history of the area, past election results, and the relationship between the incumbent and Donald Trump and Paul Ryan. The real power in this tool is that all of us know people across the nation. If someone were to ‘take-on’ a district and try to organize, this tool would be invaluable.

So here is what you do: Make a list of a dozen folks you know elsewhere who are just as offended by this crisis as you are. And I mean take out your laptop or a notebook, create a list of names, phone numbers and zip codes, and call 3-4 of these folks every day until you have worked through the list. In every call, you commiserate, you listen, you talk about what you are doing here in NM, you share the Swing Left tool, and because you’ve already done a search on their zip code, you tell them about the district near them that could swing Democratic in 2018, and you ask them to get started. 

If they live in a district with a GOP Rep or Senator, you can also tell them about 5Calls. This is similar to the above tool as it identifies the Congressional reps in your community and asks you to make calls. For us in Santa Fe and ABQ and much of NM, we don’t have Reps who need our calls, at least related to the Trump agenda, but your friends may live in states with a GOP member who could be swayed. Click here for 5Calls a tool that makes it effortless to contact your representatives every single day.  If you want some added information on your representative, this tool has info on every Congressional representative, including the number. The link’s special value is in how quickly you can identify vulnerable House and Senate candidates as it shows the vote for Clinton and Trump in their District and the % of the vote that they received. In minutes you could have a list of 20-30 House candidates who could be vulnerable in 2018. Click here.

Here is a link to Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting Trump.  It was assembled by two Congressional staffers who know what works in advocating with members of Congress.

Click here for Indivisible’s new Organizer Toolkit, an excellent primer on organizing your block, your neighborhood, your city.

If you have your checking account, debit card and savings in Wells Fargo, Bank of America or other mega bank, you are essentially investing your resources in things you find abhorrent. You are missing an opportunity to invest in your community. Make the switch to a community bank or credit union. You will sleep better and your funds will go to work for things in which you believe.  Click here to find out how you can Move Your Money.

Here is a link to the Union of Concerned Scientists website. It includes information on how to effectively lobby in the areas of climate change, energy, nuclear energy, nuclear arms, food, science and democracy and other policy areas where science could or should have a more prominent impact. The site includes tool kits, advice on effective advocacy, template letters to the editor and much more. This is a very good site.

Find a House ‘swing’ district and find ways to get involved in House races near you. Very easy app to use.  You can also use it to find House districts in communities where you may have friends who you can activate.  Click here to get this app.

Contact A Senator or House Representative to Encourage Opposition to Morally Offensive Initiatives.  This is crucial & easy & can be done daily. GOP representatives are beginning to become rattled, as evidenced in this recent post.  As the post describes, Congress phones are so jammed they can’t even get to their voice mails, but they know what they are being told. Click here for a site that will provide a range of scripts that can be cobbled into personal calls, emails, or best of all post cards to your representative. To get email, mailing addresses and phone numbers of all the US Senators and Representatives, click here.

Here is a link to a new phone app that makes it much easier to contact your representative in Congress.  Click here.

Retain Your Astonishment at What Is Morally Reprehensible.  It is important to retain your ability to be offended by the offensive. In the face of daily assaults on all we hold dear, it would be easy to become accustomed to the offensive. This is part of their strategy: do so much, so quickly that the offensive becomes normal. he link below gives you a range of actions to take against Trump. There are options to sign up for daily, weekly, or monthly action alerts, lists of all U.S. governors with contact information, and a great list of 44 GOP leaders who have opposed Trump. If a focus of your activism is to oppose Trump, this is a one-stop source for options. Click Resisting Trump to access this tool.

Stop Supporting Trump Products, Stores that Sell Them, and Companies that Endorsed Trump. Here is a link to an easy-to-use list. All you have to do is identify the stores in your community on the list, get their phone number or email address and write or call them. Even if you don’t shop there, tell them you will not set foot in their store until they stop selling Trump products. And tell your friends. Tell them to contact you if they do remove his products or his daughter’s products and that then they will be removed from the list.

Sign a Petition to Endorse Keith Ellison as the new Democratic National Committee Chair and Lobby Our NM DNC Representatives to Do the Same. This can happen. Ellison has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders. And there is significant movement from even very traditional Democrats like Harry Reid, who in endorsing Ellison expressed the need for fundamental change in the Party. The election is March 31. Click to sign a Move-On petition. Click here for contact information about our New Mexico DNC representatives.

Ways to support the Water Protector: Standing Rock Links. There is no need to describe why we need to support the Dakota Sioux in resisting the Dakota Access pipeline. They face enormous legal fees, they need supplies and clothing, and they need funds to support their work. There are many sites and resources to make it easier for you to support the Water Protectors in Standing Rock. Here are some ideas:

  • Take Action in Your Own Community. Target the Army Corp of Engineers, banks, pipeline companies, corporations, and elected officials behind the pipeline. Taking action includes lock-downs at offices, sit-ins, taking up space, rallies, call-in days, divesting from banks, mass mailings, and interruptions. Register at nodaplsolidarity.org to join the NoDAPL network of Global Solidarity and to get more information on the camp, their needs, and current news. Under Support the Camps there are links describing supply needs, how to contribute to the camp, how to contribute to the legal fund, and how to help winterize the camp.
  • This link provides information on those funding the Dakota Access Pipeline and strategies for boycotting these institutions. Standing Rock may no longer be a viable site for activism, but our commitment to its principles remains firm and this tool provides a means of punishing those

Get Active in Democratic Party at Ward and County Level.  Get involved in your local party at the Ward and County level. Elections of Ward Chairs occurred in Santa Fe in February and the turnout was historic with Ward Chairs and Vice Chairs committed to activism winning in virtually every Ward. In California, ward elections resulted in a complete statewide sweep for progressives. Ward elections occur throughout the State of New Mexico in Feb and March. Next up in Santa Fe will be the County Central Committee meeting on March 25 where State Central Committee members will be elected. County Central Committee meetings will occur in March and April throughout New Mexico.  We need to be a strong presence in those elections to win as many  State Central Committee seats as possible. The  State Central Committee makes the rules governing our state Democratic Party. Beyond the need to invigorate the local and State Party, Wards could be the hub of local activism, lobbying for progressive initiatives at the City Council, e.g. Public Bank, doing social actions, and creating a neighborhood progressive community. Let’s get to it.

booksFourteen Important Books for Activists and Advocates in the Trump Regime. Click here to find a selection of tremendous books. These are great books to help you build your knowledge base and your understanding of the issues. Includes current books by Angela Davis, Deepa Kamur, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and more.

Other Books to Expand Knowledge and Advocacy Skills. As an ongoing feature to this toolkit, I will be providing reviews of other important books like The Third Reconstruction and I am inviting all of you to send me reviews of books you found particularly germane to the challenge we face ahead.

The Third Reconstruction, Rev. William Barber.  A 135 page quick read that lays out in compelling detail, the journey Barber took in developing an approach to activism called fusion politics and its well-known manifestation: Moral Mondays. A tremendous read that touches on the importance of moral language, coalition building, and a movement that goes beyond election campaigns.