What is A Personal Action Tool Kit? We are in a new world, a world where it may no longer be okay to sit on the sidelines. As this guide describes, even those who are seriously over-extended, can find ways to raise their voices and join with others to counter threats to our liberty and sense of justice.
Historically, social justice movements were led by and comprised of those who are being directly impacted by injustice: blacks fighting segregation and Jim Crow, farm workers, renters, people with HIV-AIDS, and low-wage workers. But with advancing climate change and the terrifying concentration of power and wealth in our country and throughout the world, we are all imperiled whether we realize it or not. And as increasing numbers of people are recognizing this, more of us are realizing: I need to do something. This guide is designed to help you find a niche and to sustain your involvement.
The most important thing to appreciate is that if you are outraged by our nation’s direction, if you are offended by the political process, the cause of your outrage will never change without many more people getting in the game. It may seem daunting, but as two people who six years ago had been very inactive politically, Roxanne and I have found that political activism can introduce you to a whole new group of people who have been advocates for a long time. These relationships will enrich and inspire you. And becoming involved in advocacy will also change you. It will provide a core of meaningful activity in your life.
Not everyone will decide to form an organization and devote scores of hours a week to their activism. Indeed few will. But what will change this country and this world is each of us doing a small piece and doing it with persistence and consistency. It can be 2-3 hours a week or a month. But the sidelines are no longer an option.
And don’t for a minute forget the meme that introduced this guide: it is small groups of people working together at a local level who change things. In the summer of 2018, Roxanne and I took a 10,000 mile Road Trip. We visited activists in 24 cities and with everyone we met, it was a small group of individuals who formed a renters union, developed a community food garden, organized a worker owned cooperative, or successfully lobbied their city council to increase the minimum wage or approve a sanctuary city ordinance.
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. Read on.
First, if you haven’t already subscribed, click the blue “Subscribe” button on the right to follow the blog which includes information on 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.
Organize a Small Group of Friends and Make Your Advocacy, Fun. Organizers call these clusters of friends and an affinity group but that makes it sound too much like a task or like forming an organization. It is just calling up some friends and saying: Let’s get together and talk about what we can do about this mess? Doing this is perhaps the single most important step you could take to sustain your activism is to form an informal affinity group, a small group of like-minded 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, what the hell, do some canvassing and then go out for a glass of wine. The Affinity Group will make your activism more fun, easier to sustain, and will deepen your friendships.
Find a Local Group Advocating on an Issue Important to You. If you do not really have any friends who talk about their activism, you will have to take a bit of initiative. You must care about some issues related to social, environmental, economic or racial justice or you wouldn’t be reading this. Whatever your issue, google it and add the city our county in which you live: “Las Cruces Climate justice advocacy” or “heathcare advocacy Taos” and you will find links to organizations active on the issue important to you.
Subscribe to a few blogs. Click here for a list of blogs and books that are tremendous resources. Pick one or two blogs and subscribe. You will get an email likely once a day with articles and analysis on the issues important to you. This information will nourish your interest in activism, build your understanding of issues, clarify or focus what matters most to you and prepare you for getting more involved. But few of these blogs are “action” focused. They are more educational. To find your niche of activism, you’ll need to explore local organizations that address your issues. To identify groups with whom to become active, use google, the issue you care about and your city or county, as described above.
Get 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 and time constraints, 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, even if they disagree with some of your positions. 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 civil 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, Black Lives Matter, national and/or local advocacy groups for immigrants, indigenous populations, refugees, LGBTQ, and Planned Parenthood. Assaults on these populations must be matched by our resistance.
- 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 to do so much, so quickly that your ability to react lessons and gradually what was once morally offensive becomes the new normal. This can’t happen. They win if it does.
Options for Action
Retake Our Democracy’s Roundhouse Advocacy Team. This team of about 10 very active volunteers really gets things done. We’ve collaborated with over 20 statewide progressive organizations like Common Cause, 350.org, New Mexico Voices for Children, and the ACLU and we created a list of 29 good bills that died in the Roundhouse in 2017 and will be re-introduced in 2019. We have created Speak Up New Mexico!, an online survey so New Mexicans can identify their priorities and by clicking a box, can indicate if they want to get involved in ongoing advocacy. We are building a statewide Rapid Response Network and getting organized to lobby in 2019. Join us. We meet the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month from 4:30-6:30pm at New Energy Economy, 343 E Alameda, in Santa Fe.
National Women’s Law Center Toolkit for Resistance. The site includes step-by-step guidance for contacting your Congressional representatives, visiting your Representative (biggest impact), for preparing a letter to the editor or calling a radio show. The site also provides speaking points on 5-6 issues important to women. 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.
Boycott the Mega Banks. If you have your checking account, debit card and savings in Wells Fargo, Bank of America or another 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.
Lobby More Effectively. 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.
Contact A Senator or House Representative to Encourage Opposition to Morally Offensive Initiatives. This is crucial & easy & can be done daily. At one point in the beginning of the Trump regime, it appeared that GOP representatives were beginning to become rattled, as evidenced in this post. As the post describes, Congress phones were 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. The 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.
Get Active in Democratic Party at Ward and County Level. Get involved in your local party at the Ward and County level. You will meet other people who are engaged in the political process and from meeting them you will find out more about state and local issues of importance. Wherever you live, simply google “Democratic Party” and then your county. You will find contact information for the party and can contact them to find out how to get involved. If you are disappointed with the Democratic Party, as many are, you need to get in the game, become part of the Party at the local level and maybe at the State level. 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.
Fourteen 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.
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.