Every time the guy in the Oval Office does something that makes us all crazy, he creates countless new volunteers for the progressive cause. He is our best possible recruitment tool!
But then what? Being all fired up is great, but what exactly are the next steps? First, we zero in on our goal: changing the course of American history. Yikes! No pressure there…
Learning grassroots skills at Resistance School
Luckily, finding useful ways to work for progressive change isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds. Lots of people have pitched in to develop simple, effective resources. For instance, there’s the Indivisible Guide, created by Capitol Hill staffers to provide insider strategies for influencing your legislators. Want weekly recommendations? Among the best are Jen Hofmann’s Americans of Conscience checklist and the PAGE (Progressive Action Global Exchange) action plans. But for many of us, the best place to start is by learning the “practical skills for taking back America” offered in a free online course called Resistance School, launched in April by a group of Harvard grad students.
Resistance School is a spectacular resource for newbies and veterans alike. I’m far from a novice activist; my mom started taking me to join picket lines and marches and sit-ins when I was maybe 10 or 11. We spent the sixties fighting for civil rights, peace, and justice. Although I worked to get Obama elected, I have to admit I’d let my grassroots skills get pretty rusty. So I was thrilled to discover that in April, some of the best and brightest students in America launched Resistance School to give us up-to-date training.
Fresh from their studies of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and seasoned with years of field work, these grad students put together a four-session course designed to share some of the best approaches to energizing political advocacy, communicating values, organizing, mobilizing, building a grassroots movement, and sustaining momentum over the long term.
When I spoke with one of those Harvard grad students, Yasmin Radjy, she told me, “We built Resistance School thinking if we were extremely successful and worked incredibly hard, maybe we could get 200 viewers … mostly our moms.” Instead, the course drew nearly 200,000 viewers from all 50 states and 20 countries; a second semester is now in the works. Resistance School has become wildly popular by giving us smart tools and, more importantly, confidence in our skills and in ourselves.
Fieldwork & where to find it
Having completed her Masters, Yasmin now serves as the Virginia State Director for Mobilize America, an organization whose efforts include connecting volunteers with the most urgently needed tasks via the new Moblize app.
She told me her top priority right now is getting Democratic candidates elected in advance of 2021, when America’s voting district boundaries will be revised. The age-old political tactic of gerrymandering — redrawing boundaries to exclude voters unfavorable to your candidate or party — has been systematically exploited lately. Often, the voters are no longer choosing their politicians, the politicians are choosing their voters. If we don’t do something now to get more Democrats a seat at the table when the new voting disctricts are hammered out, it’s going to get a whole lot worse.
Do you have what it takes to volunteer?
Of course you do! You don’t need a Harvard degree, or even a high school diploma, to come to the aid of your country. Never doubt that first-time volunteers are the backbone of the Resistance. If you choose to join the millions of Americans who are working hard to build a better future for our nation, you will be welcomed with open arms. Because it’s clear that we’re all going to have to stand together if we’re going to fix this mess we’re in.
This video is Episode 6 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series on my new site AMERICAN RESISTERS, YouTube, this blog, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
I love to ask people, “If you could look the president right in the eye, right now, and say one thing to him, what would it be?” This always prompts a moment of silence, a glassy-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights stare, then a deep breath and a steely gaze, followed by something from the heart.
When I posed this question to philanthropist and social entrepreneur Betsy McKinney, she replied, “I would say to our current president, ‘Engage all women and people of color at the decision-making table. We are essential to creating a vibrant democracy. And I am asking you to safeguard our democracy. That is the most important thing you have been hired to do.’”
The idea of democracy was treated with great respect in Betsy’s childhood home. While she was growing up as one of six kids in a working class Catholic family in Cincinnati, Ohio, her mom liked to say, “American democracy is a love story.” Betsy took this to heart. After traveling the world and studying the best and worst aspects of government, she devoted her life to helping our democracy live up to its dictionary definition: “A system of government by the whole population.”
As the founder and CEO of It’s Time Network, she brings together individuals and organizations to work on creating a democracy that truly represents all its constituents. Her Network City Program enables diverse members of the community to work together to give urban women and girls a fairer chance at education and jobs.
How is the USA doing when it comes to the gender gap? Frankly, not so great. Our world rank is an embarrassingly low 45th -- below Rwanda, Nicaragua, Moldova, Bolivia, Cuba and dozens of others. Now the current administration seems determined to roll back even the baby steps our country has taken towards racial and gender equality, apparently seeking to ease the pain of white male victimhood. With white males making up 31% of the US population, you have to wonder: if 69% of your citizens are marginalized, can you really consider yourself a democracy?
I sat down with Betsy recently to ask if she still thought American democracy was a love story. This short video reveals her answer.
This video is Episode 5 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. To view others in this series, scroll down on this blog or visit YouTube, American Resistance Sevilla or Americans Resisting Overseas; episodes also appear on other social media outlets. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
This video is Episode 5 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series on YouTube, this blog, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
“I know somebody you should interview,” a friend wrote me. “The Christian Coalition once called her ‘the most dangerous woman in America.'”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I definitely want to talk to her.” With so many of us embracing political activism for the first time in decades – if not the first time ever — I thought it would be fun to chat with somebody who has been serving in the trenches since she was thirteen.
And it was fun. As a veteran protester who got her start during the Vietnam era, Donna Red Wing has seen it all and has the battle scars and war stories to prove it. I took an instant liking to her, although the fire in her eye warned me that if you crossed her, you would do so at your peril.
Donna grew up lesbian in the hardscrabble world of a housing project in Worcester, Massachusetts. There she developed a passion for justice that has carried her around the country and into a series of progressive causes, first as a teenage volunteer, later in positions including Executive Director of the LGBT organization One Iowa, Chief of Staff at the Interfaith Alliance, and National Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign. She served as one of three members of President Obama’s kitchen cabinet on LGBT concerns and was the first recipient of the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award.
She was working for Howard Dean’s campaign when the Christian Coalition declared her “the most dangerous woman in America,” much to her delight. “That’s going on my tombstone, I hope you know that,” she told me with a grin. “That’s the best thing they could have done for me.”
What is Donna’s superpower? Why is she so feared by bigots and religious right-wingers?
I’ll let her tell you herself in this very short video showing highlights of our conversation.
This video is Episode 4 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series on YouTube, this blog, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
“The great value of travel is the opportunity it offers you to pry open your hometown blinders and broaden your perspective. And when we implement that world view as citizens of our great nation, we make travel a political act."
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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