Dear Fellow Organizers:
On Saturday, August 28, thousands marched for voting rights in Washington, D.C., and across the country. Our Swing Blue Alliance was headed by Susan Labandibar who took an overnight train to be there early on Saturday morning. For Susan, one of her favorite moments was carrying the Indivisible MA Coalition Freedom To Vote banner. This banner, the brainchild of Protect the Results Rally organizer Deb Paul, sports hundreds of signatures from previous rallies.
Paula Joseph, another Swing Blue Alliance marcher, said, “the Womens’ March [on January 21, 2017] galvanized my activism: This march reminded me that we depend on and gain strength from each other and that our community of activists is passionately working towards regaining the world, piece by piece.”
The voting rights marches across the country, and the demonstration here in Worcester, were filled with people who felt that being there was important to them. I wish that I could speak to each one of them and feature their stories. As Paula stated, we gain strength from one another, even when we don’t know each other’s names.
Gain Strength from Each Other
Thinking about how we have all come to activism made me curious about your stories, and reflective about my own. Our stories fuel the energy that we all bring to this work, some with prominence, and most of us with the quiet, anonymous determination to move our country forward. While this letter comes with my signature, it is not just my writing alone that produces it. Richard, a veteran and full-time volunteer activist, and Sarah, our editor, are just a few other team members who get the Letter to you. So thinking about stories, I want to share some of mine with you.
Many years ago I was sitting at a dinner table with close friends. We were all worried and angry at the politics that were driving our country. I later remembered my anger as a young teenager, not understanding why my parents had not “stopped the Holocaust.” Worry and anger were not enough: I found that whatever demands I had in my life, I needed to make space for active involvement.
Stay Engaged: What’s Worked (so far) for Our Group
I have 50 people on my Swing Blue list, and a core group of 30 who consistently write postcards. I am in touch with the group each week with updates on what is happening with voting rights, why we are beginning a new campaign, what the data shows about the effectiveness of postcards, and to share my real disappointments and frustrations. I like being in touch by email, and I find it helpful to be flexible when people’s lives make it hard for them to come on arranged pick up dates.
During the height of the pandemic, I delivered packets to people’s front doors. It was a great way to get out, meet people briefly at a distance, and thank them for their participation. I believe that many of them now feel that they are part of this group, and I continue to let them know that our group is one of thousands across the country. They thank me; not because what I am doing is difficult, but because being a part of a working democracy makes each of us more powerful. I could not, and would not, continue this work without the vitality that is generated by being part of this important effort.
So take a moment to think about your own story, and remind yourself why you do this work.
Gather your groups, stay in touch with them, and keep up to date on how your group can make a big impact!
Thank you for all that you do,
Janet Nelson (and the team)
— Janet Nelson is a retired clinical psychologist based in western Mass. She has worked on progressive campaigns since 1988, including serving as co-chair of the NJ Coalition to Save Darfur, 2005-2012.