This weekend, the Women’s Convention in Detroit is continuing the movement that began nine months ago with the historic Women’s March. Looking back on the march prompts a number of reflections. Along with many others, I helped organize the sister march in Cleveland (and at least half of my campaign committee volunteered at the event). I don’t think any of us imagined the extraordinary response that followed.
Meanwhile, both the march and the convention represent major milestones in “a much longer journey…” That’s how Cleveland Heights – University Heights student Fiona Macke described this movement, on the flier she created for the Cleveland Women’s March. Looking back on what she wrote, it’s still an impressive tip sheet for activism, concise and relevant.
It also highlights what I think is one more milestone yet to come this year. As Macke wrote,
“Vote in every election from school board to President. It’s the only way to enusre that people in power will hear you”
In Lakewood, November 7 will be the first opportunity to take this step since the Women’s March. We have not had a primary or a special election all year.
Yesterday I attended an inspiring rally, in response to an anonymous vandal spray-painting swastikas in front of a Lakewood home last week. Hundreds joined to say “hate has no home here.” The turnout and the positive energy were great. But I heard many people ask what we’re going to do now. Our state senator Mike Skindell spoke for a lot of us, I think, when he wrote afterward: “The rally is the easy part… the real question is ‘what happens Monday?’”
A few thoughts.
At the national level:
Our executive branch still employs Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, in addition to people who have no apparent problem with pro-hate campaigners. Their presence in the White House is just as inappropriate as Steve Bannon’s was.
Meanwhile, the enabling of white supremacists’ agenda goes beyond the White House. As former Senator Russ Feingold has written, “Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.” Members of Congress who claim that this isn’t their intent need to support a new Voting Rights Act. Republican Jim Sensenbrenner has called for this; his colleagues should be encouraged to follow.
Former state senator Nina Turner, recently named the new chair of Our Revolution, is one of my heroes. So I was beyond honored when she stopped by Lakewood’s Madison Park to join our Ward 4 town hall, this weekend.
Nina was kind enough to encourage people in supporting my campaign. But she also had some powerful, inspiring things to say about the bigger mission of progressive change, and I want to share some of these here.
On grassroots activism: From the civil rights movement to women’s liberation, change “didn’t come from the grass tops, it came from the grassroots.” There’s an important part for the “grass tops,” i.e. people in office, but the power they exercise is always the people’s power. Don’t ever feel powerless, no matter who is in office.
On local government: “Every level of government is important, every single office is important.” Local government is closer to the people and can make the quickest difference to people’s lives. Our Revolution will be highlighting local candidates as well as high-profile races, for that reason. “Local level matters too, local officials matter too.”
On Three P’s: 1) Push and breathe; just like going into labor, when it’s painful is the time to push. 2) Protest and plan; resist today but also plan for a time when it becomes possible to do more. 3) Persevere; the fight for justice is an endurance race. In the words of Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, “The struggle is forever, so we are in the struggle forever.”
Today is Democracy Day in Cleveland. City hall will host public hearings on the impact of money in politics, with regular citizens invited to testify. (My Progressive Caucus colleague Steve Holecko will be among those speaking.) In approving the observance, last December, Cleveland joined a growing number of communities adopting Democracy Day in support of the Move to Amend campaign. Just in Northeast Ohio, Democracy Days are now on the calendar in Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Heights, Lake County, Mentor and South Euclid.
Where’s Lakewood, you might wonder? Did Move to Amend snub us? Not exactly. Unfortunately it was the other way around.
One of our challenges in achieving people-driven reform is reaching people more often than every four years. Recently, someone asked me what I have been doing since the 2016 election. I’m happy to say that I have been part of a local, grassroots reawakening that is already changing communities for the better.
As a leader in the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, I have helped organize people around regional, state and national issues which directly impact life in Lakewood.