50 Ways Rockbridge: Three’s a Charm

(50 Ways Rockbridge original call for issues groups / December, 2016)

50 Ways-Rockbridge: Year Three’s Big List

I just found in my kitchen drawer a short stack of scrap paper, which included the original 50 Ways Rockbridge announcement to our local community. (*See the photo above.)

This simple, urgent community convocation seems quaint to me now—the result of nine or ten people getting together in the wake of the November, 2016, elections to figure out what could be done to combat what we were certain would be a series of unjust and inhumane statements, actions, and orders.  The idea was to create an organization that would encourage the growth and de-growth of issues groups, whose specific work would be supported by all the people who constituted 50 Ways.  A month later, we saw the mushrooming of “Indivisible” groups and were approached to sign on as a local Indivisible group.  We did so, but maintained that we were actually “divisible,” that we were not seeking absolute agreement and harmony on every issue, but rather a willingness to research the issues, educate ourselves and others on them, and then choose appropriate actions to take at the local, regional, state, and national levels. Activists would choose and run their issues groups and seek support from the larger group for educational events, protests, and rallies.

The first year brought great energy, hundreds of people, and thousands of phone calls, letters, e-mails, and letters to the editor.  You can see the Year One summary here.  A local women’s rights rally, environmental protests, and fighting off numerous attacks on Obamacare stand out as key moments at which our entire group galvanized to resist inhumane actions and build community.

Year Two, summarized here, brought new challenges.  People were tired.  There was attrition. The “president” and his web of cronies were even bigger assholes, crooks, felons—indefatigable in their horribleness, criminality, and inhumanity.  Some issues groups disappeared, while others become more clearly defined.  50 Ways shrank some, but also grew in its resolve and infrastructure. We worked closely with the local Democratic committees to get out the vote and welcome the blue wave of Midterms, 2018.

In this third year, we have refined our communications through directed e-mails, consistent Facebook posts, and, especially, an overhauled website.  We continue to sponsor talks and workshops and to stage and support protests and rallies.  Our number of active members is reduced, and so the quick, on-the-fly response to major national issues is at times less nimble. We have paid attention to what other resistance groups do and why, and we have enhanced our connections to groups like VARatifyERA, Everytown for Gun Safety, the NAACP (especially our wonderful local chapter), Al Otro Lado, and CAIR, among many others.  We particularly like the Americans of Conscience weekly lists and broadcast those to our members.  While we have disagreed on some major issues, we continue to take the time to talk them through and to understand others’ opinions.  The gun sanctuary issue from just a few weeks ago pointed to major cultural issues where we live and also to the ways in which the national GOP ethos has permeated even remote areas of our nation.  Following the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors vote on the “second amendment sanctuary” issue, some Facebook chatter shone light on divisions among us.  “Why fight an unwinnable battle?”, some asked.  “Why not always show up to suggest that another possibility exists?”, others replied.  We continue to research, educate, and act, and we continue to be “divisible.” To put it in more academic terms, we encourage the dialectics of disagreement because it is in this very articulation of our hard-fought opinions that we show what democracy looks like.  May we continue to do so through Year Four, and may we get out the vote for the primary and for the big show in November.

Thank you for the many ways in which you’ve supported 50 Ways through these three years.  Here’s the Year Three “Big List.”  Many specific events are not listed, but the major ideas are here.


We have:

  • Brought together many people in person to participate in the group
  • Brought together over 600 people on Facebook
  • Sent out hundreds of activist e-mails (I’m looking at you, Sarah and Tinni!)
  • Collaborated with Indivisible groups across Virginia
  • Held group meetings, which have included visits by representatives, delegates, candidates, subject experts, and members of community organizations and agencies
  • Attended townhall meetings and asked tough questions
  • Supported candidates in our area
  • Participated in the CARE Parade, Rockbridge Community Festival, Buena Vista Labor Day festivities
  • Partnered with CARE Rockbridge, Coming To The Table, Lexington Democratic Committee, Rockbridge Democratic Committee, Rockbridge NAACP, Project Horizon, Rockbridge Area Community Services Board, Washington and Lee’s Amnesty International, ESOL, History Department, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Program
  • Rallied for the Environment; Immigration; and protested gun encroachments
  • Overhauled our website
  • Collaborated on a broad Community Resources List, now hosted on our new website
  • Enjoyed getting to know more of our neighbors in a variety of settings

Issues Groups

  • Tracked our issues and exhorted, rallied, and protested, as necessary
  • Relied upon the excellent leadership of our issues coordinators
  • Sponsored 50 Ways meetings, including a gerrymandering update, presentation by the Tijuana/Al Otro Lado group, presentation by Rockbridge Area Health Center, an abortion rights session, an election panel, a mental health workshop, and a panel on past and present Democratic candidates from our area
  • Sponsored Earth Day Celebration and Walk (Environment), and many Environment Committee panels and series
  • Encouraged Get Out the Vote, especially through Plus3 work
  • Sponsored anti-racism workshops, three book discussions, Green Book film, collaboration with NAACP
  • Fundraised for Tijuana/Al Otro Lado immigrant rights work; Tijuana group talk; Edwin Castellanos Campos’ Tiempo de cambio community talk; Latinx Festival; legal path to citizenship work, fundraising, and follow-up; ICE education; protest; focus group;
  • ERA resolution in Lex City; Renee Pullen and question of rape kits for our area; Carliss Chatman’s presentation on reproductive rights; PRIDE Festival; non-discrimination; dress code; excellent progress at RCHS (LGBTQ ally week and transgender ally week);
  • PTSA collaboration; teachers and staff of color; recruited volunteers and experts for YAS Program at MRMS; Students of Color Club at RCHS; advocacy for fourth guidance counselor position; encouraged greater participation in and interaction with the city and county school boards
  • Work on Prison Reform and drug court


  • Environment; Immigrant rights; ERA, gun lobby, gerrymandering, flipping VA blue!
  • Written a mission statement and followed it
  • Updated our website for resources and action
  • Maintained close to daily communications with 50 Ways members
  • Learned—a ton
  • Sent hundreds of postcards to our representatives and to fellow voters
  • Written dozens of letters to the editor of our area newspapers
  • Sent many e-mails and made many phone calls to our representatives
  • Accepted generous donations from community members
  • Survived, together, so far

We still have work to do for Year Four!:

  • Support our wonderful issues groups
  • 50 Ways member survey and focus groups
  • Poverty issues and actions
  • Gun reform
  • Revive County Unity
  • And!!

Resist, Construct, Repeat

Greetings!  How many of you feared Tuesday night, thinking you would sit on a couch somewhere, watch election results, and feel even more doomed than a year before?  Friends of mine have mentioned nerves, nausea, and even PTSD to describe that total physical-emotional connection of dread and hope.  As election results from New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, and other states were announced, I could not believe my eyes.  The results came in so fast, and they were so encouraging, one bit of news after another.  We watched Republican strongholds crack, watched people of a variety of genders, races, religions/no religions, and classes roar back at a brutal year of unrelenting hatred.

On the local front, our smart, hard-working, and caring candidates from the Democratic and Independent slates fared far better than in past years.  As I saw all of these results, I whooped and yelled upstairs to my family members, who were already surrendering to homework obligations.  I wondered whether I should get out of my pj’s and run up and down the street with pots and pans, singing and banging victory.  But mostly I just sat there on the couch, watching joy spread across my Facebook feed.  At the same time, I felt physical relief wash over me, releasing a tension felt every minute of every day for 365 relentless days.  (*Last year I dragged my sorry ass to the computer to write this Gender Shrapnel Blog post the day after the election. I suspected events to come, but they were even worse than I could imagine at that point.)  Today, I am exhausted, absolutely wiped out.

When President Obama won eight years ago, I shared with so many people elation and irrepressible hope.  The morning after election day, I arrived at my early-morning class, smiled broadly at the students, and said to them in Spanish, “What a glorious day to be 18 years old.”  They did not smile or grin back, for the most part, and I realized then that I should hold onto, but also temper, the joy of political victory and hope.  Today I feel slightly different.  After a year of having our government, the body elected to represent us all, issue proposal after ban after statement after tweet to represent fewer and fewer of us, I want to hold onto a sense of victory and every particle of hope and carry it forward in action—resistance, construction, resistance, construction.  As I do so, I keep in mind these “takeaways” from an NPR piece from yesterday and this blog post from Robin Alperstein’s Voluble blog.

Two weeks ago, the 50 Ways-Rockbridge (local resistance group) board members had a conversation about our direction.  Over the past year, we have observed people come together to learn about the issues, plan events to educate others, attend political meetings, register voters, call and write elected representatives, write blog pieces, op-eds, and letters to the editor, and think deliberately about what kind of town, county, state, country, just world, we want to live in. As we spoke at that meeting, we expressed great satisfaction about all of this, but also preoccupation about inactive issues groups and fewer active members among us.  We were tired, a bit frayed at the edges.  We realized that we hadn’t taken much time to evaluate where we are and how we’ve done, mostly due to our M*A*S*H unit mentality of staunching the flow of blood, shunting resources where they’re most needed, playing mostly defense and a little bit of offense.  At that point, I wrote a document that listed what we have accomplished to date.  This document represents a necessary accounting of the actions taken by well over 200 people over the last year to create a space of resistance and hope.  In that space, we have had beautiful conversations and messy ones in which we’ve realized that even potentially like-minded individuals have myriad ways of expressing themselves, solving problems, and interacting with others.  In other words, we came to understand more deeply that “community” means togetherness and messiness.

Unlike many Indivisible groups, 50 Ways-Rockbridge has created an umbrella structure of multiple issues groups who count on the overall group for action on specific issues.  This rambling organization allows for issues groups to form and disband according to need.  One example is the “County Unity” group, which came to be organically (it wasn’t pre-determined by the 50 Ways Board) at the first really big meeting we had, when people who live in our mostly red county said that they needed a way to be able to talk with their neighbors.  Another example is the Title IX working group, which is working to create more safe spaces at our local high school.

The big 50 Ways group meets once a month, and the issues group coordinators set meeting times for their groups.  Many people belong to more than one issues group.  Big group meetings have had attendance of 25 people on some nights and 153 on other nights.  Outrage and action seemed at their height in January, February, and March of last year.  There has been some burn-out, for sure, because we all have to balance the rest of our lives with our resisting lives, in terms of both logistics and physical and emotional well-being.  Nevertheless, we carry on.

Here I share a summary of the work of 50-Ways Rockbridge over the past year.  It is not comprehensive, but it should capture how we have lived this year, forged real resistance, and attempted to create additional building blocks in our community.

We have:


  • Written a mission statement and followed it
  • Created an attractive, lively website for resources and action
  • Created a large e-mail database for daily communications with 50 Ways members
  • Learned—a ton
  • Sent hundreds of postcards to our representatives
  • Written dozens of letters to the editor of our area newspapers
  • Sent thousands of e-mails and made hundreds of phone calls to our representatives
  • Tracked Chris Gavaler’s Dear Bob blog and Gene Zitver’s Goodlatte Watch
  • Registered voters
  • Gotten out the vote
  • Accepted generous donations from community members
  • Survived, together, so far

Formed Issues Groups

  • Formed subcommittees, studied the issues, and created talking points (see the website!)
  • Relied upon the excellent leadership of our issues coordinators
  • Fought off Trumpcare not once, not twice, but three times (Healthcare)
  • Sponsored Earth Day Celebration and Walk (Environment)
  • Sponsored in-person protests and vigils for the Environment and for Women’s Rights and LGBTQIA+ Rights; sponsored “A Day Without a Woman” (Women’s Rights)
  • Sponsored two “Trash Talk” events (County Unity)
  • Sponsored films (Environment, Gerrymandering, and Women’s Rights), ACLU Rights sessions (First Amendment), informational talks and panels (Environment, Gerrymandering, Healthcare, Immigrant Rights, Racial Justice, Title IX, and Women’s Rights), and workshops (op-ed writing, Twitter, organizing rallies and marches), relying upon the expertise of many generous people in our community
  • Encouraged greater participation in and interaction with the city and county school boards
  • Drafted a statement about Lexington in the post-Charlottesville era and presented it to Lexington City Council
  • Survived, together, so far

Built Community

  • Brought together over 200 people in person to participate in the group
  • Brought together over 500 people on Facebook
  • Collaborated with Indivisible groups across Virginia
  • Held monthly meetings, which have included visits by representatives, delegates, candidates, and members of community organizations and agencies
  • Organized people to attend the Goodlatte sessions on Thursday mornings
  • Supported a greater variety of candidates in our area
  • Supported the revival of the Lexington-Rockbridge NAACP and supported Coming to the Table
  • Collaborated with Lexington-Rockbridge Democratic Parties on a community help center initiative
  • Supported the Women’s March, the March for the Environment, and the March for Science
  • Sponsored a community picnic
  • Sponsored 50 Pints every Monday night
  • Participated in the Rockbridge Community Festival and other community events
  • Enjoyed getting to know more of our neighbors in a variety of settings
  • Survived, together, so far

We still have such a long way to go after a year of fending off this government’s full-court press, but through the little crack of Tuesday night’s election results shines a little light.