Our local resistance group, 50 Ways-Rockbridge, celebrates this Thursday its two-year birthday. We will celebrate with a simple party–food and dancing for any able to join–to remind us of how we continue to build community and why we must continue to resist the acts that take away our rights and attempt to dehumanize us.
A little over a year ago, I wrote this blog post to summarize the work of 50 Ways over the previous year. Today’s post uses last year’s as a launching point to look at 2018. I will make a few observations about this past year and then share the revised “big list” for 2018.
Late 2016 and 2017 brought on a necessary frenzy of activity, including: creating an organization from the ground up; learning to listen to individuals, issues groups, and community groups and sort through needs; communicating priorities; and showing up, time and again, to protest the latest affront to our democracy. The first year was characterized by urgency, novelty, and community presence.
This second year has focused significantly more on Get Out the Vote initiatives, thereby bringing our group closer to those of the Democratic Party. This tighter relationship caused some 50 Ways members to raise issues of partisanship, thus encouraging conversations about the identity of our resistance group, its ability to welcome people of all or no political stripes, and its message. We navigated these fraught issues through face-to-face conversations about which candidates can do the most good for the most people. We also sometimes shared frustrations and dissent through e-mail, remembering to allow for disagreement and to focus on mission. As I write this, I recognize that the 50 Ways Board members, whom I so respect and admire and with whom I’ve worked so closely for two years, might well interpret 2018 in a markedly different way than I’m doing here. Their blog posts would and should read very differently from my own. There is room for this, as long as we continue to resist the dehumanization of ourselves and our neighbors and the deliberate attempts to make our democracy falter.
Right now I have a stack of papers to grade, new courses to prep by January 7, and a long list of 50 Ways chores in front of me. This past year, for me and, I think, for many of my friends in the trenches, has also been about finding some balance between resistance and the day job, resistance and our creative efforts, and resistance and our family lives. I remember the moment at a recent board meeting, two years after our first board meeting, when I realized that we were all declaring ourselves in it for the long haul. That’s a powerful moment for all it acknowledges: that our labor matters; that our labor is many-splendored; that our labor bears fruit; that our labor is shared; that our labor mixes a strange cocktail of joy, frustration, and fatigue.
I am so grateful to all of the board members, issues group coordinators, and hardworking 50 Ways members for these past two years. Happy Birthday!
Here’s the “big list.” Please let me know what I’ve missed or forgotten.
What We’ve Done So Far
- Brought together over 200 people in person to participate in the group
- Brought together over 600 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
- Supported a greater variety of candidates in our area, including big mobilization for Jennifer Lewis’ campaign to flip the 6th and Christian Worth’s campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates
- Supported the revival of the Lexington-Rockbridge NAACP and supported Coming to the Table
- Celebrated with the Rockbridge NAACP at the fantastic Freedom Fund Banquet
- Welcomed expert speakers on a great variety of issues
- Sponsored a community picnic
- Sponsored 50 Pints for many Mondays in 2018
- Participated in the CARE-MLK Parade and the Rockbridge Community Festival
- Enjoyed getting to know more of our neighbors in a variety of settings
- Supported our subcommittees, studied the issues, and created talking points
- Relied upon the excellent leadership of our issues coordinators (THANK YOU!)
- Sponsored community events on excessive policing and on African-American history of Lexington and Rockbridge (Racial Justice)
- Collaborated with the W&L Immigrant Rights Clinic and W&L ESOL to find paths to citizenship for Lex-Rock residents and ran a fundraiser for these efforts (Immigration Committee)
- Collaborated with Project Horizon, CARE-Rockbridge, and W&L ESOL to launch the Festival Latino (Immigration Committee)
- Supported the Law School trip to Tijuana to provide legal aid at the border (Immigration Committee and all 50 Ways)
- Run a series of colloquia on climate change and celebrated Earth Day (Environment Committee)
- Worked on The Diversity in the Workplace Jobs Initiative
- Sponsored in-person protests and vigils for the Environment and for Women’s Rights, LGBTQIA+ Rights, and Immigrant Rights
- Sponsored two “Farm Talk” events, with the second featuring Jennifer Lewis and addressing questions of farmers and tariffs (County Unity)
- Supported our local schools through creating expert lists for enrichment, tutoring lists for after-school help, grants for public school programs, and volunteers for additional breakfast service (Mentoring Initiative)
- Worked to create greater awareness of Title IX issues and greater protections for public school students (LGBTQIA/Women’s Rights, Racial Justice, and Mentoring Initiative)
- 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)
- Encouraged greater participation in and interaction with the city and county school boards
- Shown up—to protest the pipeline, immigration injustice, gun violence, a Supreme Court nominee, and corruption surrounding the Mueller investigation
- Shown up—at candidate talks, forums, and rallies
- Held weekly, biweekly, or monthly issues group meetings and big group meetings
- Monitored governmental corruption
- Revisited our mission statement and reinforced it, all the while entertaining lively debates about how best to research, educate, and act
- Created t-shirts, a banner, magnets and stickers to share the word about 50 Ways
- Reformulated our attractive, lively website for resources and action
- Maintained a large e-mail database for daily communications with 50 Ways members
- Learned—a ton
- Sent hundreds of postcards to our representatives and to our neighbors to get out the vote
- Knocked on hundreds, probably thousands, of doors to get out the vote
- 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
- Accepted generous donations from community members
- Survived, together, so far