The HARD work of Organizing
You learn something about dedication when you brave -13 degree weather in downtown Anchorage to gather newspapers. Such biting cold makes you question if the message contained in those newspapers is worth the discomfort. I collected 100 from about 12 red Anchorage Press stands, so I had to answer that question for myself.
As an activist, my action-orientated personality is so fierce that it offends a lot of people. I’m called “revolutionary” because of the passion I express. So, I was overjoyed when Don Burrell Jr. secured our movement a table at the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. While Don set it up with Letters and cardboard signs reading: END CHILD HUNGER; I scoured downtown Anchorage for the Opinion/Editorial piece the Anchorage Press published in support of our efforts.
Because politics is “something that happens elsewhere,” most people do not see the brutally hard work that goes into it. All they see are talking heads on MSNBC or pundits beating the radio circuit promoting their latest book. The hard work doesn’t occur before the camera or microphone. That happens on the street.
Coming from Fairview, all I know is the street, which is part of my problem. While others feel content to hold meeting after meeting about a particular social ill, I take a page from “The 21 Lessons of Marcus Garvey” and seek to IMPLEMENT a plan. What plan? Any plan is better than sitting here talking about the evil we see in the world. It is much more effective to get up and stop and/or prevent the evil that is happening.
However, to do so means you have to take a risk; which is too great an obstacle for many to overcome. It is easier to sit in a meeting discussing what the talking heads said last night.
Back at the PAC, while I thawed out, Don delivered the elevator speech to anyone who would listen. “Excuse me! We are working on ending child hunger in Alaska by 2015. This is the second year in a row that Senator Bill Wielechowski has put forth a bill that connects our state to federal funding. According to our knowledge, Alaska is one of 11 States that does not receive funding from the National School Lunch and Breakfast program. This bill connects us AND adds 15 cents per lunch and 35 cents from State revenue. We need this money. Right now, the Mat-Su Valley spends $400,000 feeding children. Will you please help us out by taking a picture with one of our signs and writing a letter in support of Senate Bill 3?”
Most listened politely, however, the risk associated with writing a letter was too much for most to overcome. Only 28 brave souls took the plunge.
We were more successful with picture endorsements. It helped that Senator Mark Begich agreed to take a picture holding one of our cardboard signs. Flashing that picture over and over again, earned us 43 new photos.
I braved rejection and placed as many of those hard-fought Anchorage Press editorials in the hands of people walking out of the door as I could. “Peace. Can I leave this with you? Thank you. Happy Dr. King Day!”
On Monday, we posted up at the Mountain View Boys and Girls Club. The Alaska Bar Association was conducting its annual FREE legal clinic. It was the same routine. As people walked out the door, I passed out those precious editorials. We gave the elevator speech – and the risk got in the way. Despite three hours of persistent work, only 10 people wrote letters.
We closed shop at 5 pm, then took a break to eat. (After all, we are anti-hunger advocates!) Then, it was off to the NAACP general membership meeting.
Again, Don and his connections came through. I tried my best to keep my mouth shut as he led the presentation. I do not want my personality to get in the way of people participating. I sincerely do not know how to take the emotion out of my voice when it comes to explaining the fact that Alaskan children are hungry!
We gained 11 more letters and several pictures.
As, I write this, we have exactly 90 days to inspire 60 legislators to help us feed our children. The bill is a win-win for everyone. Still, without grassroots pressure, the legislators will not KNOW passage of the bill is the will of the people.
The team: Don, Kima, Free Thought, Stephanie Santos, and Chris Kunzler are committed to keeping this issue before the Alaskan people. Please, do your part, and overcome the risk you associate with political action. After all, our children’s lives are on the line.
As for me, walking in -13 taught me the answer to the question: Is the discomfort worth it? My answer is, “YES!”
(To participate in this Letter writing campaign, please email the movement at firstname.lastname@example.org.)