I wasn’t an activist when I arrived at Barbara Lee’s town hall meeting last Saturday. I’d RSVP’d to attend a day or two before the event, disgusted at the antics of Congress over the AHCA, hoping that I’d find some way to plug into the movement I can feel coalescing around me.
Indivisible East Bay did an amazing job of putting together the event. The energy was infectious. It was more than just the failure of the Dickensian “replacement” for the ACA, though we pulled strength from that victory. Our voices and applause filled the gym at Laney College. We knew we were part of something, and many of us, like me, were there for the first time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and our numbers are growing. We have to, as Barbara Lee said, “stay woke, work hard and resist.” She praised us for fighting, graciously handing the credit to the people—but it was Barbara Lee who took the time to return to Oakland and speak to us before flying back to Washington to continue the fight. We can do no less than have her back. As she said, “So goes the East Bay, so goes the country.”
The speakers were as diverse as Oakland. Mayor Libby Schaaf started us off and introduced Barbara Lee. She was followed by Rabi’a Keeble of Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque, Paul Chavez, Esq. of Centro Legal de la Raza, Andreas Cluver of the Alameda Bulding and Trades Council, Dong Suh of Asian Health Services, and Madihha Ahussain of Muslim Advocates. It was a real slice of the Oakland I live in every day and it was very good to see.
The four breakout sessions were timely and diverse. I chose the Road Map for 2018 House Races, team facilitated by Andrea MacRae of the Sister District Project and Lucia Nunez of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They gave us a quick synopsis of what makes a district flippable, and how to identify them. They also discussed how the work of networking and cooperating between organizations is best accomplished and what the organizations they are working with are doing. It was very informative and I left feeling empowered, and ready to get to work. Other sessions included How to be an Immigration Advocate; Know Your Rights – How to Protest Safely; and How to Run for Office. If they were as well organized and presented as the one I attended, this town hall meeting was time well spent. I am looking forward to Barbara Lee’s next town hall, which she says will happen sometime in June.
I may not have come to this event an activist, but I feel I’ve gained valuable tools for the work that lies ahead. As a matter of fact, I ended up joining Indivisible East Bay because if they can put something like this together so soon after forming, then I want to learn and grow with them.