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Sylvia Holmes Marched – Now She’s Running

Sylvia Holmes Marched – Now She’s Running

The 2018 midterm elections are upon us and women are running for office in record numbers.  One such woman, Sylvia Holmes, went from helping to plan the Women’s March in Austin, the largest march in Texas history, to deciding to run for office herself.

The Women’s March in Austin. Photo By Mike Holp Photography

The other week we sat down to discuss why she wants to be elected to the people’s court, the merits of a UT vs. Texas A&M game and sitting on a bale of hay.

Here are my questions and her answers, slightly edited for clarity.

Tell me something about yourself

I’m a lifelong Texan who’s lived in Austin for over 20 years.  I’m a “Bridger,” born in 1981, so I’m a Millennial, but I also remember using a rotary phone.  I was born in Houston, but I grew up in Anderson County, a rural community.  I lived there with my family between kindergarten and 6th grade.

I was a Daddy’s girl.  We had 50 acres for cattle and crops like corn and watermelons which we sold at the Farmer’s market.  I loved it.  We plowed that field all on our own, dug posts and drove tractors.  My favorite picture from that time is of me sitting on a hay roll with a big smile after helping my dad with the harvesting.

Sylvia Holmes at her farm

Most people would consider my family as being poor because we lived in a mobile home, but we were better off than many others.  My dad was one of only a few in the town who went to college and worked a office job with benefits.

Once, Governor Ann Richards came and spoke at my school in Slocum.  It was a huge deal and I got to see her up close (think 1-2 feet away).  It absolutely shaped my perception of what women could do because I had just turned 9 and no one told me it was odd to have a female governor.​

We moved to Austin when I was in the 6th grade.  Have you heard of the Yogurt Shop Murders in 1990s off Anderson Lane?  It was really bad.  At a yogurt store in Austin four young girls were murdered and the mystery was never solved.  That case shook the state and laws about child labor were passed after that so teenagers wouldn’t be left alone to close a business.  My father became a child labor investigator and we moved to Austin.  I went from elementary-middle-high school population of 300 to just a seventh grade class with over 200 students.  It was a huge change.

Sylvia with her grandfather in Brazoria, Texas

How was that?

At first, I was teased for being an overweight redneck.  I had an East Texas accent and said words funny.  I also had to stop saying “going to town” to mean “going to the grocery store”.  It was an adjustment.  In Austin we had sidewalks and doorbells; you don’t need doorbells in the country.  In the country, if someone’s walking up your driveway it’s because they know you.

However, I’ve been a city girl ever since arriving in Austin and love my city.

What’s your proudest accomplishment from ages 7-14?  Why are you proud of this?

Successfully moving to Austin in 7th grade and then in 8th grade in Round Rock.  Twice I was thrust into new schools and excelled at both.  It was great coming to Austin and meeting kids from other backgrounds and cultures.

What position are you running for?

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3.

What political experience do you have?  Formal or otherwise

I’m Associate Director of Legal Services for Students at UT.  My office represents all enrolled students in civil small claims and criminal misdemeanors, so I’m at the Justice of the Peace and County Court every day.  This office is covered by a tiny part of their tuition (about $5 a year) and was started in the 1960’s by student government to help out the students.  We are like a general practice law firm in a town of 50,000 people.  We advocate locally, statewide and nationally for all of our students.

I’m new to running for politics (and proud of it!) but experienced at justice.  My job involves solving problems for people on both sides in a fair way.

I’ve had a lot of clients who really embraced me, beyond ‘you’re just a lawyer.’  I’ve changed their opinion because they’ve felt their voice was truly being heard, not just listened to, but heard.

Sylvia Holmes at work

What does a Justice of the Peace do?

You’re the judge in the people’s court.  In Texas that means you’re in court for a criminal ticket, but it’s a minor enough offense that you can’t be sent to jail.  This includes traffic tickets, underage drinking, park issues, littering, trespassing (like sneaking into parks after hours), curfew violations (students leaving school during lunch), dog bites, marriages, car accidents and home repair disputes to name a few.

You don’t need a lawyer to file a lawsuit or to defend yourself in a people’s court but people often don’t want to go or ask for help for fear of cost, retribution, or for fear of looking foolish.

As a judge, I don’t want those fears to be barriers.   I’ve been the poor kid from rural America.  I’ve been poor, I’ve been rural, I’ve been fat, I’ve been fit, I’m still the same person, so I know what it’s like to feel insecure.  Everyone should have a little empathy, especially a judge.

The way I see it is ‘You’ve made a mistake, so let’s make this a learning moment’.  Let’s make this useful and not just the judge yelling at you.  I’d like to ease the anxiety because everyone needs to feel confident that justice will be served even if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer.

Why do you want to be a Justice of the Peace?

I want to help people.  Use my experience and knowledge of the law to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equitability and leaves feeling respected by the situation.  If you broke the law you’ll have to pay a fine or pay the consequences but there’s a way to make it a rehabilitative moment.  I want to help restore faith in government.  Our courts are truly the people’s court and we need to ensure that it’s fair.   Minorities, people who aren’t wealthy, and people who are undocumented, should feel respected from start to finish because the court is there to serve the community.

What makes a good judge?

Someone who has a wide variety of experiences who can empathize with variety of situations, who is flexible.  A judge need to be friendly, because you deal with marriages, contracts below $10,000 and traffic tickets.  Unless you get jury duty, arrested or have to visit divorce court, you’re not going to see most courts. Since this is likely to be the only experience in court that you’ll ever have, the judge must represent the judicial branch well.  

What are the biggest issues your constituents are facing?

Lack of knowledge about Texas laws and consumer protection.  Texas is a “buyer beware” and owner-friendly state.  It’s completely on you to do your research.  As a renter you have fewer rights and greater responsibility because you’re borrowing someone’s house for a period of time.

I’m a landlord, so I’ve seen both sides.  I’ve seen both sides.  As a judge it comes down to the facts of the case and the lease.  Young adults getting ready to graduate would benefit if the court did preventative education at the schools, or even just posting basic information on the court’s website.

Another issue is older adults entering a new phase and not being prepared.  I want to get information out there to start talking to senior centers about getting ready for retirement.  Lots of people are going to senior or assisted living houses or renting out their spaces as Air BNB.  I want to ask them, ‘Do you know your rights and responsibilities?’ and then guide them to accurate information.

The last issue is affordability.  Some judges give the harshest fines no matter the circumstance.  I don’t feel like a senior citizen on fixed Social Security income should have to pay the highest fine because they forgot to hang the handicapped placard on their rearview mirror one time.  Justice should be to serve a purpose, not simply to serve a punishment.

If you are elected, how will you help your constituents?

I don’t believe in rubber stamping things, like payday loans and car title loans.  If you’re here for a breach of contract, you have to bring that contract.  I won’t just rule and give you a win by default.  Does it take some time?  Sure.  But that’s how it should be done.

We could have a heck of an impact.  One thing that’s specific to a JP court is that you get issue awareness.  We notice trends –fraud, and scams become trends.  A JP can report that trend to city council and if it’s happening in the nicest part of Texas, what’s happening in the rest of Texas?  As a judge, I can’t make the law, but I can point out potential risks to the city council so they can.

I want to establish a night court, at least once a month.  People don’t all work 9-5 jobs.  It’s hard for people to get off work to get to court at 2pm.  Other counties have night court, why not in our district?

I’d also love to establish community outreach programs to educate everyone about the justice system.  Let’s bring students and parents out to see a trial.  Let people see how our justice system works; too much is hidden right now.

What is the biggest impact you want to make?  You’re biggest goal

This has nothing to do with my job as a JP, but I’d love to reinstate the UT vs. Texas A&M game.  They could even do a spectator game.  Thanksgiving just hasn’t been the same.

As a person who has decided to run for office for the first time, what advice you have for other people interested in running in the future?

Get started as early as possible.

What’s the time commitment to run?

It consumes every waking hour.  Short of my 40 hour job, this is my second full-time job.  It starts at 7:30 a.m. and cuts off at 9 p.m.  I have to make voice mail calls all day long.  Every day twice per week I call other successful candidates for advice, I call people who’ve donated to other judges, and cold fundraising calls to strangers.  It’s hard for me to ask for money, and it amazes me how many people I’ve met on the campaign trail who have given me $25 – $50 after one meeting.  I am grateful for their support and aim to make them proud of their candidate.

Beyond that I’m contacting union leaders, community chairs, HOAs, updating myself on news and going to marches.

Sylvia at rally against white supremacy

What made you decide to run?

I like helping people.  I’m good at turning difficult legalese to understandable sentences.  There are different types of judges.  I’m friendly and flexible but follow the rules.  The law needs to be applied based upon the specific facts of the case so we cure the current problem, and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Sometimes you need to understand that a senior who forgot to hang her handicap placard shouldn’t have to pay the full fine if she’s living on social security.  You need to use your judgement and not throw that book at everyone just to collect fines.

Where can people reach you?

http://www.sylviaforjp3.com

Thanks Sylvia for speaking with March On! Texas!  We will be following her as she campaigns for the 2018 midterms.

Hurricane Resource Guide

Hurricane Resource Guide

Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, the Gulf Coast cities and the rural areas between them.  We know that many of you are going through tough times.

There’s a lot of information out there, so we hope that this resource guide helps.  It’s broken into sections with links to websites, apps and articles that may be useful.

Travel

Which roads are closedHouston Traffic TrackerPort Aransas, Beaumont    

Where do I find GasGas Buddy

Are the airports openHouston AirportHouston Hobby Airport, Corpus Christie Airport,  Dallas/Ft. Worth International, Dallas Love Field, Austin-Bergstrom, and San Antonio International all up and running.

Links to Airline Traveler Waiver info: United, Southwest, American, Jet Blue,  Alaska Air, Frontier

My Home Is Flooded.  Now What?

File a claim with FEMA:  Hurricane Harvey/FEMA

Tips for Harvey Survivors, From Those Who Lived Through Sandy https://nyti.ms/2gqRoV8

Info for flood clean up:  What to do after a flood

How Can I Help?

There are lots of churches and charities helping with donations.  Here are just a few.

Red Cross – Hurricane Harvey

Local to Austin – Make Welcome Kits

Donate new underwear:  Undies For Everyone

Pets:  SPCA of Texas

If you lived through Harvey, we are so happy that you are safe now and will continue to post updates.

Hang in there.

5 Tips for Raising Empathetic Children in 2017

5 Tips for Raising Empathetic Children in 2017

The morning after the 2016 presidential election a friend sent me a message telling me she had to explain to her five-year-old twins why a bully won.  I can’t imagine how hard that conversation must have been for her. Or for the millions of parents around the country and the world.

As Hillary Rodham Clinton said during the campaign “Kids hear a lot more than we think.” Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama both made multiple speeches in 2016 about the dangerous effects a trump presidency could have on our children. From his hateful speeches, to his shocking policies, and the appalling appointment of Betsy Devos, there is no doubt that the trump administration is already taking a toll on our children from all directions.

Then the ICE raids and the discriminatory laws coming out of the Texas Leg, such as SB4 and the “bathroom bill” have many of our Texas children feeling directly threatened. The parents I know have been working overtime to counteract these attacks of hate.

I am not a parent but I am a firm believer in the idea that “it takes a village” and we are all responsible for teaching and nurturing the next generation. I built this list of tips based on my studies of child development, my experience as a childcare professional, and techniques I have watched some awesome parents practice with their kids.

These are things you can do as a parent, childcare professional, teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent, neighbor, or community member to help nurture our little Texans…

 

Read to them – You might be surprised how much reading a book to a child will influence them. Children’s books are typically designed to teach children a life lesson and those stories may stick with them for years and years to come. Not to mention it will foster a love for reading and learning. One book that always stuck with me was “The Big Fish” in which a big fish takes a couple around the world to find a child to adopt. The couple starts out wanting a child whose skin matches their own but at the end they learn that people do not have to match to be a family.

Here are a few books to get you started!

 

 

Volunteer with them – Taking your kids to volunteer will teach them to be contributing members of society and the importance of giving back. Picking up trash at a local park or putting a fresh coat of paint on the neighborhood playscape will teach them that the community must all pitch in to take care of the places we share. Volunteering to serve meals at the homeless shelter, delivering food for meals on wheels, or reading to the elderly at a nursing home will help teach your kids empathy for people that don’t have all of the same privileges and abilities as they do.

Here are some volunteer activities to do with your kids!

 

 

Listen to them and talk with them – Parents hear it all the time, “talk to your kids about _________” drugs, sex, bullying. Well the same goes for politics and current events. Kids really do pay attention more than we think and they need help processing the world around them. If your child is in the room or the car when a story comes on the news that provokes hate or discrimination, talk to them about it. But before you talk, listen. Ask them what they think. Find out what they know or what they’ve heard at school or from their friends. Then help them work through that information and guide them in the right direction. Don’t lecture them on shoulds and shouldn’ts. Instead, have a conversation with them. Trust me, not only will they appreciate you treating them as an equal, but it will also help teach them to have productive conversations about tough issues.

Here are a couple links to help you get started:

How to talk to your kids about racism

How to talk to your kids about gender and sexuality

 

 

Teach through example – Show children how to be compassionate and empathetic through being those things yourself. Show them your compassion by being sensitive to their feelings and reminding them that they are cared for. Show them your empathy by listening to their problems and concerns, no matter how small they may seem to you, and reacting appropriately. These small things go a long way. When they feel safe and cared for they will feel more comfortable extending that same compassion to others and you will help model ways they can express their empathy to others.

 

VOTE! – You can play a huge role in your child’s future by VOTING. Your local and state representatives will have a direct effect on your child’s education and opportunities. School board is one of the most important offices to keep any eye on. Voting in progressive and empathetic candidates will help promote diversity, compassion, and empathy in your child’s school and those influences will have a lasting impact on their life.

The next school board elections in Texas are on November 7th in these areas: 

Why Doing Something Matters

Friday night I started watching my Twitter, on edge that these young, college kids that were still at UVA for the summer were not equipped for what they may face. I watched Twitter until my eyes were scratchy and I couldn’t keep them open any longer.

Waking up Saturday I immediately opened my Twitter and didn’t take my eyes off of it. I sat, teeth unbrushed, still in pajamas, on the floor next to the wall where my phone was charging looking back and forth from my phone to my laptop. My chest started getting tight, I cried on and off, I didn’t eat, I called my mom yelling into the phone, not at her but at the world. After hanging up and feeling guilty that my mom was now worrying about me thousands of miles away and that crying wasn’t doing anything, I decided, enough.

So I refocused my attention to the great work we do here at March On. While it didn’t stop the car, or any of the poles and punches that crashed into incredibly brave counter-protestors, it channeled the anxious energy to action that will result in change locally here in Texas.

Not all of you would have seen our School Board campaign that started in the 12 districts with open seats this weekend, but some of you did.  And some of you may file to run for the School Board because of it. And because of that some good has been set into motion; the books that are read and the way Texas children are educated may soon change because we have more progressives in these seats. And this may give critical thinking skills to know when to question or to research what’s fake or not, and give hope and less hate to children to create a better future. What I did wasn’t direct activism, but it was “proactivsm” and that’s what we focus on here at March On! Texas (while still getting our butts out to marches and supporting other great groups in Texas!). We feel that getting progressives in the position to make decisions is incredibly important.

If you’d like to consider running for School Board the 12 districts with open seats are: Houston ISD, Klein ISD, Leander ISD, Los Fresnos ISD, New Caney ISD, Schertz-Cibolo ISD, Spring ISD, College Station ISD, Aldine ISD, Alief ISD, Bryan ISD, and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. The last day to file candidacy is August 21st.

If you’d like to learn more or sign up to volunteer, check out our website or email me – jenn@marchontexas.com.

March on y’all!

That Time I Rallied Against Nazis

That Time I Rallied Against Nazis

In the wake of the horrific protests of Charlottesville and the implied encouragement of white supremacists by President Trump in his impromptu press event on Tuesday, activists across every spectrum have been hitting the pavement, holding signs and letting their voices be heard.

Today at Austin City Hall there was the Rally Against White Supremacy.  It was non-violent and speakers with diverse backgrounds discussed ways to take action to promote greater equality in our country.

Rally Against White Supremacy

Activists from the Black, Latino, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Transgender and White communities spoke, as well as Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Mayor Steve Adler, which we live streamed on our Facebook page.

One speaker from Black Lives Matter challenged everyone at the rally to not feel good about just showing up and holding a sign, but to really promote change by seeking more budget money in marginalized communities and holding elected officials accountable or work hard to replace them with better ones.

Several speakers reminded everyone to be active bystanders; if you see someone bullying a minority speak up!

March On! Texas members Simone Laurent, Lisa Traugott and Sylvia Holmes

“Isms” (racism, sexism, classism, etc.) has always been with us, but under the leadership of President Trump the fringe hate groups feel like they have a friend in the White House and that it is suddenly now okay to try to turn on our neighbors.  It’s not.

One rally isn’t going to change the world, but it’s a step in the right direction.  At March On! Texas we encourage everyone to become everyday activists.

Tolerance can and should be taught to our youngest citizens at local schools.  Did you know that 12 districts are having local school board elections in November?  Here are some reasons why that’s important and why everyone should vote:  School Board Elections

To find out other progressive events around the state, checkout our website www.MarchOnTexas.com.

Do you want to get involved, volunteer and help progressives win local elections where they can have the biggest impact?  Learn more here.

Every day try to do something that makes the world a better place.

March on, y’all!

 

The Importance of Schools and Tolerance

The Importance of Schools and Tolerance

This week (every week?) has been filled with distractions from the Executive branch.  I heard a comedian once liken Donald Trump to a monkey in a theatre flinging feces at the audience so no one would pay attention to the actual play going on.

His divisive remarks about Charlottesville, saying that somehow the “alt-left” was partly to blame for Neo-Nazis and the KKK causing chaos leaving three people dead, is dangerous but unsurprising from him.  We all knew what he really thought about diversity.

Once again, we must look to ourselves for leadership.  One of the most eye-popping articles I read was about a father repudiating his 30 year-old son in his local newspaper for joining the alt-right/white supremacists rally:  He didn’t learn this at home.

Another article that connected with me was an interview with the former high school teacher of James Alex Fields Jr., the man who used his car to strike counter protesters killing one and injuring 19.  The teacher said that Fields was bright but misguided and handed in a paper basically glorifying Nazi views.  The teacher felt like he failed because he wasn’t able to counter this young man’s skewed views.

Sierra PTO

These two articles resonated with me because it brings back the importance of making sure our students are educated with facts and not revisionist history distorted from the dark corners of the alt-right internet.  The information that young men and women fill their brain with matters.

While no one has control over the world wide web, we do have a say in the text books they read. That’s why there was such an uproar in 2015 when the Texas Board of Education approved textbooks that said Moses was a Founding Father and slaves were “workers” from Africa.  Now, more then ever, it is important that we teach tolerance and truth from a very young age.

After this weekend’s events many were left asking, “How can I get involved?  What can I do?”  Let’s think local.

There are 12 school districts that have seats open on their school boards.  These districts include: Houston, Klein, Leander, Los Fresnos, New Caney, Schertz-Cibolo, Spring, College Station, Aldine, Alief, Bryan and Cypress-Fairbanks.

Wouldn’t it be great if these school boards had some progressive candidates elected to them?  The deadline to file candidacy is Monday, August 21.

Know someone that lives in a district that would be great candidate? Share this post with them or tag them in it!

We must do what we can at the local level to ensure that tolerance is taught to the greatest assets we have, our children.

March on y’all

P.S. – If you do know a progressive running, please email lisa@marchontexas.com.  We’d love to hear and help!

 

I Feel Like I’m In An Episode of Game of Thrones

I Feel Like I’m In An Episode of Game of Thrones

Do you remember the good old days when people at the office water cooler spoke about Kim Kardashian?  I miss that fluffy gossip of no consequence.

Today I feel like I’m living in an episode of Game of Thrones.  Just like the warring kingdoms in Westeros, today’s conversations include extreme division between the sexes (think: Google Memo), races (Affirmative action for whites), immigrants (Proposed “merit-based” immigration policy) and religions (Muslim ban).

Putin, like the scheming Littlefinger, is laughing at all the chaos he has caused and is celebrating with shirtless selfies in Siberia.

Playing the long game, without a shirt. Photograph: Sputnik via AFP/Getty Images

But our own boy-king Donald Trump, in GoT Joffrey fashion, upped the game when he made off-the-cuff comments about raining “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea for it’s newfound nuclear capabilities.  Kim Jung-un didn’t seem too scared of this rhetoric though, as he then proceeded to threaten to nuke Guam.

Photo: YouTube

As if this political brinksmanship drama wasn’t enough, an existential threat greater than the White Walkers was exposed when federal scientists leaked a report about climate change to the New York Times because they feared their own government, aka the Trump administration, would suppress or change it.

Where’s Khaleesi on a dragon when you need her?

I guess we have to be our own heroes.  Here’s how:

  • Want better leaders?  Vote for them!  Not sure about the who/what/where/how of voting in local elections?  There’s an app for that: Voter’s App
  • We don’t have a say in pulling out of the Paris Accords but we can fight global warming5 Ways You Can Save Planet Earth
  • Sick of all the vicious verbal barbs?  We are too:  Civility

Want to do even more?  Volunteer to work on the issues that matter most to you.  Be part of the solution.  Want to be inspired?  Read: The Silver Lining of the 2016 Election (Warning: it might make you cry…or volunteer.)

March on y’all!

Planning The Women’s March – A Silver Lining

Planning The Women’s March – A Silver Lining

I want to tell y’all about my mom. Like most women I know, the older I get the more I appreciate her and everything she has done to help me become the woman I am. Now, I don’t know if she directly set out to raise a feminist or activist, but she most definitely played an invaluable role in helping me become the person I am today.

 

 

My mom taught me what it meant for a woman to be an equal in the home and also run her own business. She taught me the importance of being aware of politics. She taught me the importance of voting. She taught me the importance of giving back and being a productive and active member of your community. I don’t remember her directly talking to me about any of these things, she always taught me through example.

On November 8th, there was no one I would have rather spent election day with than my mom. Before the results came in we sat around the kitchen table talking about how far women have come just from her generation to mine and what it would mean for us to have a woman president.

 

 

I don’t have to tell y’all what happened next. We were devastated, to say the least.

 

The day after the election I was having a hard time finding a reason to get out of bed and go to school. My mom reminded me that if I stop trying, that’s when they truly win. I had to keep learning, working, and doing all of the things I wanted to do, to show them I couldn’t be stopped.

In a clip from Late Night with Seth Myers, Amber Ruffin beautifully summed up this concept when she said –

“By doing what you do every day you prove to them that you are unstoppable. They can spend their time trying to pass laws to take way your rights and silence your voice but all you have to do is live your lives right in their faces and it proves to them that we simply cannot be stopped.”

When I heard about the Women’s March on Washington I wanted more than anything to be there, but knew it would be highly unlikely that I would be able to make the trip. I have a fair amount of activist experience and had organized rallies and marches in the past, so I started making a list of people to contact to start planning a Women’s March on Austin.

Later that very day I got on Facebook and saw I was not the first with this idea, an event page had been created. Shortly after I had a conversation with Melissa Fiero and joined the planning committee.

We were a group of strangers and in less than 50 days we organized what ended up being the largest protest in Texas history. We hoped for a few thousand marchers and final estimates reached 100,000. We could have never predicted such an amazing, warm, peaceful, and uplifting turn out. It was everything we dreamed of and so so much more. Thank you, to all who marched, for far beyond exceeding our expectations.

The day of the March, once again, there was one person I wanted by my side. My mom. She was so excited to be there. But the night before she called to tell me she had to go in for emergency eye surgery for a detached retina. As soon as it occurred to me that this meant she couldn’t march with me, my heart was broken. No matter how she tried to find a way around it, she was on specific doctor’s orders NOT to attend the march under any circumstances. Since we weren’t going to be able to take a photo together at the march, we took a picture together with signs the night before and she made me promise to still enjoy the march as if she was there.

View of the “March to the March” behind me.

 

The day of the march I was in the front with the banner and the dignitaries welcoming and directing marchers as they arrived. I had been focusing my attention towards the capitol and when I turned around to look down congress, I was completely blown away by what I saw. There was a flood of people filling the street walking north, towards the capitol. I immediately started jumping up and down, hugging my fellow organizers, and yelling, “there’s a march TO The March!!”

Then I looked to the east on 11th street and saw another flood of people. I looked west on 11th street, and it was the same scene. That was when it hit me how amazing and monumental this things we were doing was. We were truly making history. It was the happiest and most proud moment of my life.

 

 

 

Photo By Kristi Wright

 

For a moment I stood there, watching the wave of people walking towards me, and I shed a few tears. Overwhelmed by the love, support, and hope I felt from the people surrounding me and wishing my mom was there to see this absolutely majestic sight. Before that moment, I had many reasons for marching, from justice for sexual assault survivors, to my future children. But in that moment, I decided that above all, I was marching for my mom, and everything she taught me.

 

 

Since the Women’s March I have loved hearing stories of people’s experiences at the March. I can’t tell you how many women have told me “that march brought me back to life.” One woman told me that she hadn’t left her house since the election because she was so scared and depressed and when she went to the march she saw that she was not alone. That is what we at March On keep hearing over and over – “I thought I was the only one.”

                You are not alone.

Photo By Mike Holp Photography

 

After the election it would have been too easy for me, or any of us, to fall into a deep depression. And don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard, very hard, but my mom’s advice to keep working and keep doing what I do, no matter what, has kept me going. Planning the Women’s March gave me something positive to focus my energy into. It showed me the good in people, instead of being sucked into the bad.

 

The satisfaction you get from being involved in an issue you are passionate about is not something I currently have the words to describe.

 

So, I challenge you – decide what you are most passionate about. Is it women’s reproductive rights? Is it immigration rights? Is it electing progressive candidates to public office? Whatever it is, find a way to get involved. See for yourself just how satisfying, uplifting, and empowering it can be.

My mom has always taught me to find the bright side or the silver lining in bad situations. Without a doubt, my silver lining of the unexpected results of the 2016 presidential election is the number of everyday people it has motivated into political action.

Now is your time. Now is our time. To have a say in what happens next. To be the change. Don’t miss your chance, get involved, in whatever way that means for you.

March On! Texas!

 

 

Why I march on Texas

By Kevin Hopper

To understand why I march on Texas, you may need to know a little about me. Born and raised in Texas, I attended public Texas schools and colleges. Being the son of a Republican Air Force officer and a Democrat teacher, I understand that the issues that face this state are not partisan, they’re not black or white, and they’re not blue or red. But the truth is we live in a climate where politicians drive a wedge between neighbors and families in the interest of their own personal gain. I march on Texas because I realize the time is now to organize and take action.

 

After graduating from the University of North Texas, I moved to New York to pursue a career as a (struggling) freelancer. When I turned 26, I aged out of my parents’ healthcare. At the time, I was working multiple jobs and struggling just to stay afloat. So when I went to healtchare.gov to find coverage, I was shocked and relieved to find that I qualified for Medicaid. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but coming from a state that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, I had never seen the system work like it was supposed to. Being young and healthy, I never had to use my Medicaid, but knowing that I was covered in case of an emergency gave me and my parents great peace of mind.

 

Fast forward a couple years, I move back to Texas to pursue a Teacher’s Certification and a career as a Texas public school teacher. Having lost my status as a Texas resident, I spent my first year biding my time until I qualified for in-state tuition. During this time, my financial stability remained about the same as it was in New York (not stable at all), but one thing did change: I lost healthcare coverage.

 

Back on healthcare.gov, I looked up my options for health-insurance providers available to me. Because I lived in Texas, I no longer qualified for Medicaid. And without subsidies, the options available to me here were just not feasible to fit into my budget. Even with the minimum coverage, A $350 monthly premium and a $5000 deductible meant that I was too poor to have healthcare in the State of Texas. My healthcare plan became the emergency room, and there was nothing I could do about it.

 

What I saw on that page was not the failure of the Affordable Care Act, but the outcome of disruptive policies by Texas’ politicians who are willing to destabilize the lives of their own constituents in order to win a rhetorical game for their own gain in the national political theater.

 

When I hear Texans and Texas business owners saying the Affordable Care Act is broken, I can’t help but think to myself, ‘that’s because those in power in this state won’t let it work the way it was designed’. Yes, ACA is not perfect, but the truth has been distorted by disruptive Tea Party politics and self-interested politicians seeking to dismantle public interest, privatize power, and sell our state to corporate oligarchs.

 

I march on Texas because I believe in the public interest. I march on Texas because I believe we are all less free when oligarchs can dismantle our democratically created institutions against the will and interest of the people. And I march on Texas because the time is now to bring about the change we need in this state to ensure all Texans have access to preventative healthcare and are provided for when they are sick or in need of medicine.

6 Months After I Didn’t March

6 Months After I Didn’t March

“Where were you on the day of the Women’s March?”  It’s going to be one of those snapshot-in-time questions like, “Where were you on 9/11?”  This week, as we pause to reflect about unified civil disobedience, pink pussycat hats and a day of power, I’m almost ashamed to admit where I was:

Having a panic attack on a treadmill.

I had donated to Hillary’s campaign, but didn’t put a sign up on my lawn (too risky).  Half my family voted for Donald Trump and were openly gloating about it to the point where I stopped answering my text messages.

For decades I’ve been voting and everyone knows that you win some, you lose some; this was the first time ever though that I’ve felt scared by the outcome.  Yes, I was pro-Hillary, and although saddened that we didn’t make history with the first woman president, that’s not why I was crying on election night and hyperventilating on inauguration day.  I was (am still!) legitimately frightened that Donald Trump is in charge of the nuclear codes.

Who knew what things white supremacist Stephen K. Bannon was whispering into Donald Trump’s ear and how that would translate into law?  If Trump’s campaign rhetoric was true that would mean that he has a rubber stamp to pass his unconstitutional Muslim ban, reinstate “stop and frisk”, stop supporting the Paris Climate Accord, overturn Roe v. Wade and build that wall.  And with conservatives’ majorities in both chambers and now the Supreme Court too to rubber stamp his ideas, would I even recognize my own country four years from now? 

And then something wonderful happened.  Pictures of the Women’s March…in TEXAS…started entering my newsfeed.  People participated across the globe in the millions and even in Texas!  Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone anymore.  I wasn’t brave enough to go to the march, but they did.

Photo c/o Kristi Wright Photography

I remember reading in history class about peaceful protests and civil rights movements and wondering what I would do if I were in that situation.  Would I get involved or stay safely silent?  On the day of the Women’s March I went through some extreme vetting of my own morals and decided it was time for me to speak up. 

I went to a digital organizing class for Progressives, where I met Melissa Fierro who organized the march in Texas, shattering Texas history that day with 100,000 participants.  There was so much energy she and a group of volunteers formed March On! Texas to keep up the momentum.  March On! Texas has a mission to educate, motivate and activate women to help speak out for issues important to us and to help elect Progressives at the local level. 

Since volunteering with them, I’ve regained a sense of power and optimism that was crushed during the entire campaign season.  Some of the things I participated in included:

·         Blue Ribbon Lobby Day – groups of us got to meet with our representatives at the state capitol and talk about local legislation that was important to us, including women’s reproductive rights, public education and health care. 

Blue Ribbon Lobby Day

·         Help craft and send out weekly marching orders that gave three actions to do that week to help promote our Progressive agenda.

·         Wrote letters to both senators and did a blog post explaining how healthcare directly impacted me and my family and encouraged others to do the same.

·         We asked people throughout the state of Texas to send us names of Progressives running for local elections.  Marchers identified over 70 names, 45 of them women!  One volunteer created an interactive map that linked to candidates’ websites to get the word out.

·         We reached out to the candidates, encouraged people to attend meet-and-greets, volunteer, fundraise, and of course get out there and vote!  16 progressive candidates won, which is a step in the right direction, and also shows us how much further we need to keep going.

Beto O’Rourke with March On Texas women

·         Volunteers supported other groups by sharing events on our calendar and attending marches and information sessions.  If you attended a march for the environment, LBGTQIA, Muslim rights, civil rights, town halls and/or reproductive rights chances are you met someone from March On! Texas there too.

·         In the day of “fake news” and “alternative facts” we have strived to share accurate information through our Facebook page from credible sources and blog posts educating and inspiring people to learn more about local politics and how we can make a difference.

·         We strive to share stories of everyday activists, feminist powerhouses and artists standing up for values we believe in.

The New Activists

So, my message to anyone out there who didn’t march on that day is that you can still make a difference!  Don’t beat yourself up for missing out on one march, because that was yesterday and this is today.   Life is full of small choices you make each and every day and I hope you choose to join us in supporting local Progressive candidates and fighting for women’s rights, equal rights and an inclusive American society.  Let’s make Texas blue again!

March on, y’all!