An interview series with local activists about their work in Missouri.
Tell me about the organizations you work with and how you think you’ve been most effective.
I was one of the founding members of Take Action St. Charles, one of many ‘huddle’ groups formed after last year’s Woman’s March. I’ve worked with the national #Resist movement supported by Meetup.com. I’ve been hooked into Moveon.org’s field network for about a year now. I was part of the initial Gateway Advocacy Network (GAN) group working to coordinate the efforts of progressive groups across the bi-county area. And I was an intern with Moveon.org’s Resistance Summer in 2017. And there is a brand-new St. Charles County Progressive Dems group, which I have joined.
One of the things I do all the time at work is plan & facilitate meetings, so stepping in to fill that role when it was needed helped those groups to be more cohesive. As time passed, all the different groups ended up moving in this or that direction, depending on how ‘active’ the group wanted to be, their particular interests, and a variety of other factors. But one of the other things I do at work is team-building and I believe that through planning events and maintaining communication channels (Facebook, email, Slack), I’ve managed to help keep the people who want to be engaged in contact and informed.
How did you get started?
I had always been politically well-informed, but mostly inactive aside from voting every 2 years. After the election in 2016, I disengaged completely for a couple of months, even closing my Facebook and stopping reading the news. After the 1st Muslim ban, I realized that I couldn’t stay on the sidelines anymore.
I started with Google and I found the Indivisible Guide, which led me to Liberal Women Unite (just a Facebook presence at the time). I found the Women’s March website, which led me to the huddle that became TASC. In the past I never talked politics with anyone. Finding people who felt as strongly as I did about the same issues was life-changing. I wanted to keep showing up and taking action, working for change.
How do you mobilize people?
This was actually one of the lessons covered during our MoveOn Resistance Summer program- and it’s not easy. One thing you need to do once you know someone is interested in getting involved is to try to build a relationship with them. Engage and ask them questions about themselves and what they’re interested in. Then you need to find a way to tie those interests into some action that they can take to help your mutual interests. Bottom line though, it’s about relationship-building, if you want to keep people showing up in person.
What’s the main issue that you feel passionately about?
There are so many issues that I’m passionate about! My campaign is focused on responsible use of our taxes. I am truly angry at the ways the County is spending our money- I can give examples if you like, but the bottom line is that the County police all got shiny new cars last year and many friends and family of our County Executive seem to have cushy jobs with the government. And at the same time, there are low-level jobs going unfilled because there is no public transportation and a lack of affordable housing in the County.
Once I am in office, I will work to address those things, but I’m also passionate about addressing structural racism, strengthening the social safety net, and providing a full range of health care (reproductive included) to every citizen.
How do you stay inspired and engaged with the work?
The people! I have made so many friends and met so many amazing people! Also, there is so much to be done to get this county, this state, and this country moving in a better direction, that I feel obligated to keep pushing. And it’s not always work, there is enough of a social aspect to this activism that I’ve found myself in that it hasn’t gotten old yet.
Advice to other activists?
No one is going to give you a list of directions, there’s no guide for this. Find a group through Google or Facebook or maybe by reading news websites or blogs. Get in touch, find out what you can do to join, volunteer to help them somehow. Follow your passions and know that even the smallest efforts move us the tiniest bit in the right direction. We’ve got a lot of work to do but don’t get discouraged. As MLK paraphrased from a quote by Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
How do you see St. Charles County evolving, in the business, political, and community culture?
The County has grown tremendously over the last 1/2 century and that growth continues. It was once a Democratic and union-strong place but over the last 20 years has gone strongly Republican, for a number of reasons. In the last year, though, I’ve seen more people of color, more LGBTQ people, more progressives, more women willing to stand up and make their voices heard. I want to continue to amplify those voices- I think that diversity of viewpoints across the County’s business, political, and cultural lives can only make us stronger.
If you could change or improve something about St. Charles County, what would it be?
I’d love for it to be more diverse culturally, I’d love to see the Metrolink extended to the County, and I’d love to see a newspaper (or news website?) cover news and events here more thoroughly. The only way you can know what happens at council meetings (city or county) is to actually attend them. And there’s so much more going on that people should know about.
What do you think is the most pressing need for the people in your area?
Public transportation and affordable housing. Also, the people of the County should have more opportunities to engage with and learn from black and brown people. And that’s on white people to make this a comfortable place for black and brown people to be, not on them by any means.
What are your thoughts on some of the legislation being enacted in our state?
I’m horrified by what I’ve seen. Republicans want to take away women’s reproductive rights, they want to put LGBTQ youth at risk, to make trans people’s lives harder, to slash taxes for corporations and then cut services to Missouri’s elderly and to public education. In addition, they have no respect for people of color or for women. I can’t wait to see my friends like Gary Wester, Jim Klenc, Curtis Wylde, Peggy Sherwin, Scott Cernicek, and Helena Webb take their places in the MO House and for Patrice Billings to sit in the MO senate.
Add any additional thoughts you’d like to share.
Running for office, at any level, is a lot of work. I’d encourage anyone reading this who is also interested in being the change they want is to find a campaign and volunteer for it. They can find mine online but there are plenty of others and we all meed folks’ time and money if we’re going to win.