Party with a Purpose

I’m a firm believer that if you clean your bathroom without making it a dance party, you’re doing it wrong.

Getting and staying involved is work, but combining your civic engagement with things you already wanted to do is one way to achieve sustainability.

My mentor almost exclusively partied with purpose. When she wanted to record kazoo covers, she threw an album launch party and sold the CDs for the literacy council.

Pro tip: Her cause also helped convince her homies to provide free recording and graphic design support to make the album happen.

Make your own party with a purpose: if you prefer dirt over dancing you can sign up with a community garden. If you like to run, find races that fundraise for causes you connect with. If you prefer parties for one you can use your hobbies for good.

Sometimes the opportunity to do what you love isn’t available as a pre-packaged “see you Saturday at noon” kind of volunteer shift. And that’s OK–make your engagement authentically yours.

With all due respect, no one would have ever asked Patty to create a kazoo album for their cause. Don’t be discouraged if the path isn’t obvious. Plug into communities with similar goals and you can make it happen.

Sometimes this means mixing in the less glamorous work that’s necessary to make those communities run–but we’re playing the long game here. And the reward at the finish line is an engagement opportunity you can look forward to. Getting involved shouldn’t always feel like adding another chore to your list.

Happy partying!

 

feature image 📸: Andrew Knechel

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Give Positive Feedback

For many of us, complaining comes easy. Maybe too easy. When we feel we’ve been wronged we’re more motivated to take action, compared to instances where our expectations were met.

Sometimes I imaging that doing intake for constituent letters to representatives is something like Yelp, where half the participants are the ones who are there for catharsis or seem to have had unrealistic expectations in the first place.

At a lobbying event I attended last year I heard an aide for Congresswoman Barbara Lee speak on this topic. Lee’s legislative assistant M. A Keifer said messages from constituents who support the Congresswoman’s work are important to gauge passion on the issues. When you like what your rep is doing, you don’t want the critics to be the only voices they hear. Provide a more balanced experience for your officials by saying Thanks when they actually represent you.

It takes practice to express gratitude in other spaces, but the same benefits apply here. Take 5 minutes to Thank a rep–and read this article on writing your representatives if you’re looking to maximize your impact.

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sign for polling place

Make a Voting Plan

Ohio’s primary elections are Tuesday! Take 5 minutes to make a plan for casting your ballot. Ask yourself these questions:

When are you voting?

Early voting is still an option if May 8 isn’t a good day for you.

For future reference: you can also vote from home! But the deadline to request an absentee ballot is three days before the election in which you want to vote, so I’m late to the party on this info, for this Ohio election.

If you’re voting on election day, Ohio polls are open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Where are you voting?

This depends on whether you’re voting early or on election day.

How are you getting there?

Your polling place is probably in biking distance if not walking. Get some movement in and make the errand extra enjoyable.

Is everyone on the same page?

Could you and your roommate will go together? Accountability buddies aren’t just work workouts. Is childcare arranged? You can take your kids to the polling places, so maybe someone just needs as heads up that they’ll be late. Check your office calendar to be sure you have plenty of time to get back to work in case of a line.

How will you vote?

The copy on the ballot is often not enough context to make an informed decision. Check out a sample ballot and do some research so you don’t show up and play eenie-meenie-miney-mo.

 

All of the info you need to make your game plan for the Ohio Primaries is at https://www.sos.state.oh.us/elections/voters/

If you’re not in Ohio, a google search will get you there. The Secretary of State’s website should also be your starting place.

 

Happy voting!

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Register to Vote

Tomorrow, April 9 is the last day for Ohioans to register to vote in time to participate in the state primary elections.

Ohio: Register, or confirm your registration at https://www.hrc.org/resources/register-to-vote

The most obvious reason to exercise your right to vote:

and some additional considerations:

Registering to vote is about more than choosing a presidential candidate. It’s not even (entirely) about winning. It’s about showing up as a member of your neighborhood, a keeper of your values, a representative of your groups. It’s about considering the young people in your communities, and other individuals who can’t vote. Speaking of young people: if you’re 17 but will be 18 before the next general election, you can also vote in primary elections. Some day you might even want to sign a petition and you gotta be registered to vote in the right place just to have your signature counted.

It’s not just felons whose access to voting is limited. In 2016 I witnessed an admitted hospital patient trying to cast her vote for the presidential election. A process for this circumstance did exist and, on paper, it enabled her to vote from her bed. But in practice, she was disfranchised–a ballot never arrived to her room. Time and time again we see evidence that it is the most vulnerable people who have the most restrictions on advocating for themselves, and elections are no exception.

There are many ways we can be better voters, and ways we can advocate for a more effective system. But making sure you, your neighbors, family and friends are registered on time is an important, and sustainable first step!

And guess what: most states have online voter registration.

Here’s how to register to vote:

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march for our lives illustration

Knowing your Rights

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.”

For some people, life is about being part of something bigger than yourself. You really see it and feel it when you and your tribe are making noise about a truth that has pissed you all off. When using protest or any type of nonviolent resistance, it’s important to know your rights on the way in.

My experience in demonstrations is limited and I’m certainly not the expert on this navigating and exercising your rights in these spaces. But I did find some valuable resources for knowing your rights during demonstration:

  1. When protesting
    Know Your Rights: Demonstrations and Protests [PDF]

  2. When police intervene
    5 Rules for recording Police [Video]

We know rights are often violated in these situations. But these resources advocate that by staying on the right side of the law, even if your rights are denied in the moment, you’ll be better positioned for justice at a later point in time. Ultimately, safety must be your priority number one: Amnesty International Safety During Protest tip sheet

If you know of any resources I can add to this list, or thoughts about those shared here, please comment.

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