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A message of encouragement

This week’s inspiring message was originally much shorter, but in light of the recent failure of Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, consider these words of commiseration and encouragement.

First, if you feel as the AoCC volunteer team does, your emotions may be wide-ranging:

  • Incredulous and frustrated
  • Heavy and speechless
  • Crushed yet curious
  • Grief and courage
  • Rage yet determined

Our team also shared what’s giving us perspective, hope, and solace:

  • How Amanda Gorman almost didn’t read her poetry at the inauguration and why she did.
  • Hope that there’s a bigger strategy at work that leaders brought this legislation to the floor, knowing it wouldn’t pass.
  • Alice Walker’s words from her book, Anything We Loved Can Be Saved, “I have learned to accept the fact that we risk disappointment, disillusionment, even despair, every time we act. Every time we decide to believe the world can be better.”
  • A short but potent video message from Stacey Abrams that puts this moment in perspective.

In a tweet yesterday, I shared:

“It’s tempting to want to give up. I feel that to my bones sometimes. But then I remember John Lewis and his community who didn’t give up even in the face of greater oppression than I have ever known. I can rest. I can grieve. Then I can reach out to others and get to work.”

AoCC’s Plans for Midterm Elections

More than ever, expanding voting rights is crucial. In addition to federal actions for voting rights, this year the Checklist will also offer ways to have an impact at the local level where the anti-voter agenda is most pervasive.

Our partners in rural communities tell us that voters of color often have little faith in the system and thus simply don’t vote. This loss of faith is a great danger to democracy. Although AoCC doesn’t endorse candidates, we are currently working on actions in strategic regions to encourage voters of color.

Even if federal voting rights legislation doesn’t pass, there are many opportunities to collaborate with local groups for local voters. I’m working with pro-democracy groups for actions in swing states where voter suppression is greatest.

In the months ahead, expect actions in the Checklist that empower you to make an impact accessing the ballot box and in restoring faith in democracy. Rest. And then reconnect. We’re counting on you to speak up, no matter the odds.

Remember that you are part of an enduring movement to empower all people—not just land-owning white men—to shape our nation and future through voting. It will take time, but we will persevere. And we will win.

Change is possible

Janet Zydney is one of the wonderful volunteers behind the Americans of Conscience Checklist. When she recently contributed to positive change in her community, I asked if she’d be willing to share her story.

If you need an uplifting example of how powerful it is to channel one’s concern from silent anger into action, keep reading Janet’s story. In speaking up, we can help others feel justified in their concern, mobilize meaningful action, and encourage people far and wide.

I am a volunteer researcher for AoCC’s Voting and Democracy Team and had a recent experience of success in advocating for what I believed in.

Right before winter break, I learned that my son’s school was moving to a mask optional policy. I felt distraught and angry because it seemed unconscionable to put our children in a less safe environment in the midst of a surge. Initially I stewed silently. Then, I started complaining to anyone who would listen—AoCC volunteers, friends, family members.

My sister asked me, “So, what are you going to do?” My initial thought—I’ll get N95s for my son to wear and fantasized sneaking him in to get a booster shot.

I couldn’t sleep that night, so I wrote a letter to the superintendent and the school board. I used my research background and pulled in every fact I could think of on why this was a bad idea (e.g., studies show that masking in schools works, many high school students were not eligible yet for the booster, etc.). Just writing the letter made me feel better… I wasn’t just letting this happen.

In response to my sister’s question, I was doing something.

Initially, I sent the letter to friends who had students in my son’s school to get feedback and received such incredible support. I started feeling more empowered and thought maybe there were others in my local community that might be interested in signing on to the letter.

One friend—a doctor—agreed to sign the letter. I remembered that at the beginning of the pandemic a group of health professionals had written a letter advocating for a mask mandate in my local community, so I asked around and found out the names of the organizers and emailed them my letter.

They wrote back immediately.

One doctor responded with interest, and another said that my letter was like an “early Christmas gift.” I worked with them over the next week making adjustments, and then they circulated it to all the healthcare workers in my community.

In two days, 34 health professionals including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists from my neighborhood signed on to the letter, which made me feel increasingly hopeful.

While I waited for the response from the superintendent and school board, I shared this news with the volunteers at AoCC and received virtual bouquets, supportive chanting of my name, and messages that I was inspiring them.

That same day, we received a response. The school anticipated making a change to requiring masks. A few days later, an official announcement came out that the school was keeping our mask mandate. One of the doctors I had collaborated with wrote me, “We’ll never know if the letter mattered or not and that’s fine by me!

One of the things I’ve learned from AoCC is that we write people—even if we think they might already agree with us—because it matters they know we support what they are doing.

When I shared the good news with friends and family and my fellow volunteers at AoCC, I received such wonderful kudos. Now I am sharing with you, our extended family of subscribers, in the hopes that it will give you some inspiration. Change is possible.

Want to speak up?

Open this week’s Americans of Conscience Checklist and join us in advocating for a better future.

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