Category Archives: Staff

In 2018, We Commit to Activism

In 2018, We Commit to Activism

Claudia Brock
January 17, 2018

I felt rejuvenated when I came back to work in the New Year. That is, until I opened my email to find a 33-page document my colleague had emailed me detailing why 2018 will make 2017 seem tame. All I could think was, Are you kidding me??

As I thought of all of the work that the NETWORK community did in 2017 I was reminded of Kimmy from the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt declaring “you can do anything for 10 seconds!” as she turns a heavy mental crank in her underground bunker. She starts out smiling and cheery as she counts, “1, 2, 3, 4…” but by the time she reaches number 5 she is straining and once she is at number 9 you are not sure if she will make it. But when she finishes, she goes right back to smiling with another round of cranking, starting at number 1. If you have not yet seen the show you can get a visual here.

Remaining politically active right now can feel a lot like we are Kimmy turning her heavy crank. At first we are energized and willing to tackle the task, but as we keep going our energy wanes and it gets harder and harder until we are right back in the grind with another important issue. If one thing about our work in 2018 is clear it is that we really need YOU. We need you to keep making calls to your legislators; we need you to schedule lobby visits in your district; we need you to be engaged in whatever way you can be.

Around 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February. So if you are looking for a new resolution or a way to amend your current one to make it a bit more realistic, here are 3 ways you can resolve to be a better activist in 2018:

  1. Claim your title

NBC News reported that millennial men are 15% more likely to call themselves activists than millennial women. What makes this discrepancy more disconcerting is that most nonprofits are led by women and most phone calls to Congress have been made– you guessed it– by women! If you are a person who believes in political or social change and are taking part in activities to make this happen, then you are an activist. Resolve to claim both your title and your power and continue to work towards your vision of society.

  1. Use listening and storytelling as a form of activism

Being an activist does not have to mean hosting the next Women’s March; it can be as simple as seeking out new perspectives on issues. Use the experiences of others to expand your understanding of an issue and be open to updating your position. You can intentionally watch documentaries, read books by authors of color to get their perspective, or resolve to have a transformative conversation.

When going on a lobby visit, calling your Member of Congress, or even posting a position on your Facebook page, be sure to not just post facts and figures, but to ground your policy position in stories about human realities. Talk about a family member who has lost their health care or a friend who is undocumented to bring a human face to policies that can often feel abstract.

  1. Find balance and community

In these turbulent political times it is so easy to feel overwhelmed with all there is to do. Resolve to find a balance in your activism that leaves you feeling engaged but not over-extended. Whether it is incorporating a daily phone call to your Member of Congress into your lunch break or writing an email to your legislator once a week, find an action and frequency that works for you and add it into your routine; soon it will become a beneficial habit.

Taking action as part of a community might also help you stick to your political engagement resolutions. Find a buddy to make phone calls to Congress with so you are not tempted to hang up when you are put on hold, or go to a town hall meeting with a family member. Tackling an action with another person can make activism fun and connect you to other people working hard to create social change.

I am so thankful for all of the actions that our community of justice-seekers took in 2017. Now let’s see what we can accomplish in 2018!

“Good Guys” Are Overrated

“Good Guys” Are Overrated

Jeremiah Pennebaker
December 07, 2017

“ – and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates, The First White President

So, dudes are creeps. I feel like I should probably just stop the presses right there. That statement and the hashtag, #MenAreTrash, seem pretty self-explanatory. Especially in a time when countless women are reliving some of their darkest and most painful moments out loud. There is an ongoing exposition of men ranging from anonymous individual cases, to some of the biggest names in Hollywood and the media. Yet, when women tweet or exclaim that #MenAreTrash they are typically hounded by #NotAllMen, a cohort of men who believe themselves to be the “good guys.” Statements like #MenAreTrash aren’t as easily digested in this society as ones like, “She’s a liar,” “Why was she dressed like that?” or “She’s just trying to get some attention.” Statements like those, while problematic and misogynistic, are simply accepted at face value as people go about their day.

I think that I’m a good guy, or at least that’s what I’ve been told and what I’d like to believe. That’s what my friends say after they finish listing out the varying degrees of trashiness of the men in their lives, the men that they encounter on the streets, the men they know from work, the guy on their social media who just won’t stop harassing them, the old boyfriend who won’t stop texting them, the guy from high school who shared pictures of them and so on. We live in a society where women have to be afraid of men, and where guys aren’t held accountable for their treatment of women outside of the typical “what if that was your sister?” retort. This all leads me to question how good of a guy I am.

Being a Black man in America is constantly at the forefront of my mind. I think about it when I’m driving around, when I walk into stores, and whenever I am in public spaces. While I completely recognize the fragility of my safety and my body when I show up somewhere as a Black man, I cannot fathom the things that women are simply expected to live with. After hearing and reading the multitude of stories that have come out in the past month on sexual harassment and sexual assault, it makes me wonder how much of a good guy I am.  If I am a “good guy” what have I done to stem the violence and abuse that so many women experience? Do I deserve a pat on the back for simply not assaulting every woman I pass by on a daily basis? Should I get a thumbs up for not catcalling the girl on the metro? Do I get a high five for not lashing out when I get “friendzoned” by a woman with free will? Am I entitled to a round of applause for simply treating women like people?

A good friend of mine always says, “You shouldn’t give credit to a fish for swimming.” While I recognize that all this #MenAreTrash talk isn’t necessarily about me, it really is. How many times have I allowed my brother to make an offhand, misogynist comment? How many times have I not stepped in when my friend was being too aggressive with his girlfriend? How many times have I just blindly participated in a culture of sexism and hate?

I cringe as I recall the moments I could’ve and should’ve stepped in, the times I myself have been trash, and all the times that I didn’t even know that I was being trash. The #NotAllMen and #GoodGuy movement loses all credibility when it is seemingly #AllWomen who have had to deal with varying levels of assault and abuse. I would hope that one day my son or I won’t have to get pats on the back for being “good guys,” but it will simply be the expectation.

Anyone Can Lobby

Anyone Can Lobby

Claudia Brock 
November 18, 2017

In early November, NETWORK Lobby headed to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) for a few days of presenting, learning, and networking. As a graduate of a Jesuit university, it was heartening to see so many young people excited about social justice and willing to consider how their values influence politics. To begin the weekend, my colleague, Jeremiah, and I gave a “How to Lobby” presentation to prepare the students for their day advocating on Capitol Hill — the culmination of the IFTJ weekend.

One of my favorite parts of the presentation was when Jeremiah asked who had lobbied before and only a few students in a room of over one hundred people raised their hands. After a few moments, Jeremiah asked again and this time noted that signing on online petition, calling a Member of Congress or tweeting with a political hashtag were forms of lobbying; suddenly every hand in the room was up. At times it can feel like the political process is hard to navigate or so abstract it’s impossible to engage in it, especially as a young person who is not able to vote yet. But it is important to remember that every constituent has personal power in their own voice. It was enlivening to demystify what it means to be politically active through our presentation.

A few of us on the Grassroots Mobilization team at NETWORK had the chance to meet the renowned organizer Heather Booth. When she was asked what it took to be an organizer or make any kind of political change she said, “You just have to love people and hate injustice.” Using Heather Booth’s qualifications, every student at IFTJ and each member of NETWORK’s spirit-filled network has what it takes to enact real change.

As Jeremiah told the students at IFTJ, there are many ways to lobby for justice. If you’re busy working full time or have other responsibilities, it may be most convenient for you to lobby your elected officials by making phone calls. When you call, we recommend mentioning a brief personal reason for why you support or oppose a bill (see more tips here for using email, social media, or for an in-person lobby visit ). Find out how contacting your Member of Congress, using social media and writing letters to the editor are great ways to advocate for social change.  Email info@networklobby.org with any questions, comments, or to report back on how your lobbying goes!