How to Get Involved and Make Change in Government
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Politics and Activism

How to Get Involved and Make Change in Government

Get organized, be active, and take control of your future

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How to Get Involved and Make Change in Government
Angelina Camilleri

It is our duty to fight for our freedom,
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

1. Get ready to learn.

And be active about it. Documentaries such as 13th, Selma, Dark Girls, Breast Milk, Let the Fire Burn, Girlhood, After Tiller, Winter on Fire, Pussy Riot, Fed Up, and many others are great places to start. Monitor your news sources and make sure you’re getting information from practically everywhere. Research, research, research.

2. Call legislators and get your voice heard.

Phone calls shake up the monotony of their routine – especially if you get a bunch of people calling in one day, or a routine of calls. Unsure of what to say? Scripts have already been written. Look at this Google document to see a list of all senators and representatives and their contact information, as well as starting points for scripts to contact them.

To find your local elected officials, their contact information, and their website to see what their stances are, click here and input your information.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s number is (202) 225-3031. Press 6 to get through to voicemail.

The Speaker of the House is the head of the majority party in the House of Representatives. The Speaker serves a number of roles, including serving as the majority party’s leader, representing constituents as a member of Congress, acting as administrative head of the House, votes on key legislation, and conducts meetings to discuss legislation.

Mitch McConnell’s number is (202) 224-2541.

The Senate Majority Leader is the chief spokesperson for the majority party in the Senate, speaking on their party’s behalf to give their positions on issues and legislation. Mitch McConnell has refused to speak on President-Elect Trump’s decision to appoint Steve Bannon, known for his racist and white nationalist positions. Many are calling him to discuss the importance of rescinding this appointment.

3. Organize and be part of letter writing campaigns.

Emails can only go so far – the sheer volume of emails they receive makes it difficult to see all of them. Writing a letter makes it personal – your voice is there, and it’s far harder to ignore a physical letter. See a former congressional staffer’s suggestions.

4. Be an ally. Ask your friends what they need.

Check out this PDF for tips on successfully being an ally. Most importantly, recognize your privilege and actively listen to what communities are asking for.

5. Report hateful incidents.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is compiling evidence of hate crimes and incidents of hate around the USA. If you or someone you love has experienced hateful intimidation, hateful harassment, or a hate crime, fill out this form and contact your local law enforcement.

6. Step in when you see hate happening.

Check out this graphic for ideas.

7. Take local and campus surveys, or create them yourself.

This helps to figure out the climate of your community. These surveys can be about anything – safety, identity, what people think is most important, anything! For example, here is a survey my campus put together concerning sexual assault and public safety.

8. Petition, petition, petition.

Have something on your mind? Want to bring it to the attention of local government, national government, campus administration, or anyone else? Make a petition. There are a number of ways to do this, whether online or door-to-door.

Find petitions already in place, whether in your area or nationally, and sign them. For example, my campus put a petition forth to make the University of Michigan a sanctuary campus.

These petitions can be as simple as through Google forms to present to the people in charge. Or, use sites such as www.change.org, www.petitions.moveon.org, or petition the White House directly through petitions.whitehouse.gov. If you get 100,000 signatures in 30 days, you’ll get an update from the White House.

9. Pay attention to local and national struggles.

Likely, there will be spaces already in place for you to find and volunteer with! For example, the #waterislife movement to protect Native tribes and say no to more pipelines has movements across the country already. Additionally, in the Great Lakes area, Nestle has proposed to increase its water consumption in the Great Lakes three-fold. Pay attention; there are far more!

10. Attend City Council and Town Hall meetings in your area.

This will let you know what your city is already planning, and give you an opportunity to bring more issues to the table as well as meet others who care about the same things. If you bring a big group of people, you’re sure to be seen and heard.

11. Invite local staffers and leaders to your group’s meetings and events.

Show them the work you’re doing, invite them out into your community, and have them discuss your ideas and their ideas with you. Build contacts with your local reps and staffers.

12. Get familiar with local and national proposals and contact the appropriate people to give them your views.

For example, looking at ballots and websites of government officials will be a great place to start for this.

13. Attend a National Day of Action in your area.

Look to Facebook events for these, or on the websites of local/national organizations you care about.

14. Participate in public actions (protests, rallies).

People have been successful in the past with public actions, and continue to be today. Public actions allow for people to gather in common public space and redefine it for dialogue and expression, interrupt normal use of the space to be seen and heard, form collective communication, help others have a voice, practice being in solidarity with one another, garner masses for change, and the exercising of the protected right of freedom of assembly.

15. Make donations to charities, organizations, and service points helping those in need.

Want to make a point? Make the donations in the name of politicians. They will receive certificates of your donation. For example, people have been making donations to Planned Parenthood in the name of Mike Pence. Over 46,000 donations have been made to Planned Parenthood in his name since the election. That’s real money making real change, and a real statement to a real person in power.

Ideas of places to donate to: Planned Parenthood, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Border Angels, Campaign Zero, the American Civil Liberties Union, Earth Guardians, New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, Southern Poverty Law Center, United We Dream, True Colors Fund, It Gets Better Project, Vista Maria, and any others you can think of.

Donations don't even have to just be money - find supply lists for movements you care about, and send supplies. For example, here is a list of supplies to donate to the Camp of the Sacred Stones protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

What matters most to you? Start there.

16. Attend and organize workshops to gain important skills.

Such as grant writing, elevator speeches, article writing, reading legislation, networking, petitioning, how to lead, debating, fundraising, and any other skill you think is important!

17. Network with your peers and your local area. Talk to everyone!

Facebook groups are often a great place to start with this. Ask your friends if they’re part of any local groups for community organizing and politics!

18. Get stakeholders on board with your vision.

These are people who will be able to help you and your group get your message forward!

19. Collaborate.

Whether through campus organizations or real local or national organizations, voices are always louder when there are more.

20. Get involved in the nonprofit sector.

Volunteer, apply for jobs, donate, anything!

21. Apply for fellowships and internships with organizations you are passionate about.

No internship available? Send an email to volunteer coordinators outlining your passions and ask for ways to get involved.

This fellowship with the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan is also a great place to start (if you live in Michigan, that is – look to your local places to find more).

22. Prepare for future elections.

Get organized, get involve, find people you believe in, find your community of supporters, view your ballot before you vote, and make sure you know the issues. Midterm elections are in 2018. This WILL come up sooner than you think.


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