This post was written by Beth Anderson, MN NOW treasurer and MN Valley NOW member.
Two things happened last Saturday that may seem unrelated, but in reality demonstrate the two faces of our collective future. One was the March For Our Lives that occurred both in St. Paul, where young activists from all over Minnesota demanded common sense gun legislation to protect us all from gun violence. The second event was the endorsement of Hunter Cantrell by the delegates to the Minnesota Senate District 56A DFL Convention. (The entire City of Savage is part of Senate District 56A.)
In the first instance, young activists are working “outside” the system to demand change to their own environment. This same type of activism was demonstrated by Burnsville High School students who participated in school walk-outs after the Florida school shootings and by the students who staged a “die-in” at the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing in St. Paul. Overwhelming public support for political change is one of the few things that can actually influence lawmakers to implement policy, and these young activists are applying that pressure.
In the second instance, young activists have worked “within” the existing political process to get one of their own a chance to make change from the inside. Hunter Cantrell is a young man whose victory in a close endorsement fight between two excellent candidates signals the power of young activists within the existing political structure. Mr. Cantrell is not only a young activist himself, but he inspired many young people in our district to get to the Precinct Caucuses in February, get themselves elected as delegates to the endorsing convention, and actually show up to a long meeting on a Saturday in March and ensure his endorsement! This type of activism also has the potential to make policy changes. One of the basic powers of our democracy is that if lawmakers do not reflect the political will of their constituents – they can be replaced. And young activists have not only recognized this truth, but are implementing it.
I, for one, am heartened by the activist energy on both fronts. The energy and sophistication these activists bring to our community demonstrate a politically aware and engaged next generation. I am hopeful about a future where young people care so much about making the community they live in a better place to live, that they give up their time, money, and energy to make a difference. Because I live in this community too.
The other thing these young activists demonstrate is a lack of cynicism and a confidence that their efforts will be fruitful. This is a lesson I need to learn over and over, and I welcome the tutorial. As an older activist, it can be disheartening to see change come ever-so-slowly, at least compared to what I think should be an easy lift for so many common sense issues. But watching these young leaders flex their political muscles, with the self-assurance that they have a right to be heard, a right to care, and a right to have a say in their own future, makes me buck up and continue my own efforts to change the world, or at least my little corner of it.
If you too have been inspired by these young people and are looking for a place to use your activist energy, remember that the Minnesota Legislature is still in session and now is the time to make your priorities known. Remember that elections will be held in November and now is the time to register to vote and to work for your candidate. Remember that it is spring in Minnesota and now is the time to renew, refresh, and make a plan. And remember that activism is empowering, energizing, and important.
Here are a few upcoming activist events to get you started:
- 4/3/18 Reproductive Rights Town Hall in Eagan, 5:30-7:30 at Bald Man Brewing Company, features a panel of Minnesota Legislators discussing current legislation.
- 4/10/18 Equal Pay Day, the day women earn as much money as men did the previous year due to the wage gap. Wear red to demonstrate the Red in your paycheck. Ask your employer for a company-wide wage audit based on gender and race.
- 4/12/18 Degrees Not Debt Lobby Day at the Capitol: Discuss education priorities with legislators including affordable tuition, loan forgiveness programs, and student loan education and protection.
- 4/14/18 March for Science Rally at the Capitol. Argue for political decisions informed by evidence-based science – and make cool signs!
- 4/15/18 Our Democracy Is Not For Sale: Tax Day Rally at the Capitol. Demonstrate your support of rules to ensure political candidates can’t be bought by the highest bidder.
- 4/18/18 Moms Demand Action Lobby Day at the Capitol: Discuss gun violence prevention with your legislators.
- 4/20/18 National Day of Action to Prevent Gun Violence in Schools, the anniversary of the Columbine School Massacre. Wear orange in solidarity.
- 4/22/18 Earth Day. Events occur around the world in support of environmental protections. In Savage, Earth Day coincides with Service Day Saturday on 4/21/18. Activities from cleaning up parks, to recycling unused items, to donating blood are planned.