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Three Things Thursday: Guns (my personal thoughts), Building a Strong Base, and a New Team Member

 

Dear Michigan LCV Family, 

Welcome to the May 26, 2022 edition of Three Things Thursday! This week’s Three Things include my personal thoughts on the gun violence tearing apart this nation, what Michigan LCV is doing to find ways to be together (after years of work in all virtual environments), and welcoming a brand new staff member. 

1. Tragedy in Texas

“What are we doing? What are we doing? What are we doing?”

This was the heartbreaking question asked again and again by Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy as he gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday night after 21 innocent people – including 18 children – were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

“What are we doing?”

This was the same question State Senator Jeff  Irwin asked on the floor of the state senate when Senate Republicans, faced with a motion to address gun safety, used their majority status to bury the legislation (once again) by moving it back into committee.

“What are we doing, here in this chamber, to prevent another one of these tragedies from happening?”

 Senator Irwin challenged the Republican leadership in a passionate speech

“Let’s take this vote…Let’s not bury this legislation….Let’s stand with the courage of our convictions…Do you stand with gun safety or do you stand with the gun lobby?” 

The tragedy in Uvalde comes just days after shootings at the Tops SuperMarket in Buffalo, NY and at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in southern California, shootings that targeted Black and Asian communities. This time, in a predominantly Latino community in west Texas, it was elementary students and their teachers who were the targets of hate. 

Tuesday’s shooting was the 26th school shooting in the United States in 2022. It is not yet June.

Our children are not safe.  With elderly Black Americans getting gunned down while picking up their groceries at a community market, our Black family, friends, and neighbors are not safe. With Asian American churchgoers being shot while coming together at their place of worship, our Asian American family, friends, and neighbors are not safe. 

In a country that has more guns than people, and with elected “leaders” who do nothing to protect our children and our communities, it seems that the gun lobby is the only thing that is safe.  

“What are we doing?”

During his Tuesday evening press conference before the NBA playoff game between the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had no interest in discussing basketball. 

 

“When are we going to do something?!” Kerr yelled while choking back tears. “I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough! There are 50 Senators, right now, who refuse to vote on H.R. 8, which is a background check rule that the House passed. It’s been sitting there for two years. And there is a reason they won’t vote on it: To hold on to power.” 

 

My youngest son was in high school when the shootings took place in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school, resulting in the deaths of 17 people and the injury of 17 others.  When my son asked me a few days later if I would take him and his two friends to DC for the March for Our Lives, my answer was “of course.”

Thousands of young people from all across the nation gathered to make their voices heard. It was incredibly powerful and incredibly important …and still nothing has happened in Washington, DC. 

The power of the gun lobby, like the power of the fossil fuel lobby, has entrenched itself in our federal and state capitals, preventing critically important, logical steps from being taken to safeguard our children, to safeguard our communities, and to safeguard our planet.  This must change! 

As a mother and an environmental/political strategist, I am fortunate to have a job where I get to spend my days doing all I can to protect children, families and communities from toxins, to address the climate crisis and leave the world in a better place for future generations. I see and feel the numbness and complacency among the electorate. People feel like they are shouting into the wind, and I understand.  And, I also believe that as frustrating as our national politics may be, the only thing that will change things is people-centered power.  That means we all need to get up and off the couch.  We need to dig in with all we have to make phone calls, write letters, knock doors, raise money, talk with our neighbors, family and friends. We must all be the answer to “what are we doing?” so that the elected officials who are supposed to be representing us in the hallowed halls of Lansing and Washington, DC understand that we will not stand by quietly as they bury critical legislation in committee…and we bury more innocent children, teachers, seniors and church goers.

2. Michigan LCV (re)connecting in person

It has been two-and-a-half years since the Michigan LCV/Michigan LCV Education Fund boards have met in-person. We have not had a full in-person staff meeting either since February 2020. Despite the challenge of working in an all-virtual environment – over zoom, phone, slack, email and text – we have still delivered top tier programs and projects and built personal/professional connectivity.  But, nothing truly substitutes for time together. 

That said, I am pleased to say that over the past week, the Michigan LCV team created a number of opportunities to come together in safe and effective ways. 

On Friday, May 20th, our Advocacy & Outreach team held a celebration for our #OurWater activists.  These activists are an essential part of our work to ensure that the voices of Michiganders are heard loudly and clearly in Lansing.  They were critical to all the work that we did around Senate Bill 565, which resulted in the largest investment in water protections and infrastructure in our state’s history.  Their work has also been a huge part of our advocacy related to climate change and the adoption of the Governor’s important new MI Healthy Climate Plan

Our team presented the #OurWater activists with a number of awards on Friday, ranging from “Rising Leader” to “World Changer.” We got feedback about their experience in the program, and we heard first-hand about what brought them to Michigan LCV, what fuels their passions and commitment, and what issues are most important in each of their individual communities. 

On Monday, we were able to hold an in-person meeting with all the department directors, allowing many teammates to meet each other for the first time.  Our conversation spanned how we come to the work (using Strengths Finder and what we call “individual user manuals”) and goal setting for this next quarter.  It was so good to be together! 

Next week, we are holding our very first in-person full staff meeting in Lansing, which will allow for even more relationship building, analysis of past work, and collective goal setting for the next few months of this very important midterm election year.  And, the second week of June, our two boards are meeting in-person, which will provide new and old board members the opportunity to get to know each other as they roll up their collective sleeves to support and determine the focus on the Michigan LCV family of organizations. 

Each of these meetings are being held in open air or intensely ventilated spaces. Masks are required when not eating, drinking or speaking. We are very committed to keeping our team safe and healthy in a world where COVID just doesn’t appear to be going away.

3. New Michigan LCV team member spotlight: Fayyaz Razi

The Michigan LCV search for talented, dedicated individuals to join our team in a variety of different roles continues and our team continues to grow!  This week, I am excited to welcome Fayyaz Razi to the Michigan LCV family!

Fayyaz joins Michigan LCV as a part-time West Michigan Regional Organizer on our Advocacy & Outreach (A&O) team, bringing unique perspectives, experience and youth to our organizing efforts in the western part of the state.

Prior to joining the Michigan LCV team, Fayyaz worked on elections research and in various organizing capacities on a variety of electoral campaigns in West Michigan. Last year, he was appointed to serve as a U.S. Senate Page for the 2021 fall semester by Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an opportunity that allowed Fayyaz to gain valuable experience working in the Capitol. 

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Fayyaz is a student at Portage Central High School, as well as at the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center (KAMSC).

The Michigan LCV team is thrilled to have Fayyaz in the fold! 

As I say every week, thank you so much for your belief in our work. Please take good care of yourselves, not only in relation to crazy viruses, but emotionally.  We are living in very intense times. As my youngest son said to me today, “Why is it that we assume that everyone can go on as usual in the aftermath of the school shooting in Texas? Why don’t we give each other and ourselves a break?” He’s right. There is a huge need for time and space. Please give yourselves and your loved ones space to grieve and work through a myriad of emotions, including disbelief, anger, and frustration.  If we are to win these battles against the gun lobby and the fossil fuel lobby….if we are going to win for people and planet…we need to take care of ourselves. 

Be well, be safe, embody kindness….

Onward!

Lisa