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How Organizing Can Help Us Get Through the Recent Events in Tennessee—and Activate Our Local Community

The past few weeks have been filled with heartbreaking news—mass shootings, the expulsion of two democratically-elected Tennessee state legislators and devastating storms.

These events have left many of us feeling overwhelmed and wondering what we can do to make a difference.

The answer is clear: we must remember to organize.

Organizing can take many forms, from joining a local advocacy group to volunteering your time and resources to those in need. But why is organizing so important in the wake of tragedy? To answer that question, I’m reminded that this month marks the 55th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ironically, in the same state in which a gun took his life, a mass shooter killed three 9-year-olds and three adults. Then, when the people tried to exercise their First Amendment rights to stand up for those who lost their lives to senseless gun violence, they were silenced and their representatives were expelled. Dr. King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

So we can’t be naive in thinking that the actions in Tennessee do not affect the Central Valley of California.

Here are a few reasons organizing is so important right now:

1. It provides a sense of community

Organizing allows us to connect with others who share our values and goals. In times of tragedy, it can be easy to feel isolated and alone. By joining together with others, we can find strength in our collective voice and support one another through difficult times.

2. It creates a platform for change

When we organize, we have a platform to speak out about the issues that matter to us. By coming together and raising our voices, we can pressure lawmakers to take action, demand change from those in power, and create real solutions to the problems we face.

3. It fosters hope

Organizing can be a powerful tool in combating feelings of hopelessness and despair. By taking action and working towards a common goal, we can create a sense of purpose and optimism. Even small victories can provide a glimmer of hope in the darkest of times.

So how can you get involved in organizing? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Reach out to local advocacy groups

There are countless organizations dedicated to a variety of causes, from gun control to climate change to social justice. Here are a few opportunities to get involved:

  • LIVE FREE is a social justice network dedicated to ending gun violence, mass incarceration, and police brutality through education, advocacy, and direct action led by people who are most impacted by these issues. With our partners at LIVE FREE, we have been working to end gun violence, to build new systems of public safety and to pass the Justice in Policing Act. Contact Toni McNeil at [email protected] for more information or to get involved.
  • PICO California is the largest multi-racial faith-based community-organizing network in the state connecting and leveraging the power of people to impact broad systemic change. We are joining with our partners at PICO California later this month in Sacramento to meet with our legislators to create stronger renter protections that help every Californian have access to safe shelter. To learn more about that initiative and to share your story, visit the Home is Sacred Storybank page.
  • Fresno Interfaith Climate Alliance is holding an Interfaith Climate Summit this weekend. The keynote speaker will be Ron Goode, an Indigenous elder and the tribal chair of the North Fork Mono tribe. Faith in the Valley is co-collaborating on a workshop entitled, “Climate Justice is Housing Justice.” This will provide an opportunity to get involved in the local and statewide climate and housing justice movement that’s already underway.
  • California’s climate fueled storms caused flooding in Merced and other areas of the Central Valley. If you would like to get involved with efforts to support those impacted by floods, helping to safeguard their housing and to ensure more climate resilient housing, contact Blanca Ojeda at [email protected].

2. Connect with others on social media

Social media can be a powerful tool for organizing. Join groups and follow pages like ours at Faith in the Valley, and partners like LIVE FREE, PICO California, End Poverty in California and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—dedicated to the causes you care about, connect with others who share your values, and use your platform to amplify the voices of those who need to be heard.

3. Take action in your community

Sometimes the most effective organizing happens at the local level. Attend town hall meetings, write letters to your elected officials, and support local businesses and organizations that align with your values.

In times of tragedy, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. But by remembering to organize, we can find hope, purpose and strength in the face of adversity.

So let’s come together, connect with others and work towards a better future that is free from economic oppression, racism and discrimination, and in which everyone lives in a safe and healthy environment, is respected and included, and has agency over the decisions that shape their lives.

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