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People Power Coming to Idaho

Posted by Jamee Greer at Jan 20, 2017 01:39 PM |

2012 WILD grad Kathy Griesmyer writes about the political climate in Idaho going into the 2017 Legislative Session and a recent visit to Boise by Western States Center staff to facilitate meetings between progressive organizations working statewide on economic, gender and racial justice: “It’s in times like these that I’m most thankful for the willingness of Western States Center to spend time with those of us on the ground to ensure we have the tools we need to keep oppression and injustice at bay.”

People Power Coming to Idaho

Western States Center travels to Boise, Idaho to work with organizations on the ground. December 2016.

People Power Coming to Idaho
By Kathy Griesmyer

The results of the 2016 U.S. election dealt a stunning blow to me and just about everyone I know. Not only did a womanizing, racist, reality TV star win the presidency, but his win emboldened members of the GOP to create a disastrous 2017 legislative agenda targeting the gains we’ve made for racial equity, women’s rights, criminal justice reform, and transparency in government.

Here in Idaho, progressive organizations are strengthening their relationships and working together to achieve our unified vision for justice. Bolstered by the support of their respective donors, members, and volunteers, we’ve built a plan to ensure that no members of our community are left behind.

I can’t imagine where Idaho’s progressive community would be without the care and support of Western States Center. Just weeks after the election, Kelley Weigel (Executive Director) and Se-ah-dom Edmo (Movement Building Director) traveled to Boise to meet with over twenty progressive organizations to help us critically analyze the dramatically shifting political landscape coming into 2017. We spent the day fortifying our relationships, seeking better understanding of the needs and fears of the communities we work with, and strategizing on how we could leverage our resources to build not only our organizational capacity, but the capacity of our greater progressive coalition, to fight for change.

I can’t imagine where Idaho’s progressive community would be without the care and support of Western States Center.

As a 2012 graduate of WILD (Western Institute for Leadership Development) program, I’m no stranger to the work of Western States Center to build community power and advance racial, gender, and economic justice. It’s in times like these that I’m most thankful for their continued dedication to their mission, and for their willingness to spend time with those of us on the ground to ensure we have the tools we need to keep oppression and injustice at bay.

Make no mistake, Idaho was a conservative state before the results of the 2016 election were announced and Idaho will remain one of the reddest states in the country for years to come. Yet, even still this election put us on alert and left many of us afraid, wondering how Idaho’s elected officials would interpret the country’s priorities under a Trump Administration.

Many of Donald J. Trump’s campaign priorities became issues of heightened and contentious debate across Idaho. The backbone of Idaho’s economy is its agricultural industry, and the backbone of that industry rests in the working hands of thousands of immigrant laborers. Deportation not only cruelly and inhumanely breaks families apart, but the racial profiling inherent in such a system raises serious constitutional concerns.

All the talk of Congress defunding Planned Parenthood? Idaho’s legislature certainly seems ready to jump on board. Add that to their consistent and annual attempts to curtail a women’s well-defended right to choose when and how and with whom she will build a family, and you’ll strip women of most access to affordable reproductive healthcare in the state.

And after the right-wing controversy over welcoming Syrian refugees in the Twin Falls area, the fears of an expanded Muslim registry are now more frighteningly clear to many.

Idahoans are coming together and building our collective strength, and we’re going to need that strength in the coming months. Our government is going to test our will, and our dedication to fighting for the inclusive and diverse communities we hold so dear to our hearts. We can’t remain silent. We must fight hate and intolerance. We must love and protect one another.

So here we are, at the start of the 2017 Legislative Session and we’re anticipating the worst. But there’s hope that not all will be lost. Despite the long list of civil rights and freedoms that could be on the chopping block, I’ve seen a genuine outpouring of support directed at local organizations that defend the values and principles we hold dear in our communities.

I have found comfort in the incredible numbers of people reaching out to organizations big and small across Idaho, pledging to do their part to defend our essential freedoms. My organization hosted a volunteer open house post-election to engage the hundreds of people contacting us and asking how to get involved. Over 100 people attended, many of them new faces I had never seen even after six years on staff. The showing of solidarity brought tears to my eyes.

Idahoans are coming together and building our collective strength, and we’re going to need that strength in the coming months. Our government is going to test our will, and our dedication to fighting for the inclusive and diverse communities we hold so dear to our hearts. We can’t remain silent. We must fight hate and intolerance. We must love and protect one another.

In celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and dedication to civil rights, I can’t help but find comfort in his words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

Let us come together to drive out the hate, and let love fill our hearts. 

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