Lobby For Our Lives and Lessons From Organizing

One of my proudest contributions to my community is creating the Lobby For Our Lives program in North Carolina. As the Executive Director of a non-profit dedicated to ending gun violence in North Carolina, I had to create community-based solutions to the issue of gun violence. One of these solutions was a non-corporate approach to lobbying called Lobby For Our Lives. This grassroots lobbying effort empowered young organizers with the tools to interact directly with their elected officials. This program trained youth in the art of lobbying, giving them valuable life skills, such as negotiation and compromise, all while preparing them for the real world of organizing and getting things done. Lobby For Our Lives was always going to be an uphill battle, with a majority pro-gun legislature, but our program did change the conversation around gun violence and got HB75 passed in 2019. This bill allocated $23.5 million in an annually recurring budget for school safety. Our next battle was to secure this money for actual improvement on safety, not more guns or SRO’s, and to include language that protected people of color and underserved communities. We secured that language, and while this legislation isn't going to completely end violence, but it might actually create tangible change for some folks.

We fought for this not because it was practical, but because we knew it was the right thing to do. If we want to create a better future for all, it's important to throw what's "feasible" out the window and instead ask "what is necessary?" A quote from Eleanor Roosevelt stands out to me while writing this.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." -Eleanor Roosevelt

I think this quote captures so beautifully what a lot of us as organizers are trying to do. We are trying to capture the imagination of the public and show them the beauty of our dreams. Often as organizers, we don't believe in the beauty of our dreams and get caught up in the politics and mess that is movement building. So I think it is important to remind organizers that it's impossible to capture the imagination of the public if you don't even believe in the beauty of your dreams.

Take care of yourself, breathe, and please please please believe in the beauty of your dreams. A better world is possible, but only if we build it.

In solidarity,

Nico Gleason

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