This weekend was the anniversary of the Women’s March. I was torn on whether or not I was going to attend this year. This decision had nothing to do with my belief in its need because the optics are very important. It had more to do about the crowd and how my anxiety has heightened this past month. I cried all of Friday wrecked with the indecision. I felt like a failure to the cause.
If I was being really being honest and candid with myself I would have realized that my anxiety wasn’t the only problem. It had more to do with my feelings of inaction and lack of knowledge on the issues. I am in constant doubt of my knowledge. It creates a fear in me to speak up. This is in great part due to keyboard warriors on the internet that will attack you if you say any detail incorrectly.
I don’t regret my marching last year. I had my very valid reasons for participating. You can read about it my post, Why I marched. However, over the past year I came to understand that change happens first on the local level. It is more effective to learn about the issues that face your community and then voted accordingly. This will cause a ripple effect, at some point, upwards to bigger government.
After my tearful conversation with one of my friends she called me up asking me if I rather to go to a conference being held locally instead of going into the city. The conference was called SI United and was run by Sustainable Staten Island. The conference was held at a local college and consisted of three panels that discussed inequality, immigration, and environmental issues. The finale was a lecture from Les Leopold about his book Runaway Inequality.
Attending this conference was the best decision because I learned about local organizations and the work they are doing to improve the lives of our local community. I will admit though that I felt a bit of sadness when I saw all the march photos popping up all over the place.
The first panel was on inequality. We played a stratified version of Monopoly. The group was set up in a square that bordered a large monopoly game.
Each side was given a different color (green, yellow, blue, and red) to represent income levels. We were grouped randomly by where we sat. We had no idea beforehand what was going to happen. Each team was given $1,000 to start with. Each “pass go” varied on their teams take-home income. Everyone was included in the community chest, chase, and other action spaces. My friend and I were on the blue team. This was how the breakdown went based on the best of my memory.
Green team’s income range was from 0 to 75,000. They owned no property so they were always paying rent. They had low paying non-union jobs. Their fate on the action spots depended on rolling 8 and above. They failed more than they won and often found themselves in jail.
Yellow team’s income range was from 75,000 – 100,000. They owned purple and light blue squares. They held union jobs. Their fate on the action spots depended on rolling 6 and above. Their luck ran slightly better than the green team but had much to do with the backing of their job’s union.
Blue team’s income range was from 100,000- 200,000. They owned the dark red, orange, and red squares. If I remember correctly they held jobs that required college education. Their fate on the action spaces depended on rolling 4 and above. Their luck ran about 75%.
Red team’s income was 200,000 and up. They owned the yellow, green, and blue squares. Their fate on the action spaces depended on rolling 2 and above. They hit the mark every time. They never failed to hit goal.
Here are pictures of the board before and after the game played out (all my beginning photos were blurry. This first one was a little after we started).
As you can see from the results I was fortunate to be on one of the “better” teams. However, every time green team had to pay us rent I felt terrible. At the end of the game they asked us how we felt and I stood up and said I wanted to lower the rent. They couldn’t catch a single break the whole game. In the following panel a woman who was in our group came up to me and told me that she has been a landlord for twenty years and she hasn’t raise the rent the past twelve. She said she doesn’t have it in her because everything is so expensive. I said to her God bless you for your compassion the world could use more of it.
The second panel focused on the issues and myths around undocumented immigrates. This panel was held in one of the lecture halls. Along the two sides of the room the panelists hung up large pieces of paper with sourced facts on them. Some of the information I had no previous knowledge about. The first activity they had us do was walk around and read all the papers. Then they asked us to stand next to the one that shocked us the most. Then we went around reading our fact and discussing our thoughts. Here are photos of those papers.
I stood by this last one along with four other people. I was shocked at the cost of deporting people versus reforming immigration laws to create better paths to citizenship. It pays more to allow people to remain here and gain citizenship status than it would to send them all back to wherever they are from.
This subject deserves a post all of it’s own otherwise this one will be 2,000 words long. I will bullet point what I realized
- United States involvement in other countries created the problems that people are fleeing from so are they not responsible?
- The cost of becoming a citizen is too much for these families that are coming over
- The laws are stacked against them
- These parents that come here with their children are not doing anything different than any other parent trying to protect their child and give them a better life
- Immigrants are not stealing jobs from hard working Americans
- Immigrants are abused by their employers
- Immigrants pay taxes but don’t see any tax refund
This list will be continued in a later post about myth busting.
After this activity we all sat back down in our seats and listened to the panelists. They included an undocumented woman who came to America twelve years ago with her two children to escape an abusive husband. She wanted a better life for her children so she came here and worked cleaning houses to provide for them the best life she could. There was an attorney who set up a non-profit for those who need representation but cannot afford it. Another women who was in the process of the lengthy and expensive transition to citizenship. One of the costs that was expensive for her was paying a translator to help with the paperwork. Then there was a DACA recipient who works as an advocate at a law firm. Lastly there was a child of an undocumented immigrant who came over from Africa. Hearing their stories brought to life that every situation is unique and I am tired of hearing the old adage “do it the right way” when the right away is fixed against them.
I’m curiosity which fact would you stand by?
The final panel was the shortest of the three because of time overlapping of the previous panels. This panel focused on the environmental issues of my local community. It was run by I believe seven different organizations that are fighting against, destruction of forest land, over development and a pipeline that the gas company is trying to build a mile and a half off the coast. Digging up this pipeline would dredge up toxic waste and contaminate the water. We also talked about the ways in which we can hold our representatives responsible for the environmental concerns of their constituents.
I am going to keep up with my candidness and stop here because my brain hurts and my fingers are tired of typing. I learned so much information that I could blog about it for days so I will eventually regurgitate it all out of my head. With that said I am so happy that I decided to go to the conference. I feel I got so much more out of this experience that I would have marching. I was with them in spirit though!