Like most people, I am horrified by the specter of Donald Trump as President of the United States. For two months after the election, I was paralyzed by confusion and fear. Heavy doses of Facebook and pinot noir proved a crummy coping strategy; I pinched a nerve in my neck and gained eight pounds. On New Year’s Day, I deleted all social media apps from my phone and hid the corkscrew.
I struggled with how I could make a difference when so many smart, powerful people couldn’t elect someone (anyone!) other than Trump. I doubted that my small voice could make a difference.
And then I met Lan Alcorn.
Lan Alcorn is the co-founder of the grassroots activism group Together We Will, San Luis Obispo. Last week, Lan took time from her busy schedule as a business owner and mom to talk to me about why and how she is trying to cultivate a progressive future.
We met at Bello Mundo, a hip coffee shop in downtown SLO, amid a vibrant crowd on a rainy day. Lan was typing on her laptop when I blustered in. A half-eaten, sea salt-topped chocolate chip cookie sat on the table along with a nearly-empty cup of coffee. She’d already been working for a while. She stood and shook my hand.
Immediately, I was struck by what a leader Lan is. She is a humble, hard worker, and adjusted to my blunt questioning style with grace. I told her that I am worried about our country but that I didn’t know where to start. She nodded and smiled an understanding smile, putting me at ease.
I confessed that I was concerned about the direction our country is headed but that I’ve never gotten involved in politics before. I told her that I know very little about American history, can’t stand when political know-it-alls use jargon and shout over me when I try to explain myself, and that I want to make sure that our civil rights and free press remain central to our country’s values.
Lan told me that Together We Will SLO is the perfect group for someone like me. The group connects individuals with issues, communication strategies, and groups. In addition, they intend to provide networking support amongst progressive organizations.
“An activist concierge service?” I asked.
She smiled again. “Yes, plus education and fundraising.”
Then, she confided that she is a novice activist, too. “Kristi, I am just like you – I haven’t done much as far as activism in the past, but I can’t sit back and do nothing.”
I asked her what changed for her – what made her decide to devote the hours she could be spending on her baking business or with her family – to nurture a grassroots activism group.
“The extreme path that we’ve gone down has forced me into what I’m doing,” she said. “My children’s future is at stake. Overall, nothing about a Trump presidency puts me at ease.”
Lan explained that TWW SLO intends to build bridges. “Together We Will SLO wants to be a leader in bringing people into the process. Especially people who haven’t been active before. We want to support their voices.”
This week, Together We Will released a mission statement:
Together We Will stand up, refuse to be silenced, and reclaim our democracy as everyday people taking decisive, unified action to defend and advance our rights.
Local TWW members have made their voices heard in the past two months. They contributed to shutting down a proposal by the GOP to eliminate the Independent Office of Congressional Ethics. They protested repealing the Affordable Care Act. Members urged their elected officials to vote against confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary because she supports a for-profit school system.
In addition, members of TWW SLO have been busy compiling a network of local organizations that share progressive values – groups such as SLO Progressives, SLO Democratic Party, Race Matters SLO County, and Our Revolution SLO. By solidifying relationships now, this consortium will be quick to respond when issues arise. Moreover, the network may choose to influence local governance by joining together on causes.
TWW SLO educational programming is consistent with its mission. An Activist 101 series is top priority. The series will highlight discussions of the Indivisibility Guide, a Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, a widely-circulated document written by former congressional staffers that reveals best practices for making Congress listen. Other ideas include holding classes on how to have productive conversations with friends and relatives who voted for Trump.
I asked Lan whether she is optimistic about our country’s next four years. She sighed and then said that she is. “I’m optimistic because there are a lot of people out there like me who want to make a difference. I’m hopeful that TWW SLO can help them find a place where they feel comfortable to speak up and be heard.”
Lan encourages everyone who’d like to know more to visit the TWW SLO booth at the Women’s March San Luis Obispo on Saturday, January 21. The event starts at 9 am, with music, information, and speakers. Helpful details are at www.womensmarchslo.com. The event is inclusive and everyone – novices and long-time activists alike – will be energized by working together for a bright future.
The next Together We Will SLO member meeting will be on February 26th.
Together We Will – TWW SLO is part of a large national group, Together We Will USA. TWW USA (www.TWWUSA.org) formed organically after the popular Pantsuit Nation (www.PantsuitNation.org) focused on becoming a charity for storytelling and support. However, many members of Pantsuit Nation are also members of TWW.
The best way to connect with Together We Will San Luis Obispo and to hear about upcoming events is to follow or message them on Facebook @TWWSLO or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @TWW_SLO.
Lan Alcorn – Lan Alcorn is the owner of Treat SLO bakery (www.treatslo.com), a San Luis Obispo bakery that gives 5% of its profits back to the community. Lan lives with her husband and two small children in SLO.
Kristi Johnson – Kristi Johnson is a patent lawyer and writer who lives with her husband in SLO. She has two college-aged children. In response to Trump’s election, she started a blog, www.DelphiCitizen.org, to amplify progressive voices. If your group would like to be featured, please contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter @khagenjohnson.