By Cathy Walthers
The opinions expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect opinions or positions held by Indivisible Northampton. This article is excerpted from the Indivisible MA Coalition newsletter.
After an intense election season filled with phone calls, texting, meetings and postcard writing, the members of Indivisible Northampton (CD-2) took a short break but now are getting right back to work.
“We went from working and worrying intensively to finally pausing with a deep sigh of relief knowing that the country was being run by adults again,” said member Larry Pareles, a retired physician who moved from Hartford, CT, has been active with the group since 2017 and now serves on the steering committee. “Then came the realization of a ton of work to be done. We are now regrouping to see where we can apply and exercise our newly learned skills to try to heal and strengthen our democracy, and get government working for the people again.”
After the group’s Zoom call on Jan 25 – the first meeting under a new administration they happily noted – members emerged with four new working teams for 2021:
- The “Democracy Reform Team” will focus on passing HR1 (the For the People Act), HR2, and HR4 (the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) among other critical democracy reforms.
- The “Biden Go Bold Team” will fight for bold policies on immigration, court reform, DC statehood and other actions.
- Their “Statewide Action Team” will consider work on the issues of statehouse transparency, Covid response, passing the climate bill, more police reform, passing the Safe Communities Act, increasing education funding, more affordable housing, drivers’ licenses for undocumented people, and defeating our current, conservative Republican governor.
- A “Fighting Disinformation Team” will explore ways to stop and correct false and irresponsible information on the internet and may work with the Indivisible Truth Brigade campaign.
Indivisible Northampton, IN for short, started its activism in January 2017 and has been meeting twice a month since, with very few exceptions. They have a website, a newsletter, and a core committed group often of 25-30 members which expands depending on the event or activity.
“When I first joined,” says Pareles. “I thought, wow, these people are intense, and dedicated and hardworking and so knowledgeable, but I was a little nervous they might not be fun people to be with. And they’ve been wonderful. They are all those things, but underneath they are humanists, and kind and decent and moral. We’ve become very good friends as we’ve all worked together.”
Beth Lev, one of the group’s co-founders, says creating this “community of activists” has been part of the mission along with the actions and getting things done. The constant anxiety of the last four years that she’s felt herself, she’s also seen first-hand in her work life as a clinical psychologist. “Feeling scared, isolation, passivity can lead to a sense of powerlessness,” she notes. “Providing community, and therefore inspiration and hope and connection, can fuel continued resilient action pushing us forward to where we need to go.”
The group’s organizing has centered on teams. “This allows our group to work on many different campaigns, and for individuals to find – or create – a place for themselves within our IN group,” says Lev. Early teams focused on everything from “Medicare for All” to “Marches and Rallies” to “Immigration Ride Sharing.” More recently, teams shifted to phone banking, texting and post carding.
Another key element of this group are the two meetings each month on Activist Mondays, first held in-person at a co-housing space and then shifting to Zoom during Covid. One of those two monthly meetings is typically geared toward educational/civics, with candidates or speakers like Senator Ed Markey and Indivisible co-founder Leah Greenberg, which can draw 60 to 70 attendants. The other meeting centers specifically on actions. On the Mondays in-between, the group’s steering committee meets and plans for the speakers or actions so those public meetings run as smoothly as possible. The group also collaborates with other progressive groups in the area.
With these new teams, Pareles and Lev are looking forward. “I think we’re not as much in defense,” says Lev. “but now we have the opportunity for a brief time, maybe longer, to do as much as we can to address some of problems that have allowed these fascist-white-supremacist-conspiracy theorists- anti-democratic forces to take root and for us to be as visible as possible and change those conditions.”