There is no limit to what we can accomplish together in solidarity
Editor’s note: Raquel Douglas, CHN’s Summer 2017 intern, recently concluded her internship with us. Before leaving, she penned the following piece on her thoughts on her summer in D.C.
On July 26, President Trump tweeted that people who are transgender are banned from serving in the military. For many weeks, the Senate has tried again and again and again (and only recently failed) to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip healthcare from millions. The House just passed funding for the border wall in their defense minibus. Both chambers are expected to pass appropriations bills that cut the social safety net, set our environment up to fail, and neglect to fully invest in our children. For those of us who fight for human needs, D.C. politics and news updates like these can be very disheartening. It is often very easy to feel that our advocacy and activism have little to no effect.
My social change philosophy has always been that there is no limit to what we can accomplish together in solidarity. A belief in this philosophy drove me to intern with the Coalition on Human Needs, an organization that explicitly seeks out relationships with a diverse range of groups to advocate for the most vulnerable among us. In this especially politically chaotic summer, working at CHN has taught me how to convert this belief into action and to have a little more faith in the political process.
By allowing me to sit in on webinars, to attend rallies and meetings on the Hill, and to experience firsthand the impacts of various forms of political engagement, CHN taught me that the politics of D.C. is intrinsically founded on being present. It is how relationships are created, how we learn more about key issues, and how we amplify our voices (quite literally at some rallies). To affect change, we must show up in whatever capacities we are able, whether this means educating our self, calling our members of Congress, attending rallies, signing onto letters, etc. It seems there is always more work to be done in D.C., so even the smallest actions matter. There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we show up and put in the elbow grease.
Activism does not occur in a bubble, however. By definition of the diversity of humanity, human needs inherently cover a wide range of social justice issues. CHN clearly demonstrates that advocating for low-income populations necessitates caring about gender and racial equity, immigration, rights for people with disabilities, criminal justice reform, health care, housing, food access, education, and much more. These issues overlap and build upon each other so much that none can be fully addressed without mentions of the others. Our activism is most effective when it is proactively intersectional. There is no limit to what we can accomplish together in solidarity, supporting each other in a multitude of ways.
More than anything, working at CHN taught me how to translate frustration with national politics into meaningful action. Ellen Teller, Chairwoman of CHN’s Board of Directors and Director of Government Relations for the Food Research & Action Center proclaimed that “Never in [her] history with CHN have we needed to come together more.” Programs for human needs are being deprecated and threatened so often that coalition building is required for the most vulnerable among us to survive. Identity and socioeconomic groups are so regularly scapegoated for larger issues with society that we must stand together to protect one another. Polarization is emphasized so much that the act of coming together has radical potential.
I’m eager to use what I’ve learned this summer at CHN to continue turning that potential into reality.