The Atlanta suburb had opened its doors to immigrants in recent years, nevertheless the idea wasn’t yet ready for a transgender woman in public office, she told herself. After all, she was still in Georgia, where LGBTQ rights were tenuous at best.
Then an unlikely Republican candidate won the 2016 US presidential election, as well as everything changed, she said. On January 21, 2017, she found the courage to pursue her dream at the Atlanta Women’s March, one of many protests held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“Seeing all those progressive people gathered in solidarity gave me trust which maybe being trans wouldn’t be the huge problem running for office I had always feared the idea would likely be.”
at This kind of point she’s a member of the Doraville City Council, as well as she’s encouraging others to follow her example. On Saturday, she’s returning to the venue which galvanized her into action, This kind of time as a speaker.
Her message: If I can win office as a little business owner that has a high school education as well as a background in church administration — who happens to be a transgender woman — so can you.
“You don’t have to be a lawyer or groomed politician to sign up for office, because I sure wasn’t,” she said in a phone interview. “What we need to be seeing in government is usually the diversity which actually exists from the community.”
A brand-new focus on voter turnout
Koontz’s journey via political paralysis to participation embodies what Women’s March organizers describe as the movement’s next phase. This kind of weekend, the national organization commemorates the march’s first anniversary that has a brand-new campaign which aims to send people to the polls for the 2018 midterms as well as various other local elections.
Organizers have dubbed This kind of year’s march “Power to the Polls,” underlining a focus on training for people who want to boost voter participation in their community, said Women’s March communications director Cassady Fendlay. The group wants to help people advocate for policies as well as candidates supportive of the progressive causes targeted by the Trump administration, including rights for immigrants, people of coloration, as well as the LGBTQ community.
“We’ve had to resist so many policies rooted in racism, sexism as well as xenophobia,” Fendlay said. “We want to see activists creating a groundswell around candidates which recognize what our nation looks like, as well as protecting those under attack.”
Some communities will hold marches as well as rallies resembling last year’s events. Others are focused on specific activities, such as registering voters or training people to register voters. Bigger events like the one in Atlanta are convention-style gatherings where people can find out how to run for office or participate in campaigns or voter engagement efforts.
The diffuse activity reflects the state of the movement as well as its evolution over the past year. More Trump opponents are shifting via social media activism to real-life engagement. nevertheless priorities vary via one community to the next.
The national Women’s March organization has been criticized for leaving out people of coloration as well as those in conservative parts of the United States.
“We’re different organizations born out of the same enthusiasm for activism which turned out of Donald Trump’s election,” said March On board member Penelope Chester. “the idea makes sense which different strands have emerged as well as we’re all united in our goal to bring our country on the right track.”
‘The march is usually the first step’
The 2017 march helped like-minded people find each various other as well as build a sense of community around progressive causes, said Janel Green, executive director of Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, the Women’s March affiliate organizing Atlanta’s Power to the Polls event.
“There was an assumption which Georgia was a lost cause, Georgia was conservative as well as the idea was not going to change,” she said. “as well as through This kind of movement we have found tens of thousands of Georgians with progressive values which would likely like to see their communities become more inclusive.”
This kind of year is usually about harnessing which sense of community to push against policies which harm women, people of coloration, as well as immigrants.
The group decided against a march, Green said — they could never recreate last year’s energy. What Georgia’s activists need at This kind of point is usually a place to network as well as learn to be effective advocates for progressive values, she said. To which end, issue-based groups will table at Saturday’s gathering. So will candidates for city council as well as the state insurance commission. People will contain the chance to learn about them as well as volunteer for them if they choose, as well as which’s a form of action, she said.
“The march is usually the first step in being an engaged citizen, as well as which’s what we’re truly interested in,” she said, referring to the group’s emphasis on posts showing people taking action in their communities. “the idea’s the interplay between the moment as well as the less visible nevertheless completely essential work of looking for candidates, showing up at town halls, as well as writing to representatives.”
Light at the end of the tunnel
Before the election, Koontz was the type of person who attended city council meetings as well as spoke up against perceived injustices. The election of Trump made her think seriously about running — yet she had doubts. What if her opponent made her gender the focus of the campaign? She wondered if she could she endure such personal attacks.
the idea was pouring rain on January 21, 2017, when she boarded the MARTA train in Doraville. To her surprise, crowds of soggy people filled the train. When she arrived in downtown Atlanta she was shocked by what she found: People in all directions as far as she could see, coming together behind the same progressive ideals in a state which elected Trump.
“the idea brought tears of joy to my eyes to think which change was actually happening,” she said. “There was light at the end of the tunnel.”
She knew what she had to do to steer the country in a different direction, starting in her community.
“I don’t think enough emphasis has been placed on local elections. The progressive focus seems to have been on congressional seats on up instead of state legislative seats on down.”
‘The old South is usually dead’
Talamieka Brice had a similar awakening in front of the Mississippi State Capitol at last year’s Women’s March. She was worried about what the election meant for her son as well as the daughter she was pregnant with at the time. White supremacy reigns to This kind of day in Mississippi, she said, as well as the election appeared to have brought out a fresh wave of racist vitriol via members of her community as well as local politicians.
She sought solace in Pantsuit Nation, as well as shared her feelings in a post which went viral beyond the group. the idea was included in a book about the group, as well as raised her profile through speaking events which allowed her to share more of her story.
The experience motivated her to have tough conversations wherever she finds herself — via social media to the local supermarket — about racial inequality as well as Trump administration policies which she views as furthering the racial divide. Through friends, she got involved with the group Indivisible as well as joined them in rallies as well as demonstrations, including a protest of Trump’s visit to the opening of a brand-new civil rights museum.
“The old South is usually not gonna rise again, the old South is usually dead,” she said. “What we’re doing at This kind of point is usually establishing the voice of the brand-new South.”
This kind of year, she’s going to deliver a speech via the steps of the same Capitol building. The event is usually billed as a family-friendly empowerment rally which will offer information about running for school board seats as well as various other local elections, she said.
Mainly, the idea’s about convincing Mississippians — especially people of coloration — which they have a stake in their communities. In her speech, she plans to encourage progressives as well as conservatives to find middle ground so everyone can work toward elevating Mississippi via its low standing on the national stage.
“A lot of us in Mississippi are tired of being at the damn bottom of everything as well as we’re trying to change which,” she said.
“Silence is usually complicity as well as I don’t want my kids to look back in history as well as say, ‘Mom, what were we doing then?'”