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U.S. Politics and You: Political Activism is for Everyone

Whatever your affiliation, the current political climate and economic state of America has more citizens engaged in politics than ever before. San Francisco is one of the most progressive cities in the nation, and many of its citizens work tirelessly to enact change by raising funds and awareness in innovative ways that unite communities for a common cause. Political organizations and events in the San Francisco Bay Area are rampant and include outreach to local and state representatives as well as movements that operate on a nationwide level. Many of the political groups and events mentioned in this article are progressive in nature because, well, so is San Francisco. But you don’t have to be a Democrat or a Bernie backer to get involved in Bay Area politics- there are plenty of opportunities to go around for everyone. Work with others or alone to get involved in local politics today.


We’re happy to provide you with an introductory guide to San Francisco politics
We’re happy to provide you with an introductory guide to San Francisco politics. Image credit: www.politcalpull.com

Who better to talk to local people about politics than more local people? You don’t have to be a social butterfly to get involved in local politics, but if you do like talking to new people, a Bay Area project called Knock Every Door is more than what it sounds like. Yes, it requires volunteers to canvas neighborhoods and “knock every door”. But you’re not showing up on doorsteps to convince anyone of anything, so the pressure of persuasion is not-existent. The purpose of the project is to start an open, multi-community conversation about what how local people are affected by the current administration- and what matters most in their lives. These civil conversations include but are not limited to relevant topics such education, housing, taxes, and how to effectively communicate the needs of individuals and communities on a state and nationwide level.


The intention is to build a bridge between different perspectives and find enough common ground to create partnerships and team efforts that represent individuals and communities. The goal of Knock Every Door is not just to incentivize change, but to treat citizens like people, not demographics. Raising political awareness is more important than ever, and starting direct, person-to-person conversations is a powerful way to start.


Depending on your preferences and resources, you can hold a canvass in your own local community, or you can travel to another district where your efforts help. It’s easy to forget this, but one of the most important things that can be done to enact change is be sure to reach every person within every demographic. And again, we love that Knock Every Door (like many other Bay Area political endeavors) really seems to interact with people as people, not headcounts of a majority or minority. Learning from each other helps develop our own awareness of what needs to happen at voting time to best serve the communities we live in.


Bay Area Progressive Politics


Bay Area Childcare Collective is another organization that gives a voice to the needs of community members in local politics. Everyone knows parents who want to be politically active, but whose energy and resources are spread too thin by the financial and time restraints of balancing childcare with work. (You may even fall under that category yourself). Bay Area Childcare Collective provides childcare resources for grassroots organizations dedicated to fighting for racial and economic justice. These organizations are frequently led by parents and caregivers who face multiple oppressions, and instead of succumbing to them, are actively fighting to enact change in their communities on and a larger scale. If you’d like to volunteer your own childcare services for as little as two hours per month, you are also joining a much larger, exciting movement of people who about change as much as you do.


Preserve the Environment with Technology


The concept of strength in numbers can only be enhanced by technology when we utilize it to its full advantage
The concept of strength in numbers can only be enhanced by technology when we utilize it to its full advantage. Image credit: www.beyondchron.org

Does using technology to preserve the environment sound like an oxymoron to you? (If so, you probably don’t live in San Francisco, but read ahead just the same). There are many ways in which technology is a boon to progressive politics, including matters concerning our endangered environment. Are you tech-savvy, passionate about the environment, and interested in progressive politics? (If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, your “yes” was just echoed collectively around the region). Fortunately, this initiative operates beyond the Bay Area, so there are feasible options for other Californians or even out of state techies.

Essentially, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative works with partners to preserve vulnerable scientific data and web pages from web pages like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. (That’s where volunteers come in. There’s no shortage of information to process and record, so any additional efforts to do so are much needed). Volunteers are also invited to organize events and outreach efforts that help the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative interview federal employees to provide a humanized, comprehensive perspective on how the current administration is affecting environmental health agencies. You can also help monitor changes to thousands of federal web pages about climate change and the environment. Tracing how date, information, and their presentation change along political timelines helps create a picture of how the current administration is affecting public awareness about the endangered state of the environment.

Do you want to advocate for progressive politics on a local level, but are not sure how? If you’d like to work on turning some red voters to the blue side in time for future elections, Swing Left or Sister District has detailed data that shows the quantitative likelihood of Bay Area districts to go blue. These organizations will help you find the nearest red district with a chance of turning into a Democratic district, and offer volunteer opportunities in which you can utilize email, your cell phone, or even your own two feet to make a change.


Becoming Indivisible


With branches in Sacramento and Los Angeles, Indivisible San Francisco is one of the most influential organizations in California progressive politics.
With branches in Sacramento and Los Angeles, Indivisible San Francisco is one of the most influential organizations in California progressive politics. Image credit: www.indivisiblesf.org

One of the most distressing focal points of the 2106 Presidential Election was the growing outcry against the willingness of Democratic politicians to be bought. After taking a long, comprehensive look at the numbers, many Democrats felt that the DNC was able to be unjustly swayed in a direction that was detrimental to the country. It goes without saying that there were many Bay Area residents whose voices resounded around the country when they expressed outrage at Clinton’s victory over Sanders in the primary. Indivisible San Francisco gives ten thousands of Bay Area residents a louder voice by gathering strength in numbers. The organization itself, along with many of its partners and the community members who work alongside them, claim to have seen MoC’s increase resistance effort when pushed to do so.


Indivisible San Francisco emphasizes that even progressive members of Congress still have the ability to sponsor or pass bills that are detrimental to large populations. They’ve recently pointed out that their Senator co-sponsored a censorship bill that reduced the effectiveness of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Indivisible San Francisco expresses their disapproval of such bills (of which there are unfortunately many). They also work to inform the community of which politicians are supporting which bills so that voter awareness is optimal at local, state, and national election times.


Indivisible San Francisco also lobbies State and City representatives. They’ve got statewide chapters, too- Indivisible Sacramento and Indivisible Los Angeles are two of these, and a project called Indivisible CA StateStrong was developed by the San Francisco branch to provide State-level lobbying initiatives. These state level efforts have led to many progressive wins in State primaries, so the work of Indivisible San Francisco is not in vain- and you’re volunteer efforts with them won’t be, either. This influential organization also implements voter outreach efforts work to flip red districts in California blue. Indivisible San Francisco is a leader in progressive politics that helps enact progressive policies and advocate for an inclusive, democratic society.


To get involved, you can sign up for Indivisible San Francisco’s newsletter for weekly actions and information about events. For locals, the organization meets every Sunday afternoon and is open to the public. Indivisible SF makes it clear that they are always happy to welcome new attendees, even if you’re just there to get some information to mull around.


White Citizens for Black Lives


The Black Lives Matter movement is building momentum nationwide, and whatever your nationality, San Francisco is full of opportunities to do your part.
The Black Lives Matter movement is building momentum nationwide, and whatever your nationality, San Francisco is full of opportunities to do your part. Image credit: www.blacklivesmatter.com

If you’re Caucasian and want to support the Black Lives Matter movement, you are invited to attend a meeting of your local Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) chapter. To find out when and where the next meeting takes place, you can take a glance at the SURJ Bay Area event calendar. (Follow SURJ on Facebook, too). There are a variety of branch initiatives available for people who are interested in communications, education, or canvassing social media. SURJ has no shortage of opportunities to partner with other groups and events that actively fight racism and police violence and brutality.


There is a special local (and nationwide) interest in fighting police militarization, practice which is often used as a weapon against black people in society. A coalition called Stop Urban Shield works to stop Alameda County from hosting an annual training and weapons expo for nationwide law enforcement because it promotes weaponry as a police staple rather than a last resort. The consensus is that it also promotes a generally militant mentality in police work, which can and does exacerbate the racism that already exists.


Work with the AROC to Fight Fascism


The AROC is currently working hard to fight to Muslim ban on a local level. Find out how you can help.
The AROC is currently working hard to fight to Muslim ban on a local level. Find out how you can help. Image credit: www.araborganizing.com

If you want to support an organization working hard to fight the Muslim ban on a local level, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) is asking for volunteers. The organization is also urgently asking Bay Area community members to write letters to Congress protesting the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would impose criminal penalties on individuals who support an international organization’s boycott for Palestinian rights. Community pressure has thwarted the passing of this bill for two years, but Congress is considering passing it once again, so the AROC is urgently calling upon community members to speak out. AROC’s Bay Area branch web page is imploring people all over California to write letters to the Minority Leader Representative, and provides all the information needed to do so. AROC even provides a sample script if you’re unsure how to proceed.


If you’re among the Bay Area residents who view self-sustained food options and preservation of the environment as integral parts of fighting government oppression, you may be interested in Phat Beets. Yes, the name can be a little hard to swallow, but it actually has a serious mission: to create a food system that serves as a healthier, more equitable alternative to corporate brands. The group works to educate youth and facilitate youth leadership and connect small farming businesses with larger urban communities.


If you believe that everyone who works a full time job should be able to afford housing, food, shelter, and transportation, Causa Justa/ Just Cause is a grassroots organization that might interest you. This group identifies itself as multi-racial and its mission is to achieve justice for low-income San Francisco and Oakland residents. To help them out, you can volunteer your time to the tenant rights clinic, provide transportation to members so they can attend meetings, join the grassroots fundraising team, or even offer translating services.


Find Your Perfect Match


If you’re looking for a way to get involved in U.S. politics and don’t know where to start, Movement Match is one of the most accessible, easy-to-use directories at your disposal. The organization’s web page is straightforward and simple to use. All you have to do is click “Organizations” on the front page dashboard, and you’ve got a versatile list of local volunteer options to choose from right in front of you. Movement Match knows that most people are overworked and strapped for time, so they aim to make volunteering as simple a process as possible. There’s no research involved- simply find a movement and reach out using the contact information provided under each listing.


Some examples include joining a committee or campaign, attending monthly or quarterly meetings or phone calls, and helping plan and organize actions, providing educational services, participating in community events, or contributing a monthly or annual fee (if this is applicable to you). Most organizations listed on Movement Match don’t require any monetary donations at all, and do their best to find volunteer opportunities that accommodate just about every community member. Even if all you can do is work from home, there are a plethora of volunteer opportunities in which your participation is invaluable. We love Movement Match because it’s one of the easiest, most time and cost efficient ways to get involved in progressive politics in the Bay Area.


If you’ve visited Movement Match, scoured its list of volunteer opportunities, and still aren’t sure where to go from here, that’s totally okay! Movement Match goes the extra mile and provides quizzes that help you find the options that are the most realistic and rewarding for you.


Stand in Solidarity for Intersectional Feminism


Discover exciting, dynamic ways to support intersectional feminism with a nationwide network called Solidarity Sundays.
Discover exciting, dynamic ways to support intersectional feminism with a nationwide network called Solidarity Sundays. Image credit: www.huffpost.com

Solidarity Sundays is a nationwide network that includes more than 1oo feminist activist groups that focus their efforts on resisting the current administration. They work hard to address the systemic inequities that have existed long before they came to the forefront during the controversial 2016 election. On the second Sunday of each month, Solidarity Sundays take place in homes across the country (and, of course, throughout the Bay Area). Communities band together to engage with elected officials through emails, letters, phone calls, social media, and scheduled in-person meetings). Progressive organizations are reviewed, and community members strategize to amplify and reinforce the action items of existing organizations in progressive politics. Working together to become an informed, active anti-racist, intersectional feminist community that stands in solidarity against the Trump agenda. To keep on the ball, the organizational team behind Solidarity Sundays posts daily actions on their web page so that activists are never at loss as to what needs to be done right now and how to do it. We like that Solidarity Sundays gives credence to the old saying, “It takes a village”, because making political progress truly does require team efforts across the country.


Send Me a Postcard


Postcards for America is just what it sounds like. The organization’s primary action is to write to the California State Senator and State Assembly Member know their thoughts. Suggested topics are available on the web page for Postcards for America, but you’re invited to write postcards about any of your own applicable concerns. The key objective is to simply let California legislation know that they are watching and involved in the way their government is run. Common hot topics for postcards include climate change, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, minority rights, marriage equality, racial equality, healthcare, and many more. Postcards for America is yet another way in which American citizens can keep up an open, ongoing conversation with their government, letting officials know they are fighting for what matters to them.


Donate to the NRDC


The NRDC has a widespread mission, and thus is always in need of donations to maintain its life-saving initiatives. California is home to some of the world’s oldest known trees, mountain ranges, and marine life. State politics have at least partially enforced many policies that allegedly protect its air, water, and climate. California is a leader in energy efficiency, promoting a market for clean cars and energy-saving appliances. This state’s progressive politics also show more regard for consumer safety than most other states, paving the way for major industries, other states, and the nation to make necessary changes when it comes to preserving the environment. NRDC has played a significant role in the implementation of these efforts since as early as the 1970s and 80s, when its San Francisco and Los Angeles offices opened.


Over the last 30 years, the NRDC has pioneered some of the most important improvements in government approach to environmental concerns. NRDC’s policy experts have long provided technical analysis and political backing for efficiency standards that enabled California to reduce its energy use even as its population grew.


But the NRDC puts forth nationwide efforts as well. They work to promote California energy standards in other states and even developing countries whose industrial practices and resources are increasingly harmful to the environment. The NRDC has prompted California officials to adopt laws that reduce carbon pollution from cars, fuel, and power plants. Other states, including Washington D.C., have taken notice and adopted some of these laws themselves. This is no small feat!


In the interest of protecting precious local marine life, the NRDC has garnered political support for a network of marine protected areas in California. The hope is that other coastal states will take notice and follow California’s lead.


Home safety is as important to the NRDC as is generally preserving the environment on a larger scale. It goes to show that this organization cares about the individual as much as it does the group or the cause. The organization has co-sponsored a bill that requires furniture manufacturers to label products containing flame-retardant chemicals. Flame-retardant chemicals are known to potentially cause cancer and other life-threatening or serious health issues. They also continue to champion water conservation efforts.


Doesn’t Matter If You Go Left or Right, as Long as You Go Forward


CNN advises both parties on how they can break into politics on a local, statewide, and national level.
CNN advises both parties on how they can break into politics on a local, statewide, and national level. Image credit: www.cnn.com

Because California is largely engaged in progressive politics, we’ve covered some serious ground in that regard. But here’s a little national advice for everyone. If you’re on the other side of the political spectrum- or you’re simply in search of some neutral information- we’ve got you covered, too. Actually, CNN does, too. (No, really, in this case they do). Whether you love or hate CNN, it’s hard to argue with their suggestions about how to get into politics without busting your wallet. (These suggestions also apply whether you love or loathe the Trump administration).


Do you know who your local legislators are? If not, a simple online search will tell you the name and contact information for your House Representative. (CNN’s web page has a search option in which you can find not only that information, but also view a full list of your elected officials). Once you know how to get in touch with them, remember that they are only an email or phone call away- and with the right organizations behind you, the likelihood of being heard usually increases tenfold. (Review the lists above for tried and true tips on who to get involved with, and how to do so).


Now that you know how to get in touch with your local and State legislators, it’s obvious that there are any numbers into which you can funnel your efforts. Naturally, e encourage you to get involved with more than once cause. But we find it’s usually best to start by choosing one, and then extending your activism as you build resources and credibility. So if you haven’t already, identify an issue and dedicate your time, resources, and efforts into it. Rather than scatter your energies, pursuing one or just a few causes at the start of your activist journey is the best way to build yourself up- and then branch out.


You’d be amazed at how many political activists dedicate countless hours of work to causes they care about, but overlook one of the easiest, direct sources of information. Town hall meetings are privy to some of the most informative discussions about local and U.S. politics you can find. They’re open to everyone, and they present an opportunity for you to make your voice heard directly by local politicians. To find out when your Town Hall is meeting next, check out their website or even your city’s website. In the same vein, attending City Council meetings also gives you a clear idea of where your city legislators stand on the issues you care about.


If you’ve got children, the PTA and local School Board are a window into local politics. They’re also a direct way to influence decisions that affect your children’s education and experience at school during their formative years. So get to know your school board and how you can get involved in decisions about educational funds, resources, and initiatives. Joining up with the local PTA not only gives you a direct line of communication with the school your children attend, but it also opens up countless opportunities to impact local politics that directly affect your community- and the children in it.


Mobilizing people to support your cause and contribute their resources doesn’t have to be as daunting a task as it seems. Use social media, email, or even word of mouth to gather groups that will join an association or simply attend Town Hall or City Council meetings with you. It cannot be said enough that there is strength in numbers! The power of word of mouth also cannot be emphasized enough. It’s like a game of “Telephone”- one person tells fellow PTA members about his or her cause, those members talk about it at Town Hall or other meetings held by activist organizations, and it’s likely you’ll draw a supportive group of likeminded people to you.


Have you heard of the League of Women Voters? This organization connects women with resources that help fight voter suppression, ensure that government legislative bodies are apportioned substantially and unbiased, and tackle other important voter issues related to women. You can learn more about or support these redistricting efforts and many more by joining the League of Women Voters. You can also be instrumental in tackling other issues regarding health care reform, immigration, and the environment.


Registering to act on behalf of a political party is a relatively simple process that often doesn’t even require you to look up from your cell phone. If you’re not interested in a bipartisan influence, you can find a full list of established political parties on CNN. Joining a campaign and working for it can be done from the convenience of your cell phone or laptop, too. (Hopefully some of our tips above were helpful in this regard). Another way to go about finding and joining a campaign that represents the change you want to see is to contact their office directly. Simply ask how to get involved to whatever capacity you can, and they’ll give provide you with options. We don’t mean to sound cliche, but when there’s a will, there’s a way!


You can always get hands-on experience by volunteering at the party headquarters. (A simple Google search will tell you where it is and how to get involved). Again, if you’d rather (or have no choice but to) do it all from home, party headquarters are always looking for people to send newsletters, text messages, or organize online campaigns. These days, what you can do from your cell phone or computer has just as powerful effects as what you can do in person.


Attending rallies is another great way to engage in political conversations and events in your area. If you can’t attend them, you can digitally organize them via social media, email messages, and text. You can even design a web page for the rally so it draws a larger crowd. Feel free to send out pre-event forms that ask survey questions about what attendees would like to see discussed and how. What is catching people’s attention? Do motivational speakers reach a larger group? As with any event planning task, get to know your attendees, and be sure to follow up post-event to find out what they liked and disliked. Powerful messages are magnified by presentations that strongly impact community members. As election times come around, you can also volunteer to register voters.


Use the Media to Your Advantage


Subscribe to a paper or other publication that is aligned with your beliefs or discusses politics with journalistic integrity. The more support these publications get, the more power they have to spread messages you care about. You can also check out USA.gov for free to learn more about history, civics, and your constitutional rights. This advice might sound redundant to the majority of you, who are already well-versed and active in politics. But believe it or not, you can never learn enough, and sometimes even the most well-trained eye misses something that could be used to their advantage in their political efforts or campaigns. Then share the knowledge you find on campaign web pages, personal web pages, political forums, social media, chat groups, and more. Again, if you’re worried it will seem trite or condescending to those who are already highly active in politics, remember that you could be highlighting a key point that campaigns or organizations have overlooked. Sometimes reviewing the constituents of important political documents call attention to new ways in which you can use your constitutional rights to spread your message.


Reach out to Your Community


Many positive changes start right at home. By strengthening your community and enhancing its solidarity, you are also strengthening its outreach to other districts, State officials, and national organizations. You can start by volunteering at a place that benefits your community and the causes you care about. Hopefully you find the ideas we mentioned above helpful as a beginning point. Volunteer opportunities within your community could include education, communications, event planning, canvassing, farming, childcare, and so much more. You can volunteer your time at a homeless shelter, a school, a hospital, and so many other places that need your services. Cultural centers, state or national parks, museums, and historical societies all require volunteer efforts to serve their communities to the best of their abilities. Even just your patronage of these places supports education and keeps these places thriving, which is the most important goal! There really is virtually no limit to the unique volunteer opportunities that serve the diverse needs of each community.

Lastly, every dollar counts when it comes to charity. Charity watch is a great resource to keep current about charities that support your cause.

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