Voting is more difficult now than in the recent past…well, for Democrats and Black people. Accurate U.S. history can’t be taught in the public schools, only sanitized versions that support the marketing of white supremacy. There’s the dubious distinction of an abortion banning state that has the highest rate of uninsured women of childbearing age in the nation. From Abbott to Cruz, to busing legal immigrants, to elected officials unmoved when school children were killed by an armed 18-year-old, it’s ludicrous. And how about an indicted attorney general facing criminal charges? Texas, you’re getting harder and harder to like. But, despite all of that, good is happening in the Lone Star state.
From 2,000 miles away, (and with the help of the Outlaws), I went digging and struck gold! (Oh, that’s California). I struck oil! In this three-parter, I decided to celebrate the holiday and end the year with an homage to the courageous people of Texas who work against the odds in providing services to those in need. In part two, I shine a bright light on those who stand loud and proud for individual rights, truth, and justice; and in my final piece, I share my holiday wish list for us all as 2022 ends. This is part two:
Growing Your Own
We remember her by her sneakers. Former Texas Senator Wendy Davis became a national shero, June of 2013. Davis stood for about 13 hours in an epic filibuster attempt to deny passage of a bill restricting access to abortion. We marveled at her stamina while being subjected to rude, chauvinistic, arrogant men, her colleagues--- who weren’t fit to fill her sneakers---not one uterus between them. She was effective in her delay, but the bill passed in the second session.
I wondered where Davis is now and found her playing the long game, building a community of empowered women as founder of Deeds Not Words. The organization is grooming future leaders, teen girls, women, and women of color, at high schools and on college campuses. The girls and young women receive ongoing mentorship and training. Deeds Not Words is styled to turn passions into effective action by teaching civic engagement skills. The future leaders are learning to advocate for change at the policy and voter participation levels.
Their advocates have given over 140 testimonies at the Capitol, 67% from young women of color. They’ve converted 34 bills into State law and passed three city-level resolutions. Deeds Not Words has trained more than 500 young women and mobilized more than 300 young advocates as part of their Changemaker program during their lobby days at the Capitol.
Maybe there is a future Texas governor among Wendy’s mentees. I’d call it karma.
Protecting Religious Freedom and Education (hey, isn’t one of these in the U.S. Constitution?)
The nonpartisan, grassroots organization, Texas Freedom Network, (TFN) is 150,000 strong. They are advocates for religious freedom, individual liberties, and public education. From their base in Austin, the organization has been successful in monitoring the far-right, and defeating initiatives backed by the religious right including private school vouchers and textbook censorship at the state board of education.
Earlier this year, the president of the Texas Freedom Network, Val Benavidez called on the state Board of Education to remove former Texas Tech University professor and right-wing scholar, Steven Balch as curriculum advisor.
There are more than five million students enrolled in the Texas Public school system. TFN calls it an increasingly diverse public education system that is targeted by politicians seeking to privatize neighborhood public schools and push a culture-war agenda in the classroom.
And as polling locations were removed from college campuses this past midterm season, the Texas Freedom Network’s Texas Rising initiative worked to mitigate those negative changes and prevent low turnout in the midterm elections. The organization mobilized young voters to remove barriers to voting and secured a polling place on the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi campus.
Protecting Workers’ Rights
In a right-to-work state that is becoming increasingly oppressive, the Texas AFL-CIO has renewed its commitment to never give up its fight to protect Texas workers. President Rick Levy’s statement regarding election results said it best:
“Texans deserve leaders who respect the dignity of work and who will fight for democracy. We need leaders who believe healthcare should be affordable and accessible, teachers should be paid better, and there should be gun safety laws to protect our children and communities from violence. We congratulate the candidates we supported who will be sworn in next January…. However, our state will continue to be led by those more focused on divisive and false political rhetoric than addressing real issues that would improve the lives of working people.”
Levy calls out the voter suppression tactics used to sabotage the voting rights of the working class and people of color, and the money spent to distract and divide citizens.
These are only a few of a long list of people in Texas who refuse to sit by silently and allow anti-democratic forces to go unchallenged. It takes a ton of courage and those round things they talk about in Texas… two of ‘em.