Building (and maintaining) a local Resist Hate RI group

by Bethany Foster

Right after the election in November 2016, I was fighting depression about the state of our nation and looking for a group of like-minded people to commiserate and work with. I was at the library in downtown Bristol, where I live, and their calendar of events listed an upcoming meeting of Resist Hate East Bay. I’d heard about Resist Hate RI, and their meetings in Providence, and thought I it about time I show up.

Since that first Resist Hate East Bay meeting, I’ve worked alongside Tracy Cooper Ramos to start and bolster the local group. Over the past several months, we’ve learned a few things about how to start a group and build power in communities. At the last Resist Hate RI meeting in June, Melissa Mangili of the Cranston Action Network and I shared what we learned, and in this blog post, I’ll provide a few tips that you might find useful if you want to start a local Resist Hate RI group.

The more local groups in Rhode Island, the more strength the progressive movement will have. The more we connect with activists around us, the more powerful we will feel and the more powerful we’ll be. If you interested in started a group in your area, let the steering committee know by emailing resisthateri@gmail.com. We can help out with contact information for people in your area, communication via our email blasts and Facebook page, and we can also come out and help you run your first meetings.

 

FIGURE OUT YOUR FOCUS

Are you just interested in working on issues in your town or city? At the State level? In Schools? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to decide where to put your time, but the broader you are, the broader and bigger your coalition is likely to be.

Resist Hate RI can always help to provide you with strategies and issues where your help is needed, but you’ll also likely find local-specific issues to work on as well with your group. Work on balancing between saying focused and being flexible.

 

GET A BUDDY

Work with partners. Find someone in your area who is also interested in creating a group in your community and work together so you can split up the work. Everyone gets busy and partners can pick up the slack to keep the group going.

 

SHOUT IT FROM THE WEB AND FROM EVERYWHERE ELSE

Use every available avenue to publicize the event. Those who are on Facebook forget: not everyone is on Facebook.

  • Put up signs in your local community: I went to my first Resist Hate East Bay meeting because I saw it on the calendar board at the library.
  • Call: Once you have people’s contact information, make direct calls to invite people to your events.
  • Ask your friends: Use your social connections: Tell your friends and theirs about your new group.
  • Emails: Send emails to those who have attended in the past. (If you pair with RHRI, you can also use the RHRI membership list to send out targeted emails to people who live in the area near you.)
  • Add it to the RHRI Facebook page: Publicize on the RHRI Facebook page. All events on the FB page may be included in Resist Hate RI’s email blasts to the entire mailing list.

 

GET PERSONAL

Resist Hate RI is a large organization (we have 3500+ people on our mailing list and 8000+in our Facebook group). At the large Resist Hate RI meetings, there isn’t always time to make a personal connect with fellow activists (something we’re working on this summer by hosting House Parties around the state).

But at these local groups, you can take the time to get to know your neighbors, build a sense of community and foster loyalty to your group. Open every meeting by going around the room and having everyone introduce themselves. Some opening questions we’ve used:

  • What brought you to the meeting? (This is a great for first meetings or new folks)
  • What areas of interest are especially important to you?
  • What other groups are you working with and what are they working on?
  • How are you feeling? How are you coping? (This is an especially important question, especially after a tough few weeks – we asked this question of everyone a couple of weeks after the inauguration when it started to dawn on people that this presidency was going to be as bad as we’d feared.)

 

MAKE CONNECTIONS

Inviting people to speak at meetings is a great way to provide both education on issues and give people a chance to talk about solutions and have their voice heard. Publicizing speakers who are coming to your event may also entice people to come to the meeting.

  • Invite State Senators and Representatives to speak to their constituents. (We have had many at the East Bay meetings.)
  • Local organizations are interested in coming out to speak to your group to talk about the work they do and where they need assistance or how you can help. Connect with groups in your community and the state. (All of these groups came to the East Bay meetings to speak: ACLU, Common Cause, Planned Parenthood, Mom’s Demand Action, RICAGV, Working Families Party)
  • Identify issues related to your locality and ask town officials to come speak about them

 

ACT OFTEN, EVEN IF YOU ACT SMALL

At your meetings, talk about the work you’re doing and organize for next steps. At each meeting, try to have an action. Some of the following might interest you:

  • Filling out postcards for government officials
  • Creating posters for marches
  • Writing letters to the editor

Your group can also campaign for candidates you believe in, show up to support an organization you care about, and get involved in local and state government.

  • Phone banking: Pair with an organization
  • Going door to door.
  • Manning a table at a community event.
  • Attend a town or city council meeting, or a state house committee hearing

 

GO WITH THE EBB AND FLOW

Some of your meetings will be big, some will be small. At some you’ll get a lot of work done, at others you may not. Don’t mistake small for ineffective – a few people can still enact change. Keep your energy up, keep on acting, big and small, and keep the connections between your members strong.

 

The more local groups in Rhode Island, the more strength the progressive movement will have. The more we connect with activists around us, the more powerful we will feel and the more powerful we’ll be. If you interested in started a group in your area, let the steering committee know by emailing resisthateri@gmail.com. We can help out with contact information for people in your area, communication via our email blasts and Facebook page, and we can also come out and help you run your first meetings.