When I shared in a circle of friends that I wanted to start a group but wasn’t sure how to do so, my friend Julie replied, “Why don’t you bring a group of elders to our next POWER action?”
POWER is Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild—a local faith-based, community-organizing network which has been very successful in responding to local issues. Julie is organizing a long term strategic campaign to force our local power company to create green jobs and place solar panels on the rooftops of working class homes—as opposed to building a corporate solar field.
I wrote an email and sent it to about a dozen friends and fellow activists, inviting them to the POWER action and to an Elder-Activists meeting to talk about “elders standing together” at local actions. I immediately got six or eight positive responses. That was encouraging!
Two days before I asked a creative activist friend to help me make signs. It took us about 2 hours at her kitchen table, with markers and poster board -- “Elders demand solar jobs for our future,” Elders want Big Change,” etc. It was easy, we had fun – and I felt like I had collaborators in this work.
The meeting went well with a group of 12 around several tables. As we parked the car we gained two men who were arriving early and decided to join us. We sat on the edge of the food court of the regional train station and attracted attention from another friend who joined us.
We began with several rounds of questions.
First, we identified ourselves by name and where we lived – a quick way to get everybody noticed in the circle.
I then offered a bit of background on why I had organized this circle of elders and invited them to this action.
Then, I asked everybody to tell their story – “What attracted you to this gathering of elders, as activists; this vision of elders standing together; of speaking our moral voice in support of the welfare of all, the future for all children?”
It was a wonderful question for all to begin to hear each other’s voices. My friend Susan, who had been at a previous elder action 2 years ago, shared a chant – which we all repeated several times.
“TELL ME what an Elder looks like. THIS IS what an Elder looks like!”
Finally, I asked if there were specific issues or ideas for how to be engaged together. Some good ideas emerged – coming together for the Women’s March on Jan. 20th, going to Washington DC together in support of the Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign and supporting a local mass incarceration action.
We got everybody’s email address, took a group picture and some people shared business cards. We were beginning to make connections.
After a short bathroom break we walked the two blocks to the action – two of us carrying the Elder-Activists banner, and the rest walking behind, holding our home made signs. We used our chant as we arrived to the assembling crowd -- “TELL ME what an Elder looks like. THIS IS what an Elder looks like!” – and were greeted with shouts and whoops!
That was the organizing part but the result was impressive. Several of the speakers referred to the elders in their talks, some referred to the moral responsibility to care for the future, for our children. Many other elders walked over to us and wanted to know more.
We had accomplished our objectives –
- to bring elders together,
- to inspire ourselves and others, and
- to raise our moral voice in the public square.
If you are interested in beginning a local elder-activist group –
send me an email and we can talk and share ideas.. I am happy to support others in this endeavor.