#ElectionRewind: Where was I then, and where am I now?

by Zerline Hughes Spruill

November 6, 2016, was a regular day for me all day until about 9 p.m. hit. I refused to attend an election night party just in case things didn’t turn out right. I wanted to be able to grumble in the comfort of my own home. In retrospect, I probably should have attended one. Having an immediate support group would have been much healthier.

Instead, I was home, watching the returns thinking, “no … ,” “nah,” “what?” Finally, I knew I needed to regain control and back away from the TV. Why put myself through torture when I could easily read about the results in the morning instead? Everything was going to work out anyway. I went to bed by 10 p.m.

My spouse woke me up at 5 a.m. He didn’t want to deliver the news, but he had to. It was like he told me there was a death in the family. I laughed it off because, of course, he must have been kidding. Even my teen and tween could hardly take this seriously.

But it wasn’t a joke.

The spouse went to work and the kids left for school and suddenly, I was alone. Like, seriously alone.

I was a communications consultant at the time and I had no office space to retreat to. That meant no water cooler to crowd around, no emergency staff meeting to strategize next steps, not even a subway ride downtown where I could shrug my shoulders and commiserate with a stranger.

I’d never felt so alone. I cried. I got in the bed. I cried. I called my mom. I yelled. And then I realized I needed people so I attended a panel hosted by the Institute for Policy Studies entitled: Election Results and the Progressive Movement. Several organization leaders were supposed to talk about progressive reforms under the new administration like criminal justice, juvenile justice, civil rights and education. But the agenda quickly changed. Panelists, instead, were diverted to conversations about the implications of “a Donald Trump presidency” and how all hope seemed to be lost.

Still, it was helpful to be there. It was a safe place. Panelists included Alan Barber, director of domestic policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Jonathan Hutto, activist (and my former Howard University classmate); and Flavia Jimenez, my current colleague at Advancement Project’s national office, who back then was a senior attorney for immigrant justice.

Flavia had just returned from Florida, where she conducted on-the-ground work on voter protection during Election Day. She was particularly full of emotion. I identified with her the most but left before the event ended, so I didn’t have the opportunity to meet her and let her know.

Seven months later, I was able to tell her. It was during a job interview with Advancement Project. I remembered her face and immediately told her and my panel of interviewers that she and I were in the same room together on one of the worst days I’d experienced. It was destiny.

Now, I’m leading Advancement Project’s #ElectionRewind as Managing Director of Communications. I’m able to boast that I work with an organization that is dismantling racism and effectively changing the narrative around crucial social justice issues. (If you’re so inclined, read about our work on policing, immigrant justice, and voting rights, as well as our efforts to end the school-to-prison pipeline.)

So as we think back on the Election of 2016 and power through yet another Election Day, I’m happy to be working to achieve justice in a safe, inspiring space — surrounded by people. Really good people. Go out and vote and join the #ElectionRewind conversation on our social media platforms and tell us where where you then, and where are you now.