Let’s Remember This Feeling of Solidarity — Remarks at WV’s #RememberinNovember Rally

Photo by Carling McManus, 84 Agency

I was honored to share these words at the Remember in November Rally, held on West Virginia’s capitol steps on Saturday, March 12th, the last day of the session. I was especially honored to stand with Maya and Zella, two young women who traveled with High Rocks from Greenbrier County.

Welcome. It’s so good to see you.

You know these past two months, we’ve seen the faces of disappointment and disheartenment.

Now, finally, we get to see the faces of hope. Thank you — that’s what I’ve been most looking forward to for today.

I’m so grateful for the great lineup of speakers we have for you — from faith, labor, advocacy groups, NAACP, and the business community. We are honored to have Revered Watts, who will be closing today’s rally.

We’ve been silenced for the past two months — but today, on the last day of the session, we get to have the final word.

I just want us to do a quick roll call, to see who’s here. Hands up if you got him. Ready, set?

Who here works — who here is a worker? Keep your hand up. Who here is in a union, has friends in a union, or would feel stronger in a union? Who here believes Right to Work is WRONG?

Who here is gay or is friends with or is a brother or sister, mother or father, son or daughter of the beloved LGBTQ community?

Who here drinks water and would prefer it was clean and didn’t poison you and your family?

Who here is a woman or wants women to define the destiny of their own bodies?

Who here doesn’t have such a high income — or maybe you know someone who could use a hand in these troubled times? And who finds it undignified to be forced to pee in a cup to feed your family?

Who here needs a second chance or knows someone who needs a pathway back to full citizenship?

Who here believes in a prosperous future for the mountain state — not for the corporate barons — but for everyday working people, for those hurting from the west side to the southern coalfields?

Raise your hand if you’re a young person who wishes you could stay here, but is flabbergasted and frustrated by the forces that are forcing you to look at more promising lands? I know we’ve got a great crew from Greenbrier County!

Welcome. Welcome. Thank you for coming out! It’s not an easy thing when the values you hold dear are betrayed — to come out and bear a kind of witness. It hurts, you know.

It really hurts to watch your state sliding backwards, as every day a new bill targeted another beautiful body of West Virginians. It makes you just want to curl up and watch Netflix, you know.

And that’s why I want your help in thanking the folks who’ve been inside that building — the moral lobbyists and advocates who have had our back these past two months. We’ve had advocates fighting inside that legislature day in and day out, losing sleep, losing tears, losing touch with their family, giving their all to stop the very worst nightmares — like RIFA — and to create some real rays of hope. That’s some real heavy, unsung work. Let’s show some love, thank you!!

But I’ll tell ya. There’s another group I want to thank. I also want to thank the legislature. Not just the Democrats — but the Republicans, every single one of them. Cole on down — to the fine gentleman who called workers a bunch of freeloaders. Bless you.

Because, I’ll tell you why.

If you wanted to inspire a united people’s movement — that truly comes together — that spreads it wings all together — if you wanted to unleash a movement that seeks to fight for poor people, for disenfranchised people, for workers, for lgbt neighbors, for women, for black people and people of all colors, for anyone who deserves a second chance and a real shot —

If you wanted to unleash that vision — then you couldn’t have done better than attacking each and everyone of us.

You couldn’t have done better than bringing us all down to our knees.

You couldn’t have done better than helping us see our common ground of disenfranchisement and discrimination and common potential for shared vision and shared power.

You couldn’t have helped us see better that it’s time for the people to come together and rise together.

You. Could. Not. Have. Done. Better!!

So, Thank you, dear politicians.

Thank you, to this legislature, for breaking us down — so we can see and feel what it’s like to be on the mat, looking around, seeing each other, knowing we have far more POWER than we thought possible.

Because that’s what a people’s movement offers — Power. Leverage. The ability for our advocates and lobbyists and emissaries to go to any politician and say, You should do the right thing of your own volition. But if you choose not to, I’ve got these folks outside, and they’re none too happy. They may even do a peaceful sit in in your office on Thursday. Or you know, they’ll vote you out of office.

Power. It’s a scary thing — but what’s scarier is when we don’t have it. That’s what we just witnessed this legislative session.

So I will close with this.

We absolutely must Remember in November, Yes! Right???

I’m with you. And we’re going to hear more about that.

To me the question also begs: Are we going to Remember what it’s like to be on the mat, broken, and bleeding together — from a savage legislature, but also from letting them take us down, one flank at a time? Are we going to remember this great feeling, RIGHT NOW, of unity and solidarity — — knowing in our bones, that if we don’t stand together, we’ll be left to fight for the crumbs.

The question seems to me: come November, and far beyond, are we going to remember our solidarity as that secret to unleashing the wings of a people’s movement — so we can ensure this capitol serves all West Virginians, truly listens and serves her most hurting, truly listens and unleashes her most visionary — instead of silencing us and scaring us away.

Let’s Remember that Feeling. Of being on the mat, looking around, and finding friends across differences. It will serve us well.

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