‘What are you gonna do?’

Sherri White-Williamson, a specialist in energy regulation and law, who is retired from the EPA, now works to make all out energy safer and renewable, issued a challenge to everyone on the Poor People’s Campaign Truth and Poverty Bus Tour to go home and DO something.

In the three years my son battled cancer, he often played the Cancer Card.

What that meant was if he wanted something, or if he didn’t want to do something, he would whine, “But I have cancer!”  Then he would laugh, whether he got his way or not.

In the days before his death, he told me I was about to get a card that would be hard to top — the Dead Kid Card.

“I don’t want it,” I said. “I want nothing to do with it.”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter what you want. It’s there. It’s being dealt as we speak. What I want to know is what are you gonna do with it.”

I told him I didn’t know and he shook his head again.

“Nope, I want to know. What are you gonna do?”

I thought for a moment and told him I will work for access to health care for everyone. Real access, not a high-deductible insurance policy that just puts money in the pockets of the 1 percent, but real, meaningful access.

He sank back into his pillow and smiled.

“Good. I approve. You have my blessing,” he said. “Go get ’em.”

Eleven years later, I’m still working on it.

Last week, I went with some of my fellow activists in the NC Poor People’s Campaign on the National Emergency Truth and Poverty Bus Tour across the state to visit people affected by poverty.

We saw people doing, including the first homeless/formerly homeless Street Medic Team, based here in Asheville. We met homeless activists in Charlotte, several of whom got on the bus and traveled with us.

We met environmental activists in Robeson, Scotland and Duplin counties. One of them was Sherri White-Williamson, who retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and now works across Eastern NC as an activist fighting the deforestation causing catastrophic flooding, the proliferation of industrialized hog and poultry farming and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other fossil fuel enterprises.

Sherri spoke to us in Robeson County and again in Duplin, and she told us to go home and do something.”

“You’re all excited now, enthusiastic about working to improve things,” she told us. “But coming here and learning what’s happening is not enough. You have to go home and do something.

“What are you gonna do?

In the 11 years since my son breathed his last, somewhere near a half million Americans have died from lack of access to care.

I worked for the Affordable Care Act, even though I was uncomfortable leaving insurance companies in the mix because I feared they would work to sabotage the law — which is exactly what has happened.

So, I continue to work to educate people about why we need to do what every other so-called developed country has done — find a way to get access to health care to everyone.

But I can’t work in a vacuum. Health care is not the only issue we need to address because if we get health care to everyone and we don’t fix the environmental devastation or raise the minimum wage, stop the endless wars or fix voter suppression, we’re still screwed.

We need activists for this fight. We need people to work with us.

We as a nation need you to pick your issue or issues and join the fight.

We don’t need online petitions because they never, ever, ever result in any change. Never. Sitting at your computer and typing in your name, e-mail address and phone number does nothing more than give some political hack your contact information so they can inundate you with requests for money.

Donating to a cause is great — the Poor People’s Campaign could sure use some financial help, as could any number of other causes — but these are perilous times and we need people to be in the streets.

We need people who can register voters and educate people on the issues — God knows the corporate media don’t peddle much beyond propaganda.

We need people to run for office — school board, city council, county commission, state legislature — and work for real change.

We can’t do this if people just stay home and go along to get along.

We need you in this fight because this is a fight for our very existence as a species.

What are you gonna do?

Think about it. We don’t have a whole lot of time left.


Back stage pass – Speaking truth to power

Publisher’s note:

I met Tamara at the Speaking Truth to Power – a permanent state of war event in Asheville last month and asked her to give us a glimpse into the behind the scene world of putting together this great event. She was kind to take the time to do so for us!

Speaking Truth to Power EventWhen I was asked to share my experiences of working on this event, I wasn’t really sure where to start or how to go about it. First off, let me just say that I do not consider myself to be a peace activist of any kind. I have never attended a peace rally or been thrown in jail for standing up for my beliefs. I am, however, a liberal individual who believes in the greater good of mankind and believes that violence begets violence and therefore peace is the only way for us to move forward in our world today.

With that being said, in January of this year, I was asked to be a part of a small team of four whose mission was to put on an event called Speaking Truth to Power: a permanent state of war. I was tasked as the social media and marketing specialist for this first-time ever event.  It would also be the first time for all of us to work together on an event such as this one and it would be a great learning opportunity for all of us.

The event itself would be held at the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, NC on Saturday, April 9th, 2011. We would be showcasing two keynote speakers, Gareth Porter and Ray McGovern, along with four young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Our goal was to bring attention to the permanency of war and how the American people need to know the truth regarding the political power and financial policies that drive our nation.

At this point, I had never heard of neither keynote speakers, nor any of the vets. The genre of peace activism and those organizations in that field were all very new to me. I realized early on that I was going to learn a lot about something I had little knowledge of or had taken any personal interest in up to that point.

The creators of the event, Paul Turner and Ymani Simmons, wanted desperately to get this message out to everyone they could possibly get to listen. As Americans, we need to know the truth and see it for what it truly is and hear about it from those who have experienced it first hand. This is no small task and I greatly admire their sheer devotion and commitment to this very worthy cause.

This event was their first step in helping to get that truth out to the public at large. We brought in seven incredibly bright, intelligent and dynamic speakers. We tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, hung posters, contacted media, contacted college professors and like-minded organizations, placed ads, set-up radio interviews and did everything else we possibly could to promote this event. Over the course of three months, we made hundreds of decisions that all culminated into a three-hour event. And the evening was beautiful!

Behind the scenes, we worked as a team the whole time. No stone went unturned. Our speakers were impressed and graciously applauded us on our professionalism and attention to detail for each of their experiences. The audience stayed in that theatre until almost 11:30 at night listening and singing to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, which was being played instrumentally. It may have been a small and intimate audience in the theatre that night but every single person was moved by what they had witnessed. Once the DVD of this event comes out it will begin to ripple out to the mainstream via YouTube…and I can’t wait! And if all things go as expected, this event will begin to make it out to other cities and continue to spread the word.

I met several new people while working on this project and I observed and learned several things. I learned that it only takes a few willing and devoted people to begin to make a difference. I learned that the smaller you keep a group with a common goal ahead of them, the easy it will be to accomplish that goal and find success. I witnessed the passion and fierce determination that one person has can quickly impact those around them. At a time when people are fatigued and depressed by our political and financial systems, there are several people out there energized and working feverishly to show us the light to a situation. The beauty of working on an event of this nature is to see people at their best and to actually see into their hearts and feel what they feel in real time.

I feel blessed to have been able to work on this event. I stated earlier that I wasn’t familiar with this particular subject matter when I started working on this project. Well, I am now. I felt a direct experience during the event that will stay with me forever. I look forward to being a part of future projects like this one and know that I will continue on my path of speaking truth to power as I move through my own life.

Tamara Lee
Talee Professional Services

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