The lack of a background in political activism or as a community organizer didn't stop Andrea from creating small group meetings around Charlottesville she is calling Civic Circles. Feeling the need to get involved and to do something, she is bringing people together to discuss the current political climate in our country and to support each other as many make their first steps into the world of political advocacy.
“I need to live a life that’s out and acting the values that I believe in.”
The Civic Circles are in response to, and as a supplement for the larger events and rallies that have been gaining in popularity recently. Because of the smaller group size of the Circles, it lends itself to back and forth discussion and gives everyone a chance to speak and to be heard. A wide age range and diverse level of activism experience of Circle members makes it an excellent resource to discover ways to get involved and to speak out on the issues they care about most. These small groups also give members a chance to vent their frustrations with the current political administration and helps them feel like they are not alone.
When Andrea and I talked about the inspiration that led to her creating these civic circles, we started with the election and the wide range of reactions and comments she saw from her friends on social media. Andrea saw how the results of the election were going to have real and possibly devastating impacts on people she knew.
“I think I was very, very complacent for a long time, which bothers me, but all I can do now is move forward. I know I won’t go there again.”
In an effort to move forward, she attended a political breakfast meeting where she noticed a lot of very active and involved people generally falling into one of two groups. An older constituent who's activism took the form of letters to the editor and a younger group who's primary method of speaking out was through Twitter and social media. "Wouldn't it be cool if we had these small groups that came together and were age diverse and we can all learn from one another?"
Starting on Twitter through her own followers, she eventually received a signal boost from Charlottesville Indivisible and had more than enough responses to start three different Civic Circles. "And if these go well over the next few months, I might try to do more. There is just so much popping up that's either things you can get involved with or things that can support you on what you want to do. I don't know if there is a huge need for this or not, but I get a lot out of it."
And not content to just stop with her Civic Circles, Andrea is finding other ways to get involved in her community. She is a member of a group trying to bring local and refugee families together by organizing and providing rides to community play sessions for their children at the Rec Center. Also gaining an interest in local politics, she is organizing a meet and greet for the 50 houses on her street with the candidates running for the board of supervisors and the school board for her neighborhood. "We need to be more connected to this process at the local level and beyond."
Andrea and her family moved to Charlottesville a few years ago right before having their second child, which made it difficult to get out and explore their new community. When I asked her what she was getting from this experience of organizing and activism, she talked about how she now feels more connected to her community. She's met people that she wouldn't have met otherwise and now feels more comfortable attending larger events because she will likely recognize someone else there.
“I’m still starting out but I’m doing something. So maybe I have something to share. And inevitably, everybody I meet is doing 10 times more already. It’s inspiring. It’s really cool.”