Letters to the Editor

Together We Will, SLO: A call for novice and seasoned activists to make a difference

Together We Will San Luis Obispo, a local branch of a national progressive group, will participate in the Women’s March San Luis Obispo on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.
Together We Will San Luis Obispo, a local branch of a national progressive group, will participate in the Women’s March San Luis Obispo on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

For two months after the election, I was paralyzed by confusion and fear. Heavy doses of Facebook and pinot noir proved a crummy coping strategy; I pinched a nerve in my neck and gained 8 pounds. On New Year’s Day, I deleted all social media apps from my phone and hid the corkscrew.

I struggled with how I could make a difference when so many smart, powerful people couldn’t elect someone (anyone!) other than Donald Trump. I doubted that my small voice could make a difference.

And then I met Lan Alcorn.

Lan is the co-founder of the grassroots activism group Together We Will, San Luis Obispo. Last week, Lan took time from her busy schedule as the owner of Treat SLO, a local bakery, and as a mom to talk to me about why and how she is trying to cultivate a progressive future.

We met at Bello Mundo Cafe, a hip coffee shop in downtown San Luis Obispo, amid a vibrant crowd on a rainy day. Lan was typing on her laptop when I blustered in. A half-eaten, sea salt-topped chocolate chip cookie sat on the table along with a nearly empty cup of coffee.

I was struck by what a leader Lan is. She is a humble, hard worker, and she adjusted to my blunt questioning style with grace. She smiled and put me at ease.

I confessed that I’ve never gotten involved in politics before. I told her that I know very little about American history, can’t stand when political know-it-alls use jargon, and that I want to make sure our civil rights and free press remain central to our country’s values.

Lan told me that Together We Will is the perfect group for someone like me. The group connects people with resources — education, communication strategies and groups. In addition, they intend to provide networking support among progressive organizations.

“An activist concierge service?” I asked.

She smiled again. “Yes, plus education and fundraising.”

Then, she confided that she is a novice activist, too.

“Kristi, I am just like you — I haven’t done much as far as activism in the past, but I can’t sit back and do nothing.”

I asked her what changed for her.

“The extreme path that we’ve gone down has forced me into what I’m doing,” she said. “My children’s future is at stake.”

Lan explained that Together We Will intends to build bridges.

“Together We Will SLO wants to be a leader in bringing people into the process,” she said. “Especially people who haven’t been active before. We want to support their voices.”

This week, Together We Will released a mission statement:

“Together We Will stand up, refuse to be silenced and reclaim our democracy as everyday people taking decisive, unified action to defend and advance our rights.”

Local TWW members have made their voices heard in the past two months, including protesting the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and threatened elimination of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

In addition, members of TWW SLO have been busy compiling a network of local organizations that share progressive values — groups such as SLO Progressives, SLO Democratic Party, R.A.C.E. Matters SLO County and Our Revolution SLO. By solidifying relationships now, this consortium will be quick to respond when issues arise.

TWW SLO educational programming is consistent with its mission. An Activist 101 series is top priority. The series will highlight discussions of the Indivisibility Guide, a Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. Other ideas include holding classes on how to have productive conversations with loved ones who voted for Trump.

I asked Lan whether she is optimistic about our country’s next four years. She said that she is.

“I’m optimistic because there are a lot of people out there like me who want to make a difference. I’m hopeful that TWW SLO can help them find a place where they feel comfortable to speak up.”

Lan encourages everyone to visit the TWW SLO booth at the Women’s March San Luis Obispo on Saturday. The event starts at 9 a.m. with music, information and speakers. Helpful details are at www.womensmarchslo.com. The event is inclusive and everyone — novices and longtime activists alike — will be energized by working together for a bright future.

Connect with Together We Will San Luis Obispo on Facebook at www.facebook.com/twwslo or by sending an email to togetherwewillslo@gmail.com. Twitter: @TWW_SLO.

Kristi Johnson is a patent lawyer and writer who lives with her husband in San Luis Obispo. Contact her at www.delphicitizen.org, writer.kristi@gmail.com, or Twitter @khagenjohnson.