Unless you’re looking at facts of the alternate variety, there is no denying that we are living through a terrifying time. What’s happening across our nation is as unprecedented in the history of the United States as Trump is un-presidential.
While we have much to be fearful for, we have one important thing to remain thankful for. It is the way Trump has united us, inspired us and incited us. Not to support his hateful policies or to build an effective wall out of taxpayer money, which doesn’t include any dollars of his own, but rather to support one another and to fight for equal rights. For the first time in many of our lifetimes, people of all colors, religions, ages and other identities are protesting with one another in beautiful displays of love and solidarity.
Although I cried for approximately 13 consecutive hours starting around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 9, I still felt a small shiver of pride in my heart for my fellow Spartans, as Ingham was one of the few counties in Michigan to turn blue this election. Following that day, the students at Michigan State University began to unite against intolerance, and they proved to me that Spartans bleed red, white and blue along with the usual green.
Seemingly overnight the sidewalks across campus had been covered in messages of love and tolerance. On the whiteboard in my community bathroom, my floormates addressed their fears and support for one another. A week after the election, hundreds of MSU students flooded campus and the streets of Lansing at the Rally Against Hate, Bigotry, Racism and Sexism organized by MSU College Democrats.
Not only was a huge portion of the Women’s March on Lansing attended by Spartans, but a protest, “No Ban, No Wall: Spartans for Sanctuary” was recently held at the Rock, protesting Trump’s un-American executive order that blocks certain refugees and immigrants from entering the United States. Students and others spoke out, comparing the freezing Spartans gathered around the Rock to the Syrian refugees that would be forced to sleep in the snow that night.
Further rallies have been planned, and many of MSU’s organizations have held meetings about what to do next. Just hours after the No Ban, No Wall rally, it was decided that East Lansing will remain a safe haven for refugees. Incredible things are happening here, and Spartans are showing tremendous displays of activism — but we can’t let it stop now.
When we make use of our First Amendment right to assemble, we are showing that we won’t tolerate Trump’s bigoted actions. We are refusing to normalize his behavior, and we are acknowledging that he is not standing for the values America was built on. We recognize that he is not representing the people that Russia elected him to stand for, and we ask him to be a President to all Americans, not just the wealthy, white ones.
It is vital that we don’t cease in our energy. We can’t become too fatigued to keep watching, responding and protesting. Marches and rallies can feel fruitless when the president has signed more terrifying executive orders than days he’s been in office. But they serve the purpose of making our voices heard, and they prove to individuals who are fearing for their rights and sovereignty that hateful rhetoric toward them is not what most Americans stand for.
However, making a funny sign and taking a selfie at a protest is only part of the solution. I respect the art of protest, and I think it’s wonderful to see people who have never done anything like this before coming out to stand with their peers. Activism on a smaller, less glamorous scale is paramount to actually making a difference, and there are plenty of opportunities available to Spartans on campus and in the greater Lansing area.
Here are some ways you can get involved.
Lansing Activist Nights at Planned Parenthood
Every Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m. Planned Parenthood is hosting a meeting open to the public where individuals choose between planning events, doing data entry, calling legislators and tackling issues such as gerrymandering and election reform. This is an easy way to play a huge role in local activism. Planned Parenthood is located is at 115 Allegan Street, Lansing.
MDP Spring State Convention
If you have donated $10 to the Michigan Democratic Party before January 12, 2017, you are eligible to attend the MDP Spring State Convention and vote on members to lead the MDP. The convention is held on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cobo Center in Detroit located at 1 Washington Blvd.
It is paramount that we elect Democrats up and down the ticket to ensure that we have the right individuals fighting for us on every level of government. Gretchen Whitmer, the former Ingham County Prosecutor, is running for Governor in 2018, and students can get involved by contacting Daniel Eggerding, the President of College Dems, at [email protected]
The Refugee Development Center
Located in Lansing, volunteers at the Refugee Development Center work one day of the week for about 12 weeks. Volunteers will work with adults or children, depending on their choice, and assist with teaching English and homework help. More information can be found here.
Apply for SARV
If you’re an MSU student, as a freshman, you were required to attend the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program. The program offers resources for students that might be dealing with these issues throughout the year and empowers them to end rape culture, be an effective bystander and avoid victim blaming, among others. Living in a nation where our president is an alleged rapist, it’s more important than ever to be educated and educate others on this issue. Applications can be found here and are due by March 20. SARV is a paid position.
Contact Your Legislators
It’s always a good idea to contact your legislators asking how they plan on voting on issues and offering your own opinions on what they should do. They are meant to represent you and should hear your voice. The website 5calls.org makes this very simple — you choose the issue that matters to you and are given a number to call as well as a script to use if you’re unsure. Calls are much more difficult to ignore than e-mails and postcards.
Representatives for those of us living in East Lansing include:
Democrat Debbie Stabenow at 202-224-4822 (D.C.) and 517-203-1760 (Lansing)
Democrat Gary Peters at 202-224-6221 (D.C.) and 517-377-1508 (Lansing)
Republican Mike Bishop at 202-225-4872 (D.C.) and 810-227-8600 (Brighton)
If you wish to voice your opinion on issues in the Michigan Legislature, your Michigan House Representative is Democrat Sam Singh who can be reached at 517-373-1786.
Also, it was recently reported by one of the organizers for the Women’s March on Lansing that more people are contacting the City Council against the sanctuary city status for it. If you support East Lansing as a sanctuary city, let them know by e-mailing [email protected].
There are many clubs and organizations in East Lansing that a student could join to get involved with the community and help make a difference. Try reaching out to organizations such as the Black Student Alliance and the Muslim Student Alliance to find opportunities for involvement or being an ally. Following their Facebook pages will help you stay updated on future events. You can also also consider joining MSU College Democrats or the Ingham County Democrats. Getting involved in a small way, such as by attending a Black Caucus event, to get a better understanding of the issues or what is required of you as an ally is another option.
Donations to organizations such as Black Lives Matter, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, among other groups, are great ways to ensure that these organizations continue to thrive, even if you are unable to commit time to volunteering. Websites for these organizations may include additional methods for you to get involved.
Keep Attending Events
It is still important to show your support of marginalized groups and to denounce the actions of the president by attending protests and rallies. These events keep us informed and thinking about what we need to be working toward. They serve to boost community support and show that we will not stand for hateful rhetoric and actions from the current administration. I highly recommend following the Women’s March on Lansing page on Facebook or following their website, which has been posting ways for individuals to get involved.
Some upcoming events include:
Feb. 6: What is Gerrymandering? Political Redistricting Info Session
Free, informational session held by Sierra Club Michigan that will explain how political maps are configured. Gerrymandering is a huge cause for the disparity between the results of popular and electoral votes and allows parties to rig the system against others. This event will be held at Allen Market Place, 1629 E. Kalamazoo St., Lansing from 6-8 p.m.
Feb. 9: No Visa, No Immigration Ban Rally
Another protest of Trump’s executive orders on immigration — this one is also located at the Rock next to Fairchild Auditorium from noon-1 p.m.
Feb. 11: Michigan Democratic Convention
Members of the party who have renewed since Jan. 12, 2017 can meet at the Cobo Center in Detroit to vote on party leaders. The event will last from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit.
Feb. 11: Defend Planned Parenthood
To stand in solidarity with Planned Parenthood, join this counter-protest. The event is located at 300 N. Clippert St. It starts at 8 a.m. and lasts until noon. There will be a sister event to this happening at the Rock on MSU’s campus from noon-2 p.m.
Feb. 13: Protest Trump and Mike Bishop, No Muslim Ban, No Wall, No ACA Repeal
To send a message to Rep. Bishop letting him know that his constituents will not stand for his continued support of Trump’s actions, protesters are gathering at his office at 711 E. Grand River Ave. Suite A in Brighton. The event will last from 4-6 p.m.
You’re doing a great job, Spartans. We must stay vigilant, tolerant and active. That is the only way we are going to successfully stand up for ourselves and our rights. Keep the momentum going!