On Friday, November 13th Together Louisiana and Together Baton Rouge organized a rally at the Board of Commerce and Industry meeting. This action came in response to the revelation that Marathon Oil had altered public records in order to circumvent new, stricter regulations on ITEP applications. Despite the recent defeat of Amendment 5 and other, recent ITEP victories across the state, this latest request was yet another example of the staunch opposition and corruption that we are facing in our fight against corporate welfare.
The news about Marathon Oil’s fraudulent actions came to us with little time to act. I myself had not heard about the rally until Thursday afternoon. With little time, my colleagues and I had to make sure there were going to be enough people to make a powerful statement to the Board that enough is enough. On top of that, our Mayoral Accountability Assembly was coming up, and we were scrambling to make the final touches on the agenda for that meeting. Despite the workload, we scrambled into action, reaching out to our list of faithful Block Captains.
In my time as a community organizer and political activist, I have participated in my fair share of phone banks, and any experienced phone banker will tell you that a good 80 percent of the people you call won’t answer, and of the ones that do, maybe 10 percent will actually talk with you. Needless to say, it can be pretty disheartening work. But as I plugged number after number into my phone, I realized something about this work was different. Concerned citizens were eager to learn more, and my heart swelled with gratitude. Still, it was getting close to the end of the day and there were many numbers left to call. Already worn-down from the other events of the day, I stayed late into the evening calling folks until I was simply too exhausted to continue.
Although we had such a positive response to our last-minute phone bank, I still worried in the back of my mind that I would arrive at an empty street outside the Board of Commerce and Industry meeting the next day. After all, it can be tough to tell someone “no,” and this was still a weekday morning event coming together on short notice. Would anyone actually show up?
I woke up the next morning with an anxious pit in my stomach. Part of me even wanted to stay home, afraid to see my failure in person. Yet, as I approached the building, all of my fears washed away. Leaders from across the state lined the steps of the LaSalle building. One participant even drove all the way from Shreveport to make their voice heard. Despite the early hour and long drive, this former Marine stole the show with his energy and passion. I was incredibly moved to see so many people volunteering their Friday morning for us, and to witness mine and Abel’s hard work paying off.
Other than a single House meeting that took place earlier in the fall, this rally was the first in-person event I’d attended since starting my internship with Together Baton Rouge. For many other rally attendees, this was also their first time at a gathering this large since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone expressed how energizing it was to come together yet again with so many like-minded individuals. Following a short series of speeches from our leaders, we got to mingle and exchange contact information. This sort of interaction is a powerful part of organizing that simply isn’t possible in the age of Zoom! I was especially inspired to see one of our Block Captains scheduling relational meetings with several other people, utilizing skills they’d been taught through our Precinct Organizing Project.
This sort of turnout would never have been possible with traditional cold-calling and email blasts. Our list of Block Captains – active and engaged members of their respective communities – were ready to act thanks to the genuine, personal relationships they have developed with our organizers and their fellow leaders in TBR and Together Louisiana. This is exactly the vision that we have for the Precinct Organizing Project. Maintaining long-term relationships with their neighbors will allow our Block Captains to have a group of people they can reach out to and depend on to vote, take action, and engage powerful decision-makers as we pursue our mutual self-interests.
If you are passionate about voter engagement and relationship building, sign up to be a Block Captain at https://www.togetherla.org/blockcaptain. Although national and state elections are over, we will be re-engaging voters for local runoffs in November and continuing to build relationships with our neighbors for years to come. With your help, we will build a politically active, compassionate, and powerful community capable of ensuring a brighter future for our state.