Speaking Up and Out

It's pretty amazing to watch people in a community come together, united, over something. I've seen it before with the various groups I've been part of. Each time I do see it, it inspires me. Yesterday I got a glimpse of it yet again.

Glimpse into scenes like that remind me of a time when I was part of something pretty amazing....protests. Yes, I've had an interesting life. It started with anti-animal cruelty protests when I was only 22 and lived in the Chicago area. While I didn't necessarily agree with some of my fellow protesters and the tactics they used in approaching people, I did feel the sense of empowerment that comes from standing up for what you believe in.

I felt that again when I was extremely active as a volunteer advocate and activist for students with special needs. From helping parents learn and understand their rights to organizing and taking part in protests from the school district level, the state level, all the way to marches in Washington, DC.

One particular one stands out the most where I was on the negotiating team for the protest...one of the leads at the front of the line confronting the Deputy Secretary of Education on promises broken. My little one on my hip, and Justin standing by my side..900 people behind us..CNN on it's way, and police present making sure all remained civilized. Yes, that was me.

I have video of that one around here somewhere, and if I can ever get it transferred on to the computer, I will post it....it's kinda funny to look at..never piss off a mom, she'll call in the troops, LOL!

I'm fighting the urge to organize..rally...around something right now. The reason I am fighting is not because I don't feel it's right, it's because others need to take the lead in this fight.

Over the last few months I've witnessed something pretty amazing in my community. I've taken part in coalition meetings that address issues revolving around domestic violence in the community..in the county.

We suffered a loss last year when an advocacy organization shut down their satellite office here. The coalition worked together and offered them free office space in a building downtown, and free phone lines just so we could keep the needed presence of advocates. The offer was turned down. Yes, hard to believe an organization would turn down such a valuable donation to help in their cause, but they did and in doing so told an entire county they didn't matter.

Now I may live in a small rural town...and that may provide you with visions of friendly people waving...small shops lining downtown...and church socials. While that may be accurate on some levels...so is the fact that we are an area stricken with poverty, and abuse on all levels. No exaggeration.

The 2006 statistics show that our little quaint rural city sitting down in a valley, surrounded by rivers, lakes, and lush farmland with rolling hills in the background is second on the list and just below Milwaukee for the highest crime rate of a city with over 500 in population. See it for yourself - chart Scroll down to that last chart, and look for Mauston.

Now what types of crimes puts us on that list...... no doubt it's domestic violence. Alcoholism and other addictions run rampant in this area, all of which feed into the poverty, the isolation and of course domestic violence.

That doesn't mean there aren't good people here..caring people here, and that this area has so much more to offer...it just means we have some work to do in being good neighbors and protecting our children and future generations.

It was in those coalition meetings where I saw firsthand community leaders come together and identify the issue that needed to be addressed. Rather than giving up, they progressed forward and decided to reach out to yet another advocacy organization and offer them the same as they did to the one who refused. The other organization heard the plea, and recognized the amazing ...and sadly, somewhat rare...sense of community our county was showing...how we want to address these issues, issues many turn their backs on still yet today.

They took them up on their offer...the spokes of the wheel started moving again, and we were on our hope's road to progress. Now some would say I have a vested interest in all of this, and they are right...I live in this community, that's first and foremost, and I am survivor that knows we need this kind of care here but in addition to that, and after the advocacy organization decided to come here, they then offered me a position as one of the advocates at that office as well as facilitated arrangements so that I could go to those conferences I've written about these past months. The position was to start once they received grant money to pay a salary....until then I had volunteered my time, and said I would even if the grant money never came in. This is how important this is to me, and for our community. So yes, I am vested in this.

Yesterday was to be the day we were going to start setting up the office in that donated space. I was volunteering my time this month and all of next month. Yesterday morning I met the people from that organization at the office space but rather than setting up to start getting down to business, another fork was thrown in the road. We sat down at the table and that's when I learned that they were being prevented from go through with opening up the office. Preventing them from doing so were their main funder, a state agency.

Evidently they were told that the other organization services our county because they receive the grant money to do so. Now while they may in fact have brochures, and just recently (after the coalition moved forward) started showing up to more community events displaying their information, the fact remains that they were the ones that turned down the offer for free space..free phone lines..and support from the coalition. I guess that doesn't matter when it comes to the line items on a grant being awarded by someone who doesn't live and work in our county.

After I was told this, I went around with the people from the organization to let leaders in the community know that the fork was slammed down in front of us. We met with the Sheriff, a Chief of Police and a Jail Captain...all of whom have worked very hard at bringing positive change to our community...and some of whom have listened to my complaints in the past about the holes in our community.

The news didn't go over well. I sat there listening to them being told their hardwork was being discounted, and it was like watching them being slapped in the face. In all essence they were being told that they now had to work with the very group that didn't want to work with them and their offer...and they needed to trust in that this was the best thing...the organization that was going to help our community wasn't happy in having to provide this news...it was a very hard day for all involved.

It's all in a way ironic. Power and control was now dictating how a community addresses their issues with domestic violence. Sad to say this isn't the first time I've seen something like this where the initial cause of an organization comes second to the grants they receive and who awards them. Territory is the focus, because the wider the territory the more money a non profit will receive - so needless to say it's obvious to me that someone made a call because they didn't want to lose that territory on paper, and the money in their account - you'd think they would reach out to the community first...ask them what they could do to do a better job...find out why they went elsewhere...but instead, most likely, a phone call was made and backdoor meetings were held - the kind that leave out the voice of the people and give all politics a bad name.

It's in meeting like those where lies are spread...rumors run rampant...and scapegoats are named. I'm pretty darned sure that is exactly what happened that lead to all of this. Again, irony..I mean this is after all about abuse....you kinda just scratch your head in disbelief. Reminds me of story earlier this year where a child molester was protected over the best interests of children around him, all because those in power were friends of the family. tsk...tsk...tsk........

Well, I've been down this road before - so it doesn't stun me. Sure it pisses me off, no doubt about that, but I also know this is not where the story will end. Others I am sure will in fact take the lead on this one, and rightfully so. I can guarantee while I may not be the one on that negotiating team - I will be in that crowd following them in...supporting them all the way.

After all this is OUR community...where we live and work. Where we are the ones that will have to deal with the consequences of the inaction...action....of the decisions that are yet to be made.

Rally on!!!!!!

This is not over. This fat lady hasn't sang, and quite frankly can't carry a tune....so don't expect it anytime soon!


Good for you. Prepare the path and let the ending go. It will take care of itself!

Keep us updated - it's not over yet.
Wine and Words said…
Rally around me. If I am not a cause, I don't know what is!
Anonymous said…
"Sad to say this isn't the first time I've seen something like this where the initial cause of an organization comes second to the grants they receive and who awards them. "

Another way to say the same thing might be, "he who has the gold makes the rules."

Ken Van Doren
Eva Marie said…
Tax dollars at work yet once again! I took it easy on them with this post, next time will be names..facts are facts, can't change that..

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