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After registering young people to vote in unprecedented numbers prior to the 2018 midterms and contributing to the massive youth turnout for that election, NextGen America is only gaining momentum.
According to Staci Lowry, Regional Organizing Director for Wayne and Oakland counties, NextGen is focused on three campaigns in this non-election year: Making voting easy, which locally includes education regarding the implementation of Michigan’s newly-passed Proposal 3; fighting for progress, which includes supporting initiatives like the Green New Deal and environmental justice in the cities and counties where NextGen has a presence; and accountability of our elected officials.
But while NextGen may have serious ambitions, they also like to have a good time. With that in mind, NextGen held a town hall brunch at Granite City with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib after she marched with them in the Motor City Pride parade to stand in solidarity and celebrate LGBTQ friends and family. Holding a Sunday brunch to pay tribute to the LGBTQ community seemed fitting to many.
Among the approximately 50 individuals who marched and/or attended the brunch were representatives from the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Michigan, Affirmations, Stand with Trans, Planned Parenthood, Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan, Detroit Future City and 482 Forward.
“Take Pride in Your Vote” is NextGen’s current decree, and BTL asked Lowry why LGBTQ issues are important to NextGen’s mission and values. Certainly, part of it is that many of their millennial members and volunteers identify as LGBTQ and “we want to make sure that their voices are heard, because we are ushering in the next generation,” she said.
But there’s more to it, Lowry explained: “It’s important to us because [among] all issues that affect us – for different reasons – there’s a lot of intersectionality, and we often work siloed. And we understand at NextGen that we have to work together in order to make tangible change in our communities, and it often starts with ourselves.”
Congresswoman Tlaib responded to questions on a wide range of topics, from LGBTQ issues to health care to wage theft. One theme that arose continually was that we all have strengths to contribute to the political discussion, via elective office or otherwise.
“People like us need to be running for office,” Tlaib told the young crowd – and that by “us,” she meant “real people,” she explained. “Half of my colleagues are millionaires,” she said. “Their income bracket is completely disconnected with the American people,” and later pointed out, “they even deemed someone like me impossible to get elected.”
Another message Tlaib conveyed was that meaningful, significant change often begins outside of political office: “I’ll tell you,” she said, “the things that are transformative … the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, was always because of movements outside of Congress. So continue pushing on.”
Following the afternoon’s events, Lowry reflected on the experience and described what it meant to her personally for Congresswoman Tlaib to have been there with a single word: “awesome!”
“She is just a force to be reckoned with in so many different ways, supports so many different issues that are true and dear to our hearts, is actively working … to make policies better for black and brown communities, for LGBTQ, for working moms,” Lowry said. “So I think that we couldn’t have had a better elected official here at Pride with us.”
Pleased with the turnout, Lowry added that she brought her daughter, too.
“I just think it’s important for us to get together more, and celebrate each other more, and celebrate our small wins,” Lowry said. “We have a lot of fight ahead in a lot of different ways, but I think it’s important to take a day to celebrate.”