Happy New Year, and happy (almost) 5th anniversary to us! This November we will celebrate our 5th year of making change while also (hopefully) celebrating the passage of new legislation and bringing our Healthy Relationships & Finances course to more students in Tennessee.
The first few months of our year mainly centers around our advocacy work as that’s when the Tennessee General Assembly is in session. As 2017 closed, we completed our research around the issues our bills addressed, met with local partners to garner their support, solidified the legislators who will sponsor and support the bills, and began having early conversations around what we hoped our legislation would accomplish. The method to our madness also includes citizen lobbyists, fellow Tennesseans who also want to create change in their communities by helping us lobby for our bills (or bills of their own!). Before we send people to the Cordell Hull building though, we train them!
In the month of January, we held two Lobbying 101s, one at East Park Community Center & one at Vanderbilt Law School. At the first training at East Park, we had over 40 interested volunteers and two state legislators: Representatives Sherry Jones & Bill Beck who gave the elected official’s point of view on lobbying dos and don'ts. Later in the month, we trained 25 new volunteers (including quite a few future lawyers!) and were given the legislator’s perspective from Representative Bo Mitchell who also challenged us all to get and stay involved even when session is over.
January 20th brought the anniversary of the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and its sister marches all across the world including in numerous cities all over Tennessee. This year, a large group of organizations worked together to bring the Women’s March 2.0 Power Together Tennessee event to Nashville. The morning saw informational sessions on running for office, lobbying, grassroots organizing, artivism, and much more; meanwhile, AWAKE tabled amongst thirty amazing organizations who also serve Tennessee’s various communities, and we were a proud sponsor of the event as well. The afternoon brought out over 15,000 (!!!) people to march, ending in a rally at Bicentennial Mall. It was incredible. It was inspiring. And it was encouraging and energizing to see so many groups and so many people ready to create change and make their communities more equitable and empowered.
We also officially kicked off 2018 with an event at The Greenhouse Bar with new and old volunteers and members ready to learn about our legislation and how we plan to get our Health Relationships & Finances curriculum in front of as many students as possible. We also detailed our 2018 fundraising goal of hiring an Executive Director. As an all volunteer board and organization, we know we could be in more schools, working with more groups, researching more issues, and passing more legislation if we had an Executive Director to take the lead. So thank you to everyone who came out to the kickoff- your donation helped us take another step towards this goal!
And because January has 31 days in it, we used them all to advance women's and kids’ issues. On the last day of the month, AWAKE along with the Sexual Assault Center and the YWCA co-hosted a screening of the documentary “I Am Evidence” about the rape kit backlog across the U.S. and what can be done to address this frustrating issue. The Joyful Heart Foundation brought the film to Lipscomb University and invited legislators, attorneys, local police departments, and community groups together for a discussion on and call to action to address the rape kit backlog in Tennessee.
If you are interested in lobbying for our legislation this year, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if education is your thing, we will have our teacher training in February before we begin our spring classes, so be sure to stay in touch with us for details on our upcoming events, trainings, and volunteer opportunities.