Like many other Forest Park residents, Etta Worthington was shocked and upset when she heard that Donald Trump had won the election.
“It was awful,” she recalled. “I was physically ill. The next day I started crying in one of the TV script writing classes I was teaching at Columbia College. I got off Facebook and stopped watching the news. I just couldn’t deal with it.”
But after a few weeks of feeling bad, it was if an inner voice told her, “You gotta do something.” So when she received something from moveon.org that suggested she host a community meeting on Jan. 15 to organize people and get resistance going to the Trump administration, she was ready to act. She put the word out on social media and 26 people responded by crowding into her living room in the middle of January.
Worthington said the group, which has been meeting every other week since, was composed of about six African Americans and three Hispanics with the rest being Caucasian. Two-thirds of the gathering was female and the majority were in the 50- to 70-year-old range.
Before the meeting ended, the group followed moveon.org’s advice and broke into three interest groups which focused on 1) responding to Trump’s cabinet appointments, 2) working on immigration issues, and 3) addressing health care issues like the proposed dismantling the Affordable Health Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.
Some of those who attended that first meeting in January also joined the estimated 250,000 people who turned out for the Women’s March in the Loop on Jan. 21. Worthington, who wore a pink “pussy hat” to the event, said of that experience, “It was so exciting. It was so peaceful, but it was also clear that people were upset about what was happening.”
Those attending the rally, she noted, were both for something and against something.
“It wasn’t just an anti-Trump march,” she said, “but it was an anti-Trump march. Everybody had their own reason for marching, but at the core it was women’s rights.”
One of the ironies of moveon.org’s approach is that it is following the Tea Party’s model of fomenting political change which was used in obstructing President Obama’s agenda. The authors of Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda wrote, “We examine lessons from the Tea Party’s rise and recommend two key strategic components: A local strategy targeting individual members of Congress (MoCs) and a defensive approach purely focused on stopping Trump from implementing an agenda built on racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.”
Worthington said, “You just keep hammering away at these people. The Tea Party didn’t have one person rallying them, but they gained a lot of power because they kept going to their congressmen and senators with their agenda.”
When she got back from the march, she went to a baby shower in her neighborhood where the conversation moved away national politics to what’s happening in our community.
“What are we going to do about the D209 school board?” was the question on the minds of the women who were the thinking about the future of the newborn baby sleeping peacefully at the time.
“That’s the bottom line,” was the consensus of the women gathered to celebrate the birth of a child. “It’s about people saying we’re not going to let them do things. We’re going to take back our government. Let’s support Proviso Together and get good people on the school board.”
When Worthington feels overwhelmed by the challenge of trying to make political change, she reminds herself that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. When asked what she wants to say to Review readers, she replied, “If you are unhappy with what’s happened, then you need to start doing something — like contact an elected official once a week or maybe even once a day.”
During the march downtown, she recalled, people engaged in a call-and-response chant that began with “What does democracy look like?” The response was, “This is what democracy looks like!”
Then they pointed to all the people assembled who were making their views known.