After the 2016 Presidential election, Eden Mckissick-Hawley ‘16, a campaign manager, searched for a way to stay involved in the political sphere during the interim between elections and campaigns.
In an effort to combat and resist the new administration, Mckissick-Hawley began to form the Facebook group known as Women for Progressive Action, a group of Knox alumni, students and others located across the nation in Boston, Washington D.C. and Ohio, dedicated to disseminating information and calls to action.
“I was trying to figure out, right after the election, what I wanted to do and I decided that I just wanted to spend 100 percent of my time resisting the new administration,” said Mckissick-Hawley. “I realized that we needed to create a network, and that we needed to create a platform for people to be consuming calls to action, messaging and encouraging them to keep going.”
Since the formation of the group, which also includes senior Zooey Brewer and Casey Mendoza ‘16, frequent postings have issued calls to action regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Women’s March on Washington, blocking Trump’s cabinet nominations, and the recent Immigration Ban.
Such calls for action asked readers to resist Trump’s agenda by calling representatives, posting on social media, showing up for in person protests, disseminating information and using that information to act. After the Immigration Ban was announced, the group created a quick response guide and moved to energize others to resist the executive order.
“We have to focus on what we can win and what we can do,” Mckissick-Hawley explained. “It was very successful and we actually saw the Immigration Ban overturned. I think our group really paid a part in it. We reached out to people pretty quickly, we acted fast and helped get the ball rolling with other resistance networks that were working towards the same goal of overturning the ban.”
However, the group has met a number of challenges along the way. According to Mendoza, the biggest challenge the group has faced is spreading the word outside of the people who are already passionate and involved in politics.
“A big issue we face is trying to get to people who aren’t as inherently informed or involved. The people who you need to know personally, who wouldn’t necessarily like the page in the first place,” Mendoza said. “A lot of them are lower income residents who are deeply affected by things, like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We don’t know how to get to that demographic.”
Brewer worries that there is another demographic of people who want to be involved in their government, but don’t know how or feel as though they don’t have time to devote to understanding the processes of the government.
“For my part I really wanted to give people small actionable things that they can do, and I hope to bring some educational component to it,” said Brewer. “I think that people want to know more about civics than most people do, and just with so much going on in the world right now, it’s hard for anybody to follow everything.”
Planning for the future, the group plans to address some of these issues as well as incorporating educational videos to inform and explain other ways to participate in the national and local government.
“Right now we’re working on bigger action plans. We’re also focusing more on teaching people on how to get your voice out there,” Mendoza said. “We want to work on these smaller projects, for example, making videos about the differences between calling the federal government and the state government. Teaching people to get more involved in their local government and their state government rather than just federal. Basically like online civics lessons.”
The group is also working on encouraging more people to choose issues that they’re passionate about and to look at what they can do in local politics.
“I think we’re starting to look at what we can do more locally, but people tend not to pay attention to their local and state government,” Brewer said. “A lot of things happen [at the local level], and we can make a big impact because there are less people in those communities than on a national level.”
There are also several ways for Knox students to become more involved in resisting the government through WPA. The group often posts calls for action, which would require Knox students to call their representatives. Mckissick-Hawley also suggested that Knox students not only follow the Facebook page, but to be more engaged in local politics.
“I think at Knox we post a lot on Facebook about how we’re such social justice warriors, but we never take action,” said Mckissick-Hawley. “There’s an important mayoral race happening right nowÑif every single Knox student isn’t involved in that, then I’m at a loss for words. Knox needs to decide that they care about the world and the community, and if you guys do, then get involved. It’s too easy.”
She suggested that Knox students look into attending a Knox County Democrat meeting or a City Council meeting as a place to start.
“If Knox students don’t get involved in local issues, then I don’t really know how they plan to make an impact at the national level,” said Mckissick-Hawley. “If you want the world to be better, then make it better. Open your eyes; open your ears. Listen to what’s happening, decide that you care about it and get involved.”