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CENTER UPDATE 2017


January 18th, 2018

The election of Trump was like somebody threw a political bomb into the middle of a crowded room. For undocumented people, it meant fear of losing DACA and being deported. For labor unions and the working poor, it meant losing labor rights and minimum wages. For many, it meant fear of losing their healthcare. In the midst of people scrambling to re-orient, the Center seemed like a haven, with support groups, centering prayer, and our growing social community of support. But things happened that no one expected.

I am a social movement geek. I study protests and file them in my brain and can rattle off the 10 biggest protests in the last 50 years, so for me, participating with many in our community in the Women’s March and seeing what is clearly documented as the largest protest in American history, created a sense of awe that we were in a special moment of history. Millions of new people became interested in politics, forming groups called many things (women’s huddles, indivisible groups, among dozens of other newly formed networks of recently engaged people). And the Center for the Working Poor was just a drop in an ocean of new resistance groups. All of a sudden there were thousands of new people buying our book, This is an Uprising, and asking us for advice about how we respond to this crisis. Our friends from Cosecha, IfNotNow, AllofUs, and Sunrise, all groups that had come out of the training institute Momentum, that we had formed with Carlos Saavedra and Ayni, were asking us for advice and scrambling to respond. And, quite frankly, we were caught off guard. It’s easy to say, “read my book,” as the answer to anything, or to give simple solutions like “We need a movement,” but frankly, I didn’t have clear, concise answers. Instead, I was traveling around and talking to all our groups and trying to get my head around what to do, other than the obvious to do something, and for god’s sake, protest, protest works.

I was very inspired though by a group of Obama staffers who wrote something in the month after the election called the Indivisible Guide, which was teaching people the best practices that had stopped Obama from passing many things in his first years in office from the Tea Party movement. What they gave was simple 101 of how to effectively lobby your congressperson. It went viral in a way few publications ever have, with millions downloading the guide and forming over 6,000 groups which were formed without any money or any established organization, and really came out of almost nowhere.

What could we do that could help give people what they needed? People like my mom and her friends, who meet weekly at a bookstore to talk about social justice and to mobilize to the protests in the Des Moines area. And although I love This is an Uprising, to be honest, it’s just too damn big for this moment. Even my girlfriend has not even read it all the way through. With little to no money, we asked God, the universe, and the resistance movement “should we produce a cliff notes for the Trump resistance?” Paul did his discernment prayers, which actually took a couple weeks, asking God, Jesus, and the holy spirit for guidance. There seemed to be a lot of signs that people wanted something that we were one of the only people that could provide. In a few days, with our good friends Brooke Lehman, Abraham Lateiner, and Hallie Boas, we were able to raise, in small donations of $100-200, over $10,000 to support a short-term writing team (as well as me for free, to work for the Center off of donations that supporters like you provide).

It took us six months of back and forth and argument, debate, and decision making that went into producing a book without a publisher because we wanted to give it out for free for as many people that needed it. On September 18th, we unveiled the Resistance Guide. We’ve had over 1,000 people download it for free. We’ve had people like Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Robert Greenwald, and other prominent progressives endorse and promote it. And I’m proud to announce that my mom’s book group in Des Moines has selected it for their reading. Here it is, for all those that are interested, free of charge. And for those interested, everyone says the print copy looks beautiful.

None of this would have been possible if we didn’t have this community called the Center for the Working Poor. I realize when I pray in the morning that what I’m grateful for is the ability to wake up and to be at service without having to ask how I am going to make money or how I am going to gain anything in return. Instead, I try to use the holy spirit and the question of what can I do to help as the prayer of Cesar Chavez, “show me the most miserable so I know my people’s plight,” and I think of the things we can do that no one else can. Sometimes, that is just doing the dishes, or volunteering to see low-income clients at the Relational Center. Sometimes that’s doing our program of Get Empathy, which is supporting students sharing their struggles with each other. Sometimes it’s just cooking a meal at the Center to feed our community and all of our friends who stop by. But no matter what it is, it happens because we have made a choice to live simply, to serve, and to be supported by people like you. We’ve kept our community going for about ten years now, and everyone is amazed that it runs off of little donations, from sustainers that give $20 a month, to people that donate little amounts every year. We ask that you help us continue this work in 2018 and the future by donating whatever amount you can to sustain us.

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