Well, you know, Our Revolution Somerville has that covered.
It can be hard to recall the days before Trump, but try to think back to March 2016, a simpler time when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were still vying for the Democratic Party nomination. While Sanders underperformed in a number of metropolitan communities, here in Somerville, he was pretty darn successful, taking home 57.1 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 42.1 percent.
“We like to take some credit for that,” says Rand Wilson, an organizer who worked with the Sanders campaign in Somerville. “We campaigned early and hard.”
In the post-election era, Wilson and a group of other activists and organizers are throwing that energy into a new project: Our Revolution Somerville. This is the local chapter of a national movement born from the Sanders campaign; Wilson describes it as “an evolution and a revolution” meant to capitalize on that momentum. The group launched in April, with a well-attended kickoff event at the East Somerville Community School, where speakers including Ward 1 Alderman Matt McLaughlin and Senator Pat Jehlen talked about what this revolution means and what residents can do.
“I think people are really concerned about the overall direction the country’s headed in,” Wilson explains. While you can (and should) sign petitions and call your congressmen, he adds, “I think people want to be active in building strength at the local level … going beyond resistance at the federal level to move forward locally in the absence of federal leadership.”
That’s the case for Somerville resident Anosha Siripala, who says that the November election served as a “wake up call” that encouraged her to get involved in political organizing. “I was someone who mostly followed politics at a distance—I read the news, voted regularly, sometimes donated to political candidates, but I wasn’t really active in any political organizations or tuned in to what was going on at a local level,” Siripala explains. She’d done some phone banking and texting for the Sanders campaign, too, which made working with Our Revolution a logical next step.
At the spring kickoff event, members identified four key issues they see as being crucial to Somerville’s future: affordable housing, inequality, climate change and safe community. The group, as a whole, will push to address those concerns, while breakout groups and subsequent in-ward meetings will tackle topics specific to each Somerville neighborhood. “The issues in Ward 4 might be around the empty Star Market building; the issues in Ward 7 might be the renovation and reconstruction of the housing on North Street,” Wilson explains. Siripala says she and another Our Revolution member, Barry Rafkind, have helped facilitate group discussions in Ward 7 about the issues that matter to their community, including undeveloped parcels, affordable housing and healthcare. They plan to canvass the community at large, as well, to see what else is of concern to residents.
Over just a few months, Our Revolution has held two citywide meetings as well as listening sessions in every ward. Its members have elected a steering committee and formed subcommittees on organizing communications and finance. Our Revolution worked in coalition to protest Federal Realty Investment Trust’s request for a waiver on building affordable units at Assembly Square (though that waiver ultimately passed in May), and they had large group at this year’s state Democratic Party convention.
At the next citywide meeting on July 30, the group will elect a slate of candidates in this year’s municipal election—those that are most likely to push for racial, economic and social justice in the city—and discuss an organizing plan for the upcoming elections.
All of this aligns with what Siripala sees as being the immediate goals of Our Revolution Somerville: connecting with neighbors, increasing awareness and spreading information about the issues that affect the community and identifying opportunities to promote positive change.
“Longer term, I hope that this translates into making real steps toward that vision—whether that’s helping to improve the affordability of local housing, reducing the influence of money in politics, promoting environmental responsibility, making sure that Somerville is a welcoming community for immigrants or the many other goals we may identify as being important to Ward 7,” Siripala says. “I would also hope that from our ward-level discussions, we identify common goals across the city and transform that ‘hyper-local’ organizing into significant collective political power to achieve even broader goals.”
Want to get involved? Follow along with Our Revolution Somerville on Facebook, and for more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (617) 990-7633.