Tonight I went to a civil rights speak-out organized by Jesse Hamilton, my state senator. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was actually really useful!
A panel of speakers from various orgs talked about what they do and what people should be doing right now in defense of various rights. A rep from the New York Immigration Coalition said that immigrants who haven't already applied for DACA consideration should not do so right now. A fellow from the NYC Commission on Human Rights reassured residents that NYC has a ton of protections in place and will help them out. There were also some speakers who focused on motivation; the magnificent Bertha Lewis, founder of the Black Institute, threw her notes aside and railed about the importance of doing real activism even though it's hard, young people leading the way, and refusing to give in or give up, and Rabbi Andy Bachman got people laughing ("Everyone in New York knows Trump and can't stand him, so once the rest of the country gets a chance to know him they won't be able to stand him either") and then cheering at the thought of voting Trump out in four years.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams gave a fantastic fiery speech: "I wore a bulletproof vest on these streets for 22 years and I will be damned if i'm going to give in to Donald Trump." I hadn't heard him speak before and I'm a fan now! City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo talked about the importance of small-scale activism, like working with underprivileged kids to help them get access to experiences they wouldn't otherwise get to have, and helping to make the Million Woman March happen, which frankly sounds like a logistical nightmare to me.
Then people in the audience lined up for two-minute slots to ask questions or give speeches or whatever. There were the usual assortment of leftist clichés—the Communist Party organizer, the small white person of undefinable gender talking earnestly about "non-human animals," the heartbroken Bernie Sanders stan, the guy who talked vehemently to himself in response to everything everyone else said and then was very timid when he actually had the microphone. The few actual questions were good, but mostly people rambled.
When I got to the mic, I said that the federal-level Republicans want to gut the ACA and Medicare, but there's a bill for single-payer health care that's passed the NYS assembly two years running (it died in the senate last year), and I asked Sen. Hamilton to co-sponsor and support the bill and help bring it to a vote in the senate this year. And he got up and said, "I will support the bill." That was pretty cool. :)
Afterward he came over and shook my hand and got my contact info, and I said I was interested in queer activism and he said "Oh, let me introduce you to some folks", so now I've met people doing pro-LGBTQ stuff in the local Caribbean immigrant community, which is exactly the sort of neighborhood activism I want to do. (The corner of our block is basically Little Jamaica.)
Hamilton is going to start holding monthly civil rights task force meetings, which I plan to attend. He said the next one is going to be specifically queer-focused. It's really nice to see non-queer people doing these things.
Bonus: a high school acquaintance was there and recognized me, so we caught up a bit and swapped contact info and like that. So I got everything I wanted out of it and then some.