Isaac and Saru Jayaraman (who will be speaking at our 2021 Human Rights Awards!) together last month.
RAD Endorsed State Rep Joe Shapiro spoke out on Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s not-so-subtle war on public education.
One of our leading members and critical part of our overdose crisis team, Anthony Harris was published for his work on housing and rehabilitation among the formerly incarcerated.
This year on December 10th at our annual Human Rights Awards we are thrilled to honor two young leaders in Vermont and New Hampshire, Emma Shapiro-Weiss (Co-Director, 350 New Hampshire) and Iris Hsiang (Student Representative on Essex School Board). We’ll also be joined by guest speakers Rev. Mariama White-Hammond of Renew New England and Saru Jayaraman of One Fair Wage! Learn more and RSVP today.
Sierra Club highlights the tangible benefits of Build Back Better, see more via RAD Instagram
One last push for Build Back Better!
Contact our Senators and demand the passage of Build Back Better with no cuts! We are so close to getting this through the Senate, and we can’t afford any more cuts. Fill out this form (it takes less than a minute) to get in touch!
Our regional allies Renew New England are launching a national training opportunity for first-time campaign managers! Learn more and sign up for the special opportunity.
2021 in review is best seen through the eyes of our members.
One in particular, Dana Hackett, has stepped into ever-increasing roles of leadership within our community and is an incoming board member starting in January. She was one of the activists arrested during the civil disobedience action protesting Sununu’s budget and is an active part of our work with HEAL Together in New Hampshire.
Before the end of the year, we caught up with her on some of her highlights from the past year, hopes for 2022, and how she’s come to find a home within this movement in the first place.
First of all, it’s great to see you! How did you first hear about RAD?
I first heard about Rights & Democracy while I was at a climate strike in Laconia a few years ago. I had just left my job as a veterinary technician to stay home and raise my daughter and was getting involved with more community-centered volunteering. When the pandemic hit, I – like many others – had no choice but to stay home and take care of my family. In May of 2021, everything changed again after the murder of George Floyd. Nearly all of my volunteering prior had been around my work with animals, like spay and neuter clinics. My eyes were opened to the reality of police brutality and the inequity present through so much of our cultural fabric in America. Since then I’ve found a role within Rights & Democracy working in whatever ways possible to prevent further injustice while building pathways to greater equity right here, at home, in New Hampshire.
Why is the work with HEAL Together so important to you?
The HEAL Together (Honest Education, Action & Leadership) NH program is how we’re working towards a more unified, equitable state, but with backup and support from national organizations like Race Forward. This is not a sit-back moment. With HEAL Together we’re deepening the commitment to honest, culturally relevant, and high-quality education in school districts across the country. With movements like this, it’s all about lighting matches. We don’t always know which one is going to be the one that takes the spark; what is the most important thing is that we keep lighting them. We need to give power to the people whose voices aren’t typically included and haven’t been a part of this moment so far. So much of this work has been showing people how we’re all affected by injustice, and as Asma (RAD NH’s Movement Politics Director) says, none of us are free unless we’re all free.
One moment in particular that was a paradigm shift was during our civil disobedience action at the New Hampshire State House in protest of the state budget, which included (and unfortunately passed) the language on divisive concepts, effectively censoring public educators and contractors from discussing topics of race and implicit bias.
As part of the action, I and four others exercised civil disobedience by refusing to leave the Governor’s office until he met with us to discuss the harmful contents of the budget. I did this action alongside fellow RAD members, one being Asma Elhuni, RAD’s NH Movement Politics Director and the only BIPOC member of the protest.
When we were all arrested at the end, Asma received harsher treatment at the hands of the State Troopers than the rest of us, with her being physically grabbed and ushered out while the rest of us, all of whom were white, were politely processed and escorted out without ever being touched. It was another of the many wake-up calls I would have over the next year about how racism is present everywhere, and how we must do everything we can to stop it.
What are you most hopeful for in 2022?
I think we are in a crucial moment. We can choose to really address some of the root causes of racial and social inequity in our state and country, or we can choose to ignore them and by doing so, further cement them into reality. I am hopeful that our organizing will create a way to make people see that their involvement can truly make a difference in their communities and state. I expect the 2022 New Hampshire legislative session to be an uphill battle. There are some terrible bills on the table and now is the time to show up and demand better, tenaciously. In every challenge there is opportunity, and we have a lot of opportunities to show up as not only a movement but a community holding the line on progress in our state.
What are you most proud of accomplishing this year? How has working with RAD changed your outlook on living in New Hampshire?
I’m proud of how much change we’ve made so far with HEAL Together and to see national movements become more intrinsic in this work. New Hampshire is a real weathervane – we can determine a lot in our little state. While it’s been a terrifying year of realizations, it’s also been a very grounding one to come to an understanding of how we can lead the way to greater justice and equity in our own homes. I know the people in my community. I know we all want freedom and peace. Part of bringing that out is by embracing the fight to eradicate fundamental inequities in our institutions and systems, together. This work is a lot easier within a supportive community like the one we have in RAD.
What is some advice you would give to someone who might be thinking about participating in more advocacy but doesn’t know how, has never done so, or might be overwhelmed?
I would tell them to not overthink it too much; whether you’re participating in mutual aid, donating, or even just helping out a neighbor, you’re making a difference. RAD, while a movement, is also a home. I felt so vulnerable when I was stepping into this work – I had never done anything like it. I found that while working on issues that address the fundamental humanity we all share, I became more open and aware. One of the best experiences you get some working with community organizations like RAD is the relationships, I’ve been able to work closely with Kevin in the Lakes Region, Asma, and Isaac over the past year; it’s shown me a web of support of people who will believe in you, even when you don’t always believe in yourself.
Finally, how do you define power?
Power is a collective endeavor. It is also limitless once you realize it comes from community, vulnerability, and kindness.
As a final note, we wish you warmth, safety, health, and peace this holiday season.
See you next year,
All of us at Rights & Democracy