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Anyone can be an advocate
March 22, 2017

Last month, I learned that no matter the age or background, anyone can be an advocate. Beacon Day on the Hill began in a Lutheran church basement with excitement, nerves, and a healthy amount of confusion.

Despite being a designated “team leader,” I was as nervous as the rest of the new advocates, which created a sense of community regardless of my relatively recent induction into the Beacon team. In fact, many of the advocates in the room had never met, as almost 30 congregations were represented between 150 people. 150 people who, as I would later discover, were all asking the same questions as me. How do I speak to a legislator in a quick, but informed way? How am I supposed to lead a group of people as inexperienced as I am? What would I say if a representative wasn’t interested in my message?

These questions were answered, as are most things, by simply getting into the State Office Building and trying it out. Our first meeting was a little rough--I talked too much and had the nervous sweats--but by the end of the day I was speaking as if I’d been rehearsing for weeks, even going as far as to jump in the elevator with Rep. Ilhan Omar in order to get in a word about Beacon. I saw this same transformation in my team as well, and noticed how everyone was eager to speak to their representatives and show support for Unlocking Opportunities by the time we got to the rally and hearing.

Looking back on Beacon Day on the Hill, I am astonished at the sense of community Beacon advocates developed by the end of the afternoon. Individuals from four years old to 80, all from different faith backgrounds, breathed together for those five hours and created an identity tied to Beacon, to organizing, and to promoting supportive housing.

By showing up ready to learn and advocate, our congregations stepped up to the plate to catapult me and our organization to whole new level of community organizing. And as a young woman with political aspirations, it was heartwarming to see so many people moving together for a cause they believed in. After all, democracy requires advocacy as well as service.

Whitney Oachs
Whitney Oachs is a student at the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs and University of St. Thomas and is serving Beacon as a Congregational Organizer Intern.