Right now it is a chore to ingest social media or watch the news. It feels like a nonstop barrage of negativity; war, bullying, abuse, racism, sexism, poverty and deficit, a replaying of issues long thought extinguished and new issues that you’d never thought you’d have to comprehend. It’s easy to want to hide from that, as we only have so much capacity and some of what’s at our doorstep is scary or messy. We can’t bury our heads and hope that things shake out though, Because Democracy Matters.
Hi, I’m Harold Moore. Over the past 10+ years I’ve led campaigns for causes and candidates from Chicago to Johannesburg and in between and have since branched out on my own to work with companies like Seventh Generation and organizations like the Sierra Club, the American Heart Association and others at the intersection of social change and technology to develop strategies that engage supporters, raise money, and demonstrate impact. That journey started about 15 years ago with Mikva at the Hothouse in the South Loop, seeing other civically minded students from all over Chicago and learning that democracy is a verb.
When I started attending Mikva events I saw myself as an unskilled, under resourced gangly 17 year old from a part of the city people don’t talk about enough. I was too shy to knock a door, much less tell my story and I’d watch speakers and educators tell us that we were the future and that we’d be in charge one day. The idea seemed bigger than I could imagine. I felt I had so little, and people were asking so much of me. I started working on campaigns and realized that I wasn’t the only person who felt this way and that when we shared our stories, our obstacles, and our hopes for a better world we could become more powerful than we ever dreamed. We could elect representatives who fought for us, we could raise the funds to provide necessary services, we could resource ourselves and our people.
Similarly, I’m older, in my early 30s and I feel that pressure anew. I have hobbies and work a *lot* of hours, and I’m hoping to start my own family soon as well. There are threats to many of my identities and to people I care about right in my face the second I open my laptop or turn on the television. It’s sometimes daunting to think about what contributions I could make that would matter. We’re rehashing fights from the 1950’s, what chance do I have? A friend offered me a quote from his faith tradition that I carry with me always: You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. It resonates, I feel that in my spirit. I’ve been the beneficiary of many opportunities and lucky bounces and feel what I owe for that for that promise is helping others to have an easier path. Sometimes my contribution will be me sitting on a board and offering hours of my experience, resolving issues, raising funds and creating new relationships, other times that’ll be making a recurring donation not thinking about it too hard or attending a meeting and clapping loudly.
We all can’t do everything but we can all do something. Whether by showing up for your local block club, or donating to your favorite organization (I hope it’s Mikva–here’s a link) or mentoring or opening doors to marginalized people, these small somethings add up. They create structures that allow change to happen and be sustained. They remove barriers and give people smoother rides. They connect people and build confidence. When we all contribute we build community. We build possibilities. When I think about why Mikva is important it’s Because Democracy Matters, it’s because we all have the ability through action to create the world we want.