In Budget Advocacy, Just Recovery DC, Under 3 DC, Washington, DC

This piece was written by Jane, a leader with JUFJ’s grassroots core team working on the DC Budget.

Thomas Friedman and I are not on the same page politically, but I have started obeying a piece of his advice: “If you want to get something done in the world, never forget – ultimately – you have to get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face.”

At JUFJ, it is often most convenient to do activism indirectly. We write letters or emails, collect petition signatures, tweet at elected officials, or present to ANCs in order to pass local neighborhood resolutions. In September, a few of us from JUFJ’s core team for the recently launched Under 3 DC Coalition took our activism a step farther by spending all day at Mayor Bowser’s Maternal and Infant Health Summit, learning and munching on food provided by dicey corporate sponsorships, waiting for a moment in which we could make a comment or ask a question of the Mayor.

That moment never arrived. But during the golden weeks of DC budget season, we are presented with rare and unfettered opportunities to directly address the people who can make our legislative priorities happen. 

Last week, I attended two of the Mayor’s Budget Engagement Forums as a JUFJ volunteer and member of the Under 3 DC Coalition. At both forums, I followed JUFJ’s training and raised my hand “first, fast, and high.” I was shocked by how well it worked. At each forum, my ninja hand-raising skills quickly got me a microphone, and I was able to make a short statement to Mayor Bowser and members of her administration. My message was simple: early childhood education is vitally important, and the mayor should find a way fully fund existing legislation that supports it. After I delivered the message, I had the pleasure of sitting down, calming my nerves with a can of ginger ale, and watching as other advocates made their cases to the Mayor, many echoing their support for the priorities of Under 3 DC. 

Before this past week, I wouldn’t have been able to say whether Mayor Bowser knew how much public urgency was mounting for solving the city’s childcare crisis. Now, I can confidently say that she has heard directly from me, a well organized chorus of Under 3 DC leaders, and many, many other District residents who believe that DC must invest in great education for DC kids beginning in their earliest years. I am proud that we made sure our Mayor had to listen to hard truths about the many ways DC has failed its youngest children. As a coalition, I hope that we can make our voices heard before the DC Council in the same way. 

I realize that there is plenty of irony in my sharing this “Do more than blog!” advice on, well, a blog. And I admire the many ways that JUFJ is using the web as a powerful tool. But I want to make it known that speaking directly to DC’s elected officials is empowering, interesting, and one of the most rewarding political actions I have ever taken. I know they may not always support progressive policies, but for a few precious moments, they are forced to listen. And I am thankful for that.

The DC Council’s Education Committee is holding a hearing on Tuesday, March 24 at 10:30 AM. JUFJ and our partners in the Under 3 DC Coalition are holding storytelling trainings on Tuesday, March 3 at 10:00 AM and Thursday, March 5 at 6:00 PM to help you prepare to testify at a hearing. RSVP for the hearing or trainings using the buttons below.

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