Editor’s Note: More than 800 people gathered in Madison last week to meet with state legislators under the auspices of WISDOM, a statewide organization dedicated to linking Wisconsin communities to work for justice. An Eau Claire contingent from JONAH made the trip and one of its members provided the following commentary from her personal perspective, on the trip and the events of the day.
By Jeannine Colburn, for the Chippewa Valley Post
JONAH’s “Action Day” trip to Madison last week was an amazing day for this ‘newbie’ to Eau Claire and to Wisconsin.
Eau Claire’s JONAH (Joining Our Neighbors Advancing Hope) group joined on March 30 with more than 800 others from groups under the umbrella of WISDOM, to meet with legislators. JONAH is one of 11 WISDOM affiliates statewide.
It was a full day of being with like-minded people who have learned that together we can and do make a difference in this world. The bus from Eau Claire was nearly full and included people ranging in age from 10 years to 70+.
We left very early – before the coffee shops are open, so I must remember to bring my own coffee next time!
We were educated ahead of time about the targeted concerns WISDOM wanted us to address. A few weeks before Action Day those concerns were distributed via email and social media, allowing time to study the issues.
We arrived at Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison (within walking distance of the capitol) and joined together with other WISDOM affiliates. Over 800 people representing more than 150 interfaith congregations joined together for social justice issues.
We came not only to become better informed, but to use the power of people of faith. That power has been the catalyst for social justice change for decades. A booklet highlighted each of our targeted social justice issues.
The pews of Bethel Lutheran were full as we heard a brief description of the issues. This helped us decide which smaller group session we would attend in the second half of the morning to become more informed.
Five of the concerns were for Wisconsin prison treatment alternatives and diversion (TAD), prison reform, 17-year-olds in adult courts, solitary confinement and resources following incarceration.
Other targeted concerns were the Back Forty mine, education, immigration, transit, and health care, all issues directly related to the state budget.
EXPO (Ex-Prisoners Organizing), a very positive and powerful advocacy group which has a strong voice throughout the state, was in attendance, including 10 members of the Eau Claire EXPO group who were on our bus.
Following lunch, we had the opportunity to speak with our state senators and representatives (or their aides). Those meetings had been coordinated for us by our JONAH Organizer, Brandon Buchanan. Feedback from our contingent included a belief that “we were heard” on our issues by those elected officials.
Wow! So instead of sitting back and thinking “there’s nothing I can do,” change that to “there is something I can do about all of this.” Thank you to all of the organizers for their hard work and their foresight in making sure these kind of opportunities exist.
I am very grateful to be living in Eau Claire and in Wisconsin with so many opportunities to make a difference in the world.