Columnist Andrea Ayvazian: Hyperlocal Hyperactivists’ web of connection

  • People wait for the start of the town hall meeting with U.S. Sen. Ed Markey on Feb. 23 at Smith College in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Friday, March 17, 2017

It was almost blizzard conditions in early February when 20 women and teenage girls, all from the South Street area in Northampton, bundled up and walked to a neighbor’s house for an evening meeting.

Because members of this “Resist Trump” group — lovingly called the Hyperlocal Hyperactivists — all live within three blocks of each other, getting to the meeting in a nor’easter was no problem.

Once at the meeting, after sharing warm greetings and hugs, we settled into the same format we have been using at our hyperlocal meetings since we formed in November, days after Mr. Trump won the electoral vote. We start by checking in about how folks are feeling; we go around the room and it is common to hear that people are angry, outraged, hopeful, grateful for community, determined, pissed, discouraged, encouraged, numb, tired, energized, and committed to making change.

After checking in, we discuss what actions are happening locally, regionally and nationally that address our concerns. We talk about programs and projects that will help us to be effective as we work to strengthen democracy, oppose frightening cabinet appointments, and push back on presidential decrees that exclude and harm refugees and immigrants.

We also discuss ways to counter the rising voices that are denying climate change, threatening women’s reproductive rights, promoting anti-Semitism and racial profiling, and dismantling the Affordable Care Act. We are smart, serious, and strategic!

We like the hyperlocal nature of our group because in these dire, almost apocalyptic, times we want to be able to knock on each other’s doors at a moment’s notice, visit one another, and be fortified — almost as if we are borrowing courage from each other the way we would borrow eggs or milk.

We also like the hyperlocal nature of our group because we believe it is a strong sense of community that will see us through what has become a time of constitutional crisis. Because, under this administration, facts are being twisted and disregarded, truth is elusive, and lies are repeated relentlessly, our group is finding it helpful to be with each other and remember what integrity, honesty, and morality look and feel like.

And so our group gathers monthly. We listen deeply to one another, share good news, discuss tactics that will move our agenda forward, make announcements, and review upcoming marches in the Valley, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

We also connect virtually in between meetings to share weekly action steps; or as a “walking school bus” from the neighborhood to U.S. Sen. Ed Markey’s town hall meeting; or at City Hall where we discover our sweet familiarity as we show up for an emergency protest. We are aware that the connective tissue we are creating and strengthening among us is a significant source of hope and sustenance during a deeply troubling chapter in American history.

Our group knows and delights in the fact that numerous other resistance groups have sprung up all over the Pioneer Valley, from Springfield to Northampton, Easthampton and Amherst and across Massachusetts. (Go to indivisibleguide.com to find a group for you.) We are building a web of connection, and as that web grows so does our movement to combat regressive and damaging Trump policies.

Speaking with my grown son who lives in Austin, Texas, we were reflecting on the fact that some day his children may ask my husband and me some version of this question: “What did you do during those frightening years when Trump was in office, democracy was threatened, and everything our family holds dear was at risk?”

Although we are working on a number of fronts doing all we can to diminish the current assault on truth, fairness, inclusion, and peace, I know that the hyperlocal group I am a part of will rise to the top of the list of actions I took that combined head and heart and made a difference in my thinking and my activism.

So much can happen when people of good will committed to progressive values and strategic actions gather in homes, shoulder-to-shoulder on couches, folding chairs, and on the floor, and discuss plans to make and keep this country safe, welcoming, inclusive, just, hospitable, and diverse.

The movement to resist the Trump administration needs people finding their voices, feeling empowered, and standing up for democracy, justice, peace, and our fragile planet. And this movement is growing stronger one person, one living room meeting, and one action — in concert with so many others — at a time.

The Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, of Northampton, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She writes a monthly column on the intersection of faith, culture and politics.