Beating a Path to a Progressive Virginia

6 Dec

Jeff Elkner (middle) with his wife Roxana Alfaro and son Louis.

by Jeff Elkner

My wife, Roxana, my son, Louie, and I are Arlington Virginia New Majority chapter members, and we attended the first VNM statewide members meeting of VNM in the state capitol building in Richmond on Saturday. What an inspiring day! We were so proud to join the fightback for a fair and free Virginia!

Highlights of the incredible day for me include:

  • I could plainly see that VNM is successfully organizing the very folks that make up the “new majority” we are trying to build. Of the over 40 VNM participants in yesterday’s event:
    • more than half were African American or Latino
    • more than half were women
    • more than half were under 30 years of old (It was great to be one of only 5 old white guys in room with over 40 people!)
  • The level of political wisdom and experience in the room was amazing. It felt empowering just to be among such a great group of activists. Discussions were rich, and participants universally exhibited the political maturity to work toward solutions and not get bogged down or side tracked by things that don’t point us toward our goal of building a progressive majority in Virginia.
  • The VNM planners put together an event which was a model of what our friends in Latin America are calling “participatory and protagonistic democracy”. Everyone one present had ample opportunity to share their ideas, hopes, and dreams for a building a more just Virginia.
  • VNM is taking the lead in building a broad, progressive coalition across the state. While I felt that the two hour session on lobbying could have been shorter, it was more than worth sitting through it with the 200 other folks from SEIU, NARAL, VNM, and the Sierra Club just to hear the Sierra Club’s main Virginia lobbyist mention “protecting the rights of workers and immigrants” more then five times during his presentation. This afternoon session was part of the Virginia Conservation Network‘s annual meeting, going on at the same time as our meeting. They joined forces this year with VNM, SEIU, and NARAL in an effort to organize a broad progressive front to hold back the ultra-right assault in the Virginia State government after our losses in the last election. VNM is in a unique position to help build bridges between the various issues organizations on the left.
  • The Woodbridge VNM group is made up entirely of young college students of color, both African American and Latino. I attended a mini break out session with three of them, all of whom were students at the NVCC Woodbridge campus. I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to find out more about how they formed their group and what motivated them to become active with VNM, but the chance to work closely with the progressive leaders of tomorrow is definitely one of the things gives an old fart like me hope for the future and that helps keep me going in the struggle.
  • Finally, I would be remiss if I left out of the days highlights the country serenade sung by VNM staffer Sara Wallace-Keeshen to the winner of our “raging animals” ice breaker activity. Working with folks who have a good sense of humor and like to have fun helps lighten the load of the heavy work we have before us.

Roxana and I volunteered to work with the VNM staff to setup a meeting with our local state senator to discuss our issues with her before the upcoming General Assembly session. We also signed up to attend an MKL Day lobbying effort back in Richmond.

It was a great day in Richmond. I left feeling motivated and rejuvenated, and ready to walk the extra mile with my friends in VNM as we fight the conservative onslaught in 2012 and beat a path to a progressive Virginia!


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