In January, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, people around the world marched in support of a number of issues. Many related to equality and human rights. Hundreds of people turned out for Women’s Marches in Haines and Skagway, far exceeding expectations. Now, members of both communities are working to build on the momentum of the marches.
“Now more than ever, but always, people need to find avenues of accessibility to politics,” says Jeanne Tyson. She’s part of a local group that formed after the Women’s March called Take Action Skagway, or TASK. Robin Solfisburg is also one of the organizers.
“A group of us came together after the Women’s March and we wanted to talk about how to continue some of the ideas that were brought forward, especially in terms of equality and respect and how we could focus that locally and further those ideas,” says Solfisburg.
Simon Vansintjan says it was clear from the Women’s March, the momentum was there to continue the conversation.
“More than 100 people showed up in Skagway and we thought it made it obvious that there are people who want to be more involved civically, politically, whatever they want to do. The idea of TASK was, rather than having a very specific agenda we wanted to enable people to organize,” says Vansintjan.
Like the march, TASK is non-partisan and open to anyone. Their first action was writing a letter to ask the municipality to adopt a resolution promoting Skagway as a welcoming community.
“Having the city officially commit to having a safe place for people regardless of ethnicity, race, religious belief or sexual orientation,” says Solfisburg.
The group members agree, Skagway is already a welcoming place. But this resolution would make it an official stance. Here’s Vansintjan.
“It’s always useful and powerful to have that attitude written down,” says Vansintjan.
More than 50 people signed the letter. The assembly sent it to the civic affairs committee and borough staff are drafting a resolution. The welcoming resolution is also being merged with a proposal for a welcoming garden. That space would be a visual reminder of Skagway’s inclusive attitude.
“Meanwhile, a little further down the Lynn Canal in Haines,” community members gathered at the public library.
“I want you to write as fast as you can, just list all of the things that you could do or that could be done to deal with the issues that we’re facing now,” said Melissa Aronson, leading a group exercise.
“All of what’s going on is overwhelming,” said Aronson. “And sometimes the reaction to being overwhelmed is to say I’m going to go check out a bunch of videos and do nothing. So what we’re going to do is a little bit of a process that’s going to help you maybe focus a little bit.”
More than 30 people brainstormed concrete steps they could take to work toward the change they want to see.
At the Haines meeting, a lot of the conversation was about how to deal with concerns with the Trump administration. Ideas ranged from calling representatives to getting involved with local politics.
Aronson established a goal for the month: to change one personal behavior. And each month, choose one more goal.
“We can’t change all of our behaviors,” said Aronson. “But we can change one at a time. And we can practice that one changed behavior, and then we can come back and change another one.”
Aronson pushed the group to channel their dissatisfaction into concrete actions.