This week in Charlotte…
It’s been another eventful week! Monday started off with scrupulous amounts of planning for meetings that were to be held in the upcoming days. In the evening, we also met with Mary Klenz from Legal Women Voters along with Advocate Tom Bowers, in order to discuss the details of our scheduled meeting with Governor Bev Purdue’s Assistant Budd Berro the next morning. Roles were assigned and we all parted ways to rehearse our parts for the next day. It was interesting to see how different types of advocacy organization could come together to strengthen their platform and get their voices heard. The meeting was supposed to be about the budget, yet because we were there show our support, we were invited to speak about our issues as well. The group was mainly speaking about how education and environmental factors were several affected by the budget. A man named Mr. Greene made a remarkable observation that really stuck out to us; “It’s scary to me how many things are being affected by one budget. It’s like their using the budget to get away with all these things.”
The next morning, we found ourselves downtown at the government building yawning and entering a welcoming room in the government building at 8:15am. We met with about 6 others who were to accompany us in the meeting and discuss other issues that they felt needed to be addressed. Our first meeting was with Governor’s Assistant Budd Berro. We listened as he explained that he was in charge of the piedmont regional office under Governor Perdu and then introduced ourselves. The meeting began with our group mentioning its strong concern for the environment. About 15 minutes later, we went into education and then ended off with voting rights. Joyce was unable to speak at the engagement because she had laryngitis thus the weight fell on Maiysa and Robert. We think that the meeting went well because we spent a good amount of time expressing how we felt about the current issues that are being overlooked. Next we headed down the hall to a meeting on redistricting. We were attentive yet we were victims to boredom. There were two men on the end that really irked our nerves because we felt that they were either being very obnoxious and not understanding or we felt that they were being too vague to understand. We learned plenty on redistricting that day, and came to appreciate the intricate process involved in redistricting and the time the volunteer appointed committee puts into it.
Wednesday came with anticipation of our very first one-on-one. We had set up a meeting with Monica Embrey of Green Peace. We really enjoyed speaking with her because she was so understanding and alive. We gave her several contacts and in exchange, she told us that she wanted to help support our efforts. We could really see how organization could jump to each other’s professional aid. Next, we found ourselves heading to the homeland security building to help the League of Women Voters with the voter registrations. It was amazing. We had the privilege of witnessing about 98 people, from 52 different nations, become US citizens and pledge into our country. During the ceremony, we prepared the documents of voter registry and after we made sure everyone had them. Not many were interested in hearing about extra information that would help them to vote so we just stood at the door, ready and available to inform. We expected people to be itching to know all the details about their new right but they didn’t seem as excited. Though we weren’t bombarded with questions as we had predicted, it was still an exquisite experience seeing the lives of so many change, before our eyes, within minutes.
On Thursday, we had our 1st media appearance. We were really excited when we walked in the studio and yet a little nervous. Upon our wait, a woman named Joyce Waddell entered the room and graced us with her loving, warm presence. She smiled very vividly and asked us some questions about ourselves. At the time, Joyce’s voice was not yet 100% so against Dr. Waddell’s it sounded quite rough. Her aura reminded us of someone very calmly sitting on the couch of a welcoming home and her voice matched her graciously. When the camera finally got rolling we began to relax as we spoke with her. We still remember the beautiful light blue sequence dress that lit up the set while we fed her the answers that she anticipated hearing. She gently glanced from the camera to us in increments of 30-40 seconds while we asked each other with our eyes who was ready to answer the next question. About an hour and a half of this, we left the room swiftly and mentally satisfied with our accomplishment. For the most part we felt prepared but then again we hadn’t had all the answers to all the questions. We couldn’t help but to feel responsible even though we knew it wasn’t our fault. Some of the questions she asked us, on and off the camera were ones that just hadn’t crossed our minds. Briefly after, Robert went to fidget in Dr. Waddell’s hot seat while we talked about our performance and waited in a different room. Overall, it was a learning experience and we decided that we did not like having to answer unexpected questions on the spot but we could do it fairly well. The episode will air on the 28th of this month on channel 21, “Public Access” at 9:30pm. Be watching.
Friday was our most hectic day yet. Unfortunately because of all the excitement from our television appearance from the day before, we had been unable to check our email to realize that the Team Conference call was scheduled for the following day. In frenzy, we received calls from Robert Friday morning informing us of the mishap and we quickly got on our phones and dialed away. It was nice to hear about the different things the Greenville and Winston-Salem teams had already accomplished this summer and comforting to learn that we were all encountering as well as overcoming similar struggles. After this, we arrived at the office to arrange last minute details for our event that night. We were asked to contact several news stations to ensure that they had received our press release and guarantee that they would be in attendance. At first it seemed that not one of the news stations would be coming. To make matters worse our office printer seemed to not cooperate and would not print any of the needed materials. 4 o’clock was approaching fast. Alas, in the last half hour, everything seemed to fall into place. One of the organizers, Hector, for Action NC (with whom we share the office) helped us by allowing us to print our materials from his printer. He also gave us contacts to different Hispanic news papers that would want to be informed of the Racial Justice Event. With everything finally accounted for, we packed up our cars and headed to the event – but little did we know the worst was yet to come….
When we arrived to the event, it was a pleasure to find that the Hispanic news papers had in fact shown up. But the projector and the film that was to be shown later that night had not. The press conference started within minutes entailing that we had a mere half hour before the crowd made its way down stairs for the film showing. When the film finally did arrive, we found ourselves in another set of turmoil. As it turned out, the laptop we had planned to use was not adaptable to the DVD we were using. As the crowd filled the room, we found a DVD player that could play the film, but of course the wiring for the video player was missing. The only thing left to do was too look for another laptop. As luck would have it, one of the speakers had a laptop in his car that he allowed us to borrow. We held our breaths as we inserted the DVD and waited for Windows Media Player to start up. Alas, the film was finally playing. We now turned our attention to the projector, which had been working fine all this time. To our dismay, the projector shut off and would not turn back on. While we were having our technical difficulties, the coordinators of the event had been running a Q&A session with the audience but they were running out of topics to discuss. Thus, they turned to us to speak to the group. We informed them of our views on the voting rights bill and why we were so passionate about it while passing out 60 or so flyers. We also spoke to the crowd about the Cut the Strings campaign and asked them to sign our petition. We were at a loss of what to do about the film. As we stood there flabbergasted, a man in a black suit entered the room dragging a trolley bag behind him. He approached us and asked if we needed a projector. We stared at him. It was music to our ears. We helped him set his equipment and smiled joyfully as the film, At Death House Door, finally began playing. We sat down to enjoy the film. Everything had finally worked out. The event lasted roughly three hours and in the end we were exhausted! As we said our farewells to everyone there, we looked at each other with looks of relief and finally went off for the weekend…
Coming up this week… a tour of Ashville…and a much anticipated trip to Raleigh with the rest of the Democracy Summer teams!
Maiysa Mesbah and Joyce Lutu