Stories from Moral Monday: Durham PA Bus

Stories from Moral Monday: Durham PA Bus

When Humanitarians Become Political, by Angie Santiago

“Since when did you get so political?” my dad asked as we pulled away from the airport. He was following my Facebook posts, pictures, and videos of my recent Moral Mondays participation through the Durham People’s Alliance. Each week they provide transportation to the rally using Greenway Transit, a Durham based eco-friendly bus service. We pile in, two by two, and plaster our protest signs onto the windows facing traffic. The People’s Alliance bus volunteer provides instructions, ensures each person has a buddy to check in with, and then takes attendance. Excited chatter fills the bus as each attendant shares what motivated them to attend the rally.

It’s true. I’m not the most political person in my social group. I don’t even watch the Daily Show or The Colbert Report like my politically zealot friends do; unless one of them posts a funny video on Facebook.

I guess I am a passive moderate. I vote. I have issues that matter to me and vote accordingly. But all in all, a politician is a politician. Why do people expect so much of them? I don’t. The Electoral College vs. popular vote process is not exactly fair. What can I do about it? I feel the responsibility to do my part but I don’t live and breathe politics like the junkies and lay pundits do.

I am relatively new to the area and my previous work in disaster planning, security, gender equality, and humanitarian aid, and organizational consulting required me to travel 100%.  While my friends back home in Durham track local and state issues regarding zoning, school board, taxes, and economic development, I watch and plan for impacts earthquakes, hurricanes and uprisings have on the vulnerable populations my non-profit organization, Mahila Partnership, serves. That is how our paths crossed.

Leading up to the vote to amend the North Carolina constitution which exclusively recognizes marriage between one man and woman as the only legal relationship, my human rights self, crossed paths with my political counterparts. Together we formed an alliance to encourage people to register to vote and vote against Amendment One. The political junkies knew the up to the minute data on precincts, voter turnout, what counties were lagging behind, and how Durham was leading the pack. I turned to my social network, artists, and do-gooder community to find someone on the other side, convince them to vote against the Amendment One, sing Grammy winning songwriter Laurelyn Dossett’s song “Vote Against Amendment One”, and show up to the polls.

All of those thoughts swirled in my head as I turned to answer my dad.   “I love North Carolina. The new governor and legislators are passing bills that are hurting the poor, unemployed, uninsured, retired, kids, and teachers.” I went on to tell him about the McGovernor rejecting federal funding for Medicaid. That doesn’t even make good stewardship sense. I reminded him that I was a benefactor of the extended unemployment payments benefits in 2008. 100,000 people will lose their extensions come July 1. Finally, I shared how this Assembly intends to change our voting procedures requiring IDs and rolling back to the traditional voting calendar. No more early voting. “Why?” he asked. Considering that there is no substantial GOP platform on voting issues, other than reducing fraud, I can only use data and logic. The data shows that it is young and older Democrats that overwhelmingly utilize the early voting system.   Looks like the political junkies are rubbing off on me.

I felt myself sorting it out as I shared with him how the General Assembly passed so many bad bills in just a few months and there are three more years. I can’t wait this out like I usually do and just vote for a better candidate. These are bad bills hurting people I have come to adopt as my community. This isn’t the state I was born in but it is the state I hope to retire and rest in. Durham is my home, now. Although most of the vulnerable people affected by these bills aren’t the biggest block of voters, that’s ok. I’ll find them, tell them what’s going on, ask them to register to vote, and ask them to join me as we bring others in.


To sign up to ride the bus from Durham on Monday, July 8th, click here!

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