Two weeks ago, July 16 – 18, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Netroots Nation conference, which this year was held here in Phoenix. This is part 1 of 4 of my #NN15 recap. The other three parts of this series are available here:
I want to first thank Emily’s List, and more locally Arizona List, for the generous sponsorship allowing me the opportunity to attend Netroots Nation. This was truly an experience I’ve grown from, and that I’ll genuinely cherish for years to come. I learned so much and I can’t wait to put that knowledge to use for the community here in Arizona.
I also want to thank Phoenix Pride for allowing me to take time away from the Center for events like Netroots for the purposes of professional development. Time and time again, this organization has shown they believe in me. First while I was in college when I became a Phoenix Pride Scholar, and again last year when I was hired as the Center Coordinator for the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center. Without them, my life would be very different, and I’m forever grateful.
I arrived at the Phoenix Convention Center just after 8:30 in the morning. As the button from the conference SWAG bag stated, I was a “Netroots Nation First-Timer,” and thus I had no agenda and no idea what to expect. I made my way up the escalator and across the second floor, and I was struck by the number of fresh-faced millennials excitedly milling around. From the look of things, most of us were already well into our second cup of coffee, with no signs of slowing down. The place was buzzing with anticipation, and with guests like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren lined up, it was clear how much we were all looking forward to the weekend.
But there were more than millennials in attendance at Netroots Nation: there were plenty of Baby Boomer Progressives and grey-haired Democrats as well. This was a group of battle-hardened, modern day activists whose fires were lit at the time of Kent State, or Stonewall, and even for a select few, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. With these folks, it was just as clear how eager they were to get to work and to continue the unfinished business of decades past.One of the best things about Netroots Nation is the diversity of causes brought together to unify Progressives. Champions for the climate, immigration activists, reproductive health advocates, and social justice warriors for people of color and the LGBTQ community spent these three short days crammed together into just a handful of meeting spaces to network and strategize; to listen and learn.
At 9 am the first sessions began. I chose “Non-Profit Productivity: How to get sh*t done while wearing many hats” to kick off my #NN15 experience, and we began the session with a spoiler-free recap of the latest season of House of Cards. Quickly though, we dug into the substance of the session, discussing how to tailor our work weeks so that they consisted of work more meaningful than simply checking items off a to do list. I’m not giving away any insider tips, but I will say Bridgett Colling teaches a mean course on GTD, time-blocking, and prioritizing tasks in a way that ensures you’re moving your organization forward with its core objectives in mind.
Before I knew it, session 2 had begun, and I moved directly into “We Are One: Overcoming the shared opposition of the LGBT and reproductive rights movements.” My biggest takeaway from this session was that when it comes to the intersection of LGBT and reproductive rights, our opposition in the conservative and religious Right already groups us all together in the same bucket. Why then aren’t we doing more to strengthen coalitions between our respective movements? There is so much more we can do to build campaigns that simultaneously empower women, the LGBTQ community, and all those who fight for recognition of their basic rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination. The power we exercise individually is nothing compared to the progress we can make when working collectively.
I closed out the day with the Arizona Caucus, which provided a forum for activists, bloggers, and grassroots organizers from across the state to come together, connect with one another, and talk about the issues. I spent the majority of the session sitting in awe of my peers. I was inspired by the important work being done in this state on a variety of issues. From voter registration, access to quality education, immigration reform, and a push for young Progressives to run for office, I left the convention center feeling invigorated. There’s much more to AZ than Tea!