FPWA Advocacy Experience

Posted by Juan.Toribio on Tuesday March 8, 2016


The Empowerment Movement 

I could only define the FPWA Advocacy Day as ‘empowering.’ Our journey to Albany has provided me with a greater appreciation for advocacy. The authority to speak out is a mighty instrument, and when used appropriately doors are opened and circumstances have the capacity to change.

On our bus ride to Albany I questioned what I could possibly contribute to the conversation. With only being an MSW student at Nyack College for one month, I questioned my skills and knowledge, in comparison to that of my cohorts and the legislators we would meet. I determined that I would sit and observe, but say nothing. In the time that followed I found myself wrestling with my decision. I considered the social workers, advocates, and community members in our nation’s history who took great risk, so that I could someday have this very opportunity, to speak and be heard. With that I began to pray for the Lord to give me His confidence, and He did just that.

As we began to meet with our city and state leaders it became evident, the majority truly valued the information we were sharing. Our group brought impending topics before them including; 15 and Funding, Human Services Budget Priorities, and Worker Cooperatives. Our officials asked questions, and as our personal stories were shared they listened intently. I was completely amazed by our influence in Albany. I realize the assumption that legislators are fully aware of community needs, is a dangerously false postulation. While I do believe our leaders have a basic understanding of our challenges, our advocating will help the most immediate needs in our neighborhoods become a priority for lawmakers. Our role in informing legislators is powerful, far too important to be ignored. 

I was honored to serve on a team of individuals with diverse backgrounds, led by a well-informed FPWA Policy Analyst. Our varied experiences in community engagement provided us with leverage as we supported our claims. It also aided us in building connections with our legislators. Many were able to identify with the stories of our group members, and as they did they became more invested in our cause. Equal to the importance of our diverse experiences, was the need to be tenacious. Tenacious but gentle was a crucial posture for advocating, as we humbly insisted on making the priority list of legislators with competing appointments.

Advocates are the privileged bridge between the community and policy makers. As we speak openly about the needs of the public, we can rest assured viable changes will follow.

 

DeLissa Dixon -- MSW Candidate Nyack College

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