By Megan Lupo
The co-founders of Stand and Take Action Now for Democracy (STAND) Central New Jersey, Karen Haskin and Joy Ann Lo, informed Professor of English Megan Titus’ class on Feb. 21 about their organization and ways to become politically active at a local level.
Haskin went to a community activist meeting in Princeton in December of 2016 with 45 other people. Of those 45 activists, seven were passionate enough to create another organization as a result of the 2016 presidential election, which became STAND.
The organization describes itself as a “grassroots advocacy group from six New Jersey counties.”
“It just took one meeting and people just running with it and wanting to do stuff,” Haskin said.
The group’s biggest event to date was Make the March Count, where Haskin and Lo encouraged their members to send letters to editors of major publications, such as The New York Times and The Star Ledger.
“Make the March campaign really lit people up,” Lo said. “We officially had 15 letters published.”
In addition, Lo emphasized the importance of a “physical presence,” including organizing rallies and events in order to empower the local community.
Some of the goals that STAND hopes to achieve are to replace Governor Chris Christie and the legislative seats with people who support the group’s views, and hold those representatives accountable based on their visibility.
“How are they voting and how vocal are they?” Lo said. “If we can take back our state legislatures, we can start taking our country back.”
Haskin believes that Cory Booker exemplifies the ideal local representative.
“When I was talking to Cory Booker’s staff, the state political director said that all this activism that people are talking about is having an impact,” she said. “You may not know because it feels like everything is happening without an impact, but they are hearing us.”
Not only are members of STAND being heard on a political level but also on social issues, including immigration reform, women’s rights and public education concerns.
Despite the diversity, STAND is still met with the challenge of reaching college students, which is why it decided to speak at Rider.
“I think it was really cool to see change at the local level,” junior English major John Modica said. “l think we always get too swept up in national politics for us to be really aware of the issues that face us within our community.”
In order to create such change, activists must balance their emotions with their actions, characterizing the kind of protestor they are, according to Haskin.
“If you’re peaceful, you have to be peaceful no matter what’s going on around you,” she said. “The minute you engage in violence, the whole conversation changes.”
Students may wonder what they can do to get involved in activism. The answer, according to Lo, is to “join a group.”
Organizations and events such as these can unite people with the same ideals, according to Lo.
“It organizes people into action, and it saves our sanity,” she said.
Some ways that advocates for social and political change can vocalize their ideals is through STAND’s Facebook page, STAND CNJ, as well as visiting its website, standcnj.org, where future events and initiatives, such as “Take Back Your Power,” can be found.