Minutes and Audio Recording - General Meeting - April 6, 2017

Click here to listen to the audio recording of the Raising Voices

General Meeting #5


April 6, 2017

Central Synagogue of Nassau County/Congregation Beth Emeth

6:45-7:30pm -New Member Orientation

New members were given an overview of RaisingVoicesUSA.

7:30pm - General Meeting

Meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Cindy  and Emma welcomed attendees and thanked the Temple for hosting our group. Announced that the meeting was being audio-recorded; the recording will be posted to our website and Facebook Group.

Reminder that we are gathered as private citizens for nonpartisan action, and to keep this in mind during upcoming discussion and action.

Overview of RaisingVoicesUSA

An overview of the group - who we are, what we’ve been doing, and what we’d like to do moving forward.

  • RaisingVoicesUSA is a grassroots, nonpartisan group focused on advancing causes relating to social justice

  • Based in the Rockville Centre community but rapidly spreading and growing with Facebook group members throughout the greater LI/New York community and across the U.S. (and internationally!)

  • Education and advocacy are at the heart of our mission

  • Our goals are:

    • To help people connect within the community and create a space of like-minded individuals

    • To be a source for vetted and valid information

    • To empower and encourage action to preserve social justice and protect our democratic ideals.

  • It is central to the group’s values to keep words and actions positive, and to set a positive example for others.

  • Civil engagement should be a passion and a lifelong pursuit - we should all be involved and be able to take pride in our country and in our government.

  • We are working to occupy a moderate middle ground, not advocating for any one political party or representative, and encouraging reasonable, respectful conversation.

  • This group is new and structure is fluid. We are learning as we go, and we encourage open dialogue and are eager for your input.

About our Committees

Committees are sources for vetted information and opportunities to learn. Members are encouraged to get involved, attend meetings and events, and contribute your skills - showing up and finding your way to engage is the most important thing.

  • Women’s Rights


  • Immigration

  • Environment

  • Education

  • Gun Violence Prevention

  • Unity and Diversity

  • Local Elections

  • Heathcare

  • Post Card parties

Planned Changes and Improvements to the RVUSA Web Site (Laura)

Reminder about RVUSA’s various channels for information:

  • Web site: raisingvoicesusa.org

  • Facebook group: RaisingVoicesUSA

  • Twitter: RaisingVoicesUS

  • Instagram: raisingvoicesusa

The website is RVUSA’s home base and is primarily used to curate valuable information, empower advocacy, and inspire action. It is also organic and evolving, and a number of changes are planned to improve its usefulness to our members:

  • Expanded “Issues” section, including mission statements for each issue as well as related organizations and educational/informational resources to help our members keep learning.

  • New details on our committees including meeting schedules and minutes, sponsored or related events, and ways to get involved.

  • Personal stories and testimonials from our members

  • Adding a guide to safe protesting

  • An area to feature the positive results of past actions to inspire and encourage our members to keep acting.

Recap of Muslim Learning Event on March 19 (Emily and Ed)

The event featured a panel to introduce the basics of Islam, followed by a Q&A with attendees. Some takeaways from the panel:

  • “Islam” means peace and submission

  • The Quran condemns hate and violence

  • The Quran calls for ALL Muslims - both men and women - to dress modestly. The various types of veils worn by Muslim women (niqab, hijab, burkah, etc.) are not entirely unique to Islam, and the decision to wear them (and which type is worn) is a personal one made by each individual woman.

  • Islam is a very personal religion without a religious hierarchy and without judgement as to the nature of an individual’s practice.

  • Islam places a great deal of importance on community - the first year of the Muslim calendar was set by the first Muslim community founded by Mohammed in Medina.

  • Muslims believe that whatever they have comes from God, and that they are only entrusted with their wealth and possessions - they give 2.5% of their wealth as tithes to help people who are less-privileged.

  • There is a misconception that Islam causes harm to women - women within the religion feel powerful and respected. (Noted that the Imam of the Westbury Mosque is a woman, and that 3 of the 4 panel members at this event were women.)

  • Islam is being misused/manipulated for power by both individuals and by government groups, which is where mistreatment of women occurs.

Other RVUSA members who attended the event agreed that it was a very positive, informative event and that there is hope for a follow-up event at some point in the future. Some questions/topics that the group would like to discuss:

  • Why do we have the impression that Islam is a violent religion and how can we counter that impression?

  • Why are Muslim women seen as being oppressed?

  • Discuss the thoughts/reactions of practicing Muslims regarding calls for Muslims in general to speak out against violent acts committed in the name of Islam

  • Learn more about the nuances of Islam and its various sects

*Emma thanked Liz S. for live-posting throughout this event on the Facebook group, and reminded members to live-post/live-tweet any events they attend so that all RVUSA members can benefit from your experiences.

Healthcare Updates (Suzanne)

Suzanne is currently the only chair of the Healthcare committee and is looking for a volunteer to co-chair.

The committee has established a mission statement for their work, which will be added to the website shortly.

She noted that prior to the election she had never been politically active, and that she’s learning a lot through her involvement with RVUSA. She has attended 2 healthcare rallies, one sponsored by Tom Suozzi and Kathleen Rice, and one by the group Long Island Activists.

Suzanne noted that the AHCA was defeated thanks to grassroots action, but reminded us that the bill is not gone - Paul Ryan has said that the 1st initiative for the upcoming Congressional recess is healthcare - and it will be brought forward again in a different form so we must remain vigilant.

About the NYS Universal Healthcare Bill (Steve, Long Island Activists)

Bill  S4840 is a proposed single-payer system, where insurance costs would be covered through an income tax, rather than through premiums, co-pays and deductibles. What you pay would be based on what you make, which would help address issue of affordability for many new Yorkers.

The bill passed in the State House 3 years ago, but has not been able to pass the Senate. However, in the last 4 months and due to ongoing grassroots action, the number of Senate votes in favor of the bill has jumped from 23 to 30, meaning just 2 more votes are needed for it to pass. Working to ensure positive outcomes in 2 upcoming elections should secure the remaining 2 votes, and ongoing pressure is needed on Senator Kemp Hannon to make sure the bill makes its way to Governor Cuomo’s desk for approval.

Initial reports state that this bill would save $72 billion per year and would provide FULL coverage to every NYS resident (including dental, vision, pharmaceuticals, etc.).

  • Question regarding pharmaceutical costs: the bill allows for the NYS Health Commissioner to negotiate to keep costs down

  • Question regarding employer-proved health plans: Under this bill, employees would pay 20% of the tax, and employers would pay 80%; self-employed residents will be expected to pay 100% of the tax.

Actions to take:

  • Elected officials are in recess next week - no meetings are planned by keep communicating with your reps daily and encourage them to support S4840

  • Write postcards with a healthcare focus (April is National Poetry Month so this may be an opportunity to get clever!)

  • For more information on this issue, watch the film “Fix It”

How to We Can Help Each Other Stay Motivated (Bret)

Emma and Cindy remind us that we should savor our victories:

  • Steve Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council

  • Devin Nunes recusing himself from investigations into Trump’s Russian ties

However, that we also have many reasons to keep raising our voices:

  • The recently broadcast “Newtown” documentary reminds us how much work is left to do in preventing gun violence in our schools and communities

  • Equal Pay Day reminds us that women still do not make the same pay as men for performing the same jobs, and that we need to keep fighting for gender equality.

  • The anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death reminds us that our nation is still racially divided and that we must reach across that gap.

  • The Senate’s enactment of the “nuclear option’ to confirm Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court reminds us that partisan politics can be dangerous, and that we will need to be vigilant for many years ahead.

We all face fatigue but we must keep working.

Bret observed that we all do what we can, and that we have to KEEP doing what we can, and more, even though we’re tired. As we hone in on who we are as a group and what we stand for, it will help us learn the best ways to keep moving forward.

In the meantime, she suggested that, much like having a workout buddy can help “keep you honest” and give you the motivation to get out of bed early even when you’d rather hit snooze, having an activist partner can help keep you motivated to keep working.

Find someone who is likeminded who has similar values and goals, and keep each other moving. Remind each other of calls that need to be made or postcards that need to be sent. Attend meetings, events and rallies together. Help each other learn. Having someone who expects you to keep acting might be the thing you need to actually do it!

Remember that civic engagement is at an all time high following the election: political app downloads are up 66%, and the number of millenials who reported attending a rally or an action event since the election is up to 25% (from 9% previously). There are plenty of people out there who are ready and willing to get involved - find one and keep pushing each other to do good work.

Postcard Parties (Jill G.)

There are too many issues/topics to deal with at our monthly meetings - these smaller postcard parties provide an opportunity for members to stay engaged, connect with your community, and give hard situations a silver lining.

Kirsten Gillibrand says that she has seen our postcards, and has advised that she receives mail much more quickly at her local office than at her DC office (mail can take up to 6 weeks to clear security). She confirms that every card is being tallied and that they ARE paying attention. Sending directly Trump in DC probably is not having the same impact, and although we aren’t 100% certain if the same is true for our other local representatives, we think mailing locally is a better tactic. We need to focus on the local legislators and leaders who can actually impact our own communities, and we need to keep up the pressure. We aren’t the only ones doing this - we are part of a huge collective who are regularly sending postcards to our legislators - and we need to keep up the momentum.

We will be holding more issue-specific parties, as we’ve found them to be helpful and effective - a recent party focused on women’s rights generated 125 cards. There will be a postcard party focused on environmental issues on Friday 4/21, in support of Earth Day and the Marches for Science happening on 4/22. (There will be materials available for making signs for the marches, as well.) We also intend to hold a party focused on healthcare. Details will be posted to Facebook and to our website.

Science and Climate Marches (Stacey)

Stacey provided handouts with information about the upcoming marches on 4/22 and 4/29, including missions statements and transportation information.

March for Science on 4/22 - Marches are happening in DC, NYC, and locally in Tanglewood and RVUS will be sending a group to all three. Volunteers are needed to lead the DC and NYC groups to create an organized, cohesive unit.

Climate March on 4/29 - Primarily occurring in DC; a small rally was planned in Washington Square Park in NYC and a “Bike to Work” parade will be held locally in Eisenhower Park.

Sign-ups were made available for all events.

Upcoming events:

A Gun Violence Prevention event is being planned for May or June.

A joint event with Brian Curran and Todd Kaminsky is being planned for May to discuss the workings of state government and how to advocate effectively at the state level.

We anticipate that representatives from Planned Parenthood will attend our June general meeting, and that a separate event may be planned with Planned Parenthood in the coming months.

Next general meeting: Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Central Synagogue of Nassau County/Congregation Beth Emeth

RaisingVoicesUSA Admin