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Solidarity Sundays: Entertaining For A Good Cause

by Grace Bonney

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Yesterday Julia and I opened our doors for the first meeting of our local chapter of Solidarity Sundays. Solidarity Sundays started as Suffragette Sundays in the Bay Area. It was a local activist meet-up led by Kate Schatz (author of Rad American Women) and Leslie Van Every. This fall, the group expanded nationwide and renamed to embrace a wider agenda of community activism, dealing with everything from general political issues and social concerns to the environment, LGBTQ+ rights and helping with food/hunger concerns. When we saw they were looking for new groups, we immediately opened our doors and were excited to have a chance to welcome new people into our home for a good cause.

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I’ve written about so many different entertaining themes here at D*S, but I thought it would be fun to share the details of how we organized our event in case anyone else wants to try something similar in their home. You don’t need a lot of space, time or money to make a BIG difference in your area, so if you want to connect with local people and support those in need, this is a great way to do that — and indulge in some entertaining fun. Below I’ve shared details for putting this event together at your house and some recipe ideas for keeping everyone snacking while they write letters and make calls. xo, grace 

YOUR FIRST MEETING:

To get started, make a list of people you’d like to invite and contact them via email. I started this way so we didn’t “overbook” our space. Then when we had an idea of how many people we were starting with, I extended the invite to people in my personal social media network and a few activist groups I belong to in my immediate area. I knew I wanted room for everyone to sit around the table, so we capped the group at around 15 people.

For our first meeting, our goal was to get acquainted with everyone and hear what their biggest concerns were, locally. I took notes and encouraged people to keep sharing their concerns and ideas while we took part in a letter-writing campaign. Great ideas and resources kept coming up as we worked, so I saved them all for our first follow-up email.

Since we hadn’t decided on a theme for this meet-up, we wrote to a wide range of local groups, from local politicians that we wanted to thank for their inclusive policies to women’s shelters and LGBTQ+ centers and our area’s local Islamic centers. We wrote them hand-written notes of support and to let them know how much we appreciate their work and being a part of our community.

When we had filled all 90 of the notecards I provided, we collected names and emails.

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THE FOLLOW-UP:

This is when you decide how to keep your group going in a way that works best for YOUR community.

I created a Google Form that asked people:

  • How often to you want to meet?
  • What time of day do you want to meet?
  • What issue do you want to focus on next?
  • If you’d like us to include a book or articles as part of our conversation each meeting, what would you suggest we read?

With this information we’ll decide our next group action and how our group will shape up.

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MEETING #2:

We plan on getting the word out via our original group of attendees and by spreading the word through local activist groups again. We don’t want the group to get too large too quickly, so we can maintain good connections with people and make sure everyone has time to talk and share their point of view.

We’ll choose one issue to focus on and will plan on either a phone bank or letter-writing campaign to start. So I’ll be asking people to bring:

  • 10 Stamps
  • 10 Notecards/Envelopes
  • A friend (that way we can grow slowly and steadily and get some extra help!)

We’ll make coffee and tea, but I like making clean-eating (ie: no sticky, drippy sauces) snacks that people can enjoy while writing, without staining their letters.

Here’s what I’ll be making next time:

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Derek & Lauren’s Granola! Easy and quick to make and snack on — with no messy fingers to hamper letter-writing.

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Catherine and Tricia’s Oat Seed Bars: Great to take on-the-go if you’re doing a volunteer session outside of your home.

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Heather’s Banana Bread: My favorite treat ever (toss in some chocolate chips and I’m in heaven) and it’s easy to pocket on a group outing or just slice up and pass around the table while people write and talk.

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Klancy’s Double Chocolate Cookies: Chocolate makes any event happier.

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Keavy and Allison’s Caramel Popcorn: Good on-the-go or at the table, this snack is always a favorite of mine.

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Comments

  • Thank you for sharing this, Grace. I’ve been thinking about next steps post-election, how to channel energy, etc and really like this concept and your step-by-step approach. I know others have said this, but I really appreciate how you manage D*S as a socially responsible design/lifestyle site. One doesn’t have to be either/or.

  • Great and inspiring idea! Also inspiring is that lovely RBG mug — would you mind sharing where you got it from?

  • This is great. I just emailing friends last week to see if we could get together once a month and brainstorm on how to survive and help others for the next four years. Your questions are really pertinent and a good place to start. Please keep us up-to-date on future meetings and topics. thanks, isabel

  • I really like your approach, starting with easy to do task that have a great outcome. Politicians need to hear when they are doing a good or bad job. Writing notes of support let’s them know constituents are watching. Op-eds are another approach that can be done by groups or individuals. Thanks for sharing and can’t wait to hear more.

  • What a cool idea! I don’t have enough space in my house to host, but I do have a lot of thank-you cards because I tend to buy them cheap at HomeGoods but never use them. This would be a great way to use them! I hope there’s a host in the Atlanta area.

  • I’ll also throw out a really helpful potential topic would be information about how to advocate/initiate change online via social media, blogs, and other available platforms, as well as strategies on how to combat fake news, dealing with online negativity/hate, etc.

  • Love this, so inspiring! I’ve been wanting to host something similar, so I really appreciate the practical tips for how to organize this kind of gathering and the recipe ideas too! I’m so glad Design Sponge manages to balance lifestyle inspiration with social and political awareness. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Grace, thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas. I think I want to start a Solidarity Sunday franchise in CA! How much time was needed for your meetings? And how did you decide on who you would write to in that first meeting? Wondering how much prep is needed to come up with a list of organizations/individuals in advance. Did you bring a list? Or did you ask everyone to come with a handful of people they would want to write to?

    • Hi Shauna!

      There are a lot of pre-existing groups in California, so be sure to check the Solidarity Sunday group on FB to see if you can join up with anyone else local.

      We scheduled our meeting for 1.5 hours, but most people stayed for 2 (which was great!).

      I followed the schedule the Oakland group gave us for that meeting, but during our writing people raised other issues and we Googled addresses to add a few different issues to our mailing, too (we wrote to our local mayor/chief of police to thank them for supporting immigrants in our area).

      I printed out a list to start people off, otherwise it gets a little all over the place. I gave them a list of 12 different people/organizations in our area to start. I spent about an hour researching them (we’re in a small area).

      Grace

      • Thank you, thank you, thank you. I don’t know how you find the time to so thoughtfully respond to your readers, but I’m grateful. I can’t check out the FB group because I gave my partner my Facebook account and asked him to change the password, locking myself out. The post-election insanity on there was really bringing me down. Now that I have your attention just want to say: YOU ROCK!

  • Thanks for this, Grace. Just the focus I’ve been looking for. The organization sounds simple and inclusive.

  • I’ve been feeling so adrift since the election. And while I’ve made donations to organizations and phone calls to congress, I like this framing of organizing. It can be a small gathering in your home–a way of furthering connections to people who want to help–in a more intimate setting than a march or public protest.

  • Oh I LOVE this idea! One of my goals for 2017 has been to build and expand my community and this feels like such a natural, heart-felt way to both engage with very close neighbors and with the world on a greater scale. Thanks for the inspiration and advice!

  • This was a great primer on how to get started. I’d happily join a group in the San Jose area, but I’d also be happy to start a group in the Los Gatos/Saratoga/Campbell area following your blueprint. How do I find a local group or how do I register a new group? Please don’t send me back to the website since somehow Google has created an impossible sign in process.
    Thank you so much.
    Kathy Rowan

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