November 18, 2019/Blog, Media

Reclaiming My Political Legacy | Our Movement Monday

In our series Our Movement Monday, we talk with Texas Democrats across our state about their work and the challenges facing their communities. Today, we speak with Roxy D Hall Williamson, who is a stay-at-home mom and graduated from the Texas Democratic Party’s Staff the Movement Academy.

My political story began before I was born. My maternal grandmother was traumatized by the late-night riders of the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1930s, hence my family members, especially my mother, have always been outspoken advocates in various capacities as nurses, veterans, and other community voices. Born in Galveston, I came into the world as a statistic. The first-born daughter of unmarried teenage parents, I already had two strikes against me. Growing up in Baytown, Texas I learned early on how undervalued and invisible I was. Though I was pretty sheltered from certain hardships, I knew intuitively that being heard and counted was essential in order to attain any type of success in this country. To be heard and counted was difficult if you were someone like me, but I found my voice as a college student.

I was drawn to the movement as an undergraduate with the international calls to end apartheid, the mass incarceration of black and brown bodies, and the “so-called” war on drugs. The late 1980s and early 1990s were inundated with scandal and the oppression of humanity all over the globe. The treatment of Black people and other people of color made it imperative for me to find a way to be involved and encourage others to do the same. However, it was difficult to know where I belonged in the fight. Everyone wanted my volunteerism and vote, yet no one wanted to fund our community education programs or encourage my place in the overall landscape of political engagement.

A stay at home mom for almost 20 years, I moved back to Texas in an attempt to reclaim the life I put on hold to culture my small family. Frustrated with only being offered volunteer opportunities and coming to terms with the reality of my modest means, the prospect of driving to Austin one weekend a month was daunting. Scarce resources, no serious work history in the field and minimal prospects to engage, I had no idea how or where to begin.

Exasperated yet determined, I received an email from the Texas Democratic Party asking for yet another donation I could not afford to give. Almost in tears, I scrolled all the way down the page. Upon further reading, the page had a button I had not seen before that read “APPLY”. It’s almost as if the Texas Democrats heard my prayers. Though there was still no money to be made, there was possible financial assistance for those in need. I was in need and the prospect of having the opportunity to train and build my career had me bursting at the seams. I have the passion, education, and knowledge my community needs to have a voice in the process. Was this real? Could this be the big break I was looking for?

Staff the Movement’s main area of support in my journey to becoming a viable political presence came through resources, particularly housing. The opportunity to participate in the Staff The Movement training came at a critical time of transition for me.

I literally cried. If I was accepted in the Staff the Movement program, I would gain the training and expertise I would need to galvanize and train the people depending on me to bring innovation and change to my area.

The waiting almost burst my heart. In the meantime, I got busy. I could possibly get just enough for the gas to travel to Austin, but lodging, food, supplies — I was back to where I started. Lack of everything, except the passion to do the work. The next email from Staff the Movement shook my world because the program had all of those items covered. Not only was the housing covered, but we were fed, given essential supplies, and they even encouraged us to reach out if we had any issues that hindered our participation in the training.

People often talk about “leveling the playing field” yet very rarely does it ever actually happen. Quite often, for a majority of Black women and other women of color, we are expected to give of our time, talent and treasure with no regard for our financial wellness. Our sincerity to our community work is often taken for granted and we are overlooked when it is time to hire leadership to mobilize and educate the electorate that we have spent our lives developing. In a world where women are still not receiving equitable pay for comparable work, it is empowering and refreshing to be involved in a program that seeks to equalize the financial plight for Black women in the field of community organizing.

Staff the Movement recognized that this issue is pressing, and rather than minimizing what can be an uncomfortable conversation, the issue was addressed during the training — not only for the Black community, but all communities struggling with various resources such as food, money, childcare, and whatever else hinders people from actively participating in the electoral process.

What I’ve taken away from this experience with Staff the Movement is empowerment, because I know I am worth the investment. Without financial assistance I would not have been able to participate. I am capable and now educated to be more of a power source for the Democratic Party in my area, both at the state and national levels. The financial component of this experience could have excluded me from the most eye-opening training I have been fortunate to be a part of. Finances are a massive deterrent to those who feel confined by their lack of means, though their talent, passion, and desire to do meaningful work in their communities are overwhelmingly needed and sought after. Staff the Movement offers groundbreaking training and fertile ground to empower and build confidence in future community leadership. The support and personal engagement of the Staff the Movement staff made it easy to give myself over to the process without worrying over how I could afford the experience.

It is essential to build upon programs like Staff the Movement. Community leadership is the backbone of the Democratic Party. Our local communities deserve to be educated and their political engagement is an investment that should be factored into all platforms and agendas. Without the appropriate resources to support our most vulnerable communities, we are doomed to repeat patterns that prove detrimental to the future of our Republic writ large.

As the 2020 election cycles heats up, the importance of turning out every viable vote is all consuming. In an attempt to not give in to the hopelessness I have repeatedly found myself combatting in Galveston County, I proactively chose Staff the Movement and was fortunate enough to gain the tools and skills necessary to restore hope, transform apathy into action, fear into strength, and hardships into resources. Staff the Movement is essential in building networks that will grow local organizations and empower coalitions that will not only turn out voters but also develop leadership for future endeavors across the Democratic political spectrum.

The opportunity to train with Staff the Movement has further fueled my quest to attain the certifications and toolkits necessary to find employment in the field. When I began, I had no idea how to begin the transition to build a career through my passion. Now, I have a clear plan. I hope to develop my experience to not only build a solid political career for myself but also encourage, equip, and empower others along the way.

Following the success of the first Staff the Movement Academy, the Texas Democratic Party announced our second Staff the Movement program, which will run January through March 2020. To learn more & apply for the second Staff the Movement training, click here.