Following the November 2016 election, a group of young organizers called for an emergency community meeting to talk together about the shock, sadness, and outrage we were all feeling. Three hundred Lancastrians came to that first meeting and got busy making plans to take action to turn things around. Soon it was clear that thousands of Lancastrians were feeling an overwhelming desire to get involved and to take back our democracy. Lancaster Stands Up quickly began developing into a vehicle for everyday people to have a political voice.
Over the past year and half, Lancastrians have turned out in unprecedented numbers for town hall meetings, public demonstrations. Two thousand of us stood together at Penn Square to oppose Trump’s Muslim Ban. We rallied hundreds to stand up for healthcare for all, and we occupied Rep. Lloyd Smucker’s downtown office. One thousand of us gathered after Charlottesville to stand against the rise of white supremacy.
Our top priority is uniting to resist and ultimately defeat the unique threat of the current Administration. But we are also clear that we have to ask ourselves how this happened; how we arrived in this political moment. Looking back at the past four decades, we see a steep decline in civic involvement—everyday people being part of organizations that can have a voice in our political system, a counterweight to the power of money. We also see a Democratic Party leadership that has failed to stand up to Wall Street and to fight visibly for working people. This, we believe, allowed economic elites to gain a tighter grip on our political system, and led to millions of everyday working Americans feeling abandoned by the political class and uninspired to turn out to vote.
We believe that this moment presents us with a unique opportunity to change our trajectory. The story of Lancaster Stands Up is a story about everyday people turning this around by figuring out how to get involved—even if it’s just two hours a week—and building the grassroots force we need to revitalize our democracy.
The handful of folks who called for the initial emergency community meeting last November has since then developed into a multiracial and multigenerational 12-person coordinating team, which includes Julia Berkman-Hill, Eliza Booth, Rafael Diaz, Nick Martin, Becca Rast, Kareena Rios, Jonathan Smucker, Otis Ubriaco, Ismail Yoder Salim, Melanie Yoder Salim, and Sophie Xiong (previous members who served: Amber Farward, Evan Gentry, Michelle Hines, Amanda Kemp, Daniel Levin, Claudia Paz, Nelly Torres, and Susan Wenger). The leadership team works to develop a long-term structure to allow LSU members to contribute their time, energy, passions, and gifts for the work ahead.
We believe the time is ripe for everyday Americans—of every race and creed, immigrant and native-born, sisters and brothers—to stand up together as one united people. We see incredible opportunities for our community to intervene as a force for real change. To do this we need to be intentional, strategic, creative, and bold. But most important, this effort needs the involvement of everyday working people. Lancaster Stands Up needs you.