Embarrassingly, I’d never lobbied before last week. I know! I know! How can I call myself a feminist activist! But the truth is, the opportunity just never came up.
So, last week, when the Campus Team split into two halves and I was assigned to travel to Richmond, Va., to participate in Lobby Day, I was both excited to go to Richmond (they have the BEST restaurants. More on that later) and nervous to talk to Virginia legislators. To be honest, I felt more nervous than anything else.
It’s intimidating to speak on these issues (abortion access and workplace discrimination were the two paramount issues we took on for Lobby Day) to the people who literally have the power to effect change. I’m not throwing that word – “literally” – around; I do mean that these people hold the fates of Virginia women in their hands – their voices, their “yea or nay” votes, and their pens.
National Campus Organizer Edwith and I left for Richmond Wednesday afternoon to attend a brief training put on by The Virginia League for Planned Parenthood. We wanted to get to Richmond early, as we knew Thursday’s Lobby Day would start early in the morning.
And it did – at 7:30 a.m., Edwith and I already were on the Capitol grounds, getting ready to lead groups of volunteers around the General Assembly offices to visit our state senators and delegates. We met up with the rest of the coalition in Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s office. Northam himself stopped by to address the group, which was quite the treat – he and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe are both pro-choice Democrats who are our ardent allies. Fortunately for us, Northam was the first of many pro-choice allies we met on Lobby Day!
I was assigned to lead a group in charge of thanking legislators who’ve sided with us on pro-choice issues. We visited Delegate Jeion Ward, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, Delegate Charniele Herring, and Delegate Betsy Carr, among others. Each welcomed us into their office and graciously accepted our thanks.
Later that day, we attended a reception put on by the coalition for all the volunteers. Pro-choice Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring attended and spoke, saying he’s very happy to support pro-choice issues and that Virginia women deserve better.
That phrase, “Virginia women deserve better,” came up a lot throughout the day. I’m new to Virginia and haven’t really considered myself a Virginian until this Lobby Day. I am a Virginia woman. My body, my health, and my autonomy will be impacted by these laws.
I came away from my first Lobby Day with a sense of community, action, support, and inclusivity. I can’t believe I was ever nervous about it – it couldn’t have gone better.