A parking lot Zoom meeting with Congress

September 1, 2021
by Kazmyn Ramos, Indianapolis, IN

The first time I met with a congressional office, I was sitting in my car in the parking lot outside a busy coffee shop and feeling nervous. A few members of my RESULTS group and I were meeting virtually with our senator’s staff, and it was a little overwhelming not knowing what to expect.

As the meeting went on, my confidence grew. We were talking about affordable housing, and I found myself speaking up. I know a lot about housing issues from personal experience, and I was excited to have an opportunity to share that knowledge with my senator’s office.

My grandma lived in an affordable housing complex for over 30 years. My mom grew up in the same complex, and I was raised there as well. My grandma was very big on giving back to the community. She had an open door policy where anyone in our low-income neighborhood could come to her home to get food – and folks always knew they could come back.

It’s people like my grandma who understand the true needs of a community and the barriers people face, and who can offer solutions about how to remove those barriers. My whole life, she always told me to speak truth to power and speak up about things that are wrong. I’ve always felt like I wanted to do the same things my grandma did – to be that kind of voice of the community.

I thought for a while that I could just talk about my neighborhood, or I could just talk about my city. Then I realized that those stories have a bigger space in the conversations about making laws: who gets served, who doesn’t, and the impact of the rules and regulations and funding decisions that governments make. All of us deserve a say in these policies – and I want to use my voice for good.

Now I work for an affordable housing developer, and advocate on both U.S. and global poverty issues with RESULTS groups in Indianapolis. I was inspired to make the shift to learning more about global issues by the words of Audre Lorde: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own,” as well as the words of MLK: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I talk with members of Congress about U.S. issues like housing and tax policy, and global issues like nutrition, health, and education. I’ve learned so much.

After I discovered advocacy with RESULTS and joined a local group, I found out about the RESULTS Fellowship for young leaders and applied in 2020. The fellowship is a really wonderful opportunity to learn more about your skills and how much your voice matters. You get all the tools you need to make an impact; it helps you to identify your own elevator pitch and your own story so that you can talk about it with policymakers. That’s a very useful skill if you’re talking to members of Congress, and it’s also a useful skill in regular networking.

If you’re interested in becoming a RESULTS Fellow, you’re already thinking about advocacy and connecting with your members of Congress. You’re already a person who is really focused on the community and the collective. You know how important it is to speak up about things that you feel need to be changed. Even if you’re just curious and aren’t sure how you can make an impact, but know you want to learn more about how to do it, you will get so much out of it! You’ll meet a lot of people who have similar interests as you from across the country. You get to get out of your comfort zone in a lot of different ways. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Since that first meeting with Congress from my car, my RESULTS group members have been very supportive. They encourage me to share my voice in meetings with policymakers. I didn’t think that I could have so much access to policymakers. Sometimes I’ve spoken, and sometimes I’ve just been there for support, but it’s always really, really cool. It feels good to know that my voice can contribute to change.

Interested in the RESULTS Fellowship? The 11-month advocacy and organizing program is open to young people age 20-35. Learn more and apply here: results.org/fellowship.

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