Grassroots Spotlight: Willie Dickerson
August 1st, 2019
Willie Dickerson’s white mustache twitches as he pauses for a moment, thinking hard. We have just asked him how many of his letters to the editor have been published around the country. He finally responds, “Around a thousand, but I’m not sure of exact numbers.”
Willie writes at least one letter to the editor every day, in addition to his work building relationships with members of Congress and their staff. A longtime advocate and letter writer from Snohomish, Washington, Willie is one of hundreds of RESULTS volunteers around the country working to end poverty.
We meet up with Willie as he dashes between meetings with representatives on Capitol Hill. He checks the time every few minutes, ready to run off to his next meeting.
Willie is modest about his successes, and believes anyone can do what he does. “Letter writing is something you can do anytime. So that’s when I like to do it: anytime. Just write letters and send ‘em in.” Letters to the editor can successfully get members of Congress to pay attention to a particular issue. When a letter is published mentioning a member of Congress, it often goes to the top of their reading pile. Simply by writing letters, constituents like Willie can play a powerful role in influencing policy.
Willie is passionate about advocacy. When we ask him how he stays motivated, his voice chokes.
“I have five children of my own. And I think about all those children who have little hope if we don’t speak up, 15,000 a day dying. And of course, I think about my own family, and my brother Bob Dickerson who did this work before me. Bob was such an inspiration – so powerful, caring, and humble. I loved doing advocacy with him.”
Willie meets regularly with Congress and writes letters to the editor to bring attention to poverty across the U.S. and around the world. He pushes for support on issues like affordable housing, tax credits for low-income families, and effective health initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
He speaks with urgency.
“Constituent advocacy with RESULTS is an opportunity that you won’t believe, how close you get to power and decisions. And it’s a matter of taking that first step. It goes beyond voting – you don’t have to wait for the next election. You can make a difference right now. And my experience is that members of Congress want to hear from you. It’s exciting that it matters, that change happens.”
He glances at the clock and hops up. “Ooh, I’ve gotta go.”
And just like that, Willie is off – headed for the next congressional office where he will smile warmly, shake hands with his representative, make his case, and deliver a stack of letters calling for a more equitable world.
Willie Dickerson received the Cameron Duncan Media Award in 2019 for his outstanding work as a citizen journalist.