Putting down new roots through fast action on TB: Emily Escobar’s advocacy story
It was early in the morning, Wednesday, July 12th — the tense, final hours for members of the House of Representatives to sign onto the Dear Colleague letter demanding a strong U.S. showing at the upcoming United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Tuberculosis (TB). The stakes are high. This September will be the second-ever UN HLM on TB, which comes at a time when TB cases and deaths are soaring. California RESULTS advocate Emily Escobar cares deeply about TB and the inequities that fuel its current rise. A recent transplant from the Los Angeles area to the more conservative Orange County, Emily knew she could have an impact for TB — and build bipartisan bridges in the process.
While new to Orange County, Emily is not new to advocacy. “I’m passionate about gender equity as a woman of color living in the U.S. A core part of gender equity is anti-poverty,” said Emily. She first came across RESULTS through work on the Child Tax Credit. She ultimately joined the RESULTS fellowship — a cohort of young leaders who connect to learn from one another and hone their advocacy skills through coaching and hands-on experience. Her professional career also focuses on community organizing and activism. When she moved from L.A. to Orange County, this meant a shift in the political scenery: “It was a big jump for me. Going from a majority Democratic area to a majority Republican area.” Emily saw this change as an opportunity, “I’m really excited and energized about bringing my background and expertise to this community, and that’s why I look to RESULTS.”
Emily’s background and expertise are rich and include a very personal connection with TB. Shortly after completing her undergraduate degree, she interviewed for a position with a school district to find that the required TB test turned up a positive result. After a nerve-racking battery of tests, Emily learned that she does have TB, but it is thankfully an inactive case (meaning she does not experience symptoms and cannot give TB to other people). “But my reality is not the reality of people who do have active TB and who are suffering. So, I wanted to get involved and wanted to be part of ending TB,” Emily explained.
Motivated by personal experience and her passion for advocacy, Emily rose to the occasion when RESULTS issued an action alert for volunteers (especially those in Republican districts) to make a last-minute appeal for the TB Dear Colleague letter. In the end, her representative did not sign on to this letter, but Emily counts the experience as a win toward the long-term goal of cultivating an ally in the House. “I am in the phase of working to build a relationship with Rep. Steel’s office,” says Emily, “[…] I wanted to have her see my name come through as an active advocate on the Dear Colleague letter because I want to be able to set up a meeting with her face-to-face for the August recess.” Emily’s advocacy story on the Dear Colleague letter reminds us that activism is not just about the legislation at hand, it’s about building community and relationships. She put it best when she said, “Your impact can take time. Your small actions will eventually lead to change.” This experience not only put TB on the radar with her member of Congress but emphasized the belonging and shared values that exist in her new community: “People always have an outside view of what Orange County is, but I see that there are amazing people here doing great things in their communities, and I want to be part of that.”
Editor’s Note: In the end, there were 108 signers on the House TB Dear Colleague letter, exceeding the original goal of 100 and growing record bipartisan action on TB. Nearly 20 representatives signed in the last 48 hours of the letter’s circulation, a staggering achievement driven by the dedicated RESULTS advocates like Emily and RESULTS’s circle of supporters and partners.