“We can’t shy away from doing our work” – Meet the RESULTS Louisiana group

September 15, 2017

The RESULTS group in Louisiana doesn’t get a chance to meet in person very often, so when they do, they make sure it’s festive. On a Saturday afternoon last winter, that meant a spread of local favorites like gumbo, pastalaya, and several varieties of King cake, the classic Mardi Gras dessert.

Steven McGee, who was hosting at his home near Baton Rouge, made sure everyone had full plates – but he was also eager to plan for the months ahead. He was ready not just with his easel, markers, and sticky notes, but with members of his own immediate family. His adult kids — daughter MacCauley and son Steven Jr. — had watched their dad become a dogged advocate against poverty, and they wanted to be part of it.

“We’re excited to see what this is all about,” Steven Jr. said.

The RESULTS group in Louisiana covers both global and U.S. poverty issues. The goal is to effectively guide lawmakers towards policies that improve access to education, health, and economic opportunity in the U.S. and around the world.

That’s something that appeals to Rachid Ouedraogo, who was born in Burkina Faso and moved to the U.S. in 2001, when he was 11. He now lives in Lafayette and works as an accountant there.

“I’ve seen poverty up close,” he said. “To be able to be part of a group like RESULTS that works globally and for people here in Louisiana, that makes me feel good. I like being part of the process and getting other people involved.”

Rachid even convinced his girlfriend, Helaina, to become a RESULTS advocate. She sat beside him on the couch, and Rachid boasted that she already had some letters-to-the-editor published in local newspapers. Also crowded into Steve’s living room that day were Judith Thigpen, a longtime RESULTS volunteer; Keri Willever, who was hoping to get more involved; Jessie Baldwin, who was returning to RESULTS after a hiatus; Joyce D. James, a new volunteer who works on public policy issues in Louisiana, and Qiana Torregano, an educator and poet who is part of the RESULTS Experts on Poverty program. With the group spread out geographically (some drove more than an hour to be at the meeting), they were excited for a chance to spend time together and make future plans.

With a new president and Congress in Washington, there was some apprehension about how this would affect the group’s work. But Rachid was undeterred.

“We still need to live our lives and keep pushing on issues we care about no matter who is in office,” Rachid said.

Other group members agreed.

“Now is not the time to get overwhelmed,” said Qiana. “We can’t shy away from doing our work.”

And they haven’t. Right after that meeting in January, the group dove right into RESULTS’ First 100 Days Campaign, writing letters to local newspapers (three were published), calling lawmakers about crucial legislation, and setting up in-person meetings to advocate for Medicaid and against cuts to global anti-poverty programs. They even attended a non-profit symposium to promote RESULTS’ work. In July, some group members attended the 2017 International Conference in Washington, DC, where they took their advocacy straight to Capitol Hill.

Steve, the group leader and newest grassroots member of the RESULTS Board, said his interest in fighting poverty stems from his own experience growing up.

“There were times I was hungry as a kid. I don’t think any American should go to bed or school hungry. I don’t think anyone should work an eight-hour day and worry about a roof over their head,” he said. “RESULTS has given me a way to do something about it.”

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