Stand up on Election Day. Then keep standing up for the things that matter | Opinion

A woman holds a sign calling for an end to death by incarceration during a rally in the Pa. Capitol rotunda on 10/23/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

By Hannah Laurison

Every one of us, regardless of where we live or what we look like, deserves to get the healthcare we need, paid time to recover from illness or injury, and resources to make ends meet. Whatever our race or zip code, we all want to move through our communities without fearing for our lives or loved ones.

This year has redefined what it means to reckon with our past, advocate for better in our present, and expand the possibilities for our future. When things get tough, we create new ways of caring for one another and confront challenges to make things better than they were before.

This has not been the year any of us expected. It certainly hasn’t been the year any of us wanted. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the mass protests following the brutal murders of Black Americans by police continue to expose the ways this country falls short of the ideals laid out by its founders: equality, freedom, justice.

We cannot and will not go back to business as usual because business as usual is what created this crisis.

For too long, the few have had their say over the many by keeping us divided. The future is where we go together.

At PA Stands Up chapters all over Pennsylvania, we are telling the stories of voters and community members who are often exploited, underserved, excluded and oppressed, and we are building people power across Pennsylvania, especially in small cities, towns, and rural areas.

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We know that another world is possible. For too long, we’ve let a powerful few divide us to pad their own profits by making life and health into products for sale.

Now is the time to demand that our government not only help us weather the pandemic but sets a better course for the future of all of our communities.

It’s time to get out and vote for elected leaders who will work with us to rewrite the rules to ensure that everyone gets the resources and care that we need And while voting is not the only answer, it’s one of the most important ways to use our voices to insist on bold, structural change.

We know that real change doesn’t come from the top down. Real change happens when everyday working people of all races come together to take bold action.

Together, we can create the future our communities need. Make a plan to vote for a government that will take care of all of us. As our movements think about the policies we want to win by 2030 — a Green New Deal, Medicare for all, restorative justice, defunding the police, and free public college — we also must consider how to get there.

This election is about building and sustaining the movements behind the values that unite us across racial, class, and neighborhood lines.

We have a long-term vision for change. We will continue organizing on the issues we care about. We will continue pushing candidates to adopt our policy solutions.

We will be voters in this election, and in every election. The truth is that the future is the sum of the changes we demand, the courage we display, and how we stand with and for each other. The truth is, when we go together, we make the future.

It’s up to us.

Hannah Laurison is the executive director of the progressive advocacy group PA Stands Up. She writes from Philadelphia.