Ruth Bader Gingsburg famously noted that, "women belong in all places where decisions are being made."
So that means us, mamas. And our daughters. The whole family.
If the past 10 months have taught us anything it's that it's more important than ever for citizens to be cognizant of political decisions being made on every level. But it's also easy to be more politically aware during election years, and sometimes not so much once the inauguration is over.
So I contacted my friend and local author/artist/activist Kory Wells for ideas on how families can learn more about politics and stay involved. In true-to-her fashion she brainstormed with her fellow members of the League of Women Voters, and together they created a list I could share with readers. Some require a little planning (and of course check for Covid-related restrictions or adjustments), while others are simple enough for even littles to be involved.
Ready to be a part of decision-making in your community? Check out these 16 ways families can stay involved in politics.
1. Meet Up
Attend Murfreesboro, La Vergne, Smyrna or city council meetings or Rutherford County Commission meetings (you don't necessarily have to stay the whole time). If you arrive early, your county commissioner or the at-large city council members may have time to meet you, especially if you email them ahead of time. Watch the posted agendas on government websites to attend when there's something of interest to you.
At a more specific level, the county and its municipalities have many commissions, committees, etc. that hear initial requests and then make a report to the full board. These include the planning commission, cable TV commission, library board, etc. Many of these meetings may be televised and available for later viewing. Check your city's website or Rutherford County's YouTube channel for a list.
2. Get Educated
Watch state or national committee meetings on subjects of interest, and attend your local school board meetings.
3. Write On
As a family, write an email to your commissioner, city council members, or state legislators about an issue that matters to you.
4. Give Where You Live
If you live in a neighborhood with a HOA, attend a HOA meeting or help with HOA business (distributing newsletters, planning neighborhood event, etc.)
5. Get Active
Attend a meeting of the LWV, NAACP, or an issue-based organization such as Moms Demand Action.
6. Take a Field Trip
Take your child with you to pay property or wheel taxes and tour the part of the building that you can (there's likely art on display). Talk about it being "our" building
7. Care for Parks
Anytime you visit a park, the Greenway, etc., point out this is "our" park -- to pay for, to enjoy, to respect and care for, etc.
8. Problem Solve
When you see a problem in your community and wonder how it can be addressed, discuss it with your child and let them see how you can help solve that problem. For example, reach out to the traffic department because a red light near you never stays green long enough. Contact waste management because a huge pile of debris is on your street. The goal is to help children see how polite inquiries can be the first step toward a change that makes your life better.
9. Go Club-ing
Even if your child is not in Scouts or 4-H, find out about your school or neighborhood troops/clubs - they will sometimes have activities related to government.
10. Think Big
Get inspired by the "big kids." Most years, the League sponsors a model debate between MTSU and another college team each spring. You can also follow the MTSU debate team at other events at mtsu.edu/debate.
11. Take a Tour
Make the connection between history, community and government. Examples include touring the county courthouse and learning who is on the mural inside, touring Bradley Academy and understanding the experience of the African American community locally, visiting the Heritage Center, or engaging with the Leading Ladies mural.
12. Celebrate Together
Make a point to attend government-sponsored events celebrating the 4th of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth and more. Families could also help organize a neighborhood event marking these events.
13. Read Up
This year, read the Read to Succeed One Book, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. This is suitable for ages 12 and up, and there's a kid's version coming out in May. Watch for and participate in a community conversation about this book on their website readtosucceed.org/onebook.
14. Learn to Serve
Whatever humanitarian issues interest your child the most (hunger, homelessness, etc.), learn about local organizations that address those issues by visiting their website or attending a meeting they host. Also learn how local or state statutes and laws affect the issues. Many times these organizations will be able to tell you a lot about those laws and the current system.
15. Visit Lobbyists
Learn about lobbyists and their crucial role (both positive and negative) in educating our legislators. The League of Women Voters usually has a program with a lobbyist once a year. This year's event is on Feb. 9, so check the LWV website for details.
16. Be Counted
Attend an Election Commission Meeting, held the first Monday of the month. Visit election.rutherfordcountytn.gov for meeting times and updates.
How do you involve your kids in politics and local leadership? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama and Murfreesboro native who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two children. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram. Got a column idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.