Why hundreds of people showed up outside Mitch McConnell's house in Kentucky last Friday.

"I feel like people feel like everything has to be this huge thing. This was not a lot of work," says Molly Shah, a stay-at-home mom who helped convince a few dozen of her neighbors to protest outside Mitch McConnell's house in Louisville, Kentucky, last Friday.

The Louisvillians swarmed the Senate majority leader's residence on Feb. 10 to read Coretta Scott King's letter opposing Jeff Sessions' 1986 federal judgeship nomination — the one Sen. Elizabeth Warren was blocked from reading on the Senate floor.

Photo by Molly Shah/Facebook, used with permission.


Putting it together was no big deal, really. According to one organizer, turning out the crowd was a matter of a few Facebook posts.

The protest made headlines across the country.

Good old-fashioned, in-person activism is having a moment in the wake of Donald Trump's ascension to the White House.

Much of that activism has been driven by groups affiliated with the Indivisible Movement but also by established groups that are seeing a surge of interest and participation.

The protest in Louisville was organized by Parents for Social Justice, which Shah and others founded two years ago to help fellow parents with busy schedules stay active in politics.

Protestors gather in front of McConnell's home. Photo by Jim Gardner, used with permission.

"Our voice isn’t always at the table because we have trouble getting there," Shah explains. Since the election, however, she's seen an increased desire to do something from friends and fellow parents, many of whom were novice activists and saw the McConnell protest, which was planned just two days ahead of time, as an "easy way in."

"Refusal to engage with constituents ticks me off," explains Jim Gardner.

Gardner, a tech industry consultant, went to McConnell's house to protest what he sees as the majority leader's "poor constituent services" — refusing to answer calls and respond to criticism.

"If he'd do his job, I would never demonstrate at a private residence," Gardner says. "But, the senator left us no choice."

Around 300-400 people attended the event, according to several participants.

The protestors took turns reading sections of King's letter, and the event lasted about an hour.

A protestor reads King's letter as a fellow attendee shines a light. Photo by Jim Gardner, used with permission.

"It’s like our own little Arab Spring going on here," said Lynda Clark, a Louisville accountant, who found out about the event through Facebook. She praised the police officers, who cooperated with protestors, and defended the group against accusations leveled in conservative media that the crowd was a "mob."

"The funniest part about it was, for a while you couldn’t hear because there was a bunch of little kids that I assume were with their parents who were rolling down a hill and laughing and giggling," Clark says.

That McConnell happened to be in town for the protest was a happy accident according to Shah, who hopes the Senate majority leader realizes that "Kentuckians are done" with being ignored.

"We’re going to speak out, and we’re going to be there. We’re going to show up to everything," Shah says. Next on her radar is Kentucky's HB14, a "Blue Lives Matter" bill that defines offenses committed against law enforcement — potentially including resisting arrest — as a hate crime.

Photo by Jim Gardner, used with permission.

In the meantime, she hopes to see more small actions like the McConnell protest, which are symbolic, simple, and — perhaps most importantly — fun.

"They don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be epic. You can just keep moving forward. Just keep doing something."

Correction 2/15/2017: An earlier version of this article said that organizer Molly Shah estimated the protest was attended by 100 people. She and other participants actually estimated 300-400 people attended the event.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less
via Witty Buttons / Twitter

Back in 2017, when white supremacist Richard Spencer was socked in the face by someone wearing all black at Trump's inauguration, it launched an online debate, "Is it OK to punch a Nazi?"

The essential nature of the debate was whether it was acceptable for people to act violently towards someone with repugnant reviews, even if they were being peaceful. Some suggested people should confront them peacefully by engaging in a debate or at least make them feel uncomfortable being Nazi in public.

Keep Reading Show less

The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

It's also fun to plug in the years of different people's births to see how their generational differences might impact their perspectives. For example, let's take the birth years of the oldest and youngest members of Congress:

Keep Reading Show less