Activist Spotlight: Brian Clark

How and when did you become an activist?

Activist Brian Clark from TX21 IndivisibleI’d lived abroad for nine years and wasn’t very politically aware. My wife and I moved back to the U.S., to Austin, in 2014, and got active after the 2016 election. I did nothing for a while, fuming and venting my frustration at the TV!

My first action was the Women’s March 2017 in Austin. Then I did a few visits to the offices of Senators Cornyn and Cruz. Summer of last year I started joined the TX21Indivisible Facebook group, and around that time I got more aware of Lamar Smith, and what a piece of work he was, running the Science Council while he doesn’t believe in climate change. I didn’t understand how someone who had such disrespect for science could have any influence over it. And the things he says about climate change! He said that it was good that the polar ice caps were melting, that it would be better for trade. No matter that the seas will rise and cities will flood.

What issues are you most passionate about?

Healthcare. I have pre-existing conditions. When I was working, I had good health insurance, but now I am on Medicare. My pre-existing conditions would make it very difficult for me to get affordable healthcare. I’ve challenged Ted Cruz and Chip Roy on this issue, and it’s where I tend to engage with our political representatives.

What’s your day job?

I retired in 2013.

Before I was an activist, I did a little bit of gardening, went to movies, and spent more time seeing my kids out west than I do now. My wife and I traveled extensively and still travel now. I have a wide view of the world — it’s not U.S.-centric. Travel is great. It opens your eyes.

What advice to you have for someone getting started with activism?

Hook up with a group. It’s hard to do on your own. I mean, you can go to protests alone. But connecting with TX21Indivisible enabled me to get some coherence with what I was doing, instead of just showing up to random events. And I made new friends, too.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Becoming involved has made me so much more aware of the consequences of voting — or, rather of NOT voting. I was stunned to realize how Texas is such a terrible state in terms of voting, and there should be a cardboard cutout of our reps, because the non-vote wins all the time. When I lived abroad, I think I only voted once by mail. The argument that voters give that candidates don’t represent all their beliefs, so they aren’t going to vote, basically means that you’re voting for the person you don’t want to be your rep. Denying a vote to a candidate who shares only 70% of your beliefs ensures that the candidate who shares 0% of your beliefs will get elected.

It’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I realize now it’s important to get involved, at every level, and vote in every election. It makes a difference. There are elections won by very small margins. Every vote really counts.

Q & A with Cat Yuracka of the Resistance Choir of South Central Texas

The Resistance Choir of South Central Texas was the brainchild of TX21 Indivisible activist Cat Yuracka, who in April 2017 pulled together like-minded, “more enthusiastic than talented” activists to partake in the joy of communal singing. Since then, the Choir has brought traditional and contemporary protest songs, songs of social justice and “revolutionary snark” to meetings, marches, rallies, protests, candidate forums, parades, private parties, and one ill-conceived Special Session of the Texas Legislature.

Cat’s “practice at home” method allows anyone with a desire to sing to learn songs on their own time, with biweekly rehearsals to “file off the rough edges.” From the choir’s Facebook page:

Our rare in-person hours designed to work out the rough spots in compositions still tend to vacillate between focused rehearsals and gab sessions, depending on whether or not deadlines are looming… We strive first & foremost to create a safe space where individuals rich in diversity of age, lifestyle, heritage, life experience, musical experience & talent can decompress for a couple hours a month together and encourage each other to bring their unique gifts to the forefront.

Cat’s dream is to franchise her model to other cities: So any budding choir directors reading this should get in touch (resistancechoirtexas@gmail.com).

Facebook group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/405773373139678/

Fan page:
https://www.facebook.com/ResistanceChoirTexas/

How and when did you become an activist?

The Resistance Choir of South Central Texas

I came out of my post-election coma to find my world on fire over all things Trumpellian. As a survivor of childhood rape, I felt that I was more aware than most folks of the danger we were now facing, having ignorantly given a serial predator this kind of power. At the time, I was pretty incapacitated by an Access Hollywood-tape/election-debacle-induced PTSD meltdown, but I knew as soon as I recovered I would need to throw myself headlong into the fight.

I was painfully aware that my daughter and granddaughter’s futures were endangered from the misogynistic fallout of the election, not to mention all the marginalized groups under attack due to his racism and ignorance. Having been an abused kid who no one stepped in to “save,” I have always found it next to impossible to stand by and watch someone being abused without intervening.

I found the Indivisible Guide thanks to Rachel Maddow sometime after the election and became a member of TX21 Indivisible on January 19, 2017.  I literally came back to life by attending the Women’s March in Austin on January 21, 2017, and thanks to the TX21 Indivisible leadership, education and camaraderie, my metamorphosis from full-time gardener to full-time political activist was complete when I shut down my estate gardening business in spring 2017.

What issues are you most passionate about?

Members of the Resistance Choir of South Central Texas hold a Moms Demand Action Banner

Well…that would have to be removing the pedophilic (probably incestuous), malignantly narcissistic, treasonous, Mafioso-inspired rapist from the Presidency. With my lifelong issues of child protection advocacy, responsible gun ownership legislation and women’s rights now coming in a close 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

Assuming you are not a paid protester, what is your day job?

Retired, thank God. I’ve been trying to come up with an angle to use home business tax deductions to alleviate a bit of the cost of The Resistance…but so far, I got nuthin’.

What advice do you have for people who want to get involved?

Cat Yuracka in Handmaids Uniform

Plug into your local Indivisible. Hang out with and read the works of people who are more knowledgeable and experienced than you are. Stay up-to-date as best you can, but resist the temptation to think you can fight on every front. Pick a couple of areas and become disciplined about making them your focus. Remember to breathe: The Resistance is a choir piece, not a solo. Take advantage of the fact that others will cover while you take a quick breath. And strive for some kind of balance…it’s never worked for me, but folks I respect swear by it!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Cat Yuracka with Beto O'Rourke
Cat photobombed by some random politician

The Resistance Choir of South Central Texas was literally a spin-off from TX21 Indivisible that has since tried to run hand-in-hand with the Central Texas Indivisible movement. Although we have been honored with invites to sing from other groups and individuals, the folks of Indivisible are our family and we do our best to support their Calls to Action whenever they are brought to our attention.

Also, my original vision had Choir Directors in each city who would manage their individual branches and then work together to improvise and record harmonies, coordinate the focus of practices and serve as our “solid core” for stage performances.

(If you are interested in leading or joining a choir in Austin, San Antonio, San Marcos, or Kerrville, contact Cat at resistancechoirtexas@gmail.com.)

Gallery: the Resistance Choir of South Central Texas

Activist Spotlight: Karen Collins

Karen CollinsKaren Collins is everywhere. She’s on an I-35 overpass holding a “Repeal and Replace Ted Cruz Banner” (copies of which she has sent to activists all around Texas). She’s counter-protesting Nazis. She’s attending civil-disobedience workshops. She’s registering voters at candidate forums. She’s blockwalking. She’s organizing in the Indivisible Rosedale Huddle.

Karen is also the subject of the short film, “Liberty Hill,” which debuted at SXSW and was directed by another Indivisible organizer, Katie Graham. And recently, she received a standing ovation at one of the Austin Town Halls for Our Lives.

From the Statesman:

Karen Collins was earning her master’s degree at the University of Texas the same year Charles Whitman opened fire from the UT Tower, killing 14 people and wounding nearly three dozen on Aug. 1, 1966. On Sunday, she held the crowd in thrall as she painted a grim picture of that day.

“I watched my fellow students get shot; I watched them fall to that hot, blistering pavement; I watched them die; I watched policemen die; I watched an armored car finally come and protect those that were laying on the pavement and pick them up and drive them away. I watched them carry a body out of the tower, and I can tell you — you can see from my age — you never get over it,” she said.

Collins commended the students for trying to force congressional action.

“I want you to run for office as soon as you can,” she said to wild applause and a standing ovation.

For many students who are still under voting age, they must first turn 18 and register. And for Kappelman, that day is today.

“You can expect a new voting bloc to come out of this movement,” he said.

We are privileged to know Karen Collins. She gets more done in a day than most of us do in a week, and she does so with energy, enthusiasm, and good cheer.

Activist Log from Karen Collins
Evidence that Karen Collins gets more done in a day than most mortals do in a month

How and when did you become an activist?

I trusted that our democratic institutions (like fair elections and rule of law) were strong. Didn’t you? And then came 2016 and alarm bells went off. Election— shock—depression and then I got mad which upped my energy level. But what could just one person do?  My first action was to donate to reputable media and to organizations with lawyers to FIGHT IN MY PLACE.

But then I found the Indivisible Guide. Ah ha! I stopped looking for someone else to defend me and the country and values I revere. It’s my job, too, as a citizen, and this little old lady has turned into a flaming activist! And, oh joy, I discovered in the Women’s March that I have millions of like-minded companions.

What issues are you most passionate about?

An American President lying, threatening, bullying, cheating, subverting our system of government is THE ISSUE about which I’m most passionate.

Daily attacks by this historically corrupt administration challenge me every morning to figure out what more can I do to fight.

One step at a time, some action everyday (just a postcard or a banner drop maybe), enlarging my circle with new allies, reading and thinking. These keep me from being overwhelmed.

Repeal and Replace Ted CruzAssuming you are not a paid protester, what is your day job?

I’m retired.

What advice do you have for people who want to get involved?

You are in control. Don’t wait for somebody else. Inspire yourself by READING and THINKING and PLANNING. Step out of your normal routine and circle of friends. Try to think out of the box. Recognize new allies and be a good ally. Think and plan for the long haul. WE CAN DO THIS.

Activist Spotlight: Susan “George” Schorn

Susan “George” Schorn is active with TX21 Indivisible and Indivisible Austin. She leads workshops on protest safety and verbal self-defense, and is honing her skills as a prankster in the LOLt-right Marching Band aka “Clowns for Truth.” 

Susan "George" SchornHow and when did you become an activist?

Born that way. As the youngest of five, you develop an early awareness of inequality, and you necessarily find strategies to make your voice heard. I also have a wicked temper and realized pretty early into adulthood that I needed to learn to control it, so I’ve spent a couple of decades training in the martial arts, which led me to the somatic approaches I use today when I teach protest safety.

What issues are you most passionate about?

I suppose the umbrella term would be “violence reduction.” Most of my activism prior to 2016 was in the realm of women’s self-defense and empowerment. But I got my start protesting during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Those issues are ultimately connected: The structural violence that causes so much suffering in our world has always made itself visible as violence against women, minorities, and children. What we’re seeing today is an amplification of that violence, on both the structural front, with more (and more vicious) policies promoting inequity, and on the physical front, with threats and force used in an effort to quash dissent.

Violence is ultimately how we enforce injustice. So that’s the evil I’ve always chosen to fight. And it’s going on everywhere I look right now.

Assuming you are not a paid protester, what is your day job?

I am a mild-mannered program coordinator in higher education. I work in disciplinary writing and instructor development, which means I spend a lot of time around really smart people who all have very different ways of communicating. My job provides an excellent window into the varied ways people think and talk about their values.

What advice do you have for people who want to get involved?

I’m hearing “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” a lot these days, and that’s even truer than most people realize. Just ask the ancient Athenians, who defeated an invading Persian army on the plain of Marathon in 490 B.C., only to discover, while still panting and bleeding on the battlefield, that the Persian *navy* was en route to attack the unguarded city of Athens. Herodotus describes the Athenians marching, “with all possible speed,” twenty-six miles or so over the mountains back to Athens. Loaded with campaign gear on their way out to Marathon, they jettisoned everything but their weapons on the return trip—provisions, extra clothing, bedrolls—in a frantic effort to reach their home before the enemy did.

The very first marathon, in other words, wasn’t run by rested, ready athletes, but by exhausted warriors, giving up every comfort they possessed, in defense of democracy. Democracy won: The Greeks made it to Athens first and the Persians, Herodotus tells us, “after resting awhile upon their oars, departed and sailed away to Asia.”

Having run a few marathons and done a fair amount of fighting, I’ve found it’s not so much your combat skills or your speed that counts. It’s your willingness to simply keep going, past the point where everyone else thinks you’re sure to give up. And that doesn’t actually require any special skills or heroics. Anyone can do it. Pace yourself, and just keep going.