The days leading up to March 22, I told my four-year-old daughter that we were going to take a trip to Jefferson City to the Missouri State Capitol, on a bus. “What’s there?” she asked. I did my best to explain the legislative process in a way that she could understand and I was excited about taking her on a new adventure. I was a high school junior when I first visited the Missouri State Capitol as a participant in 20/20 Leadership, a youth leadership program for students in Jackson and Wyandotte counties.
For the past four years, I have served as a facilitator for the Parent Leadership Training Institute. Our mission is to empower parents to utilize their voices to create better outcomes for children. One of the major parts of utilizing our power as parents is to advocate on a policy level. When our site coordinator Dr. Julie Holland mentioned that we would take a trip as a group for Child Advocacy Day, I knew I had to attend. It felt important to be present for this day to not only be present as a parent and educator, but to be in community with current and past participants in PLTI.
The day was long, but I had time to reflect on the way back home and my lessons learned were plentiful.
One of the first lessons was that preparation is key. When meeting with legislators, it is important to know who you are talking to. Reaching out in advance to set meeting times is helpful as well. Julie took on the task of providing a list of bills that impact children and families that allowed us to have points of discussion. Doing other research such as previewing social media accounts of representatives and senators can also help to gain insight into who you will be talking with and see where they stand on issues.
The next lesson and takeaway from #MOCAD2022 is to be specific in the ask to your legislators. If you support certain legislation, say so. If you don’t, you can say that as well. I do think the challenge is leaning into the potentially uncomfortable conversation if you are represented by someone who does not share your views. It is possible that their vote won’t change, however, there is power in sharing your perspective.
Finally, I know that simply being a Black woman showing up to the Capitol with my Black daughter was a statement by itself. The overwhelming majority of Missouri legislators do not look like me and I appreciated the opportunity to walk the halls of the building as myself. I look forward to continuing to engage in the legislative process and now that I have one year of #MOCAD under my belt, I plan to show up once again in 2023.