Megha Anwer, faculty at Purdue’s Honors College, and Melissa Gruver, of the Younger Women’s Task Force of Greater Lafayette, discuss their work for women's rights in Indiana.
Lafayette, Indiana organizers Megha Anwer and Melissa Gruver are used to struggling with a repressive administration—they've dealt with successive governors who want to crack down on labor rights and women's rights. Mike Pence, they note, was behind in the polls for re-election because of the work they had done to defeat him when he was swept up into the Trump campaign and ultimately the vice-presidency. Now "Pence country is spreading" and their organizing is getting correspondingly broader.
Melissa Gruver put like this:
"Folks need to know that Indiana was about to fire Mike Pence and then he became the Vice President of the United States. On one hand, that is kind of sad. It is like watching a horror movie and thinking the villain is gone and then, as the credits are about to role, he jumps into the back of the pickup truck of the heroine as they drive away and you just know… But, on the other hand, it is really powerful to remember we were about to beat Mike Pence. We can do that. Now there are more of us that are affected by the issue. We can connect with one another. Especially in Indiana, in a place that is not typically talked about as about the business of organizing. You might think Chicago. You don’t always think Indiana. But this state was organizing against this governor. We can do that as a country, too. We can connect. We don’t feel like we have gotten rid of him. We are not going to stop fighting it. We are not going anywhere."
She also described some creative approaches to campaigning for rights:
"We made Valentines for our elected officials related to reproductive justice and delivered those with Indiana Reproductive Justice. There were 2000 across the state that we delivered and we had meetings with elected officials."
We don’t do committees. We have squads. We have a reproductive justice squad, a women of color caucus, we make bath bombs to raise money. We call them Truth Bombs. It is kind of a Fight Club situation in my house. But, it is a great time because we connect with each other. We remember that we are creative. I think that is super important to us that the process and the product feel similar. If we say that we are better together, we shouldn’t be doing anything alone. When we canvass, we make sure we are at least in pairs. When we are making bath bombs, we get everybody together. It is about self-care. We are selling them to make money for our organization, but it is more than that. It is an organizing opportunity. It is helping people that may not have experience in community organizing feel like they can be connected to it. Then, that is how people can get their in. "
The world is trying to convince us that we are meant to just destroy things. We have to remember, especially now when it feels like everything is moving so fast and it feels like so many people are making it their full-time job to destroy things, we have to remember that we can work together to create a new world. We are working together to create something else beautiful."
Listen below for the full interview. Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast.