Overflow crowd shares ideas, action plans at grassroots group's meeting
03/07/2017 11:49AM ● Published by Richard Gaw
On the morning of Saturday, Feb. 18, about 40 community members gathered in a lower level meeting room at the Kennett Library to hear the objectives of Indivisible KSQ, a newly-formed collective of concerned citizens who want to open more doors and help more people.
On the morning of March 4, the lower level meeting room at the library again served as the site of group's meeting. Yet, in a space that comfortably holds no more than 25, an audience of more than 100 attended, filling every available seat, packing every narrow aisle, and arching their heads four-deep at the door at the front of the room, in order to see and hear what was happening inside.
Over the course of the 90-minute meeting, the group communicated ideas and put plans to action, with specific emphasis on strengthening communication between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities, throwing their support to the Hispanic population in the face of kicked-up immigration and customs enforcement measures, and addressing the issue of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania.
"Our goal is to revitalize American democracy, empower progressive leaders, and elevate the political consciousness of our community," said moderator and KSQ Invisible member Laura Florence. "We are working together to model the values of inclusion, respect and fairness, and we realize that we are all connected, and that our diversity is our strength."
"We are here as an action and a resource and a networking group, whatever we decide to do, it's with that intention."
The first topic of discussion helped determine ways that the group can provide solutions for -- and integrate with -- the local Hispanic community, where a wave of fear has set in as a result of aggressive efforts by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to canvas the Hispanic neighborhoods throughout the Kennett Square area.
Paola Rosas,a board member with La Communidad Hispana, said that "the fear in this is real." At one point in the meeting, Rosas served as an English interpreter for an Hispanic mother of four who received a visit from ICE representatives the day before. She said that the authorities briefly detained her husband, and took her fingerprints. An audience member advised that the woman be given a document that lists recommendations for undocumented citizens, in preparation for ICE intervention.
Several in the group said that the need to find access to legal resources for the Hispanic community is crucial. Some suggested that a Crowdsource account be set up in order to raise funds to pay for legal fees for undocumented citizens in the Kennett Square area.
In response to the idea that suggested that there be more participation moving forward from the Hispanic population, Rosas said that she would engage the community to create a better visibility in cooperation with Indivisible KSQ.
"It's overwhelming to see how many people do really care," she said. "When you are listening constantly to the fears of the Hispanic community, it can be very daunting, but to see people here who want to help is very nice."
Amy Smith, who arrived in the Kennett Square area ten years ago with her family, said that she and her husband "hand-picked" the area as a place to raise their family, based on what they saw was a commitment to diversity. Smith, along with Rosas, began Unidos ("United"), a local group that serves as a tool to further open up communication lines between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities.
"I cannot believe how many people in this community value that diversity, and that message needs to get across to our minority groups, whether it is the LGBT community, the Jewish community or the Hispanic community," she said. "The energy of the people in this room and their passion behind uniting our community is just as real as the fear that grips our community.
"It hurts for people to hear about the fear, and a lot of them don't want to hear that the fear is real," she added. "By sharing these stories, it takes bravery and courage, and the people who are willing to listen to the painful truth. It's easier not to share these stories, but you have to feel pain in order to get to progress."
Another talking point in the meeting -- and potential action -- was to link Indivisible KSQ with The New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, a grassroots organization led by affected immigrants who organize direct action campaigns and tactics, in response to ICE intervention.
Michael Guttman of Kennett Township said that the economic impact of deportation efforts in the entire community will be tremendous.
"If we start to show how this will destroy the economic fabric of this community, that's a different argument to a different audience, and it hits right at their pocketbooks and right at the politicians who are not stepping up to them," he said. "This has to be a major platform in a movement like this, in order to get the right attention."
The meeting then shifted its concerns to the issue of gerrymandering in the Commonwealth, a practice that manipulates election district boundaries to guarantee one party's win.
Kennett Square Borough council member Wayne Braffman, representing FairDistrictsPA, invited the group to attend the council's March 6 meeting, when the borough considered a resolution aimed at preventing the gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts for political benefit in Pennsylvania.
"In each municipality in Chester County, we want to approach the municipal governing body...and request that each of those governing bodies adopt a resolution supporting fair, independent, non-partisan redistricting reform," he said. "We want to make it a big, public high-profile action, which is also educational and informative for the people who don't know about it."
Several audience members told Braffman that they would be interested in volunteering to approach their municipality's leaders to push for anti-gerrymandering legislation.
Several volunteers who attended the meeting agreed to help create a social media presence for the group, including a blog, Twitter and Instagram accounts. The imperative of its social media goals, several members said, should be to use it as a tool to advocate for its causes, and a wellspring for articulating the group's talking points, as well as ideas from visitors.
Portions of the meeting were documented by a few members of the audience on their cell phone cameras, for a group called Brave New Films, who is currently creating a documentary about allies who are helping immigrant communities in the U.S.
Indivisible KSQ is the local response to a nation-wide movement that's been gaining steam in the last few months. More than 4,500 local groups have signed up to resist the Trump agenda in nearly every congressional district in the country, by aggressive letter-writing campaigns, flooding congressional phone lines, and traveling en masse to district offices and events.
The more-than-capacity attendance, many said, requires that the group find a larger venue for their upcoming meetings, as well as provide English-Spanish translation for all attendees.
After the meeting, Florence re-emphasized the group's definition.
"We are not a single-issue group," she said. "We're a unified group of concerned people without just one voice, and without just one topic. It's a group of citizens who simply care about their community. They want to help the people who are needing help in that community. They do not want to discriminate. They want to empower people, and rectify the problems they see in the community, as a collective.
"We are non-partisan, non-religious, and welcome everybody regardless of party, race, ethnicity and economics, and we're trying or best to try to include all of those people. We want to ask, 'Where are the barriers, and how do we break those barriers?'"
To learn more about Indivisible KSQ, write to indivisibleKSQ@gmail.com. To learn more about gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, visit www.FairDistrictsPA.com.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com .