Anita Kinney

Policy Advocacy CLC

SIT Graduate Institute

Jeff Unsicker

When I started at SIT, I had no idea that Policy Advocacy would be the direction of my path.  I was raised not to speak about politics or religion over the dinner table.  My family would talk about politics very little and what I knew about it, I didn’t want to know.  Never big on being informed about what was going on around me, there was no incentive for me to be inquisitive about politics.  I watched “I’m Just a Bill”.  I read my social studies books.  Schoolhouse Rock taught me all I needed to know about politics and from the way people talked about the rest of the government and lawyers and elections and presidents, I knew that I wanted nothing to do with it because it had nothing to do with me, and it was all negative.  I could cry right now thinking about the fact that millions and millions of people in this country feel that same way and are convinced that their problems are their own, they created them, they can’t fix them, and therefore “that’s life”.  I grew up in an sexually abusive, neglectful household.  I lived in a car as a toddler and I learned what hunger feels like.  I denounced the existence of God at the age of seven, all because I was alone.  There wasn’t anyone out there who was working on my team.  By the grace of something in the Universe however, I was saved from falling into the traps of poverty and depression by Earle and Juanita Moore, my maternal grandparents.  They lifted me up and treated me with respect and love – the most important aspect of any political work.  They encouraged me to do my best and eventually, that’s how I ended up thriving in this world.  They wouldn’t allow me to be any less than they knew I could be and they taught me that I was strong, didn’t need to take any junk from anyone, and that my voice mattered.  I made mostly A’s in school (excluding conduct grades of course) and excelled in music and vocal performance.  I got a job working in a local Italian restaurant.  Finally I had something to live for that wasn’t rebellion against abuse.  I have a life and immeasurable gratitude for it.  That’s the most abridged version of my life I’ve ever written, but it must be included in order to comprehend why I am on this path, this road of activism, confronting powerful and damaging forces and speaking out against injustice.  I was alone and someone spoke up for me.  I was helpless to a systemic system of callousness and abuse.  My world was small until I was shown that the world had love.  All of a sudden, because someone was MY advocate, I could then, in turn, be my own.  I owe my grandparents indefinitely for the passions of my work, they are the reasons I exist at all.  Through their support, I began to have the courage to open my heart to listen to others, to accept criticism and failures, to be able to hear words of encouragement and listen to my heart.  And along the way, I have been blessed to have important mentors and friends who support me and guide me along as long as I am able.

Coming to grad school at SIT Gradate Institute, I thought that I would be studying social justice, go into the Peace Corps, and be able to give back what I owed to those who altered the course of my life.  I thought I could “go out and change the world”.  Turns out, my backyard was the place that needed fixing.  I realized that the work I needed to do was to go back home and advocate for the people who grew up poor and marginalized, advocate for myself.  Our world is run by a system of exploitation, riddled with contradiction after contradiction; capitalism rippling out from the center of it all, touching every life on this planet.  The issue of accumulation of wealth creating the need for markets and hijacking any sense of community once everything becomes a commodity doesn’t sit well with me.  It’s like being abused by an invisible hand, something is not right – there is so much needless suffering and it could start to end.  My work to get big money out of elections stems with Democracy Matters and a whole coalition of other activist organizations, comes from this unsettling realization of how our world works.  If we must have this overarching, conscious-less system, we have to start somewhere in order to change it for the good of everyone and for the continued existence of Us on this planet.  I think starting with who represents us and how they get into power is the crux of that solution.

Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  My life is intrinsically connected to everyone else’s.  My fate is your fate.  My pain is your pain.  Your journey is mine.  If you are experiencing injustice and harm, I am too.  This is what drives my policy advocacy work.  A love of humanity as love of self.  There can be no peace in this world, without true justice and that will only come through advocating for those in need, speaking up for ourselves and not waiting for any super heroes.  On the shoulders of giants we stand, those of our history who fought tooth and nail for justice to be realized – and that battle may be eternal, but this is the train I choose to be on.  I owe it to those fighters, those protesters, those marchers, those non-violent agitators who highlighted what was wrong in this world.  They fought for EVERYONE’s voice to count, for my voice to count as a woman, as a worker, as a student, as a granddaughter.  I want to be a voice for those who feel like I did, alone and powerless.  If a small percentage of people and corporations can buy elections, then where’s the power lie?  STILL in the hands of the people.  Still in the power of the vote and of citizen participation.  If your vote doesn’t matter, then why do people try so hard to take it away?  Why did people die for the right to have a voice in this country?  If a small group of people start to stand up to power, the rest can feel justified and supported to stand up too.  Apathy cannot live when there is an engaged citizenry, willing to do the work necessary to make democracy work for them.  That’s what I’m doing. I want a system of public financing of elections in this country, in all states.  If We the People own the elections, then the chosen representatives work for US.  What they are supposed to do!   By advocating for fair elections, I am attempting to make democracy work as a true representation of the human beings it is designed for.