Empowerment through Civic Engagment

Courtneyby Courtney Stone

Courtney Stone is the Community Organizing Manager at the Independence Center. She gave this speech at the 2015 Creating Community Breakfast.

My name is Courtney Stone and I am a community organizer at The Independence Center. My job is to work to empower people with disabilities to live independent lives and one of the best ways to begin feeling empowered is to become civically engaged. Whether it’s volunteering or voting, investing in our community only makes us individually and collectively stronger.

Citizen’s Project mission is similar to my own, which is why I’m so happy to work together on the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition. Through our membership, the Coalition engaged thousands of people in our local elections in both November and April. We are proud of the work we have done.

To give you a sense of what we accomplished, I’m going to  throw some statistics your way. We wrote 13,000 postcards, made 12390 phone calls, and knocked on 3,193 doors. If every phone call and postcard took an average of a minute, and every door knock took an average of two minutes, we could have watched 528 hours of Netflix instead of volunteering our time. I could have spent a half hour cleaning my house 1056 times.

But more important than the numbers are the stories. My good friend Keesha is definitely a voting hero. You wouldn’t believe it when you get to know her, but Keesha is a convicted felon for a nonviolent crime. She didn’t believe she would have the opportunity to vote again, until she found out that she IS eligible to vote because she is off parole. Unfortunately, Keesha did not have an easy time exercising her right to vote. Due to unforeseeable circumstances, she had to return to the City Clerk’s office 3 different times in order to receive and then turn in her ballot. Keesha depends on public transportation to get around, making her voting adventure that much more challenging. Finally, she was able to turn in her ballot – and most importantly, get her “I Voted” sticker.

But that’s not where her story ends. Keesha volunteers regularly to do get out the vote outreach. She’s an absolute natural at encouraging people to vote, because she genuinely realizes what a privilege it is to do so. She’s written the postcards, made the phone calls, knocked on doors – and it all started with learning about her rights. That is the value of Citizen’s Project. Giving people back their voice, with education, with advocacy, and with passion. And not only giving people back their voice, but engaging them with more opportunities to empower themselves and create change in our community.

Citizen’s Project creates community. It’s a community that cares about whether all voices are being heard. It’s a community that believes that our churches should not run our states. It’s a community that values equality, because of our shared humanity. It’s a community that is truly engaged in creating a world that we all want to live in. I, for one, am proud to be a part of the community that Citizen’s Project creates and am excited to continue investing in our community together.

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