Updated: Nov 1, 2020
By Giulia Becker Miller
Photo from TICOORG Instagram page
The COVID-19 Pandemic has readjusted the routines of every global citizen. The world was on lockdown, still is in many areas, and with all of the time we are not spending commuting, we find more time to spend on other activities. Some people found their workdays getting longer, their beds starting to feel more like desks and their phones dinging constantly from emails, Slack or classic groups chats. Dads are tapping into their paternal side, being reintroduced to quality time. Netflix has been subscribed to at record high numbers; this one is hardly a surprise considering they added Avatar: the Last Airbender to their watchlist.
Despite the change in routine, there is yet a world outside and a community we are all a part of, whether this seems to be true at the moment or not. Black Lives Matter is marching with masks in the fight for justice and humanity. Control over bodily autonomy is at risk due to new court rulings. Half of the United States is on fire.
If you were aware of these events, you may have likely suffered from pandemic-helplessness or lack-of-activism-guilt. While binging Tiger King with your dad, you ignored all of those emails from your boss and contemplated your morality in relation to activism. The Institute for Civic Organizing (TICO) offered an opportunity to leave that pity-party and participate in activism through education and inspiration.
SNAPcon, an acronym for “Scholarship Now and Activism Post-Pandemic Conference,” was a virtual event that took place on August 29th, 2020, hosted by an up and coming non-partisan activist organization: TICO. The event was intended to “create a network and space for people who want to be involved in organizing to get together and learn... get involved and inspired.” There is no doubt that this event succeeded in the overall end goal.
SNAPcon dared the onlooker to learn. The event allowed those who want to become active and educated, an accessible, progressive and inclusive opportunity. Through this conference a chance of engagement was issued. During this pandemic, TICO insisted that we utilize this time not spent commuting to college or to the polls — that instead we apply this time to the education of individuals on successful activism. Let the extra time we spend at home be an opportunity for intellectual growth; once we move past the pandemic, let this intellectual experience blossom into a movement, a community of organizers demanding justice, equity and equality through all possible facets of change in the most successful manner that has been seen through history.
The event was attended by three amazing speakers who offered advice and motivation to the attendees. The chat was filled with encouragement of their words and questions to be asked. TICO members exhibited their successes as an organization and goals to be achieved in the near future by their dedication and drive.
A number of different perspectives were offered from the speakers on topics from voting to protesting. Beautiful anecdotes and quotes were shared. Ultimately, the speakers all agreed on one concept: we need change. How we go about achieving this change is what TICO hopes to research, learn, teach, inspire and ultimately incite.
On voting, Ellen L. Weintraub, attorney and Commissioner of the Federal Elections Commission, encouraged Generation Z and other young people to show up and show out, to flood the polls with our demands. She confronted our great flaw as a generation, “Young people do not have a great track record of voting,” and yet, she recognized the potential of power we have at the polls. She teased us for our rebelliousness, “You wouldn’t let your grandparents choose your clothing, or your music or your boyfriends and girlfriends;” and encouraged it further, “Don’t let them choose your representatives and government officials.”
On contacting local government officials, Jael Kerandi, the first black undergraduate student body president at the University of Minnesota, inspired us to remind our representatives who is the boss. We as constituents deem their qualifications and credentials proficient to represent our communities by casting our ballots at the polls; we are the taxpayers who fund the careers that these officials live on. As a result, we must act as the boss of the employees also known as our local, state and federal representatives. Kerandi informed us on how to go about being boss: “When you're talking to your local officials... it's important for them to understand that this perspective [Black Lives Matter] is not a matter of ideology; it’s life we are talking about here and if they don’t value the lives of their citizens then I begin to question their intent on being a local official and wanting to serve.” Kerandi’s words emboldened accountability on the part of officials and action on the part of citizens. She insisted, “Find your local activists and work with those individuals.”
On being aware and informed, Josh Payne, Founder and Director of the COVID-19 Response Innovation Lab, reiterated the inspiration for SNAPcon in the first place. When confronted with an ideology, a belief or opinion or even bigotry, “It’s important to be that guiding light and to show people how the world is… to show people what they need to know to make an informed and educated decision.” There is responsibility on the backs of each individual in society to educate oneself and those around you on the events affecting your community — there is a more severe responsibility on the backs of those in power and privilege to educate themselves on the mistakes and misgivings that their own communities have reckoned onto others. Payne brought the conversation right back to TICO’s ultimate goal: education.
As Kerandi stated during the conference, “We’ve gotten to a point where the conversations have become circular... you’re asking a community to fix a problem they never created.” TICO through their assembly, curriculum, and mission, intend to cut that cycle off, their mission being to create a far more effective cycle of political and community participation that continuously checks itself, learns from others and includes all in the community.
Graphic from TICOORG website: ”About” page
Josh Payne left the conference with a final thought: “A lot of people have this mental block... they are filled with ideas and they have the best intentions… yet they come up with excuses not to do it. But if they took action, that could have turned into the next big idea. Act on your ideas and impulses. Keep in mind that when you take action, amazing things will happen.” SNAPcon asked those who have even the slightest interest in community involvement and betterment to not make excuses—to put down the remote, to add activism as a second job, to tell your dad that you have to go be an activist, or better yet, to invite him along.
If you missed out on SNAPcon, fret not. TICO has a number of plans for the future that involve more community building, organizing and congregating. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all of your other social media platforms @ticoorg. If you aspire to be an activist but don’t know where to start, TICO is the organization to look to. They are shaping and forming school textbooks, lessons, and entire classes to implement community and civic-organizing in the average classroom. Participate and encourage this venture—communities have the possibility of prospering with proper education and motivation.
Kerandi left the event with a spine chilling quote, “Everyone has a purpose. Be creative, be strategic but remain relentless. Make others understand that we are not going to quit. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. It’s okay to take a moment for yourself but when you have the capacity and the energy, get back to it.”
This pandemic has locked our individual bodies down into our homes but this does not mean that our communities are on lockdown. Quite the opposite is suggested with TICO and SNAPcon. To extend a sentiment of SNAPcon off of Kerandi’s last quote, let this pandemic serve as a hibernation into education. Inform yourself, remain relentless. Know that this hibernation is giving you and our communities the resources and strength to come out stronger, better, and more together than ever.
Written by writer Giulia Becker Miller