Fancy Shoes: A Cautionary tale about meeting with Congress

Authors: Josh Lynch

I don't always wear loafers to work. So it was fitting that the one day I do decide to go fancy, I end up sweaty and late.

This Monday I found myself in my shiny maroon loafers - running the five blocks from Congresswoman Barbara Lee's district office back to the Green For All office to get my ID, which I had left on my desk. It was a hot day and this was only the second meeting with a Congressional staffer I'd ever had. I finally made it there ten minutes late to see that my crew of Green For All friends had it all under control and were still waiting in the lobby for Dominique Nisperos, the Congresswoman's head of Green Jobs and the Environment to arrive.

The meeting included myself, Ashel Eldridge of Oakland Resilience Alliance, Zakiya Harris with Grind for the Green, Emily Kirsch with Ella Baker Center, Gabriel Elsner with CalPIRG, Aaron, an intern in the Congresswoman's office, and Ms. Nisperos. The point of this meeting was to ask the Congresswoman to be a champion for a strong Climate and Energy Bill (American Clean Energy and Security Act - ACES) in Congress. We presented Ms. Nisperos with a sheet describing our three main asks for the Climate Bill - invest in large-scale energy efficiency projects, ensure quality, family-supporting jobs, and allocate significant resources toward green pathway out of poverty training programs and wraparound services. She soaked it all in, asked some poignant questions, and asked us to stay in touch to help her in this new role of her's.

Despite the nerve-racking start for me, the meeting ended up being a success. In addition to getting our message across, we were able to leave the Congresswoman with a gift from our Green For All family - a photo book of 50,000+ signatures on the "I'm Ready for Green Jobs Now" petition from last fall as well as some of the best photos of Green Jobs Now. Ms. Nisperos thanked us for the gift and said she probably knew a few faces in the Oakland photo on page 1.

After the meeting I got a chance to catch up with my friend and fellow meeting attendee Ashel Eldridge, a Green For All Fellow and organizer with the Oakland Resilience.

Q: What was the most important take-away from this meeting with Congresswoman Barbara Lee's office?

A: The interesting thing about it was that she was requesting examples from us. From being in Oakland as an organizer, I know that the need for that office to receive examples to buttress the administration in terms of job creation is so important. We saw once again that there has to be a grassroots calling for what we want. It needs to be concerted efforts to get through the smoke and mirrors.

Q: How would you describe her reaction to our questions and asks?

A: She was absorbing everything. She was very inquisitive. There were some things that she was aware of and some things that she needed more detail. There was a lot of alliance with our cause. She talked about how necessary the literacy for people is and the need for wraparound services with green jobs.

Q: Do you have any thoughts or advice to others who would want to meet with their Congressperson?

A: Ask as many questions as you can. One thing I could have done better is to more specifically ask how she can leverage her power. What is the Congressional Black Caucus doing? What are you doing within Congress to rally other leaders? Who are your allies and how do we support you?

What she knew about was Cypress Mandela training program for green jobs in Oakland. But there are a few steps before that that can be implemented which require case workers, mental health workers, etc. These soft skills services need to be involved in this conversation more. That will make this more relevant for the communities we are talking with.

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