OurStates.org is a simple platform with a powerful message: we have to save our states. Organizers at Stay Woke created this resource after seeing that, despite the ferocity with which people were calling, protesting and organizing against Trump and Congress, bills that threatened to do the same damage were being introduced in states across the country and nobody was paying attention. Bills that would defund sanctuary cities and install dangerous TRAP laws to impede abortion access or roll back voting rights were everywhere.
Creator Sam Sinyangwe told The Tempest in an exclusive interview, “All of this was happening under the radar. It wasn’t part of the national conversation, you weren’t seeing state legislatures being flooded with calls the way Congress was, and so what we wanted to do was use our platform to focus people on the state level specifically so they could participate in resisting at that level too, given how important it is.”
So, Stay Woke did what they are best at: they crowdsourced the problem and made a tool for the public to address it.
The last project Stay Woke launched was the Resistance Manual, which is an open-source wiki on resisting the Trump regime and agenda.
“The Resistance Manual has a lot of state information but because there is so much information there it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. We launched OurStates as a way to make information that exists in the Resistance Manual more actionable and focused,” Aditi Juneja, a member of the OurStates planning team and the creator of the Resistance Manual told The Tempest.
The information on OurStates is compiled by the massive team of volunteers that have been gathered through Stay Woke, which pairs volunteers with projects that match their skill sets and political priorities. This team researches legislation on state legislature websites, Openstates.org and advocacy organization sites to learn about the bills, track them, and, ultimately, input them into the map at OurStates.
“We also work in partnership with advocacy organizations that are already working to track this stuff,” Sam adds. “For example, the ACLU has been doing a great job of tracking bills that relate to LGBTQ rights and so that has been a source for some of the information that you see there as well.”
There has been an awakening in the American political consciousness since the election, that much is clear, but many newer activists don’t have a firm grasp of exactly how states and the federal government interact. There is no requirement that users already understand the policies, how their state legislatures work or how many months out of the year they are in session.
OurStates has made the fight more accessible than it has ever been. Some states have limited legislating calendars and many are wrapping up legislation in the next two months, so the time to act in those states is now.
As Aditi says, “It serves both to create a sprint where it’s needed and to raise awareness more broadly.”
The states have been languishing from a progressive perspective. Thirty-two state legislatures are GOP-controlled and there have been significant losses across the progressive platform in the past eight years. Bills on these important social issues are going to go through on the state level and that is the kind of legislation that can have a devastating effect on communities long before the federal government can get to them.
Its creators, though, are hopeful that this tool will bring new life to the battle for progressive values in the states.
Calling state level legislators is a completely different experience to calling Congress.
“A state legislative district is about twelve times smaller than a member of Congress’s district,” Sam informed The Tempest, “and they don’t get that many calls or represent as large a community. These legislators will be much more receptive to constituents calling them. If we can continue to push for that, I think we can have real impact in the short term and in the long term as more people are engaged. Hopefully, that will translate into turnout, into people knowing who their state representative is, if they are voting in their interest and if not, maybe people will turn out to elect a new one.”
If you think you’d like to be involved in the creation of projects like this, you can get sign up at Stay Woke. You tell them what your skills are and they will put you to work on a project. You can also bring your project for them to consider and get support. Stay Woke and its projects are bottom-up movements, they are defined by the people who are doing the work on the ground so what are you waiting for?
Your state needs you.