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By Mary-Pat Hector

From the time I could talk, I was loud and opinionated, especially about the rights of those disenfranchised and pushed to the margins of society.  Though not calling it democracy back then, I believed being heard by the powers-that-be would make a difference. My adamant pitch and passion was always met by opponents bent on silencing and shutting me down.

One hurdle after another, this Black girl-child coming of age in the deep South eventually realized going it alone to get results was an impossible feat.

I found my tribe — a chorus of like-minded voices — all screaming synchronously at the top of our lungs. Together, we unharnessed the secret to being heard, fighting back, and making an impact.

In this “off-year” election, the primal scream of voters reverberated. The message is simple. They’ve had enough of being dismissed, denied, and deceived.

The stunning wins for the abortion rights movement in ruby-red Ohio, deep-purple Virginia, and light-blue Pennsylvania were not about party or candidate victories. It was a full-throttle response to disinformation maneuvers by extremists who are clueless about how democracy works or that it can work.

This victory can’t be claimed by one state or coalition alone. It is part of a still roaring scream, pushing to the tipping point a changing landscape to exact a people’s victory that proclaims democracy is us. Grassroots organizers, nonprofit advocacy groups, and institutions committed to public interest are the small “d” democrats who are saving the day.

From Vermont to Virginia, Kansas to Kentucky, Montana to Maine, the call is loud and crystallizing. Politicians should read the edict from voters, not the latest polling data.

Just as abortion rights in the post-Dobbs era have triggered unstoppable pushback and movements in ballot campaigns, constitutional amendments, and legislatures across the country, groundswells of voices for change are surging and coming to their feet around gun safety and climate change; saying NO to book banning and assaults on LGBTQ rights; demanding clean water in Jackson and Flint; and justice for workers on picket lines at work sites nationwide.

There is a well-paved path of civic engagement animated by people devoted to action and advocacy. Together, we are the connective tissue of democracy. You don’t need an advanced degree to read the message plainly spelled out on November 7.

Without abstractions or caveats, the voters are collectively embracing authentic solutions. Across generational, demographic, and geographic divides, we are responding to issues that hit hard where we live, impacting real-life choices and everyday circumstances.

What’s motivating us with each new ballot initiative is our demand to raise our voices for ownership of our civic life. We can secure common sense solutions that speak to an elevated form of basic brilliance.

We know the role of government is to help, not hinder, obstruct, or enter the corridors of our personal lives. Rights denied, reversed, or taken away will ultimately spur movements.

My call to action to anyone unsure they hold power in their voice: join a group that shares your values. Get involved. Speak, meet, organize, and act. Become the movement to plow the ground and plant the fertile seeds of change.

Mary-Pat Hector is CEO of Rise, a student/youth activist and action organization. The Atlanta native is an author, playwright, and organizer whose democracy journey began at 9; at 19, she was the youngest woman to seek political office in Georgia, losing by a mere 22 votes.