On April 30th at 7am, a group of 30 students from Friends Seminary as well as members from the Kalief Browder Foundation drove up to Albany to lobby for the H.A.L.T Solitary Confinement Act to be pushed onto the floor immediately. After we arrived, we were divided up into groups of 3 and given schedules/room numbers of different senators and representatives that we were booked to have a 5-10 minute meeting with. Meeting with politicians one on one, not just watching a video through a screen or reading some quotes, was an immensely valuable experience. I was able to see how easy it was to get wrapped up in the eloquence of one’s words and realize 10 minutes later at the end of the meeting that they had not managed to even broach the one question we had asked. It was frustrating but a kind of frustration that pushed to only be more direct, emphatic, knowledgable of the facts and ensure that we got the answer that we wanted next: for these senators and represtatnive to vote YES when H.A.L.T. was placed on the floor. The other memorable part of our trip was the replica of a solitary cell. Once inside, the room seems to drop 10 degrees. The greys on the wall became unsettling, the soundtrack of crying, insufferable mumbling, and an unbreakably loud silence is overwhelming. Once the door closes and you are left alone, arguments of money, budgeting, and priorities are drowned out by the immediate sense of despair and isolation that covers every inch of the room. The Albany Lobbying trip is an experience that taught me more than any political class could ever as well as instilled in me an understanding about the utmost necessity of fighting for those who do not have a voice in a world that works to only silence them further.
The most challenging aspect of this project was learning how to work with my group. Our communication was really rough throughout the process and we struggled to share our workloads equally. Often times most of the workload was placed on an indivusals while the other two did not actively participate in the making of our presentation, research, interview, and speech. We struggled to find times to work together and to practice but it was very rewarding to come together and see what we could accomplish if we all shared our parts. After visiting Catholic Charities I know that I want to come back to work with the food pantries that they offer. Their caring community makes their opportunities seem more appealing and approachable. Since they have multiple organizations throughout the city, they make it very easy to sign up for opporntuies.
Catholic Charities USA website: https://catholiccharitiesusa.org