Reforming | Repairing | Returning
To truly RECLAIM WE in a new era focusing on the common good, we must tend to our democracy as an organic, interdependent, interconnected domain. Here are a few examples of how Civic Nebraska, along with everyday Nebraskans, is doing just that.
RABBLE MILL, Lincoln
Before the 2020 election, Rabble Media and Civic Nebraska partnered in a project called NE Young Voters. Through youth-focused messaging, the project educated 18- to 24-year-old Nebraskans about voting and encouraged them to participate in the election. The youth vote helped power record participation in Nebraska in November.
DAMION SAYERS, Omaha
Damion owns and operates a neighborhood barbershop and is an advocate for childhood literacy. He and others created the North Omaha Barbershop Books project, in which owners stock up on children’s books so that when families come in for a cut, kids can open one up to read – or even take one home.
LINDSAY LIMBACH, Lincoln
Lindsay, a specialist for Lincoln Community Learning Centers, was a community leader during the pandemic. She partnered with Little Free Pantries to install a micro food pantry on her front lawn so neighbors and children could access food during a time of uncertainty. After having just recently moved into her neighborhood, Lindsay was selected to be on the board of her neighborhood association. A testimony of optimism, she’s proud to be there for her neighbors.
ERICA KOBZA, Fremont
In 2020, Erica co-founded Together 4 Fremont, a group of local educators who value anti-racism, inclusivity, equity, and access – and who educate, advocate, and act around those values. T4F launched Feeding Fremont, which helped children who couldn’t access free food because of unreliable transportation. Kobza and partners connected volunteer drivers with food-insecure families and served thousands of local children.
JA KEEN FOX, Omaha
Following the May 30, 2020, killing of James Scurlock in Omaha amid a nationwide mobilization against police violence, Ja Keen organized and sustained protests, trained community organizers, facilitated cross-community conversations, and consistently used his growing platform to affect change. It made him more than a few adversaries, but his persistence is an example of breaking the spell of the status quo.
RANDY BRETZ, Lincoln
Each evening at 8 during the pandemic’s early days, Randy stepped onto his front porch and applauded for his city’s healthcare workers. Soon his neighbors joined him in the nightly ritual – and before long, it became a powerful method for casual neighbors to become responsible, caring friends.
GABRIELLA PARSONS, Lincoln
Working with the Tenant Assistance Project and History Nebraska, the filmmaker created the half-hour documentary Behind On Rent, which put a heartbreaking, inspiring, and resilient human face to the eviction crisis in Nebraska during the pandemic. By the end of 2021, it had been viewed more than 160,000 times on YouTube, swept up national honors, and had drawn local and state lawmakers’ attention.
VALERIA RODRIGUEZ, Scottsbluff
Valeria founded Empowering Families, which builds a more welcoming community through education, civic participation and empowerment. Valeria’s work focuses on areas of Scottsbluff with a majority-minority population rich in cultural diversity but lagging in some measures of engagement. Through relationship-building, Valeria has helped push COVID-19 vaccination drives, get-out-the-vote canvassing, and a host of other community connection points.
VIRTUAL CAPITOL EXPERIENCE
Because our popular Capitol Experience Day field trips for the state’s middle- and high-schoolers were sidelined by COVID, we brought the Nebraska State Capitol to them instead. We packaged a virtual tour of the State Capitol, video appearances with state senators, judges, and the executive branch, and resources for students and teachers to open the doors to our state’s unique government from border to border.
When the world went dark, Civic Nebraska’s digital platforms lit up. CIVIC U. launched live, virtual at-home activities, read-alouds and connection circles, in-home academic enrichment, and up-to-date information about civic engagement, the census, and voting rights. Today, the “U” continues to serve students and adults statewide.
THE CIVILITY EFFECT
In late winter 2021, Civic Nebraska partnered with a team of students at Nebraska U. to educate and motivate the state’s communications professionals on the importance of civil discourse in the public sphere. The result was The Civility Effect, a campaign that earned the students national honors and provided Nebraska PR pros and others valuable tools to keep the conversation going.
SPEAK UP FOR HOUSING RIGHTS
Thousands of Nebraskans faced eviction and housing insecurity during the pandemic, a crisis that continues today. With a dozen other civic, educational, and art organizations, Civic Nebraska launched Speak Up For Housing Rights, a campaign centered in Lincoln but whose effects have been felt statewide. Speak Up’s communitarian message continues today – get involved at SpeakUpLNK.org.
In a time of deep anxiety, disconnectedness, and polarization, Civic Nebraska convened space for people to come together in civic community to reflect on and rededicate ourselves to the values and practices of being a contributing member in civic life. Civic Saturdays connect us around the values and practices of being an active citizen, reckon with and reflect on our nation’s creed, and build relationships that create new civic traditions that are joyful and communal.
SUMMER OF CIVIC RENEWAL
In June and July 2021, our Grand Island HQ buzzed with optimism. Our Civic Health and Voting Rights Initiatives teams combined to empower our central Nebraska Voting Rights Advocates in their efforts to build and maintain civic wellness – social connectedness, political involvement, community engagement, and faith in institutions – in their respective towns and cities.
FORMING A MORE PERFECT UNION
In the 2021-22 school year, Civic Nebraska launched Forming A More Perfect Union, a nonpartisan before- and after-school K-12 curriculum that reinforces and enriches civic learning. It’s our mission to cultivate the next generation of civic leaders and lifelong learners.
RECLAIMING WE: THE BOOK
We all agree democracy needs strengthening – but how? In April, as vaccines were going into arms and pandemic restrictions were lifted, we published our first book addressing that very question. Reclaiming WE: Twenty Everyday Acts to Strengthen the Common Good and Defend Democracy lays out simple ways to fortify our shared civic life in America. Get it at bitly.com/ReclaimWe.