Organizing an ‘unstoppable force for good’ in Central Minnesota

Greater Minnesota Summit: Saturday, March 12, 10am-2pm
Blog author Alissa with her Benton/Stearns County Progressives pals picket for racial justice in St. Cloud, Minnesota

This is the story of the moment when I decided: Enough is enough. I’m going to find Central Minnesota neighbors who will stand beside me against Trump and Trumpism, for communities that protect, include, and value everyone — across race, gender, sexuality, immigration status, income, and disability.

It was the summer of 2020. The “Trump train” was running across the country. Big trucks lined up with Confederate flags and Trump flags, attempting to stoke nationalism, racism, and sexism in communities large and small. I’d seen photos and videos of the train in the South, and then I heard they were coming to Minnesota — to my hometown. 

I made a post in the Nasty Women of Minnesota Facebook group, asking who would hold signs with me as the Trump train rolled through town. One person responded, and just from that one connection, I felt such relief. I thought, “There have to be more people in my community who are fed up, too.”

We didn’t end up holding signs. My husband was worried about us taking a public risk in small numbers. But my resolve hadn’t faded — and neither had my frustration.

So, I started the Benton/Stearns County Progressives Facebook group and started sharing it around. Suddenly, I had two members, then they invited their local friends, and it grew to 30, 50, then 80 people. With the pandemic in full force, there was so much fear. This growing online community felt like medicine. I started loading my car with signs for Biden and our local candidates and delivering them to my group. Every delivery gave me a connection — whether it was a wave from a window or a masked hello. I realized that the group was bringing people together.

A billboard with white and yellow text on a black background: "Black Lives Matter. Paid for by the Benton Stearns Area Progressives - PO Box (not visible) Saint Cloud, MN 56302
The Black Lives Matter billboard purchased by Alissa’s progressive Facebook group, “Benton/Stearns Area Progressives.”

A month later, the group brainstormed about something we could do to make an impact on our area, especially in light of Minneapolis protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by MPD. Within a week, we raised enough money and put up a Black Lives Matter billboard.

Not long after, I headed to the St. Cloud Women’s March with my Biden and “Love your neighbor” signs. I met the organizers of our local march there. One was even a member of my Facebook group. Before the march started, they asked me to jump on a bench and speak to the crowd. 

I’d never made that kind of public speech before, and that day, I spoke from the heart. I talked about what it means to have control over our own bodies — and the people trying to take that away from us. I talked about the world we could have. Then, I told the crowd about my group and the impact we’d had on our area in only a month. By the time I left the march, I had made more connections and set a coffee date with the person who’d organized the day’s events. When I got home, I had 30 notifications on Facebook from people asking to join. 

Today, over a year and a half later, the Benton/Stearns County Progressives have become a force to reckon with in our area. In fact, St. Cloud is being touted as the next progressive city in Minnesota. We’ve held flags in number, raised grassroots money to put up beautiful billboards, and moved voters to elect candidates who will fight for the future we deserve. We’ve stood up for racial and gender equity over and over again. We’ve stood up for change and acceptance. We are a force of 850 people, in what has long been known as a deeply red area of Minnesota, loudly declaring that we believe in justice and love for everyone — especially our Black and Indigenous neighbors and neighbors of color. That is the part I am most proud of — that we are creating a strong, inclusive, caring community. I didn’t realize how far of a reach we’d had until we were nominated for an MLK Humanitarian Award this past January. I was shocked.

Alissa’s son, Sam, delivering Biden/Harris signs to Central Minnesota neighbors

We have a huge fight coming. The MAGA faction is trying to control the narrative and the conversations that happen at school board and city council meetings. The Benton/Stearns County Progressives will organize together, recruiting and backing bold, people-centered candidates for local and state offices. 

A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be in this fight. I am so grateful and hopeful about what we can accomplish together because of who is on my team. We’re do-ers, changers, and good trouble makers. We’re going to make our region a better place for the next generation. Even better, the generation we are raising will be unstoppable forces for good. I truly believe that.  

We need everyone in this fight — and that’s why I chose to be on the team planning the Greater Minnesota Summit on Saturday, March 12. I’d love to see you there. Together, we’ll build connections and grow our organizing skills to win on the issues and candidates we care about during the 2022 elections. 

Sign up now to join me at the Summit, and invite a friend! I can’t wait to connect and organize with you. 

Alissa (she/her) was born in Michigan City, Indiana, and moved to rural Iowa when she was ten. Her experiences witnessing racial inequities as a child shaped her determination to organize for a more just world. Today, she is a mother of three, plus two bonus kids; an independent photographer; PCA; Special Ed. Paraprofessional; community theater actress; connector of people; avid reader; and “good trouble” maker. Alissa is proud to call the St. Cloud area her home.

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