Opinion: Yes We Can Fosters Neighborhood Unity through House Party Campaign
For two hours last night, close to 100 Columbus residents had something in common — they took steps toward giving their neighborhood a bigger say in the future of Columbus.
Groups of residents in neighborhoods citywide – Clintonville, Easton, Linden, the Hilltop, Old North and the South Side – gathered at their neighbors’ houses as part of Yes We Can Columbus’s House Party campaign.
“We chose a house party campaign because it helps to bring the voices and leadership of everyday people to the forefront,” said Adam Parsons, a South Sider who helped coordinate the campaign. “One thing I’ve learned talking to people around Columbus is that we often don’t think of what’s happening in our city — what’s getting built where, whether we fund police or community programs, which schools stay open and which close — as political questions in the same way as things happening at the state or national level.”
“There’s a lot of pressure in Columbus to act as if everything is going great, but most of us know that, along with all of the wonderful things about Columbus, we have real challenges, too,” Parsons continued. “I want people to feel comfortable thinking about local politics in terms of their day-to-day struggles.”
According to a PRRI poll conducted in 2016, fewer than half of the American people believe that their vote can make a difference, leading to decreased faith in government and feelings of powerlessness as citizens. In Columbus, neighborhoods have continuously voiced feeling like their political representatives aren’t standing up for the issues that affect them the most – issues like police brutality, the opportunity gap in Columbus Public Schools, income inequality and a lack of community resources.
“We feel silenced, and we have the power to change that,” said Ernest Whitted, who hosted a party from his home in Merion Village. “It’s time everyone had their voices heard and that the people leading us take the time to listen.”
About 20 citizens hosted these house parties, where they created a friendly and open environment for discussion, with a focus on having fun while doing it. Talking about politics can get heavy, so discussion leaders aimed to keep the environment casual, and the topics personal and meaningful rather than abstract and overwhelming.
And the discussion will not stop there. As a progressive political organization supporting a slate of independent Democrats for City Council and School Board, Yes We Can aims to give neglected neighborhoods a larger voice in local politics. The organization plans to incorporate the feedback into their campaign plan.
Following these conversations, hosts and attendees will meet at a community picnic on August 19 to get together and continue the conversation on how to build a better Columbus.