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Organizing a Journey for Justice Event: Writing a News Release

Organizing Journey Events
Journey Event Introduction
Organizing a Public Event
Find a Journey Leader

Register as a Journey XActivist
Types of Meetings
XSpeaker's Forum
XDiscussion Group
XPrivate Meeting
XMedia Appearance

Technical Assistance
Choosing a Meeting Location
Order Supplies

Publicity - You Want It!
XGetting an Audience
XYou and the Media
XNewspaper Listing
XRadio/TV Bulletin (PSA)
XNews Releases & Samples
XDesigning Flyers/Posters
XUsing Mail and Phone
XUsing the Internet!
XPublicizing a Journey Event XXon our Website

Sign-up Sheets/Petitions
Phone Tree
Volunteer Questionnaire

Grassroots Organizing
Getting Started
Starting a Local Group
Expanding Your Network
The First Meeting
Forming a Family Group

Making a Display

Vigil, Rally, Demonstrate
Presenting a Video Series

Reading Room
Intro & Contents
Media Resources
10 Tips to End the Drug War
Becoming an Activist

Communication Skills
Closing Your Letters/Memos
Tax Credits for Volunteers
Working with Legislators
Honest Hope and
XThe Hundredth Monkey
Overcoming Masculine

Adapted from; used with permission
Bottoms Up Version 1.0
©2001, 2003


Activism Basics - Let's Get Started

Working alone or in a group

This is an introduction to community activism. This page, a concise overview of activism, will get you started thinking about things that you can begin to do right away. Working alone or with a group, the following activities will have an effect on public education, and how people think about our drug laws.

Likely, you agree with members of the November Coalition and want the drug war to end, the prisoners of the drug war released, and the restoration of our civil rights.

If you are like most, you probably think you are too timid to speak well in public. Perhaps you've never been involved in an activist group and do not know the first thing about citizen action.

If you have a loved one imprisoned on a drug law violation, you might feel ashamed to talk about your experiences. You may feel that you are all alone.

We want you to realize that you, an individual, can educate hundreds of people in your community. Lots of us have been doing this for quite some time, having left our isolation to tell fellow citizens that it is our government that should be ashamed of our drug laws. Your conversation has the power to affect people who hear you. As you begin talking with others about the issues, they will begin to change how they think about the issue of drug war imprisonment.

There might not be an established November Coalition group in your area, but now there is one interested member -- you. It does not take special skills or superhuman abilities to be an activist. You just need to care enough about people imprisoned by unjust drug laws and willing to take some first steps to change these laws.

Getting started

Leave a flyer, leaflet or tabloid in public where possible and appropriate. Look for public and private places that have reading racks and make a regular route to replenish the rack with literature: Laundromats, church reception areas, libraries, auto repair waiting rooms, beauty and barber shops, bookstores, café, etc. Get permission when and where necessary.

Visit attorneys serving drug defendants and ask if you can keep a supply of literature replenished in their reception areas. Contact doctors and local heath care providers; they have waiting rooms, too.

Enclose a flyer or leaflet with your business and personal correspondence. Our fact sheets can be downloaded. People read an 8" x 11" sheet of paper more readily than they do a brochure. Download one or more of these factsheets to include in everything you mail.

Wear one of November Coalition's slogan T-shirts. People seeing or meeting you will begin to recognize visible images of mounting opposition to prohibition and mass incarceration. If they ask you about what you are wearing, you have an ideal opportunity to present them with more information.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the drug war and its detrimental effect on society. Join November Coalition volunteers nationwide. We will introduce you to activists in your region.

Begin to bring people in your neighborhood, town or community together for informal discussions. Arrange to use a library room and show the PBS Frontline documentary, "Snitch," or schedule a series of monthly video presentations and follow-up discussions around them. We can recommend a program series for you.

Speak up! Call radio talk shows and let your opinions be known. If the talk show is discussing taxes, call up to complain about your tax dollars wasted in a futile war in which police, court and prisons only fuel the conflict. If you have a loved one imprisoned, learn to give the background of your personal experience of injustice in a sentence or two.

Nora Callahan has learned to say, "My brother was charged and imprisoned in 1989 for a drug conspiracy and sentenced to 27 years in federal prison. There was no evidence, just the word of those who traded testimony against my brother for their freedom."

Take an information display to a college, or offer to give a presentation at a public forum. Civic groups that gather weekly and monthly are always looking for speakers for routine meetings. We can help you prepare with materials from our home office. We want to help you make a display with impact! We can also help you by providing text presentations that other November Coalition volunteers and staff have presented in the past.

Find out who is working on issues of social justice in your community. To introduce yourself to activists you want to meet, call and make a lunch appointment if you can afford to pick up the tab. If you can't afford lunch, call and let them know that you desire to have a meeting.

Research your newspaper reporters. Who covers criminal and social justice issues? How do they write about the drug war? Try to make a personal contact with reporters; let them know you are a community activist working on drug law reform.

Make a directory of the local television network affiliates and national network addresses. Keep pre-stamped postcards by your easy chair, along with the addresses of the major stations. When a show covers drug abuse, repeats untruthful government propaganda, or favorable, comprehensive and unbiased press on our issue, jot down the station, program name, scene, and date. At the station's next break, take a postcard and write a short, polite message to the appropriate network. Thank them for a good story, or expose the lies. Remember to ask them to visit our website at www.november.org and www.journeyforjustice.org.

Set aside at least part of one day each week to write your local, state and federal elected officials and newspaper and magazine editors. It may feel futile, but with dissent rapidly mounting, these letters become more important than you may realize. If you have taken advantage of the electronic news services listed on our Stay Informed webpage, you will always have plenty of issues and ideas for your letters. When a legislator responds to you, answer the letter, especially if she/he did not address your concerns adequately. To find your legislators enter your zip code at www.vote-smart.org.

Invite your friends and family members over for a dessert potluck and letter-writing party! Together you can compose a letter that all of you can sign and present with your contact information. Legislators will respond and share their views. You will develop a good idea where they stand on drug war issues, and this knowledge will enable your friends and family members to plan an effective face to face group meeting with these elected officials.

Watch for hearings and meetings that propose new prisons or jails, or sentencing schemes for your area. Attend the meeting or hearings to voice opposition to more prisons and harsher sentencing laws. We don't need new prisons - we need the repeal of drug prohibition laws. These are appropriate gatherings for local activists to wear their slogan T-shirts and share drug war facts that discredit prison proponents.

Next Chapter: Starting a Local Group