Promising not to take their foot off the gas, members of Indivisible East Tennessee gathered Thursday night in Maryville to move their message forward of continuing to be a known presence to state and national legislators.

On the day the 116th Congress was sworn in, Indivisible East Tennessee founder Sarah Herron and others who are part of this grassroots movement came together as did other Indivisible groups across the nation. Many held signs stating “Whose House — Our House” as they geared up for activism.

Herron started the local group in January 2017. Two years later, there are four counties that have joined in: Blount, Loudon, Knox and Jefferson. Herron said there are 4,000 Facebook followers and hundreds pounding the pavement to give a voice to concerns such as health care and voter suppression.

“This is about getting our members of Congress to listen to us and realize that we matter, first and foremost,” Herron told the 50 or so gathered Thursday. “And No. 2, that we aren’t going away. So we have to stay at it and stay persistent.”

Others in attendance included Bob Hayne, chairman of the Blount County Democratic Party; Blount County Commissioner Jackie Hill; Dorothy Mitchell-Kincaid; Sue DoBois and Patti Young.

DuBois laid out the priorities for the year — writing postcards, making office visits and calling Tennessee U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn and U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett. She said the postcard writing sessions that have been held on Sundays at Vienna Coffee will restart soon.

Herron owns her own business and is raising two sons, but she said everyone in the movement has time to make three phone calls per day.

“They need to hear from us every day,” she said. “We need to keep them busy. We already have the movement in place, we just need to get busy.”

As for being intimidated by this challenge, Herron reminded those in attendance that elected officials work for their communities. “You are their boss,” she said.

Mitchell-Kincaid and CDJ Media worked on a video that was presented at the Thursday gathering. In it, seven women are asked about Medicare coverage and talk about the high cost of prescription drugs. One woman explains that she must pay $1,000 per month for her medicines.

The video, Mitchell-Kincaid said, will be delivered to this area’s members of Congress.

This also was a time for members of the audience to speak about issues that matter to them. One woman talked about prison reform, while another addressed the need to get more young people to the polls.

Herron told the group that registering people now is easily done on the phone. Everyone can do their part to get more people registered, she said.

While many in Indivisible are affiliated with the Democratic Party, the national group said it is nonpartisan. The best way to get the attention of lawmakers, Herron said, is by “telling our stories.”

“These legislators need to hear our stories,” she said. “They need to hear from us in a meaningful way. It’s easy to tell one person to go away or two people or 10 people. It’s hard to tell 400 people to go away or a sick person to go away.”

At the conclusion, Herron challenged attendees to come up with and implement ways to engage. If someone has a good idea, take it and run with it, she said. “Activism is a lifestyle. We can brainstorm and mobilize and do the work. We need to roll up our sleeves and do the work.”

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