Ever since Inauguration Day, Americans have been scrambling to find ways to ensure their voice is heard and that their social justice cause is at the forefront. Many of us marched in solidarity with women across the world, but were left with questions– “What comes next?” “How do I help my people?” “What can I do to ensure progress?”
It is for that reason that we are starting a new series of articles highlighting the many organizations across the country and around the world for which you can volunteer, donate, support, and share so that you can be a part of the fight for social justice. In this series, we will go in-depth with some of the top social justice organizations that exist for the sole purpose of progressing ideals such as equality, equity, justice for marginalized groups, immigration, LGBTQ issues, women’s rights, and victims rights.
First on our list of organizations is the National Equality Action Team, NEAT. This organization advances LGBTQ equality and justice by creating and amplifying powerful, collective education and advocacy from the ground up, and across issues.
Since 2012, NEAT which was originally a program of Marriage Equality USA, has focused on giving people and organizations the tools they need to take collective action where it is needed most for LGBTQ equality and justice. From phone banking from home to regional canvassing or national Town Hall discussions, NEAT brings resources to the fights and communities that need them the most.
In 2016, as part of MEUSA ending operations, the NEAT program was transferred to Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) to join the effort to secure comprehensive LGBTQ non-discrimination protections nationwide. During that year NEAT continued to grow and in 2017 after tremendous success, NEAT became an independent organization dedicated to empowering everyday people to make extraordinary change for the LGBTQ community.
NEAT conducts actions in coordination with, and with the support of the local campaigns and leadership. The goal is to recruit more volunteers to take more actions (like phone calls or door knocks) that lead to more communities winning equality and justice across the country.
Opponents of LGBTQ equality and justice are currently pursuing strategies to chip away at protections for the community and undermine the movement’s gains. The team of heroes and volunteers at NEAT hope to bring about the needed education and dedication to help in this fight and ensure LGBTQ Americans are allowed the same rights and freedoms due to any American citizen.
Already NEAT has seen some amazing successes, managing over 2,000 volunteer shifts which total over 4,000 hours bringing about over 7,000 messages and/or commitments to contact lawmakers. They have hosted 17 Tele-Town Halls providing facts, analysis, and guidance related to major LGBTQ events for over 4,000 LGBTQ organizations, community leaders, and members.
Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Brian Silva, Founder and Executive Director of NEAT in New York to find out exactly how he plans to combat anti-LGBTQ legislation and how you can help out from your own home. He had quite a few things to say about where he sees his community heading and what our readers can do to stay engaged in the fight for social justice.
PT: How does NEAT work for its community?
Brian Silva: By empowering everyday people to stand up and do the work that needs to be done in order to achieve and maintain the rights we deserve as a people. It is the work that is most important and NEAT is on the ground across the country putting in the time and effort needed to see this cause through.
PT: Why phone banking?
Brian Silva: Our work is about taking action. Something as simple as making calls for a few hours a week has already proven to have created a change in how lawmakers vote. By allowing them to hear from the people who elected them, we are able to bring every person’s voice to the conversation.
PT: Is this something that anyone can do?
Brian Silva: Anyone with a desire to make a difference and access to a phone and computer can be a part of our phone campaigns.
PT: What words would you have for LGBTQ people out there today reading this, who may feel afraid or defeated?
Brian Silva: It is okay to feel defeated and it is okay to be angry or even afraid, but know that without the work and dedication of people who have felt and may even still feel the same as you, we would not have come as far as we have today. We have a long road ahead of us, but if you can channel the fear and anger into a passion for justice and join us in this work as we strive to make a difference, we can ensure the safety and protections for all LGBTQ people.
PT: Briefly, can you tell us why you do this work or why it matters to you so deeply?
Brian Silva: Because I am a gay man and I want for myself and my husband to be allowed, after ten years of sharing our lives together, to have the same rights and freedoms as any other American citizen. Not only that, I want every young LGBTQ child to know that they are not alone and they will never be alone again.
For more information on the National Equality Action Team, you can visit theNEAT.org where you can sign up to volunteer. Please stay tuned for more to come from our Social Justice Corner and learn how you can become an active participant in your own freedom. As well, if you know of an organization or group that you feel should be highlighted, please let us know!