Sharing our Activism: Lori Goldman
by Laurie Williams with Lori Goreta Goldman
If there was to be a biopic about Lori Goldman, Kathy Bates would be a perfect actress to portray her, just as she was perfect for portraying “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown in the movie Titanic! When you meet Lori Goreta Goldman, you can’t help but be reminded of Molly Brown, and you can’t help but be energized by the power of her presence. Energy radiates from her, as does enthusiasm and warmth. She’s always on the move and clearly never stops thinking. My husband has known Lori for 15 years, having had the privilege of teaching all four of her children. He notes that Lori has always put others first at school and elsewhere, and is always finding the good in others and nurturing it, uncritically pointing out how things could be made better. I can see that how she operates at school is also how she works as an activist for social change – but on a much broader level and with a much bigger canvas.
Lori is an inveterate event organizer. She told me she began collecting friends (and their contact information) when she was on the high school rowing team in her hometown of Ecorse several decades ago. Acknowledging it was an unusual thing for a high schooler to do, Lori said it was something that she loved doing, rather like a hobby. Fems for Change got started in February 2016 because of this talent for collecting friends. She was sitting around waiting while her kids took ski lessons at Mt. Brighton, and compiled a list of 500 names with the intention of sending out an email to find out if these friends would support the first viable female candidate for the US presidency. Fems for Change and then Fems for Dems was born out of that idea. Lori gathers her huge network of friends (and the friends of her friends) to create strong work- and friendship-focused groups formed around various issues and events, and she doesn’t yield to barriers the way most of us would. When Lori sees something that needs to be done, or if she really likes an idea, her typical response to obstructions is: “Let’s do it!”
As founder of both Fems for Change (femsforchange.org) and Fems for Dems (femsfordems.org), Lori Goldman has seen to it that Fems for Change has become a 501(c)(3) and that Fems for Change has become a PAC. She has run or closely participated in the running of nearly 100 progressive-cause events sponsored by these two groups over the course of the past two years (including a fun fundraiser for Voters Not Politicians in lieu of a party on her own birthday).
Among the events Fems for Change and Fems for Dems have held:
• Civics Classes for adults – with professional teachers sharing information, answering questions and leading lively discussions about our political system and process.
• Registering voters in Detroit at naturalization ceremonies twice a week
• Summer-camp-like day trips to worthy organizations like Michigan United headquarters
• Day trips to visit artists in Detroit and schools in Detroit to find out how folks can help schools that are operating with few supplies and little funding
• Fundraisers for multiple local politicians
• B#!@es Grab Back! A Night of Cocktails and Comedy for Mallory McMorrow
• Confronting Racism Within Seminars
• Candidate Speed Dating Events (which Republican groups are now copying – imitation being the sincerest form of flattery!)
• Bridging the Divide workshops (teaching participants to effectively listen to and speak with people with different points of view, led by a social worker)
• Healthcare Forums
• ACA Signups
• Seminar by Charles Gaba, an expert on the ACA
• Video stories on health care delivery disasters under our for-profit insurance-controlled system
With the nearly 2200 members in each of the “Fems” groups, Lori has plans to host a political-themed fundraising Bingo party, a fundraising “Endless Summer BBQ” to raise money for Dana Nessel, “Fems” Rapid Response Teams, more Civics Classes, Fundraiser Field Trips to Art Installations, a Social Media Primer Class, new Speaker Panels and Expert Talks (with other activist groups). Fems for Dems also posts, as a public service, a page with handy and important links for registering to vote, finding and contacting all your representatives, joining the Democratic party, and finding out more about candidates for upcoming elections. Find that page here.
Lori is the mother of a university student and triplets entering middle school. In addition to her very active involvement with her groups, Lori is now a precinct delegate (and takes her two youngest girls with her on canvassing trips)! When asked how she does it all, she responded: “We need to proselytize and deputize others to have things go out into the world. You need a dynamic person to get people to do things – not pushy, but dynamic. I’m blessed that I’ve got the energy to do what needs to be done.” She sometimes calls up to a hundred people a day and confided: “If I had enough hours in the day, I would contact people all day long. It’s all about people and spreading the word.” When I asked, “How do you expect we’re going to be able to change this mess?” Lori responded: “Well, I believe in never talking badly about people on the other side. We can have different opinions. I applaud that the other party is active enough to develop an opinion. I also believe in being accepting of others and meeting them where they’re at. I try to bring them in through networking. I think we need to find out what other people need, and try to find what fears and self-interest motivate those who are different from us – and bring them in, as long as their fear and self-interest isn’t in contention with what we believe is morally right. Trump sought to work on people’s fear and self-interest; I propose we show people that what they fear and need might be taken care of in much better ways!”
Lori has been interviewed by Politico, the Free Press, and a western Michigan radio reporter because of her ability to be innovative and think outside of the box with her activism. After telling me this, she said, “Sometimes we have to make people feel uncomfortable, but we get things done. We have to think of clever solutions, maybe not even solutions that are honorable, you know – rather like Republicans – but messaging and solutions that are so clever that it’s almost over the line. We have to be ‘politically incorrect’ and get the attention of people in order to get this work done. That’s why our events are always framed in a creative way. Our mission is to turn Lansing blue, and thereafter, Washington.”
When I ask her what she would tell members of the younger generation about working to create change, she said, “Well, I tell my kids this: ‘If you don’t care now, I guarantee you will later!’”