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Don’t Boo, Advocate for your Voice

How many times over the past few years have you heard friends, family, and community members alike discuss and criticize local and federal politics? Well, if you are like me, it has been a weekly, if not daily, occurrence. While so many of us have passionate and thoughtful opinions on how we can better our community, not many of us have the time or energy to have our voices heard to their full potential.

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This past month, with thanks to Dr. Amanda Micucio and the JeffSTARS program, I have been fortunate enough to work with Jacob Zychick and the American Heart Association on how to best advocate for my voice. During my work on Kids’ Meal Policy and the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, one thing that has stood out to me was just how easy it to converse with our local representatives.

To many of us, City Hall is a place of great mystery. It is an architectural masterpiece where secretive meetings occur among select councilmembers, with the public left ice skating outside every winter. Thankfully, as I have recently learned, this perception couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, every Thursday at 10:00am, members of Philadelphia are welcome to enter through the doors of democracy and converse with their local representatives at City Council. As I entered City Council this past week, I was warmly welcomed by a transparent list of all of the Bills that would be discussed at this week’s meeting. Prior to the start of the meeting, I was amazed to see how approachable city councilmembers really were. In a mere 30 minutes, I was able to shake hands with four city councilmembers, including Council President Clarke, Councilmembers Reynolds-Brown, Green, and Greenlee. During these conversations, I was able to introduce myself and discuss either what aspects of their policy excited me, or about the projects that I had been working on in the community. In addition, not only were councilmembers present, but so too were advocates for a variety of organizations.

As I began to reflect on my day at City Council, one question did not leave my mind. Why did I not know about this earlier? Why did I not know just how easy it was to go to City Hall, to talk to my local representatives, but most importantly, why did I not know how I could have my voice better heard? 

In discussing my experiences, I share these stories with you in hopes of answering these questions for readers like myself. Moving forward, I encourage you to continue engaging in political conversations with friends and family members, but more so, I encourage you to continue exploring ways to advocate for your voice.

Patrick Schlitt, Philadelphia, PA

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