All notable movements have to start somewhere, and State College resident Amy Cohen decided the Penn State community was the perfect place to jumpstart her new project. Small Towns Rising provides new activists with the tools needed to learn how to effectively speak out about issues they deem important.
According to the project’s KickStarter page, Cohen developed the idea for the initiative after observing an array of hateful and discriminatory political rhetoric throughout the year. Her mission was to ensure those affected would have more accessibility to the resources needed to resist, especially in a smaller town like State College.
“I created Small Towns Rising to support organizing for inclusion, love, and justice in small town Pennsylvania and beyond,” Cohen said on the page.
Cohen aims to use any funds raised to develop toolkits potential activists can use in order to learn how to organize a movement themselves. The kits will provide sample activities, step-by-step guides, and other amenities. Small Towns Rising also plans to document activism within State College, create support networks throughout the community, and use online databases to share information, among other initiatives.
Cohen believes the more tools activists have at hand, the better. Organizing a campaign around an issue is never an easy feat, which is why she hopes to make it much easier for people to get there in the first place.
“Executive orders that threaten Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people, among others, have given license to ordinary citizens to target our most vulnerable neighbors,” Cohen said. “Groups of people working to fight back and build up support systems in our own communities are taking on organizing initiatives specific to this moment. The news cycle is never-ending and the challenges can feel overwhelming, but established and tested organizing techniques can help us win the protections we need.”
Perhaps what the program stresses most is that using social media platforms is a crucial part of the process, but a lot of the movement has to happen in person in order to be successful. According to Cohen, there is no substitute for meeting with a support group or participating in a training session face-to-face with others. The project is designed to foster relationships through workshops called “Start Small Trainings” that can take place anywhere from a coffee shop to an on-campus building.
Small Towns Rising has pledged a fundraising goal of $20,000 by April 13, and the project has reached more than half of its goal in less than one week. The project is an “all or nothing” initiative, which means it will only move forward if it reaches the appropriate fundraising goal by the deadline. Once Small Towns Rising gains momentum in State College, Cohen hopes the movement will spread to both small and large communities around the country.
To learn more about the project and how to get involved, check out the Small Towns Rising Facebook page.