When the media tells your story, you have to be prepared for the negative responses…
You have to be prepared for the backlash…
for the targeting…
for the trolls…
for the downright hatred.
You have to be prepared for the hurt…
for it to get personal (really, really personal).
You have to be prepared for it to go the exact opposite way you desire it to.
But most of all, you have to be prepared to take control of the narrative and to continue to shape it and speak it.
Here was my go-to response to negative comments (as you can see the beginning in most of these screenshots). I find it very necessary to make sure that I am in control of what is being said about me. I knew today was coming, I knew the comments that would be made, I knew how my story could have been spun, so I was ready to take the time to try to have conversations about it. This is what I want everyone to know that the video didn’t speak on when it comes to my life…
“Everyone commenting will be happy to know that I do, in fact, have a job and am a contributing member to society as well as a tax payer. When I first qualified for Medicaid expansion, I was doing marketing for Chick fil A and was a freelance writer who focused on the important issues in south Louisiana like government and non-profit partnerships, education, disability rights, and religion (one of my articles was even given to the Pope himself and many of the conservative leaders, including Bill Cassidy since I wrote about his wife’s charter school, have praised my work).
Now, I own a community advocacy organization that pours every cent into community development. During the flood here in BR last summer I helped over 1,000 families get OTC medication, first aid treatment, prescriptions from an RN, food, hygiene supplies, bedding, clothing, cleaning supplies, school supplies, etc. I also supplied many of the distribution centers with the items they handed out to their communities. I also worked in the shelters, bringing awareness to policies that were not providing for those who had been displaced that were struggling in shelter environments due to autism and those who were deaf or hard of hearing who needed services like interpreters, as well as bringing awareness to issues for pet owners and the treatment of pets in the shelters.
I’ve worked closely in the community regarding police reform starting with human trafficking several years ago (with specific training regarding human trafficking now being required for every officer and Louisiana leading the country in new policies in that regard), and now currently with issues of race and the shooting of Alton Sterling and now the shooting of DeJuan Guillory. In fact, when it actually flooded in my home city, I was in NYC doing a 4 day police ride-along to understand some of the policies they have in place regarding protest and community outreach.
I keep the public aware of bills that are going up for the current legislative sessions and what that means for our citizens, families, and children. And I attend as many school board meetings, metro council meetings, legislative sessions, and community outreach meetings as possible, as well as organize for others to be involved. I also help register people to vote, make them aware of who their representatives are, and help them learn their rights as citizens.
I am in the process of raising funds to open a community outreach center focusing on emotional support, family development, and community involvement. Providing nearly free groups and services when these areas are not being addressed in our community as a whole on a regular basis. And the five year goal is to also open an alternative education center and affordable housing complex for single mothers.
Medicaid has allowed me the opportunity to do the things I do because I am not dependent on receiving healthcare benefits from an employer that pays minimum and eats up 100% of my time. I also am able to take the money I save for my healthcare and my children’s healthcare each month and put that directly back into products and services for the community.
I was raised conservative republican and understand 100% the talking points and the fears. One of the clips is from a meeting with healthcare leaders, representatives from the Dept of Health and Hospitals, and community advocates. I’ve also attended meetings with the Governor and Mayors from around the state and heard the positive that has come to our state from Medicaid expansion. How it has SAVED our state money, how it has saved LIVES, and how it has helped businesses just like mine.
So, hopefully, that sheds a little light to my story. You can view my company Compassion Louisiana LLC on FB.”
One thing that I fully wanted to get across with my healthcare message is that it truly is hardworking citizens who use these benefits, and that we need to shift our mindset as a whole to recognizing the ways that government programs can help create a stronger community. When you’re working 3 jobs and still rely on benefits like a lot of the single moms in my community, only to consistently hear the rhetoric that you are lazy, a mooch, unworthy, a welfare queen, etc. it doesn’t create a sense of hopefulness for your future. However, when you receive benefits and are being uplifted and told that you can accomplish that vision you have in your head of your ideal career, it makes you do and be better.
I included the FB comments that I did because these are not just rogue, random trolls. This is the mindset that revolves around the discussion. I included them because when you know my story, when you know my family, when you know the work I do in the community, you know that those simply do not apply in any way. Like I said in the video, this is not a religious or political ideology. This is about humanity and compassion. In a meeting I sat through earlier this week, we discussed how the ITEP (industrial tax exemption plan) has robbed Louisiana of $842.6 million in revenue since 2000 (imagine if the study had gone all the way back to 1936 when this plan began), with $28.8 million being robbed from our school system and $71 million being robbed from our public entities as a whole last year alone, it hurts that I as an individual, as a business owner, as a tax payer, and as an advocate for our community am vilified as the epitome of what is wrong with our country and why our state is in the position it is in.
My story doesn’t have the tear-jerking, heart-tugging narrative that the families who have had their children’s lives saved because of Medicaid expansion and the ACA. My story doesn’t seem as urgent as the individual who needs the ACA for treatment of a deadly disease. In fact, at one press conference regarding health care reform I sat at a table with those who had these stories, and I actually caught a woman as she collapsed from her illness in the middle of the interview. Some may wonder why I believe my story should even be told in comparison. I believe my story is important because my story speaks to healthcare for society as a whole beyond just the medical aspect. I believe my story speaks to the revolutionary power of an affordable, accessible, universal program.
When I say that I will fight for equality in our healthcare system, I don’t simply mean for low income individuals, single parent homes, small business owners, or special needs families. I don’t mean I will fight specifically for any “label” that could apply to myself personally. I mean that I will fight for us as a nation to reform our system to benefit the citizens rather than the large corporations. I mean that I will fight for all of us. I will fight for it so that my children don’t have to. I will fight for it so that the basic needs of future generations can be taken care of and our system can move on to other issues.
We are truly standing in a moment of History where future generations will look back on us. I know where I stand. I stand on a side that I was not originally on, but have moved to as I have had to experience this first hand. It is truly disheartening that as a nation we can’t understand until something happens to us. I share my story in hopes that some may begin to understand without having to live the experience. I will continue to stand strongly, and I ask that you stand with me.