A Lesson in Advocacy
One Member's Experience at the Texas Capitol
Shenice Brown knew what she was getting out of joining the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber. Through her company Magna Homes she had attended a number of networking and educational events and “loved the energy.” She decided to join because “I could see how much value it could add to my business and even me as an individual.” But when she got the invite to attend the Texas LGBT Chambers’ Day at the Capitol to meet with lawmakers in Austin, Shenice wasn’t sure what to expect or how she and others from the LGBT business community would be received.
Have you participated in political advocacy before?
I have not participated in political advocacy before. After this experience, I look forward to leaning in to learn more and becoming more active.
What did you expect to get out of attending the Day at the Capitol?
I wasn't quite sure exactly what to expect. I wanted to support the Chamber and attend as more of a learning experience. I assumed that we would be addressing issues that were directly tied to the LGBT community and business.
What surprised you most about the experience?
There were so many things that were surprising about this experience. I was so surprised to learn how easy it can be to have the ear of our local representatives. As someone that has kept politics at a very far distance, I would have never thought I could set up a meeting directly with my local representative or Senator. Politics can seem very intimidating, but I learned that representatives do want to hear from the people in their community and many of the representatives are business owners well. You can also have a stronger message when you have specific bills to discuss or bring to their attention.
I loved the energy from our Texas LGBT Chamber members; they were so excited to book their meetings to meet with representatives. You could easily feel their passion for making our legislative agenda heard. Another surprise was the legislative agenda itself. It was focused on issues that affect our businesses and communities as a whole, not just that of the LGBT community.
Talk a little about what you feel you gained from attending?
From attending, I gained a great deal of knowledge on how our political world works especially on a local level. I learned about pressing issues that our communities are facing that also affect our businesses. I gained experience in the specific actions that we can take to be more involved such as booking a meeting with our local representative, speaking to staff members, and even a simple phone call to communicate our support/opposition to legislation.
Did you feel welcomed by lawmakers or were some elements uncomfortable at times?
The experience with lawmakers and their staff definitely varied. Some were eager to hear from constituents and willing to meet time willing. Others were very withdrawn and unconcerned. For example, the staff of one of the lawmakers we visited immediately declined our meeting request and monotonously took our business cards. Even this is a great experience because now I know I'll be looking to their opponent to be heard and possibly vote for in the next election.
What issues discussed during the Day at the Capitol really hit home for you?
The issues that really hit home for me were in education and healthcare. Specifically, issues including early childhood education for all children, placement of mental health professionals in schools for early diagnosis and treatment, and reducing the number of uninsured individuals.
Is this something you're looking forward to doing again?
I would love to do this again. I believe through opportunities like this, we can educate more and truly bridge the gap that currently exists between the community and lawmakers.