The Lessons We Learned in 2023 That We Will Carry into 2024

#1 We can and will win.

It took ten long years of organizing, but in 2023 working-class North Carolinians finally got Medicaid Expansion passed into law. We fought long and hard for this bill – we rallied, we protested, we lobbied, we called and wrote to lawmakers–– we did everything and anything we could do to keep the issue alive. And this year all that organizing paid off – an additional 600,000 plus North Carolinians now have access to healthcare.

A win like this wasn’t supposed to happen in a place like North Carolina.. The deck was completely stacked against us due to a Republican supermajority, yet North Carolinians were able to get MedEx passed into law. This win is very inspiring since it proves that people power can and will prevail.

 

But our fight for health justice will continue in 2024. We will carry on with outreach to make sure that qualifying rural North Carolinians are connected to the healthcare we fought for, and we will continue to organize until all people in the state can get the care they need. No one should ever be left behind.

We are strengthened and heartened by knowing we have done the impossible. Now, we know we can do it again!

Want to get involved in our health justice work in 2024? Contact Kate Daley at [email protected] 

#2 North Carolinians love our public schools.

In 2020, the far-right took aim at our public schools, trying to undermine them and replace them with for-profit models. They manufactured a litany of outrages, including fury over online schooling, diatribes against Critical Race Theory, and all out anti-trans hysteria. School board meetings became heated battlegrounds where a vocal minority attempted to take charge at the expense of our schools, and our children.

But in 2023, we learned that the majority of North Carolinians love, support, and want to make their public schools better.  And we know, too, that we significantly outnumber those who have fallen for the far-right grift.  So this past spring, parents and grandparents helped launch Public School Strong (PSS), forming teams in now over 60 NC counties. As a grassroots movement that advocates supporting public education, PSS has far outpaced the grasstops organizing being done by the far right.  

 

In 2024, PSS is poised to win because Down Home members across the state have filed to run for school board and PSS chapters are preparing to push back against unpopular programs like vouchers which will rob our public schools of millions of dollars in essential funding. 

Want to get involved in Public School Strong? Learn more about it and find an upcoming training here. 

#3 We can make the government work for us.

Some of the problems we face as poor, working-class people can seem insurmountable. We work hard to make ends meet; we have little time  or capacity to spare.  

At the same time, we know we face huge, existential threats to our well-being such as climate change. The summers in North Carolina are getting hotter, the weather more severe. 

Due to serious organizing, the largest and most comprehensive climate legislation our country has seen was passed in 2022.  There has not been a landmark investment to equal the Inflation Reduction Act since FDR’s New Deal. And just as that Depression-era program ushered in a new era for North Carolina’s small towns, the IRA stands poised to do the same.  

 

This past year, Down Home members began researching the IRA to find ways the federal funds can be used to help regular, working-class people. Our members have begun identifying community projects such as solar programs and home weatherization projects which would help offset the costs of climate change. 

We can and will make the government work for us because, as engaged and committed working-class people, in 2024 we can be the ones to decide how funding like the IRA should be used our hometowns.

#4 Working-class folks are ready to lead.

If not us, then who? If not now, when?” 

These were the questions asked this past summer when Down Home members from all across the state gathered together for a weekend gathering to learn about what it takes to run for office.

 

In most of the places where Down Home organizes there is a baked-in “good ol’ boy network” that is all but taken as a given. If we want to build power in our small towns, then we need to make sure poor and working people across race have a seat at the table when decisions are made.

To that end, this past year Down Home members have run for, and won, elected positions. Our members worked tirelessly to see that a member was elected as mayor (a first!), while other members were elected to city councils across the state.  Looking forward to 2024, over a dozen Down Home members have filed to run for office up and down the ballot, dedicated to bringing multiracial, working-class values into governance in their hometowns. 

Looking to get involved in your local Down Home chapter in 2024? Find a chapter near you here. 

#5 Rural North Carolina is ready for change.

Ever since Down Home was formed just a few short years ago, we’ve understood one thing: Rural North Carolina is ready for change. 


In 2023 we learned that again, tenfold. We grew our footprint again to organize in three new rural counties– Pitt County, Person County, and Vance County. In those counties, just like everywhere we have organized, we have found a strong, broad base of multiracial support. Rural North Carolinians have been short-changed for too long– they’ve experienced serious divestment and have been cruelly stereotyped by outsiders. 

Our membership base routinely shows up and turns out. In 2023, our members in Cabarrus County won a huge victory funding an eviction prevention program while our members in Johnston County pushed their local government to fund teacher supplies. Our members endorsed and campaigned for working-class candidates in municipal elections and tirelessly helped bring new people in. 

 

It is this people-powered growth and vibrancy that lets us know we are onto something big. In 2024, we will continue to expand our reach in rural North Carolina, running electoral programs in nearly one-fifth of the state. All of this is only possible because rural North Carolina is ready for it.

2024 is a big year for North Carolina– we remain a contentious battleground state and our governor’s race will be one of the most impactful in the country. But while the rural South has been written off for so long now, we see something different on the horizon. Mark our words, rural North Carolinians are going to be the ones who determine next year’s outcomes. Rural North Carolina is ready for change. 

Building Rural Power!

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