We Are Stronger Together: County coalition counteracts growing legislative intolerance

by Ethan Maia de Needell, Rural Women’s Health Project

In an effort to rally Alachua County and to show up to the moment we all find ourselves in, local advocacy groups, nonprofits, faith institutions, and social service providers have come together to form the We Are Stronger Together campaign. 

As of July 1, Florida has ushered in a batch of legislation targeting our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. Our trans community is under attack by bills like SB254, which aims to impede trans adults from receiving their medical services and completely ban treatments (which have been validated by nationally recognized mental health authorities such as Columbia University, American Psychology Association, National Institute of Health) for trans minors. 

The future generations of our state are under threat with bills attacking our education system. For example, in an effort to control the future by controlling our past, the infamous “Stop WOKE Act” is still under effect for students in K-12, drastically distorting what children can learn about our nation’s black history. Women’s bodily autonomy has been stripped further through the imposition of a six-week abortion ban, also placing obstacles even in cases of rape and incest. More alarming still is that these are only a few examples of what is coming. 

As a coordinator for the immigrant advocacy initiative, the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative (GINI), I have seen impacts of the anti-immigrant bill SB1718 take place in the immigrant community, even ahead of July 1. 

The provision requiring hospitals and emergency departments to ask patients about their immigration status before they can receive care has already had a chilling effect, causing immigrants to decline seeking out medical services for fear of being taken by immigration authorities or having their data reported. 

GINI is proud to join Alachua County Black History Task Force, Center for Independent Living, Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County, Pride Community Center, Planned Parenthood, and Trinity Metropolitan Community Church (just to name a few) in the We Are Stronger Together campaign as one of its sponsors.

These laws are designed to divide and dehumanize our neighbors and communities, and we must come together in the spirit of solidarity and mutual respect, regardless of one’s own background. There are many steps to take, and one is for our local organizations and agencies to join We Are Stronger Together. Each participating organization and agency within the coalition will sign a pledge which outlines their commitment to:

treat everyone with respect, dignity, and equity, welcoming individuals of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, statuses, languages, sexualities, genders, identities, abilities, and religions.

not tolerate hate, bigotry, and discrimination in our organization

work toward creating a community where all individuals can feel safe to be their true, authentic selves

In order to be a truly welcoming community to all, the commitment must be an ongoing dedication to follow these principles, not a one-time act. Participating organizations will display the We Are Stronger Together sticker to show their dedication to the public and these principals. 

It is up to all of us to show the rest of the state what being a truly welcoming and respectful community means. It is our hope that, as we enter into this new draconian and regressive state of affairs, our county takes this moment as an opportunity to build the safe, welcoming, and unified community we know we can be.

If you are interested in the pledge, how to get involved, or learning more about the 30+ organizations which are sponsoring the campaign, please visit strongertogetheralachua.org/.

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