Wide Awake in Wisconsin


here's a picture of my friend holding the sign I made to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Wisconsin uprising. I gave a lot of thought to what I wanted to say on my sign, and decided that “Wide Awake!” are the words that best describe me and many others in our state.

Last week I was honored to be part of a small group that accepted the ACLU of Wisconsin's Civil Libertarian of the Year award on behalf of the Solidarity Sing Along. Most weekdays since last May, I’ve been singing at the Capitol during my lunch hour along with hundreds of other regulars, some who participate daily, some who participate once a week or once a month.

As Chris Reeder, our leader, said in his acceptance speech, “We started off with a very simple concept: Show up. Sing. Come back the next day and do it again. Repeat until you are heard. Be peaceful, be positive, be polite. But be strong, stand firm, endure. (And, when you can, be melodious.)

We are in many ways an unlikely group to be seen as standing up for free speech. Certainly most of us never imagined that we’d be singing protest songs at the Wisconsin State Capitol, well over 300 times now. And we certainly never imagined that we’d be receiving this kind of an award from the ACLU.

But it’s been an unusual year, to say the least. Not only had many of us not been politically active until one year ago, many of us had never even sung in public before. We’re a loosely assembled group of teachers, students, union members, non-union working people, parents, grandparents, activists, retirees. People from all walks of life, from all kinds of backgrounds, from all across the state have joined us. But we are brought together by what we believe in.

And one of the things we believe in, strongly, is making sure that the people of Wisconsin have the right to speak out. That the people of Wisconsin have the ability to assemble and make sure that our elected officials can hear us.

The past year has been a learning process. We have learned so many things over the past year. We’re learning about participatory democracy. We’re learning that our government doesn’t listen, unless we talk. We’re learning that voting is not enough. That being informed is not enough. We have to show up. We have to be involved. We have to act.”

We are Wide Awake.