Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) held a client/ staff lobbying event at the Massachusetts State House in the Great Hall on January 24. The event was organized for the public to show community support for increasing civil legal aid funding in the Massachusetts budget. Scores of GBLS clients, community supporters, staff, and volunteers were present to tell their stories about how GBLS helped them, and to ask their respective legislators to support increasing civil legal aid in the FY 13 Massachusetts State Budget.
The event got underway with a breakfast. Ms. Jacquelynne Bowman introduced the keynote speaker, Massachusetts State Legislator Byron Rushing. Ms. Bowman was recently chosen to be the Executive Director of GBLS, the first woman, and first Black American, to hold the position. She worked herself through the ranks as Deputy Director to head position of Executive Director at GBLS.
Representative Rushing, the event sponsor, gave the welcoming remarks, and opened his address with a question, asking how many in attendance were there in the State House for the first time. After a response to his question, he told those there for the first time that “this was your house. The people that built it, did it with you in mind. You are in the right place, you belong here. This building is yours, because the people that built this house put the ownership in the words of the constitution and the ideas of democracy. They built the state and were the founders of the country. At that time their ideals of democracy were considered radical by the British, what you are doing today here in the State House is a part of your legacy.” Rep. Rushing concluded his talk by adding “I have read the words of opportunities and they include me. You all are here today to make things right for everybody, by asking for an increase of money, you are not a guest here in this house, this is your house, so tell your story of what happened to you, and how things got better because of GBLS.” Rep. Rushing concluded his key note address by asking the attendees to “make all the wonderful words you have heard today a reality for all of us.”
At the end of Rep Rushing’s address, Jacquelynne Bowman introduced Judy Gurgen, who is known as the “Peoples Lobbyist”. Ms. Gurgen divided the audience into groups for visits to their respective legislators office, to share their stories of how they were helped by GBLS.
Their stories ranged from housing evictions and foreclosures, to court battles to secure disability benefits. Before the groups departed for visits with the their State Representatives, Ms. Gurgen told them to “work to make the rights of our constitution available to everybody.”
Another event also took place at the State House that day. This event related to the “Three Counts and Your Out Bill,” currently in the legislature’s conference. It is designed to keep dangerous felons in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts locked up. That’s another issue and story to keep an eye out for in future contributions to the NeighborMedia blog.