Democratic women won several high-profile races in Kansas last week; reversing the state’s recent trend towards extreme conservatism in recent election cycles. That purple you see on the map now in the middle of the state is not just for K-State fans anymore. I’ve joked to several friends that “Kansas was a Tea Party state until I got here!” The implication being that the sheer force of my feminist rage turned this thing around. That, of course, is a farce. No one person has that much influence in a single region. Unless, of course, that person is Davis Hammet.
I’m proud to know Davis, who is a fierce organizer, and who has been a singular agent of change in this state over the past few years. (You know the rainbow/PRIDE house across the street from Westboro Baptist? That’s him. That was totally his thing). He graciously agreed to let me share a social media post he wrote last week. As of today, this post has been shared 36,000 times on Facebook and 47,000 times on Twitter. Thanks for the inspiration, Davis.
Year 2013: I’m a 22-year-old queer who moves to Kansas to paint a rainbow house across from a notorious hate group. I realize the politicians here are more dangerous than the hate group; however, the people seem nothing like the politics that dominate. I start to really like Kansas. My boss asks me when I’m coming back to New York since this project was suppose to only be a few months. I tell him, “I think I live in Kansas now.”
2014: The most extreme right-wing, one-sided government in Kansas history is elected.
2015: Gov. Brownback rescinds LGBTQ protections by executive order making it legal to fire and harass LGBTQ state workers. The Kansas government increasingly uses prejudice and scapegoating to distract from their failing economic experiment. In response, we organize the largest protest in many years. I get messages from gay state workers who are scared for their safety and future. Kansas is a very dark place in this moment … A senator walks by me in the Statehouse and softly mentions how wrong the attacks on the LGBTQ community are.
2016: I leave LGBTQ activism to devote myself completely to voter registration and turnout. I’m convinced that if more young Kansans voted things would be different.
2017: One-third of the Kansas legislature is newly elected as a rebuke to Brownback. The first week of session they are greeted by over a thousand Kansans screaming, “Whose House? Our House.” We’ve united different groups under a Kansas People’s Agenda demanding change. The legislature starts to turn things around and activism is growing. The Brownback Experiment is repealed … Some random lady messages me saying she wants to talk about the future of Kansas. She’s pretty great.
2018: That random lady, Sharice Davids, is elected the first LGBTQ Congressperson from Kansas. She gives a victory speech surrounded by LGBTQ youth. I’m overwhelmed thinking back to how most of my life, I thought accepting my sexuality meant forfeiting my future. The same night Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz are elected the first LGBTQ Kansas State Representatives.2019: The senator who softly spoke words of solidarity to me in 2015, Laura Kelly, is the governor and her first executive order is restoring LGBTQ protections to state workers.
Nothing happens by accident.
Every drop of decency is fought for.
There’s a reason this post went viral. Whether you live in an area that had hopeful election results or completely heartbreaking ones, we all need to be reminded that the ongoing work of progress is just that: work. And it takes everyone of us, getting out there and taking part in it. Davis is exceptionally good at what he does. I’m not going to tell you that “anybody can do it” exactly the way that he does. But the thing is … anyone can do SOMEthing. Between now and 2020—get out there. Work on getting out the vote, getting young people and minorities registered, and fight to end the voter suppression measures that are still so widespread in underserved areas. Every drop of decency is fought for. Get in the fight—and thank people like Davis who show us what can happen when we do.
About Davis Hammet
Davis Hammet graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Political Science (Cum Laude), certificate in Intensive Research Methods, and certificate in Urban Planning and Regional Development. He studied non-linear data analysis at U.C. Berkeley and worked under grants from the National Science Foundation studying political knowledge and the media. Hammet is the former Director of Operations for the international progressive nonprofit Planting Peace, where he worked to maintain and expand programs around the world from orphanages and medical relief to human rights and bully prevention. He co-created and lives in the rainbow colored Equality House across from the Westboro Baptist Church hate group.
Hammet’s work and commentary has been covered in The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic and most other major outlets.
After several years of successfully organizing to win victories from the local to national level, Davis Hammet founded Loud Light to advance millennial civic participation and mobilize underrepresented communities in Kansas.