Reader’s Forum–Tiani Coleman


Greg Orman, who almost unseated a deeply entrenched incumbent as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014, and who is now a promising independent candidate for Governor in Kansas, shares some vital insights in his book, A Declaration of Independents:  How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream.  Not only does Orman informatively expose details about the crushing control the two-party Duopoly holds on American politics, but he does so with unique credentials, and with a vision for how we can return power to “we the people.”

As a previous Republican-party insider in Utah, a state where Republicans dominate, I can relate to Orman’s description of politics in Kansas, also a heavily Republican state.  Orman mentions how partisan-controlled politics has forced candidates to take the most extreme views and duke out their chief battles in party primaries (since the general election outcome is usually a forgone conclusion).  I found the following observation by Orman to be particularly revealing and important:

“[I]n our current crisis, moderates are partly the authors of their own misfortune.  I’ve long held the view that moderates in both parties are the victims of the rule rigging and negative campaigning that they themselves have historically supported.  They made the assumption that if it was good for the party, it was good for them as incumbent officeholders. . . .  [They] helped to create an environment that was ironically hostile to them.”  (p. 106)

By definition, “moderates” are supposed to be more reasonable, more rational, less ideologically partisan, more mainstream – thus, less extreme.  They’re supposed to be the types of people who are able to find common ground with the other side.  However, the “moderates” failed America.  They lacked the political courage to “do the right thing.”  They became the entrenched establishment that was ever too happy to rig the rules in their favor, ever too comfortable engaging in cronyism, ever too eager to use their position for permanent career advancement, ever too entitled to not create a permanent class of elites that shut out most of America.

But, “the party people,” rather than blaming lack of ethics (abuse of power), have blamed moderates’ willingness to compromise on complicated issues; they’ve cynically denounced independent rationality itself.  Things have now become so highly polarized and partisan that “moderate” is a bad word for parties, and “moderates” are facing extinction in our party-controlled government.  The saddest part in all of this is that Book Imagedespite moderates’ concerns about the current state of things, very few have stepped forward and admitted their folly; they’re not actively working to right the ship they’re responsible for damaging.  As they lose re-election, they blame the extremists – and then they settle into a lucrative lobbying job.  They certainly can’t fathom working to reform a broken system – that would be too radical.  And nearly none of them will risk reputation and loss of money prospects to run as independents and/or publicly support independent candidates.

So major kudos to Greg Orman, someone who has been willing to put everything on the line and be a real leader.  He understands why our government isn’t working, and he’s willing to do what it takes – despite the naysayers who might call him “a spoiler, dishonest, or just plain crazy.”  Orman understands that the only way to fix things is for competent people of conviction who don’t see everything through a partisan lens, to step up – outside the current partisan system – and offer their independent minds and spirits at the solution table; after all, regardless of which side in our duopoly wins, “[w]e haven’t seen any fundamental changes in the [negative] long-term direction of our country.”  (p. 274).

I was struck by Orman’s example coming from research by the Bipartisan Policy Center, wherein on education reform proposals, “Democrats preferred ‘their party’s’ plan 75 percent to 17 percent.  Yet when the exact same details were called the ‘Republican Plan,’ only 12 percent of Democrats liked it.  The same dichotomy was present among Republicans.  Only independents answered the question irrespective of which party label was put on it.”  (p. 144)  Orman gets it:  “policy positions [are] not driving partisanship, but rather partisanship [is] driving policy positions.”

With attitudes such as George Will’s indicating that it’s less important to upgrade the “intellectual voltage” in the Senate than it is to get one more Republican elected (or Democrat, depending on who is speaking), we know we’ve lost any semblance of putting country first, but are simply trying to help our team win at any cost.  I’m heartened by Orman’s common sense approach of working to understand all points of view around an issue, and looking objectively and creatively to find solutions, embracing diversity of thought and intellectual conflict “as a way to get to the right answer,” calling upon all of us to be willing to change our minds as new information informs us that our prior position was incorrect.  This is what it means to be independent of partisan boxes and think for ourselves.

Orman points out that we would never allow our sports teams to shamelessly rig the rules of competition such that the same two teams always make it to the World Series, and yet we have allowed Republicans and Democrats to do this in U.S. politics.  It’s time for Americans of good faith everywhere to “cast off the heavy collar of partisanship,” (p. 255) be willing to take bold risks for our country – not only when we have nothing to lose, but especially when we have “everything” to lose – and create a better America for future generations.

Tiani Xochitl Coleman is a mother of five, a graduate of Cornell Law School, and president of NH Independent Voters.




A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream


641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#


Conference call tonight and Tiani Coleman in the Reader’s Forum


Learning How to Help the $2/Day Poor

In the book $2.00 A Day:  Living on Almost Nothing in America, by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, we peer into the lives of those left out of the 1996 Welfare Reform.  While the Clinton / Gingrich welfare reform offered a helpful hand up to some – the working poor; it put those who can’t manage to find or keep a job into a hopeless predicament of not being able to dig out . . . and more and more Americans are joining this group of people who live in deep poverty, a hidden poverty that goes unseen by most Americans.

Many think that those who can’t manage to find or keep a job are at fault, but we don’t take into account what makes finding or keeping a job nearly impossible: the horrendous, difficult circumstances they face at home; the costs associated with acquiring skills and an education; the deprived working conditions they’re subjected to; the bad luck that hits them, such as sickness, broken vehicles, child-care problems, etc.

Though in many respects, I’m far removed from the lives of the $2/day poor, I have seen some of these struggles up close in the lives of a few family members: one who became a single mother of five children with virtually no child support from her ex-husband and no college degree; and one who, at a young age, became a widow with no college degree and eight children.  Both have had phases of struggling to find or keep a job.  Similar to what’s described in the book, each has faced mounting family medical bills, or has had to board with family or friends, be very resourceful at scrimping, or has even had to resort to some borderline tactics in finding money for food, the next utility payment or other life necessities.

There was a “break-through” with one when it finally became clear to us, her loved ones, that there was no way she could support herself; she didn’t have the credentials / skills to find a decent job to cover her expenses and had a high amount of debt and was facing some mental health challenges.  Rather than demanding she get a job before lending a hand, we finally realized that she needed to be substantially helped in order to get back out on her own.  One family member agreed to pay her student loans each month; one family member paid her utility bills each month; one family member paid her car payment; one family member helped with a limited amount of “spending money cash” each month, and she was resourceful in finding a family member to board with, and she utilized SNAP for food.  This allowed her to focus on acquiring skills in a good-fit profession, and she has now acquired certification and a job.

But I’m sad that it took years before we realized this.  Family members would help her out here and there when she would urgently beg for help; but otherwise, she was left in her desperation to try to make life workable in her incredibly difficult situation, with us all baffled as to why she couldn’t stay employed and be more self-sufficient.

The book makes clear that the $2/day poor don’t see “a handout” as a solution; they simply hope for the chance to work, to find a full-time job paying $12 – $13 an hour, a modest dwelling in a safe neighborhood, and some stability.  As a society, we really need to focus on how we can create more decent paying jobs.

As the book explains, the 1996 welfare reform pushed millions of low-income single moms into the workforce, but it did nothing to improve the conditions of low-wage jobs, and arguably worsened the quality of the average low-wage job in America.  For example, many employers utilize work loading and on-call shifts, where employees get few hours and unpredictable schedules, but are on-call 24/7 without full compensation for such.  How can someone find child care in these circumstances, or earn a living wage?  Workers also face “wage-theft,” with violations of labor standards, where they get less than the minimum wage, do not collect overtime pay, and are required to work off the clock.  Housing prices have also skyrocketed such that there is nowhere in America where a family supported by a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market value without being heavily cost burdened.

Though I have watched some family members struggle greatly, they have at least had supportive family to help; they belong to caring church communities, and they were raised in a loving, nurturing middle class family environment.  Their children have risen above the circumstances of their parents.  So many of the $2/day poor are raised in hellish home/community conditions, and have very little family or community support; the cycle of abject poverty is repeated from generation to generation.

There are no easy answers.  Edin and Shaefer discuss the feasibility of raising the minimum wage, if not to $15/hour, then to at least $10/hour; they support government-subsidized private sector job creation, as well as creating more government-sector jobs.  They mention expanding the earned income tax credit (EITC), recognizing that this is a more dignified way of helping people than the shame-filled TANF.  The book also advocates for improving labor conditions and changing negative incentives such as TANF block grants that subsidize the states more than the working poor.

I believe some policy changes will likely help; for example, tax deductions for big mortgages that subsidize the rich could instead expand the EITC; laws could be passed to prohibit uncompensated on-call labor; benefits could be more flexible so that beneficiaries have access to cash to meet their individual needs, etc.  Some policy changes need to be carefully approached so that drastic increases to the minimum wage don’t just result in high inflation, or major housing subsidies don’t result in higher rents, defeating their purpose.  Jobs created need to be sustainable.   If we’re helping people improve their skill sets and life circumstances to rise above what’s holding them back, we’re making good investments.

Ultimately, though, we need a change of heart, a deepening of our cultural values to help solve the problems of poverty.  The Teach for America teacher who helped Tabitha Hicks was a genuine example of what needs to happen throughout our society if we want to truly help the poor.  Good people need to be willing to provide service, whether it be a highly qualified individual giving up a lucrative consulting job to teach and go the extra mile in the rural, poor south; or people making an effort to give long-term sustained help to family members; or people volunteering as tutors, caring for the elderly, etc.  It will require employers (such as the owner of Market Basket) to voluntarily raise their minimum wage or labor standards, which ultimately “forces” employers such as Walmart to make some of the same changes.  We need to integrate and interact with one another so that we see the humanity and recognize that with just a few differences in life circumstances, it could be us.

With the ever-broadening automation of jobs, it’s even more crucial that we quit worrying about partisanship and ideological purity (that contradicts itself in practice), and start working together to expand the economic pie, reduce the selfish greed that drives exploitation, and find ways to help everyone around us find hope in reaching the simple American dream of having a job, a home and providing for their families.

Tiani Xochitl Coleman is a mother of five, a graduate of Cornell Law School, and president of NH Independent Voters.


Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

We will be discussing:

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#



Reader’s Forum—Tiani Coleman



In the book Ratf**ked:  The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, by David Daley, we get behind-the-scenes insights into how we’ve arrived at such a partisan, polarized Congress, where the American People are its victims.  The book is a piece of investigative journalism, wherein we’re able to witness how the Republicans were able to more than counteract the Democratic wave of 2008; when Obama was elected in 2008, Republicans were afraid that demographic trends, combined with Democratic control of the White House and both chambers of Congress would leave Republicans in the dust.  But Republicans hatched a plan, called REDMAP, that changed everything for at least a decade, if not more.   While all eyes were on Washington, Republicans (through the Republican State Leadership Committee – RSLC) were raising a lot of big money and putting it into relatively inexpensive, targeted state house, senate and governor races, knowing that the Census of 2010 would bring on new redistricting, and if they could get control – at the state level — of redistricting (the reapportionment and drawing of boundaries for U.S. House Districts), they could regain control of Congress.  It worked beyond their wildest dreams, even with unintended consequences.

The book provides example after example, of how this was done.   In PA, for example, in 2008, their U.S. House seats were 12-7 for Democrats.  In 2010, it flipped 12-7 for Republicans, and the Republican majority grew to 13-5 in 2012.  But in 2012, “Obama won 52% of the vote [in PA]; Democratic house candidates won 51 percent of the vote[,but only] . . . 28% of the seats.”  In NC, Democrats entered the 2012 election with 7/13 seats, and even though they won 50.6% of the votes, the Republicans took 9/13 seats, which became 10/13 in 2014.  This was done across the country by using the Voting Rights Act as a reason to pack minorities into the same district.  Some people think that’s just the way it is, with minorities and Democrats in higher population centers, but when you look at the extremely crazy district lines, you recognize that it’s a very deliberate attempt at getting certain political outcomes by compacting the Democrats and spreading Republicans out among many low-Democrat districts.  It gave Democrats some ultra-safe Districts where they wouldn’t have to pay any attention to anyone other than their base, and it usually resulted in some Republican safe Districts, as well as Republican-leaning districts.  No wonder why so many people feel like their vote doesn’t count.  It doesn’t!  If you’re part of a supermajority in a safe district, your vote is being wasted on voting for someone who will win anyway; you can’t use it to try to help someone win in a close race; and if you’re in the minority in a supermajority safe district, your vote will never change the outcome.

Daley shows how redistricting has caused the American “middle” to collapse.  The districts are so lopsided that the middle doesn’t matter.  Of all 435 seats in Congress, only a few dozen are competitive.  This means that the only real challenge candidates face happens in the primaries, where ideological partisans fight to convince rancorous partisans that they are the most liberal, in the case of the Democrats, or the most conservative in the case of the Republicans.  So the members of the House have become extremely polarized, only responding to its extremes.  They go in with their minds made up and will only be punished for cooperating amongst competing interests.  The Republican leadership at the time REDMAP was formed seemed to have helped create an uncontrollable monster that ultimately toppled many of them, too.  Moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats are an endangered species now.

Redistricting is currently before the Supreme Court.  In North Carolina, gerrymandered districts were recently struck down for being race-based.  The Supreme Court will soon hear a Wisconsin case to determine if the Court can find a standard to strike down gerrymandered districts for being partisan-based.  With the technology we have at our disposal, it looks like it may be possible to enact a standard, according to an efficiency gap, or deviations between the vote totals and the districts created, as well as showing that the districts created are against all odds that they aren’t a deliberate attempt at getting political, pre-determined results.  If not, we’ve really got to change things so that redistricting can’t continue to destroy our Democracy.  But even if the Court finds a standard, it will help, but won’t completely solve the problem.  While the book showed that moves towards a more independent process, such as independent redistricting commissions, help a little, they still have a lot of partisan interference behind the scenes, and even when they’re caught, the solutions are less than fair.

Larry Lessig is quoted as saying, “political corruption denies a basic equality:  the equality of the citizens.  Once you see equality as the flaw, then it’s obvious what the bugs are.”  I feel like I’m an independent because I finally saw equality – or inequality – as the flaw.  In my opinion, as long as we allow parties to control our elections, and the majority winners to get the spoils of chairmanships, committees, redistricting privileges, multitudes of appointments, fundraising advantages, etc., our government will always be about which party is in power.  The book pointed how the Democrats plan to try to replicate what the Republicans have done, instead of working to change the system!  If we really want to give equality to the citizens, we need to give all voters an equal say in the election process, even when they don’t belong to a party.  This not only means creating districts that are as competitive as possible, but it means having preliminary elections where voters and candidates who are not part of the two major parties aren’t shut out, but have an equal voice and role.  The role of polarization and partisanship could change quite a bit with nonpartisan primaries.

Tiani Xochitl Coleman is a mother of five, a graduate of Cornell Law School, and president of NH Independent Voters.

Tiani recently had an oped published n the Concord Monitor entitled, “Voters shouldn’t ignore what the parties are doing–we need reform”.


Conference Call with David Daley

Author of RATF**KED

Sunday, June 4th at 7 pm EST

Call: 641-715-3605
Pass code: 767775#


Ratfucked book image

Tiani and Kira-mother and daughter-write two poems for you

Today we have two poems–one from Tiani Coleman, the President of New Hampshire Independent Voters and one written by her daughter, Kira about the experience of growing up with a mother who is a political activist.


Tiani and Kira Coleman, 2011



 “I wrote this poem as an expression of my political and life journey.”  –Tiani Coleman

Voyage to Independence


Born, with dreams.  Smiling.

The inner voice guiding – no worries

Do good . . . and it returns tenfold

Hope.  Joy.


The path is clear, progress constant

Foes exist to thwart – in theory

But there’s nothing to fear

In this black and white world if you choose the right

Always . . . Answers, safety, certainty.  Purpose.


Don’t risk, or veer.  It’s all laid out

For the fortunate few who know

The Truth.

Live it.  Hold it.  Defend and promote it.

Follow those who went before.  It works.


And so it was.  ‘Til the seasons changed.

Hope may spring eternal, but Spring doesn’t stay.  There’s Summer

Fall and Winter, too.  And all are needed for life to

Continue.  For new things to evolve.


Trusting.  Serving.  Blind, unawares.

Used, used and betrayed.

Confidence shaken.  It’s dark – cold.

In the void . . . carry on.  It’s

All you can do.


Cultivate the grey, intricate shadows.  They’re rich

With possibility.  And when the Light

Bursts down, life rises up in a

Beautiful embrace as never before.  Authenticity.


Not a beam of certitude . . . Rays of

Understanding.  Perspective:  gratitude, humility.


Not – us and them.  Harmonious contrasts.

Each and All valued.  Liberty and Equality.

Hope.  Joy.  Love.

Tiani Coleman



My Mother is an Activist

Kira Coleman

At nine o’clock I’m falling asleep

Under an armchair

at the headquarters.

My hair: spread across the floor

My fingers: about to be stepped on

My mother: still in a meeting.


She used to push me on long walks in a stroller:

just the two of us.

We must have walked every neighborhood in the county

given every house at least one flyer


At eleven I pushed that same stroller

full of my little brother and a Costco bag of candy.

We were in an awful lot of parades under that

summer sun.


We distributed an awful lot of little signs.  My grandpa,

I remember, at eighty-four years old pounding signs into the

desert clay


They lost the race, of course.

None of us had any other expectations

from their hodgepodge volunteer campaign

We understood even as children: they didn’t have

the money to buy the election.

They didn’t even have the money to pay my mother.


At seventeen I went to another convention

on my birthday.  I’d imagined a big

building — like the buildings we went to when I was three

but this was an independent convention.

This was a tent convention.


Still, it was the same conventional story

watching my little sister


Her little blond ponytail

pressed against the hard plastic seat

Her little pink coat standing out against

all the actual politicians in the room

she wondered just like I did —


Mommy, when can we go home?

Kira Coleman

Kira Coleman


Afterward:  Kira Coleman, 17, is a junior in high school and the daughter of Tiani ColemanTiani Coleman was elected Vice Chair of the Salt Lake County Republican Party in 2001 and Chair of the Salt Lake County Republican Party in 2003.  In 2010, she agreed to be the campaign manager for Hyer for Congress, running on the Democratic ticket, challenging Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the most conservative district in the country.  In 2012, Tiani officially declared as an independent voter and began advocating for systemic electoral reform.  She moved to NH with her family in 2013, and is now President of New Hampshire Independent Voters.  Says Kira, “My mom asked me to write her a poem for the blog; when I told her that I don’t have enough political passion to write political poetry, she said I could write a child’s perspective.  It perhaps did not come out how she had expected… The perspective of a child on long meetings and lots of adults arguing about stuff is not bound to be particularly positive.  I would, however, like to note that I do have a lot of respect for what my mom does and for her motivation and integrity in the political world.  That being said, I have no intention of future political involvement.”


Our celebration of National Poetry month continues throughout April with poems chosen or written by P4P members.  

Reader’s Forum–June Hirsh, Rick Robol and Tiani Coleman

As part of our viewing and savoring The Notion of Family Together, several Politics for the People members are selecting a favorite photo and sharing their thoughts about that image.  Today we hear from June Hirsh, Rick Robol and Tiani Coleman.



The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Pg 45 Mom Holding Mr. Art, 2005

When I first saw the photograph “Mom Holding Mr. Art” I saw sadness, stoicism, hopelessness – defeat. I saw a loss that was palpable to me. Yet I also saw resoluteness and strength. In The Notion Of Family Mr. Art appears more than once. He is part of the fabric of Latoya Ruby Frazier’s life, her mother’s and her family’s life.

Each time I re-visit the photograph, each time I see it, new feelings and thoughts emerge. I see intimacy and love – a strong bond between Mr. Art and Frazier’s mother. Yet this is not an embrace. How “Mom” is holding Mr. Art says to me – I care for you. Somehow I will protect you. We are in this together. There is sustenance here. Frazier’s mother’s expression is sad, it’s resigned; yet it also says to me – we will make it through.

Frazier’s family had migrated from the South and lived in Braddock for 4 generations. They “escaped” along with 6 milion other blacks from the early 1900’s to the early 1960’s  from the brutally racist Jim Crow south. They re-settled in Braddock, PA to build a new life. But with the close of the steel mills, life as they knew it – the life that they had built –was ripped away from them.

To quote Frazier,

“Some people remember, Braddock was the place that had all the theaters, had all the bars, had all the shopping centers. That’s why people came here. They came to shop and for entertainment in that period.

The steel mill was the center of the town, and most of its residents worked there and lived in Carnegie-built row homes. That area, the way I see it historically, was the right of passage for black and white steelworkers. At one point we all lived there. But as the steel industry declined in the 1960s and 1970s, the area lost much of its vitality. White residents moved away from Braddock, leaving behind communities of color who were frequently barred from getting loans to buy homes elsewhere.

Through discrimination and racial and systemic oppression, you see how black people were entrapped in that area — through redlining, and not being able to get loans from banks to move to the suburbs, how they were left behind.”

When I see Mr. Art in the photo I chose and in others he is depicted in, I also realize that the look in his eyes and his demeanor bring to my mind and heart my Father, Irving Hirsh.  He was a loving man, angry, depressed, sad. He saw himself as a failure because he couldn’t provide more for his family. He had a hidden shame that he shared with me when I was grown about the abuse he experienced from his father, a seemingly pious man, who brutalized him, his mother and his sisters.

Mr. Art and my Father come from very different histories, cultures, races. Yet there are threads – a commonality of

Irving and June Hirsh

Irving and June Hirsh

exclusion and persecution and a humanness too – that bind them. My father was a working class Jew, first generation of a family that emigrated from Romania in the early 1900’s to escape the murderous pogroms against Jews. We lived in New York – in Brooklyn. He worked his whole life in the garment district in Manhattan, which produced women’s and men’s blouses and shirts. Long hours – backbreaking work, bending over the massive cutting and pattern making tables in a unionized sweat shop – freezing in the winder – and broiling hot it the summer.  One day he brought me to work with him in the factory. We always called it the Place – “Daddy’s at the Place.”  He was introducing me to the other workers –some dong similar work, some hauling in fabrics – and women  – many women working at the sewing machines. I remember how proud my Father was to introduce all of us to each other. Suddenly his boss plowed into the space and began berating and yelling at him. I have no memory of why or what was said but I knew that my dear Father was so humiliated – devastated. I was frightened and ashamed.  We never spoke about it after that.  My Father never took me back to the factory.

When my Father was older he studied a lot. He became proud, stronger – less beaten down. He urged me to stand up for what I believe in – to not turn away from injustices. There were times that he talked to me about how blacks and Jews were oppressed people and how both fought back against the terror of oppression.  He learned about the great migration of blacks out of the South, how courageously blacks fought and died to abolish slavery – he likened the anti-black murderous acts in the south to pogroms. He showed me how Jews were not cowards who walked meekly into the gas ovens – they were fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and in the face of death fought back in so many other valiant ways  – and that blacks and Jews walked and organized side by side during the Civil Rights movement.

I have been an independent political activist, a progressive Jew, for close to 45 years now. I do my best to stand up for what I believe in. Organizing with Cathy Stewart and with many, many others, my commitment is to building community, to creating a more fair and decent world, so that all peoples can live in dignity and to do all that we can to bring an end to poverty. I thank and have  a lot of respect for Latoya Ruby Frazier for what she has co-created with her Mother and by using her “camera as a weapon” against injustice. I share a kinship with her, with her family, with her community – with all poor and working people, white and of color who were left behind in Braddock – for people of color, of all nationalities, races, and religions, Jews, Muslims, people who were and are at this very moment being destroyed or left behind in all the Braddock’s in the US and around the world.

junehirsch soloJune Hirsh is an organizer with

She lives in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.




The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Pg

The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Pg 113: Grandma Ruby on her Bed, 2007

“Grandma Ruby On Her Bed” (gelatin print, 20” X 24”), 2007, is a striking image of a magnificent woman, Grandma Ruby, in her golden years. The brass bed frames the stunning beauty of this strong, wise, courageous woman who has seen many decades of joy, pain, humor and love. The play of light on her face and body bathes the goodness of her entire being. Pillows, soft sheets and a velveteen pleated bed skirt enthrone Grandma Ruby with regal warmth and comfort. Through it all, she has endured– and is symbol of the strength and hope of her family, of her people and of humanity.

Rick Robol is an attorney and activists for the Independents movement. 

Rick Robol at a Voting Rights are Primary informational picket outside the Ohio Secretary of State's offices, 2014.

Rick Robol at a Voting Rights are Primary informational picket outside the Ohio Secretary of State’s offices, 2014.

He currently serves on the National Electoral Reform Committee of, as well as Vice President of Independent Ohio.


The Notion of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Pg 36-37: The Bottom (Talbot Towers, Alleghany County Housing Projects), 2009

The Notion of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Pg 36-37: The Bottom (Talbot Towers, Alleghany County Housing Projects), 2009

Feeling profoundly transformed in a short period of time, I honor LaToya Ruby Frazier’s ability to capture through photography and only a few words, a vivid story that paints a compelling declaration – personal, familial, historical, sociocultural and political!

With a book entitled The Notion of Family, I was caught a little off guard as I opened the pages, and the family I was beholding had very little in common with my own.  I’m number eight of nine children, where faith, family and community were always interwoven, and we never felt alone or alienated.  Though my family’s gender roles were traditional, my father and mother had a genuine, loving, respectful relationship, and my father was fully engaged in our lives.  My childhood memories are only positive, bright and joyful.  I spent some of my childhood in sheltered, predominantly white communities in Utah, and some of my childhood in Mexico and Colombia.  I went to high school in Texas’ lower Rio Grande Valley, where at least 80% of my graduating class was Hispanic.  So while I had interactions with poverty and some minority cultures, my home was always a haven from the storm outside.  Though I was accepting of everyone, my young innocence internalized very little of the difficulties that people outside of my home were experiencing.

Going through the book, I focused on the art of the photography, appreciating the exposure I was getting to something different.  Grandma Ruby was intriguing, and I was feeling sympathy for LaToya and her family – but I wasn’t really personally connecting or empathizing . . . until everything changed at page 36.  When I read the words at the end of page 37, “Day and night, BOC Gases emits an industrial hissing sound that reverberates throughout the borough,” my mind returned to a conversation I recently had with a member of my community.

I’ve spent most of the last year fighting a proposal by Kinder Morgan, the largest energy infrastructure company in North America, to construct a huge, high pressure natural gas pipeline from the fracking fields of PA to Dracut, MA (most likely for overseas export).  We found out last December that it was slated to cut right through my neighborhood, with our home in the “incineration zone” if there were to be an accident.  It will permanently clear-cut many forested areas; cross numerous rivers, streams, conservation lands and residential properties; and bring in compressor stations and other unsightly noise and pollution-producing facilities that will destroy the beauty, cohesiveness and way of life of numerous communities along its path.  It’s been a living nightmare of sorts for all of us impacted; we’ve had to spend all of our excess time researching, writing reports, attending meetings, waving signs, writing letters to the Editor and to public officials, informing other members of the community — doing anything and everything to fight a system that rubber stamps the agenda of the big corporations and gives them the benefit of eminent domain for their profit-making ventures.  We can feel so helpless as common citizens against the collusion of big money and elected officials.  My street has doctors, lawyers, respected businessmen, renowned scientists and involved members of the community.  We got the attention of our Board of Selectmen, and they formed a pipeline task force comprised of many of us, including a member of our conservation commission.  We raised such a stink, and understood where the most effective ways to put our energy were, that we were able to make a small change for the better.  If we had not gotten involved, the pipeline would have surely torn across our neighborhood and the river behind us and other town conservation land.  We haven’t been able to stop the pipeline yet, but we’ve influenced them to move the route enough that it won’t come through our neighborhood or the conservation land, and will be far enough away that we won’t be so deeply and personally impacted by its negative effects.

Yet, back to the conversation with the member of my community.  A retiree, she and her husband’s property was directly in the line of fire.  The new map now has their property out of the direct route, but they will still be in the “incineration zone,” may likely have a new gas-fired power plant erected by their home, and will be close enough to feel many of the negative effects of the pipeline.  Our taskforce had lobbied the company to move the route further away from them as well, but to no avail.  My friend said to me, paraphrasing, “We live closer to the industrial area, on the other side of the tracks; we’re not as affluent as your side of town; nobody cares about what happens to us.  Now the rest of town will go about their life and let our neighborhood and lives be completely destroyed.”  I felt for her, but I had already lost so much of my time, fighting.  We did what we could, and it could be worse . . . most of the other towns didn’t even accomplish that much.  But when I saw that picture on page 36, and read that line on page 37, “an industrial hissing sound that reverberates throughout the borough,” the whole book took on a personal meaning, and I knew clearly that I have a moral obligation to keep fighting on her behalf, and on behalf of all of the others in neighboring communities.

To me, BOC Gases on page 36 is a symbol of the nature of political change . . . when enough political pressure builds up, change happens, but because it’s done due to pressure and not out of a deeply rooted inner change and moral desire to altruistically improve human lives and create greater equality, the change is really a façade.  It may put out a temporary fire, but it doesn’t address the root of the problem, and creates new problems or even greater problems for others, usually those without a voice.  We must use our power to bring about real, systemic change that gives everyone a meaningful voice.  I thank LaToya Ruby Frazier for what she’s doing, and for influencing me to keep fighting, too.

Tiani Xochitl Coleman is a mother of five, a graduate of Cornell Law School, and president of NH Independent Voters.

Dr. Lenora Fulani (l) with Tiani Coleman, recipient of a 2015 Anti-Corruption Award by the New York City Independence Clubs

Dr. Lenora Fulani (l) with Tiani Coleman, recipient of a 2015 Anti-Corruption Award by the New York City Independence Clubs


Politics for the People Conference Call

With LaToya Ruby Frazier

Sunday, December 6th at 7 pm EST


641 715-3605

Code 767775#


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