story by Melinda Lejman | photos courtesy of Emily Fulmer
…A PSA from a woman who was jogging in Overton Park and was saluted with a sieg heil by a 30-something white male…
…Photos from a protest opposing the repeal of the ACA outside CHOICES Center for Reproductive Health…
…A daily call to action urging calls, emails and texts to representatives…
These are the posts of Indivisible Memphis, a closed Facebook group whose purpose is to collectively and radically resist the Trump Agenda. What began at the national level as the Indivisible Movement has now branched into local groups totaling over 5,000. Originally started by Mary Green, Indivisible Memphis is now co-run by Mary and Emily Fulmer, an activist and organizer. Since its inception in January, Indivisible Memphis now has over 1700 members.
While the main focus of Indivisible is resisting the Trump Agenda, the group also highlights local issues. At the time of this interview, the group was focused on flipping the State Representative seat for District 95, which encompasses parts of Memphis, Germantown, and Collierville. “There’s never been a democrat as far as we can see in the history that’s held that seat, and there’s never been a woman,” says Fulmer. “Now we have a woman democrat running.” She’s speaking of Julie Ashworth, and the group has been fervently supporting Ashworth through volunteer efforts.
Emily Fulmer at one time thought she might want to be a pastor. That didn’t quite work out, but the passion for getting ‘church people’ involved in social justice has held fast.
Part of the current focus of Indivisible Memphis is identifying whose seats are coming up for an election and who needs to go. “We don’t have an official criteria, but if you tick enough boxes we’re going to help you with the campaign.” A former midtowner, Emily and her family moved to Collierville two years ago. “We don’t exactly fit in,” she shares. “But I’m glad we did it, because we’re actually in Kustoff’s district.” That’s the seat she’s hoping to secure for Julie Ashworth. “Julie is super pro-LGBT, pro woman’s choice, and anti-voucher,” says Fulmer.
When it comes to organizing and activism, Fulmer is a pro, but she got there through what she calls “baptism by fire.” Her first job when she moved to Memphis ten years ago was with the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign as their West Tennessee regional organizer. “This was when we were fighting for Obamacare,” Fulmer adds. But she really started showing her activist stripes much earlier. Studying religion in college, Fulmer wrote her senior thesis on what the Bible has to contribute to our current conversation about mutual consent between same-sex couples. “We had this explosion of anti-LGBT stuff going on on my campus,” says Fulmer. “We say we’re super religious in the South, and we have all these issues that seem to me like we are just going completely in the wrong direction in our response to them.”
After college, Fulmer attended divinity school at Vanderbilt. “I thought for a minute I might want to be a pastor,” she says. While that didn’t work out, Fulmer’s interest in getting “church people” involved in social justice stuck. At the time, Fulmer was seeing a lot of anti- immigration bills going through the state legislature. This led Fulmer to get involved with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “I was helping them go into churches and talk about this legislation and helping church people think about (it),” shares Fulmer. “Of all issues, the Bible talks about welcoming the stranger a ridiculous amount of time.”
Now an administrator for the Indivisible Memphis page, Fulmer has been able to rally the troops in support of protecting the rights of LGBT individuals. This includes calls to action regarding legislature such as the so called “bathroom” bill and the natural meaning bill. “When it went to Haslam to sign or veto, we targeted him big-time,” says Fulmer. Indivisible Memphis also shares information from the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP). “During state legislature, every day we were posting about TEP, ” she says. Regarding health care reform, Fulmer believes that defeating or holding up its progress holds great potential in terms of not harming a lot of groups, including the LGBT community.
Fulmer, Green, and Stephanie Leff at the Shelby County Election Commission’s training to become Deputy Registrars. The training allows participants to register people to vote. Registration is much faster this way because the form doesn’t have to be mailed in. Fulmer and many other members went through the training and have since held or volunteered at voter registration events all over town.
In Fulmer’s “real life” she balances managing a national non-profit’s social media strategy and raising her two children along with her husband, a religious studies professor at CBU. It would be easy to become overwhelmed by the demandsof everyday life while being a dedicated Resister. But for Fulmer, that’s what makes Indivisible Memphis so perfect. “I think the best way to motivate yourself, to keep yourself on track for doing something that you want to do, but that you find hard to do with your busy life, is to be a part of a group like this,” she says. “I’ve met so many people and I know that they are doing these calls to action, that they are calling their legislators, and then they post that they did it and that makes me feel like ‘Ok, I need to get on it.”
From organizing protests, like the one they held outside Representative Kustoff’s office, to email and letter writing campaigns, to attending city hall meetings, Indivisible Memphis has something for everyone, no matter the cause. Even if you’ve never been active in politics before, there’s no need to worry that you won’t find good company. “There are so many people in the group who had never called their legislator before and now do it without even batting an eye every day. They just get used to it,” says Fulmer. “You can get used to anything, you just need encouragement.”