ICAN Member Terri Sterling VS Bank of America

When I woke up this morning, I knew that I had two important things to do today and that my schedule was tight. At 9:30, I was scheduled for a free breast ultrasound and at 10:30, I needed to be forty miles away for an action at Bank of America.

My plan was to get to the clinic early and try to slip in at 9:00, so I could be on the road by 9:30. I had decided that if they couldn’t do it, I would reschedule. Yet in the back of my mind I knew that free tests like these don’t come along often. At 45 with no insurance, I have never had a mammogram, so I knew that this appointment was important. At the same time, it is National Move Your Money Day and for me this almost seemed more important. Without some big changes for families like mine, learning of a health issue does little to make it better. Without a job or insurance, what will I do if I have breast cancer? I focused on the appointment.

My plan worked perfectly, and I was out by 9:30. The kids were waiting patiently and things were moving smoothly, except that my car wouldn’t start. I pushed it and popped the clutch and within ten minutes we were on our way. I knew I could start the car again if I parked on a hill in Pullman. I focused on the action. My teenager and I discussed why we were going to this action and what it meant to her. Big banks are stripping wealth from our communities and stripping her chances to get a good job, a nice home, and good education. My three and half year old and I practiced our chant “Bank of America is bad for America!” I told them both that there are some things in life where we don’t have much control or power, but when we participate in events like this, the smallest voices combined can represent a lot of power.

We arrived in time to make signs at the Whitman County Democrat Headquarters. I thanked them for joining us and allowing us to make signs. They also made buttons we wore that said, 99%.

We arrived on time at 11:00 and a handful of people were there from Occupy Moscow, Occupy the Palouse and soon we were joined by some of the Democrats. It was cold but sunny and traffic was pretty heavy. The crowd was diverse in age and income, although predominately white. A few struggling moms with kids, a few young couples, a few disabled, a few professionals, a few more retired and college students. We were about 30 people.

One middle-aged woman, Sandy, had never participated in an action like this before, but felt it was time to speak up. One elderly woman, Jane, has planned a trip next week to visit family in New York and now, she can’t wait to go to Occupy Wall Street. I spoke with members of the Young Democrats about some of my experiences as an activist.

The block was big, so we moved around and spread ourselves out in groups of three or four surrounding the block. Hanna, a young college student, pulled up in the bank parking lot and said she was there to support us by closing her account. Thirty minutes later, she came out with a check and showed us her account had been closed. She grabbed a sign and marched around with us for a while. Then she grabbed a stack of flyers and said she was going back to her dorm to spread the word. I did an interview with a guy from a radio station. I talked about being $150,000 in student loan debt, losing my home, and struggling on unemployment with no job prospects.

Many people honked in support, as some waved signs and others passed out flyers on how to move your money out of the big banks. We rallied for nearly two hours and we all felt the power of our commitment when we learned that over 1 million accounts had been closed today!

My eyes began to water, knowing that we are making a difference and that people are listening. We loaded up, rolled the car and popped the clutch, and we headed home. On the drive home, my mind wandered back to this morning and the test. The results will be mailed in four weeks. I know that whatever the results are, our actions today can only help the outcome.

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