Davids V.s. Goliath: A Thank YOU note to All The "No on 16" volunteers From the Grassroots org StopProp16.org
“News comes that the war is finally over.
Tears welled up in my eyes and flew like a river.
No more my wife and children need to worry.
The exuberance struck me so hard that I could not figure out what to do with my book in my hand.”
– Du Fu (Tang Dynasty, 712-770 AD, ancient China)
It is beyond words to describe the feeling at the moment when I heard from Mr. Ward Connerly, President of CFEF, that we defeated Prop 16 on the election day. I cried out of joy, just like what the ancient Chinese Poet Du Fu wrote above, who experienced a mix of intense joy and relieves after learning a long and excruciating civil war finally came to an end.
As a board member of Silicon Valley Chinese Association(SVCA), I was involved on this campaign since April 2020, and started to organize our volunteers since May 2020. There were a lot of work, such as building up volunteer teams, maintaining wikipedia pages, creating and managing our social media accounts, creating the grassroots No on Prop 16 campaign website (NoACA5.org,and later the StopProp16.org more details and relationship between CFER and StopProp16.org in this deck of slides), organizing supporters to attend the assembly/senate hearings, managing the project of developing phone/email banking platforms, organizing the very first "No on Prop16" Car rally in Cupertino, designing the endorsement subsystem for CFER website, distributing yard signs and flyers and coordinating radio and newspaper ad buys solely by our volunteers. During these 5 months, I was fortunate enough to be a witness as the history unfolds in front of me. And along the way, I have made and lost friends, experienced many dramatic moments that I would never have expected and also never forget. But most importantly, I’m glad that all is well when it ends well, and we won this battle!
And this article is a humble first attempt to emphasize the great work our volunteers have done and show our gratitude to all of our volunteers!
Thank you everyone!
[Warning from the author] this article is extremely long! But there is a reason for that, and hopefully you will find it not boring…
The Campaign and The Volunteers
Amy, one of our dedicated volunteers, made the posters above to thank everyone who has helped us, based on a list that I offered. It is inevitably an incomplete list. It represents thousands of volunteers and each line stands for one or many groups of volunteers spending many days and nights of work. It has been a long journey, and we all experienced some churns due to overworking, relocations, family needs, differences in opinions and expectations, energy draining up, but most of us kept it up until the end of this campaign, with great persistence.
Persistence is the most difficult thing to do in the face of doubt, criticism, conflicts and misunderstandings. The word “persistence” is almost an over-simplification to describe the difficulty to brace against the head winds we experienced.
Nevertheless, we made it. We made it by crawling from midnight darkness to twilight, from mission impossible to something plausible, tangible, and then to a glimpse of hope that made us feel cautiously optimistic, and finally, to a victory that we would never expect, a triumph in a battle that we never thought we would return from when we first stepped in.
Without any hesitation, we threw ourselves into this battle, tried several little things everyday with the mindset of “if we never try we will fail but if we try we could succeed and would not regret in the future.”. Perseverance eventually paid off, and this victory is something so epic that requires us all to celebrate with wine and champagne！
This has been a campaign for ALL Californians!
It is a battle between:
- We the people and special interests.
- Truths vs misinformation and lies.
- 1.6 million dollars vs 30 million dollars.
- 8000 independent small donors vs 70 mega donors.
- Volunteers and civil rights leaders vs paid propaganda machines
- Creativity and selflessness vs vandalism
As mentioned by CFER president Ward Connerly and Prof. Gail Heriot, the efforts of volunteers were proven to be very critical to the success of this campaign. We were dwarfed by our opponents in funding by 18 times but we had the most passionate volunteer teams.
The opponents has only money, and they did burn the money, but that’s all they could do.
In contrast, we do not have their luxury of seemingly unlimited money, but we have our devoted volunteers!
We didn’t burn money, yet our volunteers burnt themselves as sacrifices to this war!
Yes you read it correctly. Not only were our volunteers unpaid, but they also donated to the campaign; not only did they donate, but they also helped to ask around for more donations from their own circles; not only did they help the fundraisers, but they also took on detailed tasks on different frontiers. And most of them are doing multiple campaign tasks at the same time!
That is called devotion my friend.
This level of devotion could never be bought by money! And this was exactly what our opponents lacked but we had and cherished!
In this campaign, volunteers from various parts of the state gradually shaped their unique characteristics in the movements. The 22 statewide car rallies could no longer be ignored by anyone, and they served the purpose of unifying volunteers, ground breaking the media lockout, building up local teams. The car rallies also helped to promote CFER in its early stages and the early endorsement on CFER from StopProp16.org cleared the confusion about where to donate for the whole process of the campaign. Most of the active donors were also our active or core members from car rally teams.
I would like to thank Ava, Selena, Echo, Tina, Liang, Emily (Abu) for organizing the very first car rally together with me in Cupertino. And every single one of them also kept fighting until this day! We started to use magnetic car poster in this rally (and we had to ask the participants to return them because we need to use them again for future rallies). ACA5 was renamed to Prop16 only the day before the car rally and Emily had to modify the posters the night before to reflect this change! The rally was covered by local media in multiple languages and by social media as well. I believe this was the first time Prop16 was learned by the general public of California people (outside of the campaign team). And this was the first time I told the media that we planned to hold a car rally every week, at a different city, all the way up to the election day! I am proud that we managed to do so, with some exception of wild fire or smoky days.
The second car rally in Fremont was covered by NBC. It was combined with fundraising during that week we raised over 20k dollars, thanks to the careful organizing efforts from Emily(Abu) and Henry(LaoLiang). This car rally marks the first time many of our core members joined this campaign, including Ruo Fei, Facebook live stream anchor Maggie. And Henry later became our chief navigator who coordinated the parade advancing via zoom at each of the rallies. His voice of directing traffic was highly recognizable by most car rally participants and volunteers.
The first two "No on Prop 16" car rallies established the regularity of the rallies to follow: media outreach, guest speakers, FB live streaming, car parade on streets, fundraising by donation, the recap meeting after the rallies, media follow-up and social media continuation on media reports. Our rallies were improved each time, and we have built up not only a very strong car rally core team, but also a strong media outreach team. This media outreach team has been very instrumental to amplify our voices through out this campaign.
And the car rally is the most effective, safe rally form for this year, due to the unique COVID-19 situation. Most organizers of consequent car rallies on different topics (other than "No on Prop 16") knew about our rallies, and they agree on our position! Each car rally means at least efforts for one whole week of preparation, and each day/hour/minute on the preparation by our volunteers means the sacrifice of their priceless family time!
I want to thank all the volunteers who have made our car rallies happen and the sacrifice their families made, especially considering that every car rally takes at least one week to prepare. During a time of COVID-19 pandemic, car rallies are proven to be very instrumental and effective in increasing the awareness of our campaign messages. I encourage you to check our photo archive of car rallies. You may find yourself there!
Car Rally Core Volunteers: Ava, Selena, Echo, Tina, Liang, Maggie, Emily (Abu), Henry, Ruofei, Stella, Cheney, Grace Chin, Helen, Bingfeng, Sophia, Ric, Jing, Adrian, GraceLee, Sylvia, Anfeng, Dong Ge, Jack Sun, Eva, Susan, Zig, Xiaofeng, Shiyu, Raymond, Tianya, etc
Southern CA Volunteer Activities
In LA metropolitan area, under the leadership of Susan Guo and others key members, our volunteers managed to organize huge or mini car rallies or street rallies every week. They took personal risks to hang the “No Prop 16” banners over highway overpass in the face of multiple cases of harassment and vandalism. They also designed their own yard signs way earlier than the CFER official ones and deployed them across the cities. They have not only made very excellent Youtube Ads but they also raised some fund to promote them. They have also worked with local newspaper for printed “No On Prop 16” Ads. What’s more, the LA team forced themselves to use Tiktok to promote our campaign messages.
The team San Diego, led of Shi Yu, organized two large scaled car rallies, and one mini scaled car rally to promote “No on Prop 16”. Kudos to our volunteers and leaders!
In orange county, organized Steve and TOC, the team has made efforts to get out the votes. Steve, an independent, is a star there. He led the street corner rally which attracted many other volunteers to join him. And the 4-cities-5-events on the same day, was Steve’s idea to counter the yes side student rallies. And our volunteer teams in the 4 cities made it a reality with a very short notice, and our rallies got “Main Stream Media” coverage as well!
An Incomplete list of Southern CA volunteers: HQH, BCF, Susan Guo, Zig Gao, Mary He, Lily, Paul Cheng, Annie Wu, Lesley Ma, Edmund Liu, Xiaofeng, Rene Chen, Nancy, Chris Su, Biella/Jing, Fred, Jian, Wen, Serena, Tiella/Teresa, Roger, Tommy, 河上白帆Linda, Kevin Yu, Amanda, James, Gavin, Yang Chen, BigEye Yang Yang, Emily, Richard，Sophia, Vicky, Jen, Shannon, Judith, ShiYu, June, Jessica, 加州蝴蝶，Steve，Daisy，DavidTao，Wilson，Laowu，etc.
Northern CA Volunteer Activities
The South Bay team (where I belong) has organized several car rallies and multiple farmer’s markets and distributed flyers near local supermarkets. From south bay, our volunteers reached out and delivered yard signs to Santa Cruz; we set up campaign booth at the beautiful Monterey and distributed signs and flyers there. We also worked with local candidates when our goals are aligned. We organized the Netflix protests in a matter of 2-3 hours despite communication difficulties, and got covered by multiple media and went viral on social media. Our Indian team here was a strong force in this campaign as well, and they have organized the Santa Clara “No on Prop 16” car rally, and a lot of yard signs were distributed through this team.
Our volunteers in Tri-valley, with the core team composed by Grace Lee, Sylvia and Joel Liu, helped with the flyer distribution and text message banking. They also designed their own yard signs and solicited important organizational endorsements for CFER.
In central peninsula, led by Jing and Ric, our volunteers brought our yard signs to as far as lake Tahoe. They hand made many banners to distribute. We have volunteer that wrote to educate high school student. there were many individuals who offered donation match to CFER. We did car rally in Berkley too and received fairly positive feedback on the streets as well on social media. To increase awareness of the harm of Prop16, our volunteers organized mock vote on campus.
Our volunteers in San Francisco, organized by Selena and Raymond, have also organized one car rally. And they also participated the “They cannot burn us all” event and demonstrated our campaigns signs during the event that otherwise would be entirely dominated by the “yes on 16” side.
In Sacramento, where Adrian was a strong lead, held a successful car rally in the capitol city, where Mr. Ward joined in person in with the “No on Prop 16” hat made and donated by Amy(from Palo Alto)!
An Incomplete list of Northern CA volunteers：Stella, Martin, Echo, Hongxing, Sally, Tina, Helen, 草根，Ava，Simone, Tessie, EG, Cheney，Liao, Lily, Tingting, Liwei, Chen Wang, lk1027, Cindy Cui, yumin，Mike Lelieur, Ben Strickland, 贺全，爱丽丝，Karen，Amy，Vanessa，Muni, Govind, Ritesh, Sudha, Vikram, Naidu, Vinod, Sashi, Murigesh, Prabir, Gayathri, Zhiqiang，华，Tianya，Hui Lin，又闻又问，猫姐，Yang Shaohua，bingqing，JennyY，黑子，WangChen，康老师，Jocelyn，Ben，Grace，SylviaTian，GraceLee，Anfeng，Joel，Jing，ChuangCheng，Hongxing, Judith, Jennifer , Ric，YC Zhang，Maggie，Henry Liang，Debbie, xiaofeng，lirui，Jack Sun，Raymond，火凤凰，echo，Selena，Adrian，山水，Jihai Liu, etc.
Central CA Volunteer Activities
In central California, organized by Candace and Jerry, our volunteers set up two large bulletins of No Prop16 billboards near the highway. They have also reached out to Hmong, Indians, and Cambodian communities. Central California is also a region targeted by the yes side. Nevertheless, it turns out 65% of votes are No on Prop16 in Fresno county, a strong testimony to the impactful work of our local volunteers.
An Incomplete list of Central CA volunteers：Candace, Jerry Harrison, Raymond, Dr. Cao, Isabelle, Shu Lin, Victoria, Wen Chen, Grace, Dr. Lao, Yanli, Hairuo, Peggy, Jason, Wenjing, Jamie, etc.
Social Media Campaign
We have organized strong volunteer teams to spread our messages on social media. And our website, social media teams, and media outreach team worked together as a powerful publicity eco-system that converted campaign messages into votes even in the “deep blue” areas as as Santa Clara, which proves that the “No on Prop 16” campaign was indeed a non-partisan one.
We have kept up the daily promotion efforts on Twitter for about 3 month with our strong Twitter team. And the result was that the hashtags (#prop16, #NoProp16, #NoOnProp16 and even #YesOn16) were totally dominated by tweets from our side. And the persistent efforts also attracted more influencers to join our campaign.
Many thanks to the volunteers who manage our Facebook page (Lily, Grace, Sean, Tina), our FB group was the largest group on this campaign and it was grown purely organically (No funded Ads at all!) Ric, Alan and Daisy helped spread our messages on multiple Facebook groups and published our articles on patch where it’s ranked much higher in Google.
Many thanks to our NextDoor group (under Kevin and Karen’s leadership). Whenever we made ourselves vocal on NextDoor, there were more No 16 Votes than Yes Votes. (see the map below).
Many thanks to our Eventbrite administrator Yan Li, Youtube administrator Stella, and Instagram administrator XXX (Anonymous, details below), all the hard work paid off!
(The social media volunteers are just too many to list here, if you know you have been part of the teams, give yourself a good thumb up
Other Campaign Activities
We also have a team led by Susan, Linghui and Chris etc, that organized our volunteers to attend different city council meetings to make our voices heard by voters.
Linda Liu’s team organized several educational webinars among parents to promote “No on Prop 16” messages.
Linda S has been very instrumental maintaining Prop 16 Wikipedia page, it was another constant war that seldomly known and taken for granted by the public.
Thank you Logan for creating the nice yard sign designs for people to use all over the state!
Our data analysis team has done an exceptional job, they have provided solid data to support our arguments, and some of Grace Chin’s discovery was use in the legal rebuttal on the ballot language war. Thank you Lisha Wang, Daisy, Hiker, Eddie, Liang Fang Chao, Ying, You Na, Joshua Pak, and Grace!
Our website and SEO team helped to develop and maintained both CFER website and StopProp16.org, I still remember the heated discussions over what was more efficient to boost the search engine ranking for each website. Thank you Lin, Yan, Laowu, Sean, Stella, Eddie!
The Unsung Heroes
Our volunteers demonstrated a great diversity of capabilities at this campaign. The wisdom, creativity, bravery seen by this grassroots campaign and its efficiency of translating good ideas into impactful actions is beyond what any monetary donation could buy.
For example, our campaign posters are results of hours of works and they have gone through many rounds of review. Without visibility into this process, it is very easy to belittle these efforts. Sometimes the bystanders would even compare two designs from the same designer, and give irresponsible remarks to dismiss the designer… And I have tried several times to defend our volunteers when in such situation.
Thank you Tina, Eddie, John, Amy, Claire! We’ve gotten the best design team!
Another example is the yard sign deployment. Special thanks to our yard sign champion Mary who has deployed over 600 yard signs in person to multiple cities and has collected them after the election. Deploying over 20,000 yard signs throughout the vast territory of California within two weeks will not be possible without an army of hundreds of passionate volunteers, among whom I would like to specially thank Zig, Tommy from southern California and Helen, Ava, Martin and Stella from northern California for their significant contributions.
Vivian, the owner of the discussion groups “Tian Mu”, also deployed 400 yard signs and has initiated fundraising CFER within her groups. And she was not even at any of our volunteer groups (zero visibility)! It is volunteers like her that gave me strength to carry on in this campaign.
Our website log is designed by a lady who insists to remain anonymous. And the T-shirt by Ward also used this logo she has designed. She is also responsible for all the beautiful contents for our Instagram campaign account(instagram.stopprop16.org). Her professional artistic creation kept surprising and enlightening us, but you do not know who she is!
Also thanks Stella for running our YouTube channel (youtube.stopprop16.org). Stella has demonstrated an extraordinary capability of multi-tasking. She often times could be giving instructions to her son on how to upload campaign videos, and also be giving updates on the fundraising seminar she managed over teleconferences.
Many of our volunteers have superpowers in multiple areas, and have demonstrated strong ownership in their respective areas too.
Those who are busy challenging their fates spare no time complaining about it. But they are moving mountains every day!
Mountains of campaign flyers were distributed by our volunteers.
One of them who remain anonymous distributed nearly 1000 flyers. I remember her because of two photos she sent me. The first photo below showed two stacks of envelops, each of which contained 50 flyers. She told me that she would bring one envelop with her to distribute the flyers during her daily walk. I never expected anyone to be able to distribute so many flyers alone. Yet the second photo she sent me about 2 weeks later showed the same stacks of envelops but all empty! And she asked me for more flyers. At that moment I could feel the unrelenting perseverance power shone through her slim frame.
There were so many such unsung heroes during this campaign, and a conversation with them often went like this:
“Could you help me distribute some yard signs?”
Very simple, very direct, and no strings attached.
And the promise was always kept.
My biggest regret is that I could not list every name that helped us in this campaign, but by writing this I hope their spirits could be known by all. Many of the works performed by our volunteers are barely known by anyone else and I hope to take this opportunity to provide some visibility and show our appreciation for their efforts.
For example, our social network groups are open to everyone who can participate by scanning a QR code. One of the problems of this platform is some participants are robots (or even under covers). A simple work that our volunteers performed to tell robots from humans, was to ask some simple questions. The work is very tedious. And I remember some volunteers told me that they feel like vomiting after doing this for a while because of the large number of daily applications to our groups.
Yet they all survived this tedious work, and that's how we could have built up 5 big groups that ensured our campaign messages be quickly spread out to our volunteers at various parts of California. And that is how we could scale!
Yet, how many of you can recall who has added you to our groups today?
Big thanks to you, Tina, Qi Xin, Lenka, Hua, Michelle for being our door keepers and carrying on till the end!
I would also like to thank our media contact group (Sophia, Grace, Helen, Bingqing, Maggie, Liangfang, Ku Le Nian Hua), different self media account owners (Jacky Sun, Hua Bing, Yin Yi, Condor Heros, Lauren, Happy Dragon Kitty, South Mountain Pea, LuoWen, NA Qi Ba, ShanJiCunHao), TV News reporters (April, Moses, Jessie) and Newspaper reporters (Cathy, Jess, Chrissy Clark, Richard, Samantha, Ding Yue, Nancy).
I would like to thank the friends who helped with the recording for our radio Ads (Jade, Karen, Selena, Attorney Mo), Ming who ran a half Marathon to raise the awareness of No on Prop16. Thank Michael for his help on social media tools development. Thank Ray for his remarkable YouTube video. Thank those who participate in the debate against the yes side (Jason, Attorney Mo, Tina, etc.). In every corner I can think of, I find there is someone has contributed to this campaign… There are just so many touching stories to tell, but I could not fit into this already very long (but hopefully not tedious) write-up. And I will "delegate" to a future me to write them!
Finally, I would like to thank the family members of our volunteers. The contribution from our volunteers means countless hours taken , which should have been spent on your family. Our campaign would not be possible without your support.
Let's all feel proud for being part of this fight that help guard our cherished principle of equality. We believe our efforts will benefit all Californians for the time being and for the generations to come in the future. I wish everyone well, and we will remain vigilant and be ready if our enemies choose to come back again.
As Prof. Gail Heriot said at the election watch party, "This Thanksgiving we have something to be thankful for.", we are feeling thankful and with you a very happy Thanksgiving Day!
Thank you all and Best regards,
On Behalf of Team StopProp16.org
(P.S. Thank you Sean for taking the initiative translating it from the Chinese version of this thanks-you-letter. Also Sophia and Steve, thank you very much for encouraging, supporting and the proof reading for this writing!)