Tama Bell

I joined CVH in 2011. I became a leader out of necessity. I’m a single mother of three children with special needs, and I’m on disability. I was getting raked over the coals trying to get help for my kids; I wrote to three Governors but never got a reply. I felt defeated, angry—storming out of people’s offices, slamming doors. I never learned how to operate outside an emotional place to get what I needed. I had a choice: become angry, become disillusioned or change. I watched and learned from our Chapter Organizers; they advised me to do first things first—figure out what’s the issue and define it clearly so I could ask for what I needed. Do research, talk to political people—and know who are the right people I need to call to ask for help.... and do it with a team to demonstrate power!

In 2014 we won our biggest victory yet when [Poughkeepsie] Mayor John C. Tkazyik announced his determination to dissolve our City bus system and give its assets to the County. The County would have taken over a few routes on main streets but the neighborhood service so many of us depend on to get to work, appointments and to do our shopping would have ended. Joining with drivers and riders we led the fight back. Different members spoke at the City Council and talked to folks at the bus stops and on the buses.

I got to use my leadership skills to help run large public meetings where we demanded that our system be improved, not destroyed. We confronted the Mayor in his office demanding improvements, not abandonment. We used our people power and we won big time. We brought in new members and built new power. I’m so proud of CVH Dutchess Chapter!