Honoring Julia Fox

All of us in the Indivisible family are devastated to share the news that our friend, colleague, and co-conspirator Julia Fox passed away this spring. Most of the people reading this probably don’t know Julia. But, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance she changed your life.

I met Julia years ago at a friend’s apartment. I was immediately struck by her—I think almost everyone who met her was. She was brilliant. She listened, intently, so that you knew she cared what you thought and what you felt. And she created an environment of incredible comfort and warmth with everyone there. She was also quietly and determinedly focusing on learning the card game we were playing, which she was playing for the first time, and on winning it.

Over our years of friendship, I learned more about Julia—her quirks and neuroses, her work on the Obama campaign, her dedication to progressive values, her hope for our country even when the things happening around us made it nearly impossible to be hopeful. That was one of the wonderful things about her. Nothing seemed to phase her. Nothing could make her stop working for what she believed in.

You might not know this about Julia—not many people—but she built much of Indivisible’s organizing program. The early days after the Indivisible Guide took off were crazy. We put out the guide, expecting that our friends and family would like it on Facebook, and instead thousands of people were contacting us to tell us they were forming local Indivisible groups and asking for advice. We’d written on page one of the guide that we weren’t forming an organization, and we hadn’t even put together a pdf version of the guide, or a website—so we had none of the infrastructure we’d need to support those groups. It was chaos.

I knew we’d need an amazing organizer to help people build this movement across the country. Someone who could build a great team of volunteers, who could plan the work of a powerful movement, who would throw herself into it on nights and weekends and everywhere in between. So I called my friend Julia. And she immediately and calmly set herself to the monumental task in front of her. (All while juggling her busy day job—doing incredible policy and advocacy work for the College Board.) She recruited dozens of volunteers to respond to emails and make phone calls to local groups. She wrote toolkits on how to form a group, how to hold a first meeting, how to plan a district office visit. Her sample agendas and sign-in sheets started showing up in printouts and on laptop screens in living rooms and libraries and community centers across the country. And even more than that, she drove us to make big decisions about what we were doing and why that have become part of the fabric of this movement. A focus on asking folks to take action right away—she always believed in action, never in meeting for the sake of meeting. The decision to create public maps of local groups and of their events, so people could find each other and organize themselves, instead of a centralized network where we connected people with each other and planned things out from D.C. That seems like a small thing, a technical detail, but it isn’t. It’s one of the first steps we took towards our ultimate aspiration: that we aren’t the leaders of this movement, you are.

Being an organizer means leading from behind—you’re always looking for ways to help other people lead, to put tools in other people’s hands. It’s never about you. So it’s fitting, in a way, that the incredible work Julia did to build this movement is known to only a handful of people, but the people she inspired and supported and organized with—group leaders, Indivisibles, you—are still leading us forward, and changing our country, and the world, as you do it.

Organizing—as some of you have learned over the last year and some of you knew long before that—is emotional work. You build intense relationships with people you’ve never met before, not based on blood or a workplace or your hobbies, but on shared purpose. The values that you’ve held so long you can barely remember how you first came to believe in them. The vision for the future that gets you out of bed in the morning. The common dream that drives you to keep showing up. A feeling you have about the world you want to live in.

That can be draining, but I’m grateful for it. Because in the months when Julia and I were building Indivisible’s organizing program, we talked all the time, often multiple times per day. We’d text back and forth during the day while we were both at our regular jobs. We’d walk home from work together and make plans—she was a big walker. She’d keep me company while I walked my dog so we could figure something tricky out. I keep replaying those conversations in my head right now.

Julia was far too young and it’s terribly unfair that she’s not with us anymore. Nothing can change that. But sometimes when I look out at the incredible organizing Indivisibles are doing, I think about someone writing to our national email address last January, and Julia—or a volunteer on the team she built—responding with advice or to offer support as people started to fight the Trump agenda in their communities. I picture hundreds of thousands of people reading the toolkits she wrote and planning their first action. I imagine someone she’d never met learning how to be an organizer because of her. And for a moment I imagine she’s still with us. Thank you for that. I hope, like me, you’ll take a moment at your next district office visit, or as you knock on doors for a candidate you believe in, to imagine Julia is there with you.

You can read Julia’s first group leader toolkit—such an important piece of the story of the Indivisible movement—here.