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Profiles in Advocacy

State Senator Toni N. Harp
Co-Chair of the Public Health Committee, Co-Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and (in her day job) Director of the Homeless Health Care Program at the Hill Health Center, a community health clinic in New Haven, CT

How did you come to advocacy? Describe your inspiration, the first problem or issue you advocated on.

I first came to advocacy when I was a teenager and a member of the youth NAACP in my hometown. I was inspired by the freedom marches in the south, and of course Rosa Parks' refusal to give her seat up and go to the back of the bus. My mother was a hard working woman like Rosa Parks, and I had seen how tired my mother was when coming home from work. To be pushed around by men with less physically demanding jobs incensed me and inspired me to fight for first class citizenship…for minorities and women.

How do you feel you have been most effective?

Certainly, I have been blessed to be a state senator. I along with others in the General Assembly and advocates throughout our state have advocated to increase health insurance coverage to the uninsured. When all is said and done, it is probably the most significant thing accomplished so far during my tenure.

What advice would give to new advocates? How can they be most effective? What lessons have you learned.

New advocates should not be afraid to try. They should be creative and find many outlets for their message. Always start to the left of where you want to end up. Never start there. You need room to maneuver. Remember life is linear, some battles and or wars are never over. Never give up.

Why is it important for consumers to advocate for systems change as well as for themselves and their families?

There can always be an exception to an unfair rule. That exception affects few; the rule change is an effect for all. A true advocate works for system change so that everyone benefits.

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