While many citizens brood about what is happening in our country, Rosie Oakley, a resident of Fairfax County, Virginia, and several friends joined forces to stand up for an alternative.
Stand Up Virginia, a nonprofit organization, is the result. The organization epitomizes what grass roots activists can accomplish in a short time. In June, for example, Stand Up Virginia, which was only a few months old, cosponsored a rally that attracted 1,500 people. The rally was billed as “a freedom festival.”
“We planned the rally shortly after we founded Stand Up,” Oakley says. “We had no idea what was going to happen or how many people were going to show up. We had some great guest speakers like conservative radio host, Chris Plante; Sheriff David Clark; Pierre Wilson from BLEXIT; and the Reverend C.L. Bryant of FreedomWorks. BLEXIT and FreedomWorks were among our 20 sponsors. It was held at the Bull Run Special Events Center, which is a huge space. We were thinking, oh, maybe 300 people or, if we’re really lucky, 500 people. But we just wanted to do something, bring people together and celebrate America, freedom, and what we all cherish. And we ended up with 1,500 people.”
“People were really energized and happy,” Oakley adds. “We had a bus of folks from BLEXIT, which brought people in from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was great. There was a real sense of camaraderie. We were worried about rain, but it didn’t rain. People stayed until the end, and it was a genuine celebration of patriotism, which many of us share, but which we don’t always get the opportunity to express. It was a lot of work, but so much fun.”
Stand Up Virginia grew out of an organization that Brenda Tillett, President of Stand Up Virginia, started last year. That organization was Bolster the Blue, which was founded to show appreciation for the police, preserve qualified immunity, keep police stations funded, and hold what the group regards as rogue prosecutors accountable. Bolster the Blue attracted a number of mothers eager to make their views heard.
Stand Up encourages people who want to get involved to take the first step.
Meanwhile, Rosie was also organizing separate Back the Blue rallies to support the police. “Our rallies were held right in the middle of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer at the McLean Police Station,” Rosie recalls. “We held 3 rallies and 50-60 people would come with flags and signs, and we stood on the corner in support of the police.”
After a friend suggested that Bolster the Blue go statewide and embrace a few more core issues, Stand Up Virginia was born. Stand Up encourages people who want to get involved to take the first step. “What we do at Stand Up Virginia,” Tillett once explained to the Daily Signal, “is we help individuals follow. So you don’t have to be the first person to speak out or even the second, be the third, be the fourth, be the fifth, and then your neighbors will come and they will see you and they will support you. Other mothers, other dads will see what you’re doing and they’ll fight for their children as well and for their communities.”
“We speak at board meetings, we send emails, we hold community events to increase awareness,” Tillett continued. “We do digital ads. And our whole focus is about increasing awareness and giving people opportunities where they’re comfortable to be able to push back and fight back for our values.”
Oakley, vice president of Stand Up, adds, “We are based on three pillars: education, support of law enforcement, and election integrity. Stand Up Virginia is not political, and we do not endorse candidates or a party. It’s really about people who love America, who are patriots, and who share the values on which this country is based.”
Stand Up, Oakley says, has statewide ambitions. “We are forming chapters across the state,” she says. “We’ve held rallies and had a lot of success in the western part of the state, where people are very concerned about what’s happening in the schools. We’ve been down in the Stafford area, Russell County, Buchanan County, and obviously Loudoun County and Fairfax County. It’s about mobilizing people on these issues that really matter to their families.”
Stand Up Virginia has also launched recall petitions against two county Commonwealth’s Attorneys, whose records they believe do not make citizens safer. One is Fairfax County commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano. Descano garnered headlines recently when a judge rejected a Descano plea deal of three years for a man accused of raping a girl four times when she was in the fifth through seventh grade. The judge wrote that the three-year sentence did not “remotely reflect the magnitude of the defendant’s misconduct.”
Rosie Oakley, who recently impressed a rally with her dynamism, began her own activism in a very small way.
Rosie Oakley, who recently impressed the crowd with her dynamism, speaking at a rally before one of those famous Loudoun County School Board meetings, began her own activism in a very small way — passing out sample ballots on election day. “I live in Fairfax County and once a year, before election day, my Republican precinct captain would contact me and ask if I’d work a shift on election day passing out sample ballots. I would say, of course. And I always had the 6:00 a.m. shift because I get up early and nobody else wanted it.”
“I was out there for years just passing out sample ballots from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. and then about five years ago my precinct captain, who had done it for 17 years, decided to retire. I was busy with some other things at the time, but I said I could take it on if there was someone with whom I could partner. I ended up partnering with a woman who lives in my neighborhood, but we had never met before. She and I became co-precinct captains five years ago, and now she is one of my best friends, and we’re both politically active.
“About three years ago, there was an opening for the district chair for the Fairfax County GOP. The gentleman who had been doing it had some medical issues, so I took over on an interim basis and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last three years. And I have to tell you, it’s fun. I love it. In the last three years, I’ve met some of the nicest people, many of whom have become really good friends, who I didn’t know before. It’s a lot of work but as I always say to people, I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. I like what I do, and it makes me happy.
“And I feel that I’m doing something productive. I think we give each other courage just by being together and being visible. Every year when we’re standing outside passing out sample ballots at early voting or on election day, people will come up to us and say, ‘oh it’s so good to see you.’ Republicans are a minority in this area. I think being out there and standing up to say ‘yes, I’m a Republican and these are the values I believe in’ makes a difference.
From handing out sample ballots before breakfast, Oakley has risen to district chair for the Fairfax Republican Party. She likes to say she “wears two hats” because Stand Up Virginia and the Republican Party are entirely separate. The Fairfax Republican Party has determined that one of the key issues in the lead up to the gubernatorial election in November is education, including Critical Race Theory.
“CRT issue is huge because it is becoming abundantly clear that it is divisive, and it is not bringing people together, but ripping them apart,” Oakley says. “It used to be that when kids went to college, they would be exposed to this kind of thing, but it’s in the grade schools now. They are starting this stuff in kindergarten and are basically making children feel — white children in particular — guilty about the color of their skin. CRT is reverse racism, and it’s affecting children at very young ages through elementary, middle school, and high school. It is not right for the country.
Loudoun County in Virginia has become the epicenter of the battle between concerned parents and progressive school boards over CRT and transgender pronouns. Several public meetings with school board members have dissolved into chaos, grabbing national headlines as they did so.
Oakley is now solidly vested in the future of Virginia, but she was born in Oklahoma and grew up all over as a military brat. Her parents met and married in Germany. “Both my parents had a tremendous influence on me. My dad was incredibly patriotic, and my love of America definitely came from my parents, both of them,” says Oakley.
Rosie’s mother was born in Germany and lived through the bombing of Dresden. The family left what would become East Germany before the Russians arrived. “They locked the door and took a suitcase. My mother basically lost everything, but she survived. She was a strong person with tremendous courage, strength, and conviction. I think I learned a lot from her.”
After a series of moves, Oakley graduated from high school in Colonial Heights, Virginia and went onto Canada’s prestigious McGill University, ultimately graduating from George Mason University. She worked in broadcast sales for the Associated Press, based in Atlanta and came to Washington, D.C., when the AP promoted her to regional sales manager. She rose to become national sales manager for the broadcast division. While working for the AP, Rosie met her future husband, and they have one son.
Rosie founded an executive recruiting company which focused on broadcast management positions and ran a national conference on disability issues. “And then I got into politics,” she says.
These days, Rosie Oakley devotes herself fulltime to grassroots activism. It is crunch time for the Commonwealth of Virginia, she asserts. Does she have any advice for other women who are testing the waters, considering activism but not quite sure?
“It used to be that when kids went to college, they would be exposed to this kind of thing, but it’s in the grade schools now.”
“Yes, I absolutely do have some advice. I spend a lot of time meeting and encouraging new people. I believe there are many who want to get involved, but they don’t necessarily know where to go or what to do. And so, when I talk to people, I say, ‘Do Something. It doesn’t matter if you write postcards or call a few people; go door knocking for a candidate or pass out sample ballots. Every little bit helps. Just try to do more than you have done in the past, and you’ll meet some wonderful people in the process.’
“Some of us have time to do a lot, and many people can do just a little. But everyone has to do more than just show up and vote, because that alone is not going to cut it. In Virginia, we have elections every year, but there are many people who only vote once every four years for president. We need to get everyone we’ve identified as conservatives, who share our values, to vote and get their friends and neighbors to vote. So, yes, I think everybody needs to do something extra this year.”
Rosie is certainly doing her part.