My experience has taught me that strong, ongoing communication is key and that we can find workable solutions to the challenges we face through collaboration and an openness to new ideas. I am an advocate for everyday people and the well-being of the environment we inhabit.
Previously, back when our family lived in Schenectady, New York (a city similar to Cleveland Heights), I joined a handful of local community organizers to launch and build a grassroots group to advocate for progressive issues, such as universal healthcare, climate action, and a living wage for all. We reached out to everyday people who had given up on their elected officials. We built coalition with a wide range of community organizations. And we found pathways to success where many people told us our goals were impossible.
I then worked with leaders of similar local organizations across the state to bring together our rag-tag groups into a structured, focused statewide network with the capacity to move the needle in both state and local politics—the New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN).
Through this work, I was elected to serve as a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the 2016 Democratic Convention. There and in the months leading up to the general election, I learned the critical importance of building coalition wherever possible, maximizing the power of bringing communities together to speak in a unified voice, and identifying potential future partners, even where you least expect to find them.
When I had first stepped into political work, I got involved out of a desire to do good in the world, and then from the realization that “if I don’t, who will?”. What began as “I’d like to help out” soon evolved to: “This needs to be done—so I’ll do it.”
In an age of extreme partisanship and division, I still hold an unrelenting belief in the power of human connection and empathy. This has helped me calm inflamed tempers from people across the political spectrum. It has also convinced me that we can begin to bridge ideological divides if we focus on seeking common ground, even if only the tiniest patch, and never lose sight of each other’s humanity.