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Five Questions with Lara Lavi

Five Questions with Lara Lavi

I met Lara Lavi through a mutual friend and fellow activist last summer. Lara is one of those bizarrely brilliant people who continually surprises me with the scope of her capabilities. She’s a scientist, a lawyer, an activist, a singer, and a Grammy award-winning songwriter-for-hire who just happens to be responsible for some of my all-time favorite albums. She’s also directed hundreds of music videos, including the one we just released for “We Shall Not Be Moved.” I enjoy working with her because she keeps me on my toes, challenges my assumptions, and is basically always right.

Here is Lara in her own words.

On Identity

Tae: The “We Shall Not Be Moved” video is about bringing people together across the identity-based lines of division that have traditionally been used to pit us against each other. Can you share with us how you identify, what you need from your co-conspirators for social justice, and who you’re committed to standing up for?

Lara: We identify with the disenfranchised. As artists we are at the bottom of the economic pile most of the time and yet we are hyper sensitive to racially driven social injustice. We seek camaraderie from others, and an understanding that we are all equal in this world and all deserve justice and compassion. Intersectionality is sacred to us.

On Social Justice Role Models

Tae: Who are your social justice role models and influencers? Who would you most like to hear “you’ve done well” from?

Lara: Many of our influences were shot down – such as Martin Luther King. These days, I would like to hear from my peers mostly, as we are trying to create a movement; and although elected officials and religious leaders are encouraging us to band together, it is us as individuals who need to link arms now and be heard.

On Voting

Tae: What information do you consider when deciding which initiatives, ballot measures, and candidates to support?

Lara: We look to see if their basic motivation is social and economic justice. We look to see who cares about the sick, the poor, the homeless, the children, education for all, respect for people coming to our country as immigrants, as immigrant workers and thinkers have built so much of our country.

We think about how our nation needs to be a world player and not insular, as that is the kiss of death in a world economy. We think about common decency and honesty in a candidate. We have a clear agenda of how we stand on health care, foreign relations, public education, immigration, peace in the world, global warming, medicare and we look for these issues and what the candidates stand for. I look for candidates who are outspoken about this current administration, because this is not my president.

On the Bottom Line

Tae: When it comes to the constant onslaught of outrage from this regime, we all have to consider our own personal bottom lines. What would you get arrested for? What would you put your safety on the line for?

Lara: I would not get arrested or put my safety on the line at this point. I do not think that is productive for me. I have other skills, like bailing out the people who do get arrested since I am a lawyer, or producing videos that are thought provoking and incite people to take action, use their voices, and vote.

On Hope

Tae: What gives you hope in these troubled times?

Lara: The bulk of the youth voters feel outside of the system and unheard. But some kids are taking action – like the organizers of March for Our Lives, and the 19 and 20 year olds in the alt rock band Gypsy Temple who built their own “rock the vote” with their Make Your Voice Heard Loud and Vote campaign.

This gives me personally hope, to the extent that any of us have hope while the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters are in power.

As part of the launch of the “We Shall Not Be Moved” music video, I’m asking members of the cast and crew five questions about identity, voting, social justice, and hope. I’ll be posting these on my blog in the coming weeks.

Vote With Me can turn anyone into a highly empowered political operative. Here’s how.

Vote With Me can turn anyone into a highly empowered political operative. Here’s how.

Technology has changed the game when it comes to get out the vote efforts. Until recently, these highly sophisticated databases and outreach tools have only been available to organizations with money and technical skill; but the Vote With Me app has changed all that.

Vote With Me empowers everyday people to become grassroots organizers by identifying and reaching out to the people in their lives who are most likely to need a nudge to get themselves to the polls.

 

Here’s how it works: You install the app on your iPhone or Android device and give it permission to look at your contacts. It compares the names and contact information of the people you know to publicly available voter databases nationwide. Then it gives you an actionable list that you can use to prioritize and conduct your own voter outreach.

Within minutes of installing the app, I learned that a former colleague hadn’t voted in the last two Congressional midterms. She’s a registered Democrat and is eligible to vote in a couple of very close races. Vote With Me helped me compose a brief, professional note encouraging her to get to the polls. She thanked me for the reminder and promised me that she would vote early. I followed up with her a couple of days later and she told me that she’d voted.

People are up to 20x more likely to get to the polls if they get a reminder from someone they already know than if a stranger knocks on their door. That’s not to say that canvassing, phone banking, and text banking aren’t useful – they are – but they’re also not activities that everyone is comfortable with. Vote With Me is a great place to start for people who are dismayed at the state of our country, but uncomfortable speaking to total strangers about politics. It’s also a useful way for experienced grassroots organizers to supplement their existing get out the vote activities.

 

I believe in Vote With Me so strongly that I decided to partner with them on the launch of the “We Shall Not Be Moved” music video, which was a labor of love by hundreds of people that took more than a year to complete.

 

That’s partly because Vote With Me was built by the New Data Project – an organization founded by the former Director of the U.S. Digital Service under President Obama. I don’t know about you, but in times like these, there are very few people I trust more than Obama Administration alums.

I hope you’ll take the time to download Vote With Me and get your friends to the polls this election day. Just one vote can make all the difference.

Five Questions with Carolyn Agee

Five Questions with Carolyn Agee

I first met Carolyn Agee during the video shoot. She was such a good sport and dealt with public transit on multiple days in the pouring-down rain to be part of the project. The “RESIST” sign on the back of her wheelchair is among the coolest things ever.

Here is Carolyn in her own words.

On Identity

Tae: The “We Shall Not Be Moved” video is about bringing people together across the identity-based lines of division that have traditionally been used to pit us against each other. Can you share with us how you identify, what you need from your co-conspirators for social justice, and who you’re committed to standing up for?

Carolyn: I am disabled and gender-fluid. I think accessible forms of protest are so important! Not being able to take my wheelchair safely down steep protest routes is one of the things that keeps me from street protests. I am committed to standing up for immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the deaf and disabled and victims of police violence, victims of the industrial prison complex, and victims of hate crimes and/or gender based violence.

On Social Justice Role Models

Tae: Who are your social justice role models and influencers? Who would you most like to hear “you’ve done well” from?

Carolyn: On a personal level I am influenced by Renée Roman Nose and her work toward justice for the Native community. I am also really excited for the new work that the National Disability Theatre is starting! On a broader scale Eleanor Roosevelt was someone I admired from a young age and as a theatre artist, Augusto Boal.

On Voting

Tae: What information do you consider when deciding which initiatives, ballot measures, and candidates to support?

Carolyn: Do these policies actively help to dismantle systemic injustice? Will these policies negatively affect a minority population? Is this just something we can pat ourselves on the back for without actually doing the work of changing anything or will it affect actual change? Does this candidate support human and civil rights for all people, even if they look, love, believe or act differently than they do?

On the Bottom Line

Tae: When it comes to the constant onslaught of outrage from this regime, we all have to consider our own personal bottom lines. What would you get arrested for? What would you put your safety on the line for?

Carolyn: Human rights, civil rights and freedom of speech and press are things that we not only need to achieve to a greater level in our society, but are at great risk of losing. Once lost, they are very difficult to regain. Physical freedom is not worth the imprisonment of the soul.

On Hope

Tae: What gives you hope in these troubled times?

Carolyn: Art and community. We must strive to see and uplift the dignity in each other. And we must hold space with and speak out for each other when that dignity is under threat.

As part of the launch of the “We Shall Not Be Moved” music video, I’m asking members of the cast and crew five questions about identity, voting, social justice, and hope. I’ll be posting these on my blog in the coming weeks.

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