The new NW activists: She's doing something unique with data | KUOW News and Information

The new NW activists: She's doing something unique with data

Apr 19, 2017

Have you noticed a surge in people jumping into political activism for the first time after the last election? 

As part of our in-depth look at the new politics of the Trump era, we asked people in the Puget Sound region what has inspired them to get more involved in politics. 

Political activism isn’t just about protest marches or passing around petitions. Read the stories below and tell us what you are doing in your own community. 

Meet the activists:

Laura Colasurdo, environmental science teacher

Jesse Gamble, former president of UW's College Republicans

Nora Hacker, from an evangelical Christian background

Jennifer Mead, data scientist

Amy Ng, first time protester

Dave Stockton, Christian conservative

Ali Zuberi, library tutor

Laura Colasurdo

Laura Colasurdo said that as an environmental science teacher, she's been trying to keep her students aware of the Trump administration's actions surrounding climate change. But she’s been channeling most of her activism energy into Renton Resist, which formed in response to the new president’s policies – particularly the first Muslim ban. She made her comments online. 

The main things that Donald Trump offers the American people are fear and scapegoats. According to him, immigrants are taking your jobs, Muslims are trying to kill you, and the Black Lives Matter movement is drawing attention and resources away from the plight of the white man. This unfounded demonization of the ‘other’ can only lead to more fear, hate, and pain.

The group’s actions so far include organizing a rally in downtown Renton to stand in solidarity with the immigrant community of Renton; proposing a sanctuary city resolution to the City of Renton; distributing packets in both English and Spanish with information on rights and resources to help individuals prepare for ICE interactions; meeting with the Renton Police chief to discuss his positions on issues related to protecting immigrants living in our city.

I have begun attending my Democratic legislative district meetings, and volunteering more to support homeless individuals. I have begun taking my toddlers to a monthly "Freedom Fighters Birthday Bash" meeting where local families meet to read a story and do an activity in honor of someone who has fought for equal rights for the disenfranchised. Recent meetings have celebrated Colin Kaepernick, Bob Marley and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

I want to stand up against injustice and make it easier for others to do the same. I want to convince people of all political persuasions that blaming those who seem "other" is not the solution to their own problems. I want people to see each other first as humans, find common ground, then learn from one another’s perspectives to find better solutions.

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Jesse Gamble
Jesse Gamble
Credit KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Jesse Gamble just graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she was president of the College Republicans. 

Speaking before a Republican women’s group in Pierce County, Gamble addressed the atmosphere on campus and the impetus to host the right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos in January. She was recorded by KUOW's Amy Radil.

It’s so one-minded and it’s so extreme and it’s just stifling to a degree. So with the speech and inviting Milo, through the whole process, every single obstacle course we had to go through, honestly it was never about Milo himself [...] it was more about the message, whether we could test the right to free speech, test the fact that we could challenge and have different ideas in the college campus.

Because that’s to us as college Republicans — and even to a lot of moderates and a lot of liberals that would reach out and support us —  it was whether or not a college campus really was the place to challenge ideas, and to come to the environment and to leave challenged.

Up until then it was just, "We'll read about it in a book," and you don't have somebody with that mentality sitting in the room until I spoke up.

To be honest I didn’t want to go to school for awhile. Because I did not like being glared at by about 200 kids. I had to work through that and start going class by class, day by day and just get back into the rhythm of all of it.

With me, I’ve never had a bad experience with a professor. If anything, they’ll be anti-Trump, anti-Trump, anti-Trump – or anti-Republican – and then wonder why no one’s speaking out.

Even that class that was so small, the professor was very anti-Trump and he said, "Now if anyone voted for Trump...," and people kind of snickered. I raised my hand and said, "I voted for Trump."

The discussions after that point changed. The professor was actually very inclusive of my opinion. He said that my participation was actually very important to how that class understood Republicans or conservatives.

Because up until then it was just, "We’ll read about it in a book" and you don’t have somebody with that mentality sitting in the room until I spoke up.

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Nora Hacker

Nora Hacker is from the Tacoma area, and she comes from an evangelical Christian background. She attended the Women's March in January.

I was leaving my bubble completely to go to a women’s march. Christians don’t protest. And to march with Planned Parenthood people …

As much as I love all people, I don’t KNOW all people. So I didn’t know what to expect.

And all I felt was love. We were all there for a cause. It wasn’t anti-Trump, it was FOR: For me it was for immigrants and refugees and people of color and Black Lives Matter.

I still feel pretty energized. I know a lot of my friends are a little more discouraged.

It’s also to me about motivating others to get involved.

I really think the salvation of our democracy comes down to everybody calling, not just the left liberals.

I don’t consider myself a progressive, but apparently all my policies now line up with progressives.

I think the right needs to be calling too. Eventually, I want to motivate all of my friends to call and talk to Congress when something comes up that they care about.

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Jennifer Mead

Jennifer Mead joined in a hack-a-thon held by a group called Seattle Data for Good that's putting volunteer data scientists to work helping governments and nonprofit groups. She told KUOW's John Ryan she’s helping school districts in southwest Washington keep track of lead in their drinking water.

I’d been looking for a way to be active in my community, especially for a way for me to contribute where I had a particular skill that I thought that not everyone had.

Lead is very dangerous, especially with children. The younger the children are, worse the possible danger is.

There are different ways  of looking at the data to see if maybe a certain community has higher incidences of lead than another. If we can find a trend, we might be able to find the source of a problem, and if we can find the source of a problem, we can have a better chance of solving the problem. We also can do things like visualize the data so that everybody, parents and kids, can look at the data and understand it without having to look at all the numbers. We like looking at the numbers! Not everyone else likes looking at the numbers.

I've definitely done volunteering before; I’ve never done volunteering as a data analyst before. There are a lot of people in Seattle in the tech world or project management who have a way of contributing.

And I definitely have seen tons of my friends looking for ways to be active. Everyone is looking for a way that works for them. There are different ways of contributing. One nice thing about the projects that Seattle Data for Good has is they benefit everybody.

No one wants kids to be poisoned by lead, regardless of political leanings. It just benefits all of our communities to know if there’s a problem like this.

It’s interesting to go to protests. All that sort of electricity, and you get to see everybody, and everyone’s all excited. But I wanted something where I felt like I could do something unique.

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Amy Ng
Credit KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Amy Ng

Amy Ng is a transplant from Florida who now lives in Bothell. She spoke to KUOW's John Ryan.

I always told people, "I hate politics. It's such a waste of time." I never even got involved in anything.

My first taste of any sort of activism was on January 21 at the women's march in downtown Seattle.

Afterwards, I started this monthly Meetup group that we get together and talk about what we're doing to resist the Trump administration.

Maybe it's me getting older and not caring so much about what other people think, but why is this so taboo?

Growing up as a minority in Florida, [I was] always sort of culturally taught, "Don’t rock the boat, don’t make your opinions heard."

Not only am I a minority, I’m a woman, and this is just not something that is normal in our family.

My mom lives here, too. She’s seeing me do this stuff. I feel like she’s kind of coming around, too. I’m getting encouragement from her, which I never in a million years expected.

Maybe it’s me getting older and not caring so much about what other people think, but why is this so taboo?

We live in a country where we’re able to do stuff like this. It’s not illegal to protest your government. It’s not illegal to voice your opinion. I try not to be in your face about it, but if people want to engage me, then, yeah, let’s have a healthy respectful discussion.

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Dave Stockton

Dave Stockton lives in Kent and works in the technology industry. After a brief stint as a Capitol Hill intern in 1994, Stockton left politics for decades to work and raise his family. In the past year he’s jumped back in, to recruit and support candidates in local and state races. He also founded a Facebook group called the Christian Action Network that tracks issues important to Christian conservatives.

The goal of the group is number one, to help elect the right people and number two, to help defend people when they are attacked for their values and for their faith.

Dave Stockton says while Democrats are galvanized by opposing the Trump Administration, Republicans are more energized around state and local politics.
Credit Amy Radil

I always try to figure out where a person’s at by asking them about the ‘three F’s' : faith, family or fiscal. And that kind of gives me an idea of what motivates this person. Why is this person who they are and if it’s a political person or somebody that’s running for some position it gives me an idea of where they’re coming from.

If they’re truly trying to serve people and they’re doing it in a way that makes fiscal sense, then to me, that’s a person that, hey, I can get behind this person.

Even though I know a lot of the Democrats are galvanized because of what’s going on at a federal level, we are galvanized in the same way as Republicans here in this state because the opposite effect is true at a local, state level.

And at a federal level even though, yes, we may control some of that, it goes back to the different branches of government. The judicial overreach that’s going on today is just astonishing. And an attorney general — ours in this state with the whole Trump Administration with the immigration ruling and all that – it’s unprecedented for them to do what they’re doing. And I feel like they’re abusing their roles and their power. And so we need to do more work to get some of those things corrected. Because we may hold all these seats, but our religious freedoms are being eroded at a rapid rate, an alarming rate.  

If we want our country to be the same thing for our kids today that it was for us when we grew up — in the future and for their kids hopefully – I can’t afford to sit on the sidelines anymore.

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Ali Zuberi in front of Columbia City library where he volunteers as a homework tutor.
Credit KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Ali Zuberi

Ali Zuberi came to the U.S. from Pakistan when he was just five years old. Now he’s a financial adviser in the Columbia City neighborhood. He spoke to KUOW's Amy Radil.

For Zuberi, activism meant becoming a tutor at his local library.

I remember being able to go to the library and check out all of the children’s books and read there and I felt like that was a good safe space for me. That’s why I wanted to volunteer at this library so I can help maybe pass that along and maybe create a space for kids in Columbia City as well.

There was a lot of anti-Muslim talk and a lot of anti-immigration talk and a lot of anti-anybody and everybody talk. I’ve always thought of America as a melting pot, as an all-inclusive place where anybody can come and strive to succeed and as long as you do the right thing and work hard you can be judged by the content of your character.

I don't think of politics as just who is in elected office, but I think of politics as the way our society treats strangers.

The way [Donald Trump] was talking really seemed counter to that. I was surprised that anybody would be turned on by that, I thought it would turn us all off.

I don’t think of politics as just who is in elected office, but I think of politics as the way our society treats strangers.

If there’s any kids that don’t know a Muslim or any kids that don’t know an immigrant or if there’s any kids that don’t know someone named Mohammad Ali or if there’s any kids that don’t know someone with a lot of hair and a beard, they can look at me and instantly the power of dehumanization crumbles.

Because now if somebody says something about Muslims, it’s not just us versus them, it’s all of those people and that guy Ali who helps me with my homework on Wednesdays.

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