Ep. 8: Where We Go from Here with Ai-jen and Alicia

For our season finale, Alicia and Ai-jen take stock of this moment in the eye of the storm: We’re one week from the biggest election of our lives, and there’s a lot of work left to do. Alicia has a bold prediction about voter turnout, and Ai-jen explains why some voter groups get overlooked by polls and pundits. Then, the ladies get real about avoiding burnout, the importance of finding balance, and reconnecting with your purpose. They also share their expert perspectives on how we can keep our momentum going post-election by getting involved at the local level. We leave you with a major dose of inspiration: wisdom from inspiring folks like James Baldwin, Dorothy Day, and Alicia’s mom. Remember—November 3rd isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.

Vote

Have you made a voting plan yet?

Are you voting in person and worried about COVID safety?

Have you turned in your ballot and want to make sure it gets counted?

We’ve got you covered! Head over to the NDWA voting hub for everything you need to be #VoteReady and make your voice heard.

Get Involved

You’ve voted – now what? Learn what you can do to engage with friends, family, and your community to get more people to vote.

Ground Yourself

Rejuvenate | Unwind, reenergize, and find inspiration with our Sunstorm Jamz playlist.

Purpose | This season has been all about finding our lane. Take a moment to reconnect with your path and share it with your community using our Sunstorm stickers.

Hope | Is there a quote you turn to for inspiration? Here’s our favorite – share yours and tag us on social @sunstormpod!

Transcript

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Hi. I’m Ai-jen Poo.

 

Alicia Garza:

And I’m Alicia Garza. We are here. We’re here. It’s one week before the election of our lives.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Whoa.

 

Alicia Garza:

Okay yeah, it’s a real thing.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I know, I know.

 

Alicia Garza:

This is my deer in headlights look.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I’m actually really glad that we have this time together so we can catch a breath one week out. This week, today, it’s just going to be you and me, Alicia. We’re going to take a second to reflect on the insanity that we’re living in and actually just go in on the election right now. Let’s do it.

 

Alicia Garza:

Okay, so should we do some predictions? Not who’s going to win, but what pundits are going to be saying?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Well, yes, you would know. You’ve been talking to them like all day, every day.

 

Alicia Garza:

I really have. Okay, so first thing they’re going to ask is, “Why do women voters turn out at higher rates? Why do women vote early?” I mean, we know the answer to this, right?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yeah.

 

Alicia Garza:

It’s because our freaking lives depend on it. We know what’s at stake. We cannot take our voting rights lightly. On a related note, I mean, people are going to be talking about what black voters are going to be doing. There’s been all this conversation in the last couple of weeks about, “Whoa, we haven’t paid attention to black voters and we have not been paying attention to black men,” and you know how I feel about this, Ai-jen. You do.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

 

Alicia Garza:

I’m like, “Wait, where y’all been? Where y’all been? We’ve been telling you this for a really long time.” Luckily for democracy, we always show up and show out, but my prediction is that this time around, we’re going to see some different numbers. I think black folks are going to turn out like never before, but I think we’re going to see some differences in terms of gender, in terms of where people fall. But overwhelmingly, my prediction is black folks across gender are going to land in pretty much one place, and y’all can figure out where I’m going with that.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yeah, I think that’s right. One thing’s for sure, I don’t think anyone is going to be talking about the API vote but they should because API women voted in unprecedented numbers in 2018, and all signs point to it’s going to be another big historic breakthrough this year. There’s so many amazing organizations that have launched to really help make that happen. I know the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum is doing a big GOTV program. There’s a new API youth organization called [inaudible 00:02:59] that is just on fire getting out the youth API vote. There’s a lot happening with API voters, too, and I think we’re going to show up and show out, too. I’m really excited about it.

 

Alicia Garza:

I agree.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I think it’s going to be awesome.

 

Alicia Garza:

I agree, and you raise a good point. I mean, why do you think that we are literally never talking about what API voters are doing?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I think it’s part of how white supremacy works. It demonizes some groups, it invisibilizes some groups, it both demonizes and invisibilizes other groups. It’s just all the different tools in the white supremacy tool belt that have come to define how our communities are seen or not seen, talked about or not talked about. That’s why we have to do our best to just lift each other up. It’s part of the Sunstorm ethic of shine that light on all the incredible courage and grace across all of our communities, regardless of what white supremacists want to say about it.

 

Alicia Garza:

I mean, I think you’re absolutely right, and the thing that is just on my mind, and kind of to tie up this piece of the conversation, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. My prediction, which is the prediction of many, is that this is going to be the highest turnout election in history, AKA more people are going to vote in this election than have ever voted in any other previous or prior election ever in this country. That is a huge deal.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

It’s huge. It’s huge, huge, huge because it is exactly what’s going to be needed not just this election, but every election. And also in between elections, this kind of participation, this kind of engagement is exactly what’s going to deliver the real wins, the real change that we need in this country. It’s like it’s when we show up and do the thing that it works.

 

Alicia Garza:

So let me ask this because I think a lot of people focus so much on election day and what happens. We’ve already said this year’s going to be a little bit different, y’all. It’s not going to be election day because the rona just changed all of our lives so basically, we’re in election season and that season will likely extend weeks after the election because so many people are going to be voting by mail and it takes time to count those ballots. So we should get used to the fact that we may not actually know where we stand on election night.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

And in fact, we probably shouldn’t know because we want to make sure that every vote is counted.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right. So the other thing, though, that I want to kind of pivot into is we talked so much about the day, and even though we know there’s no day this year… It’s a season, so we got some weeks to figure out what’s going on… I think that we don’t talk as much about what happens after the season is over. People get amped up for a little bit and then folks get tired. What’s the work you think we need to be doing, Ai-jen, right after the election to keep building this momentum?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I think we need to be organizing immediately because we need to send a message about what it is that we expect for either a new administration or what is the message we want to send to a second administration. Either way, the people have to send a really strong message about what time it is and what we want, what we demand. I think that that message has to be sent early and it has to be sent boldly.

 

Alicia Garza:

I really agree with that. There’s a time when we’ve got to kind of regroup and reactivate. And so yeah, we should take a breath, but keep engaging people for the long haul.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s right.

 

Alicia Garza:

What we know is that whatever happens in this election cycle, we’re still facing the same challenges that we were facing before and so it means continuing to push around COVID relief because we know Miss Rona ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. It means continuing to push to make sure that everybody’s voice gets counted, and I also think it means continuing to push around maintaining the infrastructure that we’ve built up to engage people for this monumental work.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s right. Right before I joined you on this pod recording, I was on a call with a woman named Consuelo who’s a domestic worker in Houston. She has been going to the senior center in her neighborhood and making sure that every senior in her senior center is registered to vote and is getting either their vote-by-mail ballot or has a plan to go in person early.

 

Just the work that she’s doing, pounding the pavement and helping people in her community have their voices heard, just is… She’s a national hero. I think that there are millions of people who are doing that right now, just actually organizing and making sure that everyone’s voice is heard in our democracy. It is what is inspiring me and energizing me. I think we just have to remember that there are people at Consuelo and all of us who are in it together. Together, we really can’t be stopped, and our work is not done on election day. As you said, it is about continuing to build out the organizing, the campaigning and the infrastructure that has allowed us to be engaging this number of people to begin with.

 

Alicia Garza:

Facts on facts, facts on facts.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

But, I will say that with everything going on, I’m sure a lot of people listening are just like, “Okay, I’m so over it. I’m overwhelmed. I’m tired,” and we do need to take care of ourselves. So how do we think about that? How do we think about how we avoid becoming numb and just getting too tired to do the work we have to do?

 

Alicia Garza:

There are some of us who are political junkies and that doesn’t actually happen. Those of us who were obsessed with this don’t… It’s not that we don’t get tired, but we definitely don’t tune out. But there are some of us who are just getting involved and just getting engaged right now. This may have been the biggest push for something that you’ve made in a long time or maybe even ever, and so I think there’s a couple things to remember and to reflect on. These are some lessons that I’m sharing from my team because we’ve been talking a ton about what it means to sustain our fight, knowing that we’re in it for the long haul.

 

So first and foremost, you actually need to listen to your body. For those of us who have been talking to our neighbors, knocking on people’s doors, calling our friends and family, we’ve exerted a lot of energy. Actually, sometimes we have to take a different pace because there’s something right in front of us that we need to reach. But, it can be hard to kind of ramp down from that pace so I guess what I’m saying is sometimes we go to either extreme. We’re either doing very little or we’re doing the most. I think it’s important to find the equilibrium.

 

I know for my team, the day after… People are not going to be able to vote anymore but the votes are still being counted… we’re actually staggering time that people can just take a day off so you can sleep all day or drink the water that you haven’t been drinking, even though we’ve been telling you to hydrate, or cook that meal that you’ve been missing because you’ve been deep in it and you’ve just been deep down the DoorDash or Caviar rabbit hole. These are things that elections are made of, but the thing that’s important is to rejuvenate. Put that mask on. I’ve been all about my face mask life over these last couple of weeks just to get some equilibrium going.

 

I think the second thing, though, that is really, really important is in this next few days before the day that people are going to be sending in their ballots and all the things, I think it’s important to reconnect to what your purpose is. The day after the day that everybody cast their votes, it’s going to be really important for you to come back to that. You may realize that over the course of these last couple of months, it might’ve changed for you. Tap into that. Figure out… Again, theme of the season… what is my lane? Once things start to shift in terms of energy, it’s important to just do a quick check-in, “Am I on the right path? Am I doing the right thing?” because we’re going to need you to be super clear because I really want to tell people who are listening November 3rd is not the end. It’s actually just the beginning. It’s just the beginning so make sure that you’re on path and on purpose.

 

And then the third thing I want to offer here is… And you and I talked about this this week, Ai-jen. Honestly, find your hope. Whatever happens in this cycle, we can not afford to go dormant and we cannot afford to go backwards. Win, lose or draw, it’s super, super important, I think, on a self-care tip to get your hope. Get your hope on, get your hope on. Yeah, that’s what I would offer. How about you? What you got?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I really believe in the hope piece and I think that there’s lots of ways to get your hope on. One way is to get to know some of your local candidates for office because there are just so many cool people who’ve stepped up to run for office for seats that we didn’t even really know existed, right?

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Water commissioners and school board reps and all kinds of people who have just said, “You know what? I’m going to try something. I’m going to try to lead in a new way,” and I just think that’s so inspiring. I would also channel the ways that you may not know that you are inspiring other people. One thing we always say in the domestic workers’ movement is that it’s always the people that you least expect that end up inspiring people the most.

 

I don’t know. I think people are not really looking for all the pundits and leaders on TV to inspire us. I think they’re looking for the people who are proximate to them and all the ways in which we as everyday people are just brave and powerful and resilient. You are probably inspiring tons of people and you don’t even know it, but sit with that for a minute. Ask yourself the question, “What are some ways that maybe I am inspiring others?” and just feel good about that for a second. We’re so used to kind of beating each other up for… Or beating ourselves up for not doing enough or not being a good enough parent or not being a… All the ways in which, especially in the rona, we’re just in a deficit mindset. But you know what? You are an inspiration. You are an inspiration to others. Just sit with that and be with that for a second.

 

And then the other thing that is good for endorphins is actually just doing really nice things for people, and they’re super simple things. The other day, I went to buy bagels at this big old shop in the neighborhood that for some reason, just people love and wait in line for hours for the bagels in a socially distanced line. I waited in a line and I thought, “Well, as long as I’m in this line, I’m going to buy a bunch of bagels and just give them to the neighbors.” The feeling of joy that I got from delivering delicious bagels to my neighbors was actually just amazing.

 

Alicia Garza:

That is awesome.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I got endorphins for a whole day. So if you need endorphins, just figure out who you want to do something… Random act of kindness for somebody in your life who might not expect it.

 

Alicia Garza:

I love that so much. One thing we forgot to say is cry and sleep.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Just be human. Just let yourself be human.

 

Alicia Garza:

Yeah, yeah. And this is a real thing. I mean wherever you stand, whatever the outcome is, the reality is there’s been such buildup to this moment that it’s going to be emotional. So let that out. Get into it because we do have a lot of work to do and anything that you stuff down is going to come out at a time when you’re not expecting it and you probably don’t want it. You know what I mean? You ever stuff down that cry and then you’re like, “I’m good. I’m good,” and then you’re in the middle of something where you really are not needing to cry but then you start crying? You’re like, “Ooh, delayed reaction.” So move through it. Cry if you need to cry.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s right. Cry, cry, cry. Laugh, just feel whatever it is you need to feel. Give yourself the space to just be a messy human.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right. That’s right. Well, there’s so much happening and it’s not all happening at the top of the ticket. I mean, national election’s totally important, but let’s bring some of that energy closer to home. If you’re inspired to do something right now, look around you. Who’s on the school board? How are land use and zoning decisions being made in your community? We talked a couple of weeks ago about how a lot of people don’t know that if you care about police violence, your mayor has a lot of influence over what is happening with policing in your community. So I’m wondering, Ai-jen, did you vote already?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Not yet. I actually-

 

Alicia Garza:

Okay. I voted.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I know. How was it?

 

Alicia Garza:

It was mail-in. It was fantastic. I did my ballot in the sun and then I had some questions so I asked some friends, “Where you at on this? And give me your rationale.” And then I sealed my ballot, I signed it and I drove it on over to the drop box where I got my sticker and they took my ballot with one of those tongs things. Yeah, COVID. At first, I was kind of offended like, “What?” And then I was like, “Oh yeah.”

 

Ai-jen Poo:

“Oh yeah, we have a pandemic right now.”

 

Alicia Garza:

Exactly, exactly. But I was going to ask you. You haven’t voted yet but you’re going to vote, so can you talk a little bit about the issues that are close to home for you that are super important? Not just the presidential, but what do you care about in your community that’s on the ballot this season?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

There’s so much that I care about. Illinois is a state that has really big budget issues. There’s a really important tax measure that really needs to pass so that the state has revenue, especially in the midst of this pandemic when states are being totally starved because Congress hasn’t moved on a second round of COVID relief and we’re like nine months in. It’s crazy.

 

Alicia Garza:

It’s crazy.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yeah. I mean vital public services, childcare, transportation services, all kinds of services that we take for granted because they’re largely invisible because they’re functional and funded are not going to be funded and so it is going to be pretty dire in states. I just think it’s really important that there’s revenue coming in and that we can keep the lights on in the state. So that’s really important to me.

 

And I want to make sure that we don’t lose any more jobs. I mean, the job loss has been so dramatic and there’s so many people hurting so badly. Some of that revenue and funding is going to make sure that that doesn’t happen. And then care is always… I mean, I always talk about this, but this is so important. In September alone, more than 800,000 women left the formal workforce.

 

Alicia Garza:

Oh my God.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Listen, it’s insane and it’s largely because of the care crisis, because of their caregiving needs and being unable to juggle what their families need with work in a pandemic. And it makes total sense. I mean, how can we? It’s basically an impossible situation, and only people with extreme amounts of privilege are figuring out… So a lot of women are leaving the workforce so all of the decades of work to try to support women’s participation in the labor market and democratize our workforce, just rolling back right before our eyes in a matter of months. So care is just really, really important to me and it’s one of the things that I’ve been lying in my bed at night being like, “Oh my God, what are we going to do?”

 

Alicia Garza:

For sure, for sure.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

What about you? What’s what are you thinking about?

 

Alicia Garza:

Oh, so many things. One thing that is happening in my state, in California, is there is a measure on the ballot to basically take monies from property taxes and invest it into schools and communities. There’s another measure on the ballot to repeal Proposition 209, which basically banned affirmative action in our state. Another big one, speaking of workers on apps, gig workers, there’s a proposition in California right now to basically allow corporations who operate platforms that workers depend on to classify them as independent contractors.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Amazing. Well listen, I mean, we have a week to go and in that week, I’m really drawing on all of my reserves of strength and hope and inspiration. Some of that is you, Alicia, my love.

 

Alicia Garza:

Oh, love you.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I know. And some of that is our listeners, and definitely our elders inspire us. You and I both love time with our elders and getting the wisdom and the perspective from people like Linda Burnham and others who’ve mentored us so generously. Anyway, we wanted to leave you with some words that resonate with us that are kind of like our protective shields against negativity and anxiety and all the deficit mindsets. No, this is like our armor. Favorite quotes.

 

Alicia Garza:

I got a couple. You ready for yours?

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Mm-hmm.

 

Alicia Garza:

I love this one, actually. This is one of my favorite Martin Luther King quotes and it says, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Whew.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s a good one.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

It’s such a good one. It’s one of my favorites. It was from that speech Where Do We Go from Here, and that is exactly where we go from here.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right. That’s right.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Power implementing the demands of justice.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right. 

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yeah. I love it. All right.

 

Alicia Garza:

Okay, give me yours. Give me yours.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

I love the quote from your mom, from mumsy.

 

Alicia Garza:

Mumsy.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Which is, “You teach people how to treat you,” including our elected leaders.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right. That is right.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

You’ve got to tell them. You got to tell them what we need and what we want and you got to make it plain.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s absolutely right. Mom’s always coming through, coming clutch. I love it. I love it, I love it. Here’s another one that I absolutely adore. This one, I think, is so relevant for what we are facing right now. Eleanor Roosevelt. She says, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I love that quote. I feel like that is so timely for what we are going through right now.

 

People all over have asked me, “Well, what do we do? What do we do if things don’t go our way?” whatever that way is. The best thing that I can come up with, honestly, is that things are bad, but we have the fight in our bones. Think about what our ancestors were facing. Not everybody made it, but honestly, a lot of us did. We have survived, terrible, terrible things and it is how we have learned to build the muscle to bring the truth forward. So that is our task right now. Look that thing in the face. Once you do, what we know is we can live through it, but we have to keep facing it and fighting for it to be different.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

That’s right. And honestly, I just feel like we should take a second and just give ourselves a hug, pat ourselves on the back because we’ve been facing down craziness all year.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

We actually have stories and scars to show for the horror that-

 

Alicia Garza:

We sure do.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

… we have lived through. I think we should just wear it as our armor.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right. I support.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

All right, so here’s one from Dorothy Day. “People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

 

Alicia Garza:

Yes. Yes.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

Yes. And to break that down in little chunks it’s like if you’re thinking to yourself, “What is this little act of voting or texting, calling neighbors, volunteering, what does it really matter, given what we’re up against?” it is this idea that action is in the reaction. Every action causes a reaction and every step matters because of those ripples. Without them, there can be no wave and so it does matter. Plus, there’s too much work to do so no time to actually feel hopeless.

 

Alicia Garza:

That’s right. If you want to get even more engaged in the work that we’re all doing this fall, text sunstorm to 97779. We’ll be sending regular updates on how you can take action on all the issues you care about. Don’t forget to check out sunstormpod.com to know how you can get involved in the fight for our democracy. We’ve got one more week, family, and maybe a lot more after that. So rest up, sleep well, eat well, love well. We’ll see you in the fight. We got this.

 

Ai-jen Poo:

We got this. Take care, y’all.

Speaker 1:

Sunstorm is a project of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in collaboration with Participant. Sunstorm is executive produced by Alicia Garza, Ai-jen Poo and Kristina Mevs-Apgar. Sunstorm is produced by Amy S. Choi and Rebecca Lehrer of The Mash-up Americans. Producers are Shelby Sandlin, Mary Phillips Sandy and Mia Warren. Original music composed by Jen Kwok and Jody Shelton.

Alicia Garza:

I’m not cranky, which is helpful, because then you just have more of a filter.

Ai-jen Poo:

Your filter’s been tight lately, though. I have to say, it’s like this steel trap right now.