Published on June 24th, 2016 | by Kristen Hendersen0
Midway Through the 2016 Campaign: Kristen Hendersen Interviews Mimi Soltysik and Angela Walker
Kristen: First of all, big thanks to Mimi and Angela for taking the time to speak with me, when I know they’re both very busy. Much love and solidarity.
It’s now the middle of the election season. What kind of growth, not just in number of supporters, have you noticed since the start of the campaign?
Mimi: Sort of looking at this big picture, I think that in each area where we might be able to notice any type of growth, we’re seeing it. We’ve seen folks join the Socialist Party. We’ve seen folks join the video town halls that we hold. We see more and more folks sharing information. We keep seeing folks developing new relationships, establishing communities, and working together. Folks are writing the Voices of the Revolution pieces, sharing their stories and their feelings. Perhaps biggest of all, we’re seeing folks take that step forward; grasping the campaign’s message and participating in some form. For many this might be the first time they have gotten involved with something like this. It all makes me smile.
Angela: The growth I’ve noticed since the beginning of the campaign has primarily been in people who are wanting to know more about socialism in plain terms, how socialist policies are already benefiting them. They’re seeing how other principles can be put into practice and what a socialist society would look like. I’m seeing that people are wondering about the reality of revolution in a way they haven’t before.
Kristen: The two of you are part of one of the most grassroots campaigns out there. What motivates you to do things on such an intimate level, and with such a strong focus on volunteer and collective efforts?
Mimi: I think it’s both thrilling and inspiring to see folks feel empowered. If we’re going to realize the socialist vision, it will be because the people used that power to affect change. A candidate can’t do that. Those intimate relationships that people are developing every day can be profound in their effect. When I think about where this might all lead, I get goosebumps.
Angela: When Mimi and I initially discussed what this campaign would look like, we agreed that it needed to be something people could be enthusiastic about that also didn’t exploit or run game on them. We look at our approachability as a necessity. It’s the way things should be done because we both believe that people have to be reminded that they are the ones with the power, and they should be encouraged to own that power. We aren’t the kind of people who need to stand up and preach to people. Folks already know what they need. It’s our job to remind folks of what is possible, and that they are their own saviors. People are more invested in a campaign that they can shape and interact with.
Kristen: What kind of expectations did you have about the campaign when it started, and how have they changed?
Mimi: For me personally, I think I was cautiously hopeful that there’d be a response to what we’re doing. I know how I feel about the traditional electoral campaign. I know how a lot of my friends feel about the traditional electoral campaign. I wasn’t sure how, on a larger scale, folks might feel about a message that says, “You will lead, and it will be your voice that makes the difference.” It sounds different and it looks different. Initially, there were folks who said things like, “you keep showcasing other people through the campaign.” There were folks who said we would be irrelevant. We just pushed forward with this idea, believed in what might be possible, maintained our integrity, and it’s worked out well so far. I think confidence is building. I say all of this fully acknowledging how much work there is to do, and how incredible the challenges are. All that aside…but damn, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t have an interaction with the people that leaves me feeling like we’re going to win. And not “we” as in Angela and I, but “we” as in the people as they battle capitalism.
Angela: I can honestly say that I didn’t know what this campaign would look like or who would get involved with it when we started it, so every new person we interact with, any new things that happen…all of it’s new to me. I like just seeing where things are going and letting them take shape as they will.
Kristen: One of the main things that I, as well as other supporters, have noticed is the focus you place on “intersectionality.” What exactly does that mean to you and how would you envision implementing intersectional policies and processes across the nation?
Mimi: To me, intersectionality is about recognizing the whole person, and the multiple oppressions that this person might face. It means that I need to be present in my interactions with others, that I need to consider who they are and what they experience. How would I envision implementing intersectional policies and processes across the nation? As a white, heterosexual, cis male, I think it starts with listening and learning.
Angela: For me, intersectionality is inseparable from our goals and beliefs as socialists. If we are serious about liberation for all people and building a world based on cooperation and justice, then honoring the full selves of people only makes sense. We are not just fighting a class war. Race, gender orientation, ability, language, immigration status… all of those things are part of who we are and must be respected and brought into the fight against capitalist oppression on all fronts. To me, there is no socialism that is not intersectional. Our principles and policies have to reflect this.
Kristen: In your own opinion, why has something like intersectionality been left out of the political sphere, not only here in the USA but on a global level?
Mimi: I love this question. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time after this interview is over. When I was reaching out to folks about a video town hall on intersectionality that we had recently, quite a few people responded that they felt intimidated by the topic. I often think about how I might be contributing to oppression or how my behavior might be oppressive. I think that challenging hierarchies and oppression can be wonderfully uncomfortable. It can be contentious. And, even among the U.S. Left, I’ve seen many many folks (particularly white men who have held the floor for quite some time) fight to maintain their dominance.
Angela: Intersectionality has been left out of politics in the United States and globally because, I believe, the needs of marginalized people continue to be ignored because they can be ignored. The mainstream capitalist parties serve a very specific demographic, despite any lip-service they give to the contrary; and the people who make up that demographic are not working-class or poor, are not differently abled, are not primarily women or LGBTQIAP+, and are definitely not people of color. The decisions are not being made by people who are most affected by the need for intersectionality.
Kristen: What things – stories, folks, events, anything – in your own communities have you seen that inspire you to continue this journey?
Mimi: Whether it’s been at an in-person event, a video town hall, or a one-on-one discussion, I keep finding myself in this spot where I’m absolutely blown away by the folks we’re meeting. Every day, it feels like the family of folks committed to the revolutionary idea is growing, and it’s growing with a beauty that I don’t know that I can fully explain. When I think about how profound and, at times, seemingly insurmountable this struggle might be… I begin to feel a sense of comfort knowing that the people are going to emerge victorious. That might sound sensational. I believe it. The people we’ve met and that we’re working with have made it easy to feel optimistic, I think.
Angela: The fact that people are engaging in the struggle here against public school privatization and are supporting it is inspiring. The fact that people of color are asking about what socialism is and how it can work in communities like ours, that’s inspiring. Seeing the recognition in people’s faces when you tell them that the reforms they need most won’t come from anyone they elect, that they have the power to make needed change in their own community, that is inspiring to me.
Kristen: Political involvement and activism can sometimes take a mental toll. In what ways do you practice self-care while campaigning?
Mimi: I look at my wife and I’m set. I look at my cats and I’m set. To me, that’s medicine. We laugh a lot. Not the cats, of course, but my wife and I. We take the time to just be, you know? To enjoy the moments of tranquility. That time is sacred.
Angela: After the loss to the activist community that was the death of Marshawn MacCarrell, I believe self-care has to be a priority for activists and anyone else involved in fighting the machine that is capitalism. We have to prioritize it, and create a network that supports our comrades emotionally and spiritually, however that looks. My greatest form of self-care is to hide from the world and read dark fairy tales and Afrofuturist literature. That is how I recharge my batteries.
Kristen: Who do you each look up to as activists? This doesn’t have to be another activist, it can be anyone who inspires you to be at your best in the political community.
Mimi: I can say with all sincerity that I look up to Angela. I closely followed her campaign for Sheriff, and I remember thinking, “Holy shit! Angela Nicole Walker is freaking amazing!” Whenever Angela speaks, I feel like I’m back in school, except this time I want to be there. The folks working with the campaign have been like a family. To me, they just get it. There’s a compassion and a sense of humor that I think is so vital to this sort of work. I also get such inspiration when I see the work of my comrades. For me, it’s the fuel that keeps the engine running.
Angela: I look up to my running mate, Mimi Soltysik, and his amazing wife Lynn. I look up to all of the people who join us on our video town halls and on social media. I look up to all of the people in my personal sphere who do what they have to do each day. If you are someone around the world who has resistance and hope in your spirit, I look up to you.