News

Update from our 2021 Annual General Meeting and Executive Committee Election results

Thanks to all who attended this year's Annual General Meeting and Executive Committee Elections.  It was great to see so many faces!  You’ll find a link here to the presentation (DAB_2021_AGM_presentation.pdf); let us know if you can help anywhere and we’ll put you in touch with the appropriate people. Please feel free to share any new ideas you might have and we’ll be happy to consider them in our next ExCom meeting.  

Now, if you're wondering who "we" is, here are the members of the newly elected 2021-2023 DAB Executive Committee:

Chair - Trip Du Bard - [email protected]
Vice-Chair - Onelica Andrade - [email protected]
Secretary - Matthew Goldman - [email protected]
Treasurer - Jeffrey Edison - [email protected]
Counsel - Sandra Keegan - [email protected]
Member-at-Large - Sonya Reines-Djivanides - [email protected]
Member-at-Large - Joe Brinker - [email protected]

We hope to "see" you soon at one of our upcoming virtual events until we are back to in person events, hopefully later this year.

Don't forget to refresh your voting from abroad registration (required every year) at www.votefromabroad.org !


DAB's Election Day - it's our turn!

After all our hard work to elect Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and so many more Democrats back in the States, it's our turn now, as we elect a new Executive Committee to lead our group during the 2021-2023 season.  All DAB members have received via email the candidate statements and instructions on how to vote. Any member who has not received that email can write to the Nominations & Elections Committee at [email protected].

We do need a 25-person quorum at the March 21st AGM for our election results to be valid, so please RSVP via this link

Take advantage of the opportunity to “Meet the Candidates" at this month’s virtual edition of Friday Drinks (March 12th at 8pm). Each candidate will have one minute to introduce themselves, either live or through a pre-recorded video. RSVP here and we'll email you the Zoom link.

Here's to Democracy in Action - and a special thanks to all those volunteers who've submitted nominations! 

Office

Candidate(s)

Chair

Trip DuBard

Vice Chair

Onélica Andrade

Secretary

Linda Danielson

Matthew Goldman

Treasurer

Jeffrey Edison

Counsel

Sandra Keegan

Members-at-Large

(two positions open)

Jerry Asumbrado

Joseph “Joe” Brinker 

Robin de Wouters 

Pam Miller

Sonya Reines-Djivanides

 


Voices from our Community - Meet Sara Atwater

DAB’s Voices from our Community resumes with a conversation with volunteer, Sara Atwater. If you’d like to share your story, write to us at [email protected]

Sara Atwater

Sara Atwater was a member of Democrats Abroad Belgium and, before that, DA Austria, and a Democratic voter for many years, but she has become more active as a volunteer and Dutch-speaking spokeperson for DAB in recent months. Watching her hometown of Washington D.C. become the site of politically-motivated violence at the Capitol, at almost the same moment that Democratic voters flipped the Senate in the state of Georgia, raised her awareness of how Americans abroad can support the Democratic party in its efforts to empower and inform potential voters in Belgium.

She explains her reaction to the violence at the Capitol saying: “Friends of mine in Washington D.C. who are teachers, health care professionals, community organizers, just regular people, were frightened and left unable to get to work and go on with their daily lives. I was concerned about the election misinformation that was being circulated and its consequences. I found that working alongside other concerned Democrats Abroad and speaking publicly about the facts of the election was a motivating way of countering the escalating violence that the “alternative facts” concerning the election were provoking.”

Sara Atwater’s story of becoming an active Democratic voter and volunteer speaks to the personal dilemma within families that many Democrats have experienced due to growing ideological, regional and socio-economic divisions in the US. “Growing up in a family from the South who were very active in the Republican party,” (Sara is the daughter of the late Republican political operative, Lee Atwater) “and having a close relationship with them, I had to grapple with how to deal with the legacy of racism and gender conformity that my parents actively produced, while taking a position for myself that was very different. This is an ongoing process and one that is not easy to navigate but I feel it is important to carve out a space for Democratic voices in spaces and communities where they don’t easily come to the foreground…just look at Georgia!”.

Atwater, who was a high school English teacher before she started a doctorate examining how women’s language and cultural practices are shifting gender dynamics in former mining communities in Europe, explains that working with educational trade unions and organizing teachers in schools helped her to realize the importance of community efforts in improving  daily life and working conditions in public institutions. “Seeing teachers – the large share of whom are women, especially at the primary school level –  formulating their own goals and demands based on the needs of their students and what they see happening in the classroom everyday was very motiving. Being able to further that communication and bring it to the political level through trade unions and negotiations with school administrators was inspiring.”

For Atwater, it has been important to see that the Democratic party’s platform is starting to reflect demands of new generations of voters and she recently DA’s Global Women's Caucus and Global Progressive Caucus. “As an educator here in Europe, I have seen first-hand how affordable higher education and publicly-funded daycare and K-12 schooling create more equality and social harmony in communities and reduce pressure on individual families. That’s not to say that things are perfect here in Europe – many countries here are also reeling from the impact of austerity measures in education – but the very basic need for publicly-funded and accessible education, starting at preschool and extending to higher education, is not disputed. I think it’s very hopeful that Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has K-12 classroom experience, strong ties with teachers unions and supports  state funding for higher education. Teachers need to have a large part of the decision making process when it comes to their lives, jobs and the communities they serve. The outright hostility that Betsy De Vos showed to teachers and their unionized voice will be a difficult legacy to overcome but it will be possible through promoting the collective representation of teachers and their cooperation with parents and students.”

On empowering voters abroad, she says: “I feel quite lucky to know about and be involved in the work that DA does to help register Americans abroad to vote. In the past, I’ve had colleagues and friends from the US who did not know how to request an absentee ballot, resulting in their estrangement from the US voting process. In some cases, I am sure this has caused Americans abroad not to vote. I don’t want luck to be the primary force behind what helps those of us living abroad become aware of how and where we can cast our votes. I am very impressed with the outreach DA has been doing, which has doubled overseas voting. Making voting accessible and easier for Americans at home and abroad is a very important task that the Democratic Party has taken on and I am glad I can support it in some way.”


Congrats from Belgium!

This is it, our big day, the confirmation that all our hard work has paid off and, oh yes, that every single vote does count!

DAB’s contribution to the Democrats Abroad Inaugural Parade film is live on our YouTube channel. Volunteers Kirsten Maher, Sara Atwood & Darren Dyke turned this around on half an hour’s notice…now that’s agility!

Make sure you've requested your 2021 overseas ballots through www.VoteFromAbroad.org - and tell a friend!


Thank you! And now....movin' on to Georgia!

Your Vote Counts Puzzle pic

We did it, we won this Election! What a pleasure to see a genuine smile, to listen to an inspiring President & Vice-President. Thank you for making it happen!!

This was a hard-fought election and you all helped us win it by voting, coloring, calling, texting, donating, posting, tweeting…it’s no wonder we nearly doubled the overseas vote and helped take the Biden/Harris ticket over the finish line in so many key states.

But we are not finished. We have two more Senate seats that we need to win in the state of Georgia on January 5th, thanks to our votes pushing both races into a run-off. These can give Joe Biden the Senate majority he will need to pass the progressive agenda we believe in. Georgia voters, stay tuned for more details on how to vote, but in the meantime, everyone can still help:

  • Donate! Thanks to our local Super Tuesday fundraiser and over €8000 in global DA grants, we ran extensive Facebook & YouTube advertising and two waves of postcard mailings this year. But the coffers are nearly empty and I’m asking for more for our Georgia-targeted efforts. If you’d like to fund our advertising, donate here; for our postcard campaign, donate to DAB's account at KBC BE74 7360 2169 3207. (We also still have some homemade jam & mugs left for sale!).
  • Phonebank - Volunteer Tony Macieojowski and the rest of the phone-banking team are always ready to welcome new callers. Sign up for the simple training and Tony will be in touch.
  • Create social media content - Volunteer Pam Miller led an incredible social media team but they could use more help. If you’re a passionate Twitter, Instagram or Facebook fan, and have a minimally creative bone in your body, let us know!

Stay tuned for news of our next Volunteer Zoom and join us to help find more of the thousands of US citizens in Belgium and convincing them to vote blue. You can also join our Volunteer WhatsApp Chat here. All ideas are welcome!

On behalf of the entire Executive Committee and volunteer team, thank you again for all your support and the messages and emails we received this past week. Our community makes me proud to be a US citizen…and now we can be proud of the next US President & VP!

Pauline Manos - Chair, DA Belgium

 


Help us get out of a jam!

Voting helps us get out of a jam…and long-time member, Gaby Leyden, has donated 30 jars of her homemade fruit preserves (and volunteer Annie Tanampai made our label!) so that we can raise money to keep up our advertising - with little possibility of live voter registration, we're especially reliant on social media this year so we need your donations!  Send €10 (or more - US citizens only!) to our DAB account - KBC BE74 7360 2169 3207 - and we’ll be happy to arrange for a pickup in Schaerbeek or Woluwe-Saint-Pierre or delivery in the Brussels area (sorry to everyone beyond but shipping is a bit tricky!) 

 

 

 


Voices from our Community - Meet our Avuncular American

 

Gerald Loftus with his I Voted face mask

If you've been to one of our Film Nights or watched local French-language coverage of US political events, you just might recognize the face behind this mask. It belongs to Gerald "Jerry" Loftus, a volunteer/spokesperson for Democrats Abroad Belgium and former US Foreign Service Officer. 

The day after the 2016 election, Jerry wrote in his blog, The Avuncular American, about the worrying parallels he saw between the advent of Trump and what happened in Germany in the 1930s. Now, as we approach the November 2020 election, the alarm bells are ringing throughout the world, prompting Jerry to once again share his post with our Communications Team. We thought it was worth sharing with all of you.

The author of the classic work Loftus cites on the rise of Nazism described his book as "an attempt to understand one of the central political and moral problems of the twentieth century: how a civilized democracy could be plunged into a nihilistic dictatorship."  Today many Americans are trying to mobilize to avoid history repeating itself.

Have a read for yourself and see if you find the parallels. Share it with family and friends and help us reach the more than 100 million Americans who did not vote. Check your voting status and have them check theirs on IWillVote.com. Time is running out.

 

 


Voices from our Community - Meet Your Convention Delegate, Onelica Andrade

Democratic Convention Delegate Onelica Andrade

Voices from our Community is a series that aspires to showcase the diverse voices of our Democratic community in Belgium. This week we meet Onelica Andrade, an active volunteer in Brussels and member of DA's delegation to the 2020 Democratic Convention.

I was born in Venezuela and moved to the USA when I was a teenager. I spent my teenage years in the small town of Davis, California, where I also went to college at UC Davis. While I was active in the community through the local church, I wasn't involved in politics. I volunteered in after-school programs, including ESL (English as a Second Language), where I helped students, often from migrant farmworker families, with their school work. I wanted to help those who, like me, came to a new country and had to function in an unfamiliar language. The people I met on the ESL program reflected the diverse, kind, and compassionate side of our country.

In 2016 I moved to Brussels for work, the same year Trump won the election. I was in shock and denial. It was not until I watched Trump being sworn in from my small Brussels office that reality hit. As I listened to his America First speech, I felt increasingly uncomfortable as it became clear that he would govern as he campaigned: divisively and egotistically. I cried, feeling frustrated and powerless. I felt angry for being passive during the campaign and for naïvely thinking Trump could never win. The tolerant country that welcomed me and my family was at risk and I needed to do something. But being abroad what could I do?

When I got home that day I looked for ways to contribute so that I’d never feel that way again. I found Democrats Abroad (DA) and joined the Brussels Women’s March soon afterwards. It felt good to be actively engaged and to be surrounded by others with the same fears and concerns.

The first few months of the Trump presidency were no better than his Inauguration Day. Misogynistic policies were adopted, travel bans imposed, and plans were in place to cancel DACA. I feared for the kids I had helped, my friends, my family. I never imagined we would have as our President someone so intolerant of those from other cultures who, like me, had made America their home.

Democrats Abroad was a positive outlet for my frustration. After a few months I volunteered to run DA Belgium’s Executive Committee elections, and a year later, this past March, agreed to manage the voting centers for the Global Presidential Primary. The latter came with considerable responsibility, but was incredibly rewarding. I loved seeing new and familiar faces come in to vote, and enjoyed the feeling of hope fostered by the volunteers and voters.

It was clear that work did not stop at the primaries. I had learnt that DA members could run to become delegates at the National Convention, representing the voices of Democrats Abroad at the Party convention. I put myself forward as a candidate with no expectations; I thought it would just be a nice opportunity to share my views and allow myself to contribute to the election effort. 

The day of the delegate election, after overcoming my nerves to deliver not one but three speeches; the results came in – I was elected! Even Pauline & Jeffrey, our Chair & Vice-Chair, were surprised! It felt surreal, and a huge honor to represent Democrats Abroad. I am now preparing for the Democratic National Convention. I thought I would be packing my bags to go to Milwaukee, but instead I am going to be part of the first online convention!

I am also working hard to ensure that on November 4th, the day after the election, I will feel that I'll have done my utmost to ensure a blue White House and Congress. There is lots of work to do before then. There are around 6.5 million Americans abroad, more than enough to be the margin of victory. We are the original absentee ballot voters and our votes are at risk. We must be alert and ensure ballots are received and returned on time. And we need to spread the word, so if you know Americans abroad who have not yet registered to vote please encourage them to do so at: www.votefromabroad.org.

We must make Joe Biden our 46th President!

If you haven’t yet requested your absentee ballot, go to www.VoteFromAbroad.org TODAY. Be sure to request that your election materials be sent to you electronically, NOT by postal mail. We’ll be calling, mailing, and/or texting all of our members over the coming weeks to make sure you’ve received your ballots and have sent them back correctly. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out: email us at [email protected] or at [email protected].


Voices from our Community - Meet 97-year-old voter, Lida Francombe

Lida Francombe - DA Belgium

Last month you heard from one of our first-time voters, 17-year old (but 18 by Election Day!) Miles Herszenhorn, who wrote a tribute to Congressman John Lewis. This month, DAB Chair, Pauline Manos, shares the story of Lida Francombe, likely our oldest voter and an inspiration to all of us to do our best this summer to get out the vote. We hope she will inspire you, too.

Lida Francombe was born 97 years ago in what is today the Czech Republic. After World War II, she met a young Englishman while at university and they married, leaving Prague just before the borders closed. “My father had told me we should leave, he had friends in the City Council and they told him things weren’t looking good. So we quickly flew to London. The morning after we arrived, I read in the newspapers that 30 Czech brides were blocked from leaving Prague - I was one of the lucky ones.”

After a few years in the UK, Lida and her husband emigrated to Pittsburgh, where she began to teach gymnastics and give Russian lessons. Forty years later, now as US citizens, they moved back to Europe, settling in Belgium near their daughter. In October 2016, Lida emailed DAB, asking how to vote, since her ballot had never arrived. I wrote to her about the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (the FWAB - stay tuned for more on that!) and asked if she needed help. She immediately replied, “Hello, Pauline, my daughter is helping me with the write in ballot. I shall send it today. Thanks for the offer. Go Hillary!”

Nearly four years later, Lida was even more determined to vote and she reached out again this spring, writing to our Vice-Chair, Jeffrey Edison. “After my husband died I did not care about many things, but this time I consider it my moral duty to vote. I need a lot of help, I am ignorant about many things about computing.” Lida found the right person, as Jeffrey also volunteers on our Global IT Team. With a little help from Google Maps and Lida’s recollection of her last voting center, they sorted out which of the similarly-named addresses on the VoteFromAbroad.org site was her last one, and completed her Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).

I realized, though, that with this spring’s postal crisis, it would be better if Lida were to get her election materials via email and not get a paper ballot, so I reached out. She hadn’t yet sent back her FPCA and asked me if I could come over to her house to help her update it. I was a bit hesitant but she insisted, so I donned my mask and finally had the honor of meeting (from a distance!) this incredible woman. It was then that I learned her story and she asked me mine. I told her of my own journey to Europe, about my work with DA, and of our volunteers' occasional difficulty to convince some people to vote. “What do you mean, they don’t want to vote? Are they crazy? They want Trump as President??”

That morning, we talked of so many things - the challenges Covid had brought to families spread across continents, our shared conviction that we needed to get Joe Biden and his team into the White House, her tips for healthy living (floor exercises every morning on her gorgeous carpet!).  I finally had to leave, so Lida signed her FPCA, we took a picture of it and emailed it to her Local Election Official, and then decided to walk together to the post office to send in the signed copy, just to be on the safe side. She got her shopping basket, adjusted her mask, and suddenly bent over to adjust her shoe strap…touching her toes at 97! I left Lida outside her post office, determined to keep up my yoga so that I, too, could touch my toes in my 90s and keep making my own voice heard.

If you haven’t yet requested your absentee ballot, go to www.VoteFromAbroad.org TODAY. Be sure to request that your election materials be sent to you electronically, NOT by postal mail. We’ll be calling, mailing, and/or texting all of our members over the coming weeks to make sure you’ve received your ballots and have sent them back correctly. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out: email us at [email protected] or at [email protected].


Voices from our Community - A Tribute to John Lewis

John Lewis

Voices from our Community is a series that aspires to showcase the diverse voices of our Democratic community in Belgium. This essay, commemorating the life of civil rights icon, John Lewis, who passed away on July 18th, is written by Miles Herszenhorn, DAB's 2020 summer intern. Miles will vote for the first time this fall, just after turning 18. In 2018, Miles organized the Brussels March for our Lives event to protest gun violence and the impact on young people.

Shining a Light on the Life of John Lewis

Miles Herszenhorn

Yes, John Lewis was an American hero. But John Lewis was actually so much more than that. He was the greatest American to ever live.

That is not to say that the Founding Fathers weren’t patriots or that Abraham Lincoln didn’t love the USA, but no one loved and believed in our country the way John Lewis did.

John Lewis started to participate in the Civil Rights Movement when he was still a college student. While he practiced non-violence as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, he was brutalized and arrested in states across the country by white supremacists and the police. South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama where he was beaten and left for dead are just a few of the states where Lewis’s non-violence was greeted with brutality. However, Rep. John Lewis never gave up. He pressed on determined to achieve change and make a difference.

In 1963, having been elected chairman of the SNCC at the young age of 23, he helped organized the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964, while marching from Selma to Montgomery as part of a movement to register Black voters, Alabama State Troopers beat up praying protestors and fractured Rep. John Lewis’s skull.

The abuse Lewis faced as a Black American fighting for equal rights in this country was constant. A fraction of that abuse would’ve made most people flee the country and never look back. But, Rep. John Lewis never gave up. He never gave up fighting for what he believed in. He never gave up fighting for the United States of America.

In fact, not only did Lewis not give up on the United States of America, he served the country for over 33 years as a member of Congress. The same country that beat up and arrested Rep. Lewis in multiple states, the same country that more than once left him for dead bleeding when he tried to peacefully protest, that same country is the one he dedicated his life to serving.

However, Rep. John Lewis didn’t change once he went into politics. As he said earlier this year in Selma, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” Rep. Lewis was arrested 40 times during the Civil Rights Movement and another 5 times while he was a sitting Congressman.

John Lewis loved this country. John Lewis fought for the soul of this country. John Lewis lived for this country and John Lewis died for this country.

We will never be able to thank him enough for everything that he has done, but we must do our best to honor his memory. Let us fight for what is right and get into a whole lot of good trouble.