Zak Marcone has traveled a lot - he has spent significant periods of time in China, Uganda, Japan and Mexico, as well as having lived in four US States: New York, Rhode Island, Missouri and North Carolina. He is currently registered to vote in his hometown of Northport on Long Island, NY.
Zak has been interested in politics and history for as long as he can remember. “I owe a lot to my parents who took me to museums almost every weekend as well as to my wonderful teachers over the years.”
In the past he’s done work for the Democratic Party in a number of capacities. In college, he interned for the Democratic Coalition assisting with Democratic campaigns nationwide. He was most intimately involved with the 2017 special election in Alabama where they were able to get the first Alabama Democrat in decades, Doug Jones, elected to the senate.
Zak is most focused on healthcare, immigration, rooting out corruption, and ensuring that America plays a positive role as a leader on the world stage.
During the 2016 election Zak called out then House Speaker Paul Ryan on a CNN Town Hall.
The video “Paul Ryan: Not voting for Trump is a vote for Clinton” went viral and can be viewed at this link: https://youtu.be/9quPn38agjI
Currently a master’s student in Economics and China Studies at the Yenching Academy of Peking University, he graduated with a BA in Economics and History from Columbia University last year and is interested in a career in public policy or economic development.
He got involved with Democrats Abroad after hearing about the organization from a fellow American at Peking University’s campus.
He told Democrats Abroad China, “If I were to become president I would focus on implementing structural reforms that ensure the president and her/his cabinet is not above the law. Specifically, I would advocate for a constitutional amendment that explicitly states that a president cannot pardon her/himself or reverse a Justice Department policy that forbids any indictments against a sitting president. I would also give up my party membership in a symbolic move to overcome political partisanship. I do not hear these types of actions advocated very often and I feel they are of the utmost importance for the durability of the republic.”
Zak is young, educated, and plugged in. He knows that the biggest challenge facing the Democratic Party is the immense amount of disinformation spreading online and in the media.
Republicans and Democrats exist in two separate perceptions of reality and there is no longer an objective truth that everyone can agree upon. This makes it nearly impossible to identify wrongdoing on behalf of the president. “Most Democrats do not recognize this and have trouble connecting with people outside of cities and blue states,” he warns.
Justin Fischer is an At-Large member of the board for Democrats Abroad China and is currently living in Shanghai. He is registered to vote in Missouri.
He has lived in six states in the past - Michigan, Alabama, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, and Georgia - but China is the only foreign country he has lived in.
Justin became earnestly interested in politics when George W. Bush became president after the 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court in Bush v Gore.
He voted third party back then, which he now thinks was a mistake. The long-term consequences of that election made him realize how important it is to vote, and be engaged with a major political party.
Wealth disparity, curbing excessive corporate power, banking reform are important issues to him.
He believes in building a humane policy toward immigrants and refugees. To that end, he has done volunteer work for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
The IRC responds to some of the world's worst crises, delivering aid that saves lives while paving the way for long-term recovery. Justin is currently a regular donor to that organization as well as to No Mas Muertes, which advocates for humane treatment of desperate immigrants crossing the southern border of the United States.
Justin works for a public relations agency in Shanghai that helps foreign companies get recognized in China and the APAC region.
If he were President for a day, he would "clean the ketchup stains and Diet Coke can rings off the Resolute Desk.”
Fighting the apathy and cynicism that seems to infect so much of the electorate is job number one for Justin.
“As activists, we are surrounded by like-minded people with the same level of passion. But there are a lot of people out there who think the blame for our problems falls equally on both sides and have just thrown up their hands in frustration.”
To escape construction noise typical of high-rise living in China, I left my apartment on Thursday evening, October 17, when my WeChat lit up. A fellow DA-China member had written, “(U.S. Congressman) Elijah Cummings has died.”
Wait, what? DIED?
I had once worked as his speechwriter and kept in touch with him regularly. I knew he had been ill, but had the end really come? I believed it after reading a news article. Still, I needed more confirmation. So, I called his longtime legal counsel and to my surprise, I was the one who informed him of the tragic news. “How did you find out (before staff)?” he asked. “DA-China,” I replied.
Because the Congressman had taken his last breath overnight, Americans in China had been privy to the (awful) news even before his best friend of 50 years heard it.
I begin my tribute this way because I want to highlight the critical link that DA provides to Americans in China. We don’t necessarily get news before our fellow Americans, as I did. But through DA-China, we can stay informed of various political happenings as if were on U.S. soil.
Currently, I’m still grieving the loss of my former boss, mentor, hero and role model, who died at the age of 68. Months before his death, he had reached a pinnacle in Congress: Committee Chair of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee (a key player in the impeachment inquiry).
Mr. Cummings (D-Maryland) had risen from humble beginnings. A son of sharecroppers, he was mistakenly marked as a “special ed” student in school and told that he’d never graduate. He not only defied this prediction, but went on to college, law school and spent more than 35 years in politics. Yet, he never forgot where he came from and gave a voice to the voiceless, whether it was to advocate for better schools, quality healthcare, voting rights or increased economic opportunities for all. My most vivid memories of him involve how he would spring into action the minute he heard about an injustice.
After learning of his passing, I broke down at the realization that he would never be able to see through the crusades he had undertaken. Then, suddenly, his poignant words echoed in my mind.
“A 100 years ago, none of us were here; 100 years from now, none of us will be here. So, we must ask ourselves, what do we do while we are here?” he often said.
Mr. Cummings is no longer with us. He won’t be able to vote in the primaries or the general election. He won’t be able to speak up for patients who struggle to afford lifesaving prescription drugs or children locked in cages. There is however, someone who can: us.
We won’t be here 100 years from now. But right here, right now, we can seize this moment by voting, participating in our democracy and advocating for the issues that concern us.
Devika Koppikar is an At-Large Board Member of DA-China. She works as an AP teacher in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. Previously, she worked as a speechwriter to U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings from 2002 to 2007. She left that job to seek more of a work-life balance, but is still active in politics.
Grace Gary has lived in Georgia and New York before coming to China. She is currently registered to vote in Gwinnett County, Georgia (named for Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett, who died from wounds received in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh, a Continental general, whose brother Gwinnett had arrested.
Her interest in politics began while she was living in New York in 2015. “You see a lot of injustice and anger living there, and the Trump campaign didn’t help. I got involved with DA in 2016, when I wanted to vote in my first presidential election.”
She is most interested in spreading accurate information through awareness posts, and providing voters what they need to get their ballots and check on its status.
Grace is an English tutor and college student working towards her forensic psychology degree.
“If you were President for a day, what would you do on Day One?” I asked.
“Not even sure if all of this is legal, but… I’d remove the Andrew Jackson portrait from the Oval Office, then issue executive orders to ending our inhumane and disease-ridden immigration detention camps. Some heads would roll for the dead/missing Latinx children. I would stop NASA from trying to desecrate a sacred place in Hawaii; get Flint clean water; and seek justice for however many people were responsible for the water crisis.”
Kimberly “Kim” Wong has lived in New Jersey and New York, Japan and China. She is registered to vote in New Jersey.
While she had never been heavily involved with politics in the US, she cared about large-scale positive systemic change, and being an active contributing member of society.
“I like to get it DONE,” she says.
She got involved with DA as a volunteer around the time of the Women’s March when she hosted Democrats Abroad at Sproutworks, a restaurant where she was involved. She also tapped her friend Elaine Chow (our current Comms Director) to get a video from Krista Suh (creator of the Pussyhat) to help promote voter registration.
“We got 100 registrants that day and I knew I could probably do more!”
“I care about electing Democrats, and want to do as much preparation as possible leading up to 2020,” she told me. She also cares deeply about Health and Education and has done extensive work for Food Heroes, a non-profit that aims to teach children about healthy eating.
Kim just launched her first clothing line under her brand cukimber. It’s colorful fresh and fun. She taught herself how to make compositions from paintings, and then create them into products — not just clothing, but accessories and home-ware. She designs for other brands, too.
If Kim were President for a day, what would she do? She said, with a smile, “Reunite kids with the parents. Welcome people into the country! Reduce emissions, gun control, pass ERA…all of it. A girl can dream, right?”
Anything that stops Democrats from voting is in Kim’s way.
Look out! Each state has different rules and it’s a little complicated, but she has become one of our old hands at registering people to vote and going the next step: making sure they secure and return their secret absentee ballot.
"Thank goodness that we are going to have tons of Get Out The Vote volunteers!” she said and reminded me that we need to re-register to vote from abroad every year: “You better know what you’re going to be doing on January 1, 2020! The earlier the better.”
It’s hard to know what to do with all the news and crises everyday and it gets truly frustrating to see headline after headline that induces panic and fear. Being part of DA gives Kim and many others some peace of mind, to know that we can contribute proactively to get people onto the Blue Wave, and actually surf towards better solutions.
Recently on our @democratsabroadchina Instagram, we've been posting tiny actions you can take to stave off our climate apocalypse (#doom). One of them was our initiative to help us all eat a little less meat: #DAVegtober
#DAVegtober is a pledge to eat more vegetarian than you normally do, whether that's just one day a week, one meal a day or committing to fully vegetarian/vegan! It's up to you, but we would love to see you publicly commit to it (hashtag and all) and hopefully raise awareness of Democrats Abroad in your communities.
But, as we were careful to stress, the most EFFECTIVE action is to follow up individual action with collective action: voter registration for the 2020 elections begins on Jan 1.
We are now beginning fundraising efforts to help us reach out to more of the Americans in China community with phonebanking events, media pushes and swag! If you have some spare change to donate to our pledge to register the votes that make all the difference, please find out how to do it by scanning the QR code in WeChat below:
A Message from Aaron Kruse, Democrats Abroad China Chair
After three debates it is clear that the eventual Democratic Party nominee will have their hands full cleaning up the mess that President Trump has created. From healthcare to student loans, gun control to foreign policy, our party has a lot of work to do.
As the primaries draw nearer and the Democratic Party chooses a candidate to take on Trump in 2020 it can feel like we’re very far away from the action, but the reality is that our Leadership Board is working hard to build a post-Trump world.
Recently, all 11 members of DA China’s elected Leadership Board met in Shanghai to strategize how we can contribute and how we can organize to make sure that the White House has a new occupant come 2021.
Among the work that we did during the retreat was to discuss issues that should be part of the Democratic Party platform. The world looks different for Americans living abroad, and part of the mission of Democrats Abroad is to make sure that our issues are addressed. For example, President Trump’s trade policy will make it harder for millions of Americans living overseas to vote – directly jeopardizing our voting rights.
In order to ensure that the Democratic Party hears our voices on the issues, DA’s global team has launched the 2020 Platform Committee. And, to ensure that DA’s global team hears the voices of its members, the committee is rolling out an initiative to allow members to share their voices through “Kitchen Table” conversations.
Over the next few months we will be encouraging our members to take part in these conversations and share feedback with the Platform Committee. Interested members can get involved by first reviewing the 2016 Democrats Abroad Platform and then getting in touch with any of our 11 elected DA China leaders.
Each month we take a moment to highlight a volunteer in Democrats Abroad China. This month's star: Brittni Young in Shanghai!
INTERVIEW BY: ALEXANDER LEE
Brittni Young was born and raised in Texas, where she is registered to vote. She now resides in Shanghai as a full-time English teacher while working with an art collective on the side.
Brittni is leading up the efforts of China’s newly formed Black Caucus. If you are interested in issues of diversity and racial equality, join us for our Inaugural Black Caucus Brunch on September 15 in Shanghai and follow the Global Black Caucus on its social media streams!
The rule “you should never discuss politics, and religion at the dinner table” never held any weight in her home. When Brittni was a child she used to campaign with her family and neighbors asking them to vote for her as the first Black female president. “That particular slot has yet to be filled so a girl can still dream,” she said. In college, she worked with the College Democrats’ organization to keep classmates involved and registering them to vote, and has since kept up a litany of volunteer actions at food donation centers, beach clean ups, donations to women’s shelters and educating people.
Brittni first got involved with Democrats Abroad through a Women’s Caucus Event for Women’s Day. “I was unaware there was this organization abroad so I was very excited when I met Sarah and Kim at this event, and learned more about the Democrats Abroad.” After this event she found how simple it was to get involved with the organization, stay engaged with the political process, and help our country while living abroad.
She is interested in women’s rights, black rights, climate change, and “just being kind to each other, and caring for our planet.”
In her opinion, the Democrats’ greatest challenges are single issue voters and voter suppression. In Texas, communicating social policies to conservative voters is also a challenge. Texans have a very strong mindset about working hard and not receiving handouts. “I think it’s great that they have a mindset about working hard, but I think we need to re-educate people about our social policies that they are calling handouts. People feel ashamed for receiving something they already paid into, and they should naturally receive as American citizens, and human beings. We need to be more effective at reaching out to these communities.”
If Brittni was President for a Day, "I would allocate resources to release the children and families locked up in cages at our southern border, and provide them with resources to sustain them as we create a pathway to citizenship. I would also take necessary actions needed to protect the DACA program the current administration is attempting to end. "
“Next, I would focus on climate change, because no one will be around to debate or enjoy anything if we continue at the destructive rate we are going. I would rejoin the Paris Agreement, and pass the Green New Deal. I would also allocate resources to cleaning up the water of cities such as Flint, Michigan, where residents are unable to access drinkable water in the “richest” nation of the world.
“Also, I would focus on making access to medication affordable for all Americans, and pushing forward with Universal Healthcare.
“I would also have the United States sign the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Join Brittni and other Democrats Abroad members working to ensure change in 2020! Check us out on Facebook or WeChat.
Today we take a moment to highlight the man who’s been behind the interviews of our Democrats Abroad China board members and star volunteers, Alexander Lee, who also serves as General Counsel for our board.
Alexander currently works at an international program in one of Guangzhou’s top public schools. He votes in Barre, Vermont, which is named after the Member of Parliament who coined the term “Sons of Liberty.”
Participating in a rally was actually what led to Alexander moving to China. At the Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert ‘Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear’ in 2010, he met the director of Perfect English and, some months later, moved to Changchun to become the Director of Studies. Additionally, he has lived in Beijing as well.
He has been to 95 cities and towns in China, many of which are documented on his blog Waking Green Dragon. He is particularly interested in tea, and now runs the Guangzhou Internations Coffee & Tea group.
One reason he pursued an adventure outside of America was because he needed a change after running a nonprofit. His organization, Project Laundry List, worked on “right to dry” legislation encouraging Americans to use nature to dry laundry instead of energy-sucking machines. Under his watch, it had a slew of media coverage, including having a film crew follow them around for a year to produce a prize-winning documentary called Drying for Freedom.
Even before being elected to DA China’s leadership board, Alexander has had a history of being involved in politics. He was the former chair of the Concord City Democrats and Merrimack County Democrats in New Hampshire, and was an early field office director for Howard Dean and a 2004 DNC delegate for him in Boston. He served as campaign manager for McKim Mitchell’s almost successful attempt to unseat the State Senate President in 2004.
He has many issues important to him, including protecting the environment, abolishing the death penalty and fair and progressive tax. Additionally, “I am former board member of Otter Creek Audubon and Peace & Justice Center of Burlington, VT so I care about birds and peace,” he said.
As general counsel, his role at Democrats Abroad is to ensure all initiatives follow American legal proceedings so that our organization can identify Americans, register them to vote and help them request absentee ballots as smoothly as possible.
Join us as a Democrats Abroad member! Check us out on Facebook or WeChat.
We are excited to announce the Democrats Abroad China has officially launched the Black Caucus, and we’d like to invite you to join us! Please join us for our Inaugural Brunch on Sunday, September 15 in Shanghai and be sure to scan our WeChat Group code to join the WeChat Group before the end of the week!
What is the Black Caucus?
The Democrats Abroad Global Black Caucus (GBC) is made up of DA members of all ethnicities from around the world who are willing and able to advocate on issues important to Black Americans within the United States of America and those living abroad. All DA members are eligible to join the GBC. We advocate for laws, policies, and programs that improve the lives of Black Americans and educate all people on the humanity of Black people.
What issues are we advocating for?
● Voting Rights
● Criminal Justice
● Police Brutality
● Police Militarization
● Mass Incarceration
● Prisoner Rights
● Economic Inequality
● Government Participation
● Human Rights and Anti-Racism
● Unconscious and Conscious Bias
● Black Lives Matter
● Environmental Racism
● Human trafficking
● Technology Industry Diversity & Inclusion
● Environmental Justice and Climate Change
The DACN Black Caucus will host events, call to actions, discussions and more to uplift the Black American community while living abroad. We may be an ocean away from home, but the fight for our rights doesn’t stop.
So how can you get involved?
First, you can officially register with the DA Global Black Caucus https://www.democratsabroad.org/join Once you have registered with the Global Black Caucus make sure you scan the QR Code to join our official WeChat group. The WeChat Group is a place for you to join or start a constructive conversation about the issues relevant to our community.
We are excited to have the Black Caucus up and running. We hope you will join us in making a better future for all of us!