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The DACN Speaker Series: Get Inspired!

As we continue through a delayed primary season, Democrats Abroad China has invited several prominent figures in academia, media and politics to provide food for thought and inspiration in the lead up to the Democratic National Convention.

We are excited to introduce you to our speakers:
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Meet a DA China Member: Jasmine Cochran, Global Black Caucus Poet Laureate, in Guangzhou

The DA China Annual General Meeting is coming up this weekend (RSVP if you haven't already!) and we are excited to welcome Global Black Caucus Poet Laureate Jasmine Cochran to unveil a new poem she's written for the occasion. We caught up to her to talk about her thoughts about politics, her love for poetry, and what she hopes people will work towards in 2020.

Jasmine Cochran grew up in Mississippi. Her first real face-to-face with the American political system happened in high school, when her AP government teacher had the class read the platforms of George W. Bush and Al Gore.

"At that time, Bush and Gore didn't have websites... it was a difficult and long text, and we had to read it as an assignment. It forced me to do research and was one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned. Most people don't learn the facts, which is why politicians can spend millions of dollars on campaign ads, and people just follow along." Later, that teacher took her class to nearby New Orleans to listen to Al Gore campaign, an experience she remembered as "really exciting to see people get riled up. I just remember the electricity in the air."

In the years since, she's remained cognizant of those lessons, "I had a lot of years wading through the waters of trying to figure out what everything meant, and who would keep their word, and how what they did would affect Mississippi and who even cares about what would happen in Mississippi.

"I've grown and changed a lot, but my political leanings have been pretty much the same. I've just become firmer and more educated in what I'm involved in. People need to know what they're voting for and all that it entails." 

We are voting for so much more than the presidential seat. 

"We are voting for who will be appointed to the Supreme Court, what bills will be debated and passed on the Floor, who will put together or dismantle committees that will actually work to solve our problems. But if you don't know that, you don't consider the implications of your vote. Especially of local votes too, because local legislators make such a difference between one State and the next. I know what it looks like for a State that's got it together. And I know what it's like to be in a State that's not."

Though she didn't end up going into politics in the United States, she admitted, "I have always been very vocal... I got in trouble for my political views. It seems like people just want you to be quiet and not disagree, and living in the South, I disagreed with most people."

Cochran and her family moved to China four years ago. "My husband and I had talked about moving abroad since before we got married, but we hadn't done it yet. Instead, we moved from Mississippi to Texas. After some time there, I asked him if this was it - if we were never going to [go abroad] and were we just talking the entire time? He said no, he wanted to leave. Within a month, we had an offer to come to China."

They moved first to Weihai, in the Northeast of Shandong Province, but have since relocated to Guangzhou. "Weihai was gorgeous, but just too cold! After a couple years of snow, I was like alright, let's find some heat."

Last year, she answered the Global Black Caucus' call for a 2020 Poet Laureate to create a poetry series that would explore societal issues and the 2020 elections. She is now a part of the GBC's Poet Laureate Circle.

She recalls her first moments with poetry with her great grandmother. "I would go to spend weekends with her and one day, she gave me two books - one of which was a gold poetry book called "Apples of Gold." It was so great! I don't know how many times I re-read it. I have been writing [poetry] forever - my mom has a big box of all these journals with poetry I wrote through years and years. Now I am getting to the point where I'm happy with what I'm writing and how people are liking it, and that always encourages you to do more."

Her poems don't sugarcoat the problems of America and its current political system, but also illuminate a way forward - something she hopes will be reflected by Democrats working towards the 2020 electoral outcome.

"My parents have always been very honest about our history. My dad grew up in Jim Crow Mississippi. It's hard there. You still see slave shacks and plantations and the reality of the United States all over there, and Alabama, and Georgia, and Louisiana. There's that James Baldwin quote - to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. Being a black woman, there are so many things I can say. There are so many things in our system that need to be changed."

"But there are a lot of us out here who want things to get better and we've got two powers: numbers and knowledge.

"I understand how hard it is to rally for something you didn't really want. I know what it feels like for your guy to not be IT. But I also understand what it's going to look like for the next four years if we don't vote, and especially if we don't vote locally. There are too many of us who will lose a lot. But there's power in our numbers - we've got to put those numbers together. Whether you vote with a smile in your face or tears in your eyes, you go vote!"

"Plus, we CAN HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE. We shouldn't be living off just rhetoric. We are not powerless. A lot of time, we give our power away, but we aren't actually powerless against any of this. We can say - okay, we voted you in and these are our expectations. We will hold you to that. That needs to become our battlecry. My hope, wish, dream, is for people to unite with numbers and knowledge. If we don't get involved, there are never going to be checks and balances."

Jasmine Cochran will be presenting a brand new poem at the Annual General Meeting on Sunday, May 3rd. Please RSVP to attend!


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WHAT WE ARE DOING POST-GPP IN DEMOCRATS ABROAD CHINA


DA China Members,

The month of March has felt like an absolute eternity, and many of us are scattered around the world and worried about family, friends, and the future of our country. With all that’s been going on, it is hard to believe that Democrats Abroad held its Global Presidential Primary just a few weeks ago!

Across the globe, thousands of Americans voted in 180 countries cast their votes. In total, 39,984 ballots were cast, representing a 15% increase in turnout compared to 2016. Senator Sanders won 9 delegates, while Vice President Biden won 4 delegates - full results are available on the Democrats Abroad website.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, including having to cancel our in-person voting centers in China, more than 400 DA China members cast their ballots in the Global Presidential Primary this year. 

Membership-wise, in the last three months we have welcomed over 400 new members to DA China! Thank you to all the members who have informed friends and family of our organization.

We were greatly aided on both efforts by a small team of phone banking volunteers that made hundreds of calls to DA members to help them cast their ballots, and by voting assistance volunteers that helped to answer questions. As we ramp up to the November election, more than ever we will need help from our volunteers to call constituents and help them get their absentee ballots in. Please consider joining our volunteer efforts by adding DA China on WeChat and letting us know you're interested:

Search WeChat ID: DemocratsAbroad

DA China’s Leadership Board is staying busy with organizing efforts, and we will be holding our Annual General Meeting in early May this year. Our hope is to have in-person events around the country, where like-minded Americans can meet and share ideas on how to repair the damage that has been done to our nation, and how we should lead once we take back the Presidency in 2020.

I hope all of you will stay safe, stay healthy, and stay focused on November.

Best,

Aaron Kruse 
Chair, DA China


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IMPORTANT INFO: THE GLOBAL PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY IN CHINA

CANCELLED: Beijing/Shanghai In-Person GPP Voting on March 7

Sadly, with coronavirus worries still causing quarantines and clampdowns all over China, we’ve decided to cancel the in-person voting events we were to hold on March 7, 2020.

BUT the Global Presidential Primary is still the easiest Democratic Primary for overseas voters to participate in thanks to:

EMAIL & MAIL IN VOTING

E-Mail Your Ballot: The Easiest Primary Voting Process Ever

Registered Democrats Abroad members should have received a ballot for DA’s global primary in their email inbox earlier today (Feb 18 2020). Be sure to check the email information on your account at DemocratsAbroad.org and that Democrats Abroad emails are not set to go to spam!

If you didn’t see it in your inbox, you can also download the ballot here on the Democrats Abroad website.

I Prefer Snail Mail Please

Packages leaving China are at risk of getting stopped right now, so we don’t recommend this route. However, if you still prefer sending a physical paper ballot, please:

  • Print out the ballot [linked again] & fill it in
  • Message us directly by adding our WeChat QR code at the bottom of this message!

Deadline: March 10, 2020

While coronavirus is exceptionally frustrating, don’t let this pathogen disenfranchise you! Democrats Abroad represents 9 million Americans living abroad and has as much weight as any US state party in the Democratic Primary. Your vote for your favorite Democratic candidate can have potentially 4x more impact than back home!

CAUTION: You CAN NOT vote for a Presidential Candidate in both your home state primary and the GPP.

So we hope you choose to use your vote for the GPP!

It’s impactful.
It’s easy.
It’s right now!


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9 Tiny Actions for The Holidays

Merry Christmas from us at DA China!

We recently held an All Caucus Holiday Dinner in Shanghai to celebrate our accomplishments in 2019 and get ready for the New Year.

We've already given several ideas of how to help us out here across our social media streams, but with only so many more days til Christmas, we figure we'd reiterate them into nine Tiny Actions you can still take between now and then.

(1) START THAT VOTE FROM ABROAD WECHAT GROUP TO HELP YOUR FRIENDS VOTE IN 2020! 

A sample conversation starter for your WeChat group:

"Hi, I'm inviting you to join this group because this Christmas, I want to give you the help of registering you to vote in 2020. Here is the link to join our group: WeChatLink

I know it can be pretty confusing to do it from China, especially with each State having its own voting registration laws. But I have access to resources to help with your questions!"

(2) SHARE SOMETHING FROM THE DA CHINA SOCIAL MEDIA FEEDS ON FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM. 

Follow us if possible!
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dainchina
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/democratsabroadchina/

(3) READ THROUGH THE POSSIBLE PLATFORMS FOR KITCHEN TABLE TALKS

They can be found here: https://www.democratsabroad.org/2019_kitchen_table_talks
Do any appeal to you enough to want to be a part of one? Let us know in our DA Group Chats!

(4) LEARN ABOUT THE GPP AND MAKE SURE YOU'VE SIGNED YOUR FAVORITE CANDIDATES' PETITIONS 

Remember, a petition signing is not a vote, just a showing to let DA know they deserve to be on the 2020 Primary ballot.
You can find all the Petitions here: https://www.democratsabroad.org/candidate_petitions

(5) LEARN WHAT VOTER SUPPRESSION LOOKS LIKE!

Read through this guide about Voter Suppression by Tolerance.org, so that you're informed of the general history and can recognize common voter suppression tactics.
https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/teaching-the-truth-about-voter-suppression

(6) GET TO KNOW THE HR 1 & HR 4 FOR IMPROVING VOTING RIGHTS ACROSS AMERICA

H.R. 1 can be found here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1/text
H.R. 4 can be found here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/4
And share your findings with friends!

(7) FIND AND SHARE YOUR STATE'S VOTING REQUIREMENTS

Go onto VotefromAbroad.org/states and look up yours super easily!

(8) CONTACT A LOCAL AMERICAN-OWNED VENUE IN YOUR AREA 

We could always use more businesses on board to host possible Democrats Abroad events in the future!

(9) DONATE TO DA CHINA!

We want to get the word out more and to host things like voter registration drives, phone banking events etc. during crunch time 2020! Any extra funds would be a lot of help!


First China Kitchen Table Talk with the Women's Caucus

China held its first Kitchen Table Talk, run by the Women's Caucus in Beijing, on Sunday December 8th, where they focused on the topic of Equal Rights - including the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the recent transgender ban in the military.

Kitchen Table Talks are small group events held by Democrats Abroad members to discuss policy issues that matter to Americans abroad. The feedback from these talks can help shape the Democrats Abroad 2020 Platform and ensure that DA represents the issues that matter the most to its global constituents.

In China's case, the group found that they largely agreed with Democrats Abroad Global's memorandum on Equal Rights but felt that some issues weren't being covered. 

For instance, the topic of childcare and parental leave is one that Americans overseas often have much better experiences with than Americans inside America. China felt we could contribute deeper to this conversation in the same way we could for International versus American healthcare.

Additionally, they felt violence against women, racism and voter disenfranchisement in America needed more attention on the 2020 agenda.

Sound interesting? Here's how you can hold your own Kitchen Table Talk:

All you need are some friends to gather anywhere and discuss one or multiple topics you can find through the following link:

https://www.democratsabroad.org/2019_kitchen_table_talks

We hope to see you at our next event!

Upcoming: An All Caucus Christmas Dinner in Shanghai. RSVP here.

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One Year Countdown to the 2020 Elections: Help DA China Help You!

A MESSAGE FROM AARON KRUSE, DA CHINA CHAIR

The fifth Democratic debate is in the books, and the field of candidates for the Democratic nomination is likely going to continue to narrow over the next few months. Meanwhile, our WeChat groups are alive with our own debates about who will win the nomination and go head-to-head with President Trump next November. Which has many of our members asking: How do I vote in the primaries from overseas?

 DA China’s Leadership Board held a countdown kickoff event earlier this month on November 3rd, exactly one year before the 2020 election. We recapped the current impeachment proceedings, announced pending bylaws changes, discussed ideas for voter registration activities across China, and covered the basics of the upcoming Global Presidential Primary.

 

 

As part of our work representing Americans living overseas, Democrats Abroad will be holding our Global Presidential Primary from March 3 to March 10 this year, with voting locations planned throughout the world. In China, we are planning to have in-person voting locations in several cities and a mail-in ballot system for those that are unable to vote in person.

 This will be historic for a number of reasons, and also marks the first time that our DA China members are able to vote from overseas in the Democratic primary.

 

This requires tremendous organization and planning work on the part of our DA China team, and comes at a significant cost. We’re calling on all of our members to help us by volunteering to help manage a voting center, by getting the word out to fellow Americans, and by making a contribution to help us with expenses.

 Please get in touch with our official DA China WeChat account to get more info on how you can be a part of history, and enjoy the upcoming holidays!

-Aaron Kruse
Chair, DA China


Meet a DA China Volunteer: Zak Marcone in Beijing

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.


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Meet a DACN Board Member: Justin Fischer

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.”



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Tribute to Rep. Elijah Cummings from DACN Board Member Devika Koppikar

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.


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