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!
DA China is taking a moment to highlight members of our community and board.
Interview of Luc Bronder-Giroux by Alexander Lee
His political awakening was a process of rejecting American-style “liberalism,” which he saw repeatedly betraying “progressive” values. He has increasingly looked for solutions in leftist politics and theory.
He first encountered DA while attempting to get involved with the Bernie Sanders campaign. Since then, he has done some basic campaign canvassing at bars and festivals, met a ton of politically active Americans, and volunteered to register voters. In the last few months, he has also organized a few get-togethers to discuss progressive issues, started a small book club, and launched an ongoing series of “debate watch parties” for the Democratic National Primaries.
“Learning what issues people truly care about—and why—has been extremely rewarding. When we talk in those terms, the compassion and fundamental goodness that shines through is incredibly energizing and hope-inspiring,” says Luc.
He believes that our lack of power to force systemic change is the root of what he calls our “decaying democracy and the betrayal of the poor and working class.” So, building this political power—through radical labor organizing and social movements—is the necessary first step toward progress on any issue.
He believes that the Democrats are faced with an existential challenge: will they stand for the interests of the poor and working people, or will they continue to be a party of big business? This question must be answered at every level.
In its ideology and interests, our party is currently indistinguishable from the Republicans in his view, except in the most egregious acts of inhumanity (which suck up the majority of media attention). So, our task is to force the party to radically transform, both in its ideology (to some kind of eco-socialism) and in the group of people whose interests it represents (which should be those who primarily earn a living by working for a wage).
“I would encourage anyone who suspects there’s something wrong with our political and economic systems (and therefore society) to join a leftist reading group with an open mind,” says Luc, who volunteers with the Progressive Caucus for Democrats Abroad. “Getting involved offline and in real life is the key.”
DA China is taking a moment to highlight members of our community and board.
Interview of Faith Gary, Member-at-Large, by Alexander Lee
She has seen most of China’s major landmarks, and has lived in Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu. While she has traveled a bit, China is the only country outside of the United States where she has lived. She has taught the lower primary grades in international schools throughout China over the past ten years.
She grew up watching television alongside her dad. From the nightly news broadcasts of the late 1960s, wherein they tallied the daily death toll of American soldiers in Vietnam, to the Watergate coverage in the early ’70s, to the numerous Olympic and professional sports events in between. Her dad would pontificate on his liberal Democratic ideals and she came to adopt those same ideals — Truth, Liberty and Justice for all, racial equality, and a belief in science (her dad was a biologist with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), based in Atlanta).
She watched as her dad sang the national anthem with all his heart before each sporting event and during the Olympic medal ceremonies, and she learned to do the same. When she was in her high school marching band, she played the anthem more times than she can recount…and she never tired of it!
That patriotic strain has always been present in her life. Even on the morning of September 11, 2001, she was dressed in a red, white, and blue souvenir T-shirt from Washington, DC, and American flag earrings at a Mothers in Prayer meeting at her daughter’s Christian school when the first news of the attack came in. That moment, when several moms’ phones went off simultaneously, she will never forget.
In the ensuing days and months, she found it laughable when Republicans decried any wish to improve America as “hating” America. Any desire to improve the country for all Americans became, in their rhetoric, a desire to change America into something unrecognizable... a socialist state! These partisans swore that Obama “hated” America, even as he won re-election.
So in 2016 when her Dad, by then blind with age, warned her that 45 was going to win, she, like so many of us, could not take that possibility seriously. “Noooo, we’re better than that, aren’t we?” thought Faith, but her Dad warned, “He’s telling [xenophobic, homophobic, anti-choice, and racist voters] exactly what they want to hear.” Her Dad’s prediction was right.
After looking at statistics, it became apparent to Faith that Steve Bannon had helped 45 play the Electoral College game. By appealing to enough racists in three key states, 45 won the majority of Electoral College votes by less than 78,000 votes.
78,000 votes. The entire direction of our great nation turned on that paltry number, because millions of eligible voters passed up on the election, or cast so-called “protest votes.” Faith got involved in DACN because she wanted to play a role in recapturing those lost votes.
Her primary interest is in voter education and registration. She is passionate about helping expats vote absentee from abroad.
“It’s my heart’s desire to see a Blue Tsunami sweep over the nation in November 2020,” she told me. “If the other 98% voted, the top 2% would lose power.”
She truly believes that if we voted the Democratic Party into power in both houses of Congress and the Oval Office, following up the election with a steady stream of pressure for progressive reforms, we could see the changes our country so desperately needs.
Interested in becoming a Democrats Abroad member? Join us on our Facebook or WeChat.
DA China is taking a moment to highlight members of our community and board.
Interview of Brian Kloosterman, volunteer in Kunming, by Alexander Lee
Brian Kloosterman is actively building a group of Democrats Abroad China in Kunming so we picked him as our first volunteer to profile. If you are based in Kunming and interested in working with him, please add WeChat ID: DemocratsAbroad to be connected into the DA China Kunming WeChat group.
Brian has lived in three states—Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Massachusetts, and Michigan—and now resides in China. He is registered to vote in Michigan.
He was born in the New England region, where his father was serving in the Navy. Afterwards, the family returned to their hometown of Detroit. Brian has lived all over Michigan, a state that he loves. But sadly, he feels the difficulties that region faces make it hard for him to see a good future there. In fact, Brian believes Presidential candidates are consistently failing to recognize and present substantial solutions to the problems faced by the working classes in the USA, where systemic lack of opportunity and low quality of life is eroding society from within.
Besides visiting Canada, Brian had never been to another country before coming to China. Originally here for a short term programming project, he has extended his stay to five years now, working as a teacher in AP computer science, chemistry, physical education, music and physics, as well as a student manager at a high school in Kunming. He completed his MEd while in China, and hopes to continue either computer science teaching or programming when he goes back to the USA.
Brian also participates in a local maker group, where he has done some fun robotics projects and carpentry. If you need data visual coding, electronic art projects or games, he is your guy. In addition, he is working on an educational project in cultural evolution theory and a first-person ESL video game for web browsers.
Brian got involved in DA after the 2016 election because he felt it was his responsibility to participate in the democratic process.
He was a teenager when the wars in the Middle East began and he felt disillusioned by the US to see so much money being spent there instead of being utilized to help people back home. At that time, his family and friends were going through major financial hardships. They had to rely on government aid programs, but he says, “those programs have oppressive architectures.”
Additionally, Brian was becoming more aware of the threat of global warming. “I see poverty, low quality of life, poor education, and lack of opportunity as primary drivers in feedback cycles such as violence and racism in the US,” he observed.
If he were President for a day, he would drop most tariffs, pardon or reduce sentences of all non-violent criminals, commute all those on death row to life in prison, loosen the barriers to entry into the US, and deploy the US military in a more productive resource and alliance building manner.