In this episode of Who Belongs? we hear from two guests, Erika Washington and Quentin Savwoir from a civic engagement group in Nevada called Make it Work - Nevada. In the interview they discuss a recent survey they conducted of Black women in their state to learn about the issues that are most pressing to them and how they feel about the candidates running in the 2020 presidential election.
Erika is the executive director of Make it Work Nevada, and Quentin the group's political director. The organization does year-round civic engagement and policy change work to build the power, health and vitality of Black families and communities in Nevada.
Erika Washington: People don't come to black women and talk about the economy and they don't talk about foreign policy and we care about those things too. I think it's important that folks know that and that they not only know it but then they make time to acknowledge it and that their campaigns make time to acknowledge it.
Marc Abizeid: Hello and welcome to this episode of Who Belongs?, a podcast from the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. In this episode we hear from two guests, Erika Washington and Quentin Savwoir from a civic engagement group in Nevada called Make It Work - Nevada. In the interview they discuss a recent survey they conducted of black women in their state to learn about the issues that are most pressing to them and how they feel about the candidates running in the 2020 presidential election. The interview is conducted by my colleague Josh Clark, who is a researcher with the institute's civic engagement narrative change project. Their conversation follows.
Josh Clark: We're joined today by Erika Washington and Quentin Savwoir who are visiting us from Las Vegas. Erika is the executive director and Quentin, a political director of Make It Work - Nevada, an organization doing year-round civic engagement and policy change work to build the power, health and vitality of black families and communities in Nevada. Welcome Erika. Welcome Quentin to Who Belongs?
Quentin Savwoir: Good morning.
Erika Washington: Thank you. I'm excited.
Josh Clark: We're excited to have you here. I thought maybe we could start with Erika saying a bit about the mission of Make It Work - Nevada, especially as it relates to civic engagement and power building with the communities with whom you work.
Erika Washington: Sure. I think you gave the technical definition of our mission statement, but more so doing this work day in and day out, I feel that our mission is to be a conduit in the community. That we are not the voice. I am certainly not the voice. I am a conduit with my proximity to power. Being close enough to government agencies and what have you, that we are able to give people the opportunity to voice their concerns and choose how their narrative is spoken.
Erika Washington: We are a organization that wants to empower folks with the power that they already have because I do believe that they do have the power. A lot of times we forget that we have the power. A lot of times we're busy doing other things that we're not using all of our powers as strongly as we could. I am hoping that Make It Work, in the long run, a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, that we will always be that conduit for whatever issues that are coming up.
Josh Clark: Yes, I like the word Conduit. People talk a lot about infrastructure and civic engagement work and that's what it is. Being a conduit or vehicle for people's voice.
Erika Washington: Yes, because it's not... For the longest time I used to say a voice for the voiceless because there's a great quote around that, but in the end I'm like, no. People have a voice. Who am I to say I am the voice for the voiceless? No. Even the folks that we aren't hearing, they have a voice, is we aren't listening well enough. We aren't giving enough space and opportunity for people to explain themselves in the language that they use and they're able to explain themselves from their experiences and understanding that that isn't always academic and it may not sound a certain sort of way, but their voice is valid and it should be heard.
Josh Clark: Yes, actually people not listening is a good segue to... Nevada is an early primary state, right? I imagine you have a lot of candidates that have been passing through and talking at people, making as many stops as they can, shaking as many hands as they can.
Erika Washington: Kissing babies.
Josh Clark: Kissing babies, right.
Quentin Savwoir: Phone calls, anonymous phone calls. It's Exciting.
Josh Clark: Yes. I wonder what it has been like for you all, doing the work that you do. I guess Nevada's the third... well it's a caucus state, but the third of the States that'll be involved in choosing a candidate for the democratic party for the next presidential race. What has that been like? What's the overall experience you all have had?
Erika Washington: I think it gets overwhelming very early. It feels like this particular presidential race has been going on for more than a year now for us. I can't even remember the first... I think Julian Castro was probably the first candidate before he had even announced, that was spending a lot of time in Nevada. He spent a lot of time in Nevada, which was really cool actually, because I think he understood where his people are. And that Iowa was not where he needed to start. He understands and he has voiced many times. Although he is no longer a candidate for president for 2020 he is still visible in Nevada. But what I realized for him particularly, and some of the talking points that he's used as the... Nevada looks like America more so than some other places, New Hampshire or Iowa and no shade against Iowa or New Hampshire.
Erika Washington: They have their place. But the amount of folks with different backgrounds... Because diversity means a lot of different things. It's not just about race or even language, but just lived experiences. I think he was able to come in and see that and then voice that on the debate stage. He spent time in the sewer system underneath Las Vegas, which a lot of people don't know that the tunnels under Las Vegas, a lot of homeless folks make their home there. It's certainly unsanitary and it's certainly a scary place in which to be. He spent time just walking through them and talking to people.
Josh Clark: And talking to people.
Erika Washington: Talking to people, again, using his ears and listening to folks who really are... I don't even want to say that they're in the margins. You are in the tunnels. You are in the tunnels of Las Vegas and so that was months and months ago. There've been other folks, Cory Booker. All the really interesting people who spent a lot of time in Nevada are not in the race anymore. But those folks actually, I think hopefully... I feel like there's a blueprint for a different way in which a president can run or a person can run for president.
Erika Washington: Looking back to, if they look at all of these different candidates or former candidates and some of the things that they did, Nevada is a really important state. I think all States are important, but there's not enough focus on the people who live there. People think about Nevada, they think about Las Vegas. You think about Las Vegas, you think about the strip, you think about the strip and you're thinking about the funky good time you're going to have there. All of the time foolery and shenanigans that you can come up with.
Erika Washington: But there are folks who make that happen for you, who keep the city and the strip running. Whether it's folks who drive the buses and the hotel maids and the valet and Lyft and Uber drivers. All of that. There are so many people and we're families. We're the fifth largest school district in the country. That's a lot of dang kids. I think it's really important that Nevada is taken really seriously and that people spend time thinking about what that can look like and how you can take Nevada as a small segment, as a population of United States and see that there's just so much diversity there.
Josh Clark: Yes. This is the first year that I can really remember when, and maybe it's the first year when there are a lot of people talking about, maybe we should reconsider this Iowa New Hampshire thing as the beginning of this primary process. You laid out the reasons and sounds like Julian Castro and you mentioned Cory Booker too being there, probably share that criticism. We'll see if anything comes of it. Because yes, you're right. It's nothing against Iowa and New Hampshire, but...
Erika Washington: Right. It made sense maybe some years ago. People are really tied to the Midwest hometown small town type of field I think is what they think of. But Las Vegas is a small town.
Quentin Savwoir: Las Vegas is a very small town. It's a really small.
Josh Clark: That's so interesting.
Quentin Savwoir: Yes, absolutely.
Erika Washington: It just a lot of glitter on it. That's all.
Quentin Savwoir: Yes. You think Las Vegas strip, you think fabulous. You think world-class. Not that the city itself isn't fine. It is a world class city, but it is also a small town. I think the way a lot of these candidates came to town and really ingratiated themselves and the things that were happening in the community. For example, the recent camping band ordinance that the city of Las Vegas recently passed, Julian Castro showed up at city hall to protest the passage of this ordinance and to say, "Hey, as a former housing secretary we can do something better than this. We are as people better than this."
Quentin Savwoir: It was just really admirable to watch a handful of the candidates really stay in tune with what was happening in the community and really in tune with the lives of people that aren't tourists outside of the four mile strip.
Erika Washington: I think Elizabeth Warren's campaign, they also weighed in on that same ordinance with the city of Las Vegas. I think that is also important. I'm not following their campaigns in all of the different cities, but I'm hoping that they are ingratiating themselves within the local politics as well so that people can feel empowered. Because the president is one thing, but we need all of that influence.
Erika Washington: This is actually something I said to Elizabeth Warren when she came to visit our office is that we talk about big structural change and we talk about all of the things we need to do in order to truly be progressive at the presidential level. When it comes down to the state and the municipal level though, it's always we can't do that. We can't take it that far. We need to protect seats and we need to just get folks in the door, or in the seats, in these different elected offices.
Quentin Savwoir: Got to keep a friendly business environment.
Erika Washington: So many different things. All of these things there's some weight to some of that, but in the end it's like when are we just going to say this is what we need to do. This is how we need to get there and we're going to do it. We're not going to just take so much small incremental change or so long to try to get one thing done like minimum wage, raising the minimum wage. It's like take you 10 years before you actually raise the wage and then you're going to need to do it again.
Erika Washington: How do we talk about the things they talk about on the debate stage, at the municipal level and at the state level. Because if we can do it there, then you're going to have more people motivated to one vote and stay involved as opposed to just talking about it the presidential and federal level, which feels really far I think for most people. It's really hard to really wrap your mind around federal policy, which already takes a long time too. We need to start to work in concert a little bit together or a lot.
Josh Clark: I wanted to hear about this really great project that you all carried out and are still working on. I think it was the black women's agenda 2020 survey. You recently undertook the survey project. You pulled around 1,300 black women on a wide range of issues to understand what this demographic voters, what they're thinking about. What they think about electoral process. Issues that matter most to them. Policies they'd like to see changed. I guess maybe the first thing I'll let myself ask out of curiosity and for interest of listeners, there was a question about who people favor in the 2020 presidential field. Anything you want to say about what that breakdown looks like in the survey of black women in Nevada?
Quentin Savwoir: It was really interesting to ask that question and to see such overwhelming support for vice president Biden. There were six age group... We broke it down. We cross tabbed in and analyzed it with candidate preference by age. There were six different age groups for folks to choose from. Vice president Biden had the most support of all the age groups except 18 to 24. 18 to 24 that age group... The most support from that age group went to Senator Bernie Sanders.
Quentin Savwoir: Not surprising entirely, but I think what is also really important to highlight is that across all the age brackets, there was an option for folks to say, I don't know any of these people. The folks who answered that, that was the top response across all age groups, which really speaks to what the candidates should be doing in terms of making themselves more accessible and making their policies a little bit more layman for folks to understand.
Quentin Savwoir: I always say, how does your policy on environmental justice or equal pay or affordable childcare, how does that translate to the single mom that has three kids and two jobs and doesn't really have time to dig deep into the policy the way that I do or the way that Erika does or anyone that has the time to really ingratiate themselves in politics? You're worried about making sure your light bill is paid, making sure your kids are fed and that the homework is done and that no ruckus is being started up in your neighborhood or at your kid's school.
Quentin Savwoir: I just really feel like that response of, I don't know anyone, really speaks to a huge opportunity that not just the candidates have, but maybe even the democratic party has altogether.
Erika Washington: I think what also is interesting about that in both questions is when we asked the question, who influences your vote? One of the reasons why I wanted that question in there is because so many surrogates come into town to stop for a particular candidate. I've seen stars from Grey's anatomy come into town. They came in for Hillary I think, and got some cute pictures with people. With what's his face from scandal, I should remember his name.
Quentin Savwoir: Tony Goldman.
Erika Washington: Tony Goldman.
Quentin Savwoir: Fits.
Erika Washington: Fits, yes. I got a picture with him and he came to this little black owned breakfast place in Las Vegas on the old West side. People were really excited to see him. But does that translate into a vote or am I just really excited to see Fits because I fancy myself as an Olivia Pope or something. How is that actually helpful and especially for people who don't necessarily watch debates or aren't as engaged? It's really hard even for myself because I'm in the bubble, so this is my life 24/7. I am watching television or I'm listening to podcasts or I am reading articles or going to meetings and I am talking about politics in some way, shape or form.
Erika Washington: I know who all of these candidates are and I knew who a lot of these folks were before they ran for in there. Some people who had no idea who Julian Castro was or who Elizabeth Warren was or even what Bloomberg and things like that, if you're not from the East coast in New York or anything like that. How do folks get to know these people and know historically where they've stood. Also where they say they stand now. They use these surrogates. But what I found from that question is that most people felt like there was not a reason for them to vote for anybody. That none of those people were influential to them. I think Oprah came up a couple times.
Josh Clark: That was like a you could fill in and who influenced your vote? Totally open-ended. Most people didn't fill it out is that happened?
Erika Washington: Most people filled it out. But a lot of... You have some folks who said, it was more about God or it was more about they made their own decisions and no one else could influence their decisions. I don't know that that's necessarily true, but that is how they felt in that moment is that I'm making this decision myself, but also in the same breath they didn't necessarily know who most of the candidates were. We're still trying to decipher what does that really mean and how do you really... What are folks really paying attention to?
Erika Washington: A lot of time it's name recognition which is I think the main reason honestly that Biden came in so high. Not because... Because the other really fun part about our black women's agenda is that we did most of these questionnaires face to face. This was not a phone survey or an internet survey. This was our folks out there talking to people. We had folks riding the bus and we'll just ride the bus for a couple of hours and talk to people while they're on their commute. We do some pop ups, laundromat, we spent time at elementary schools because usually they're still getting picked up and dropped off by their parents. We did little popups and made little snack bags for the kids.
Quentin Savwoir: Kids are ferociously hungry after school. They have never eaten before ever in life. They are starving. So it worked.
Erika Washington: Always. Yes. I never understand why my children are always so hungry. It's like, did you eat it all this week? We made little snack bags with fruit and fruit snacks and juice boxes and all of that. Then we have a little photo booth that we had put up. Something for children to do. Long enough for parents to take that survey. When we had that opportunity, we were able to get a lot of other information out of them.
Erika Washington: They're taking the survey and then people have questions while they're taking the survey or they have comments. They're like, "I have no idea who this is," or they start talking about some of the candidates and they're like, I think I've heard of this person. That's the person who did X, Y and Z. I'm like, "No, that's not them." I tried not to give too much information because I want the questions to be answered as thoroughly as possible through their lens. But most folks were like, "That's the only person I know on this whole list and I guess that's who I'd vote for."
Erika Washington: That scares me a little bit because that's not a good enough reason to do it. But at the same time, we also are comfortable with who we know whether they are the best candidate or not.
Quentin Savwoir: I wonder... Not wonder, because I can say to that same question of who influences your vote? I would say that there was some nostalgia for president Obama and Michelle Obama in that answer as well. I think there's definitely a correlation between that nostalgia and the familiarity of supporting vice president Biden. Even if blindly. I miss president Obama, Biden was Obama's homeboy. Okay, I'm going to for Biden. It really can't be as cut and dry as that. I don't have any anything against vice president Biden, but what I will say is that we are at a time in this country where if we're not measurably improving the lives of people, I don't know how much country we're going to have left.
Quentin Savwoir: We have had 50 plus years of policies that have not looked out for people that believe that if I go to work every day and take care of my kids and provide opportunities for them, then I can have something better. But that is increasingly less becoming the case. I tell the story of a canvasser from 2018. They were knocking a door and the woman answered the door and go through the script and the spill and are you going to vote? She says, "Why am I voting? I've been voting for Democrats for 20 years. I'm still living in the same projects." I don't know what to say to that. That canvasser came back and told me that, wanted feedback. Wanted me to... Well, how would you answer that? Well, I don't know what to tell her.
Quentin Savwoir: Cat has definitely got my tongue. In this case, not to make any one political party the problem, we need to figure out how we are changing people's lives. We have the power to do that. It can't be because we have to keep the business community happy. Business and strong family policy, strong policy that makes people lives a little more livable. Those are not conflicting interests. They can't be.
Josh Clark: Through this process, this survey process. I mean, I'm glad that you told the story of how you went about conducting the survey because I looked at these numbers that you spoke to. You interviewed almost 1300 people. For point of reference for people who don't know. When you read in the New York Times about some battleground poll or something like that and Nate Cohn is making a big deal out of the findings of their poll in Wisconsin or Arizona or whatever. Usually that's 250 people or 300 people.
Josh Clark: If you dig beneath the headlines and you dig beneath the hot takes that you're going to get and you all interviewed 1,300. It sounds like it was eyeopening. Were there things that surprised you or other things that you would share that you didn't expect? I know that this is the community that you're working in, so maybe not a lot surprised you, but that stood out.
Erika Washington: We went into the survey and to give a little bit of context, we were involved with the black senses with black futures lab. In 2018, we had an opportunity to be the only organization in the state of Nevada to work on the black senses. Doing that we... This is why I love Quentin. He gets the number, because I get the number wrong every single time we talk about the black sentences. He is writing it down. He was like 1,841 people that took the black census in Nevada through our organization. Because every time I say it wrong, he's like, that's not how many because I never say enough.
Josh Clark: Okay. 1,841 and that was... Okay, so that was 2018. This is Alicia Garza, black futures lab worked with organizations across the country to do what was the biggest census of African American or black Americans-
Quentin Savwoir: Since reconstruction I believe.
Josh Clark: Right.
Quentin Savwoir: Since reconstruction.
Erika Washington: And so we were... How that happens, I called her up and I said, "Hey are you..." I'm just showing off here that I can call her up. When I did I said, "Are you thinking about doing the census in Nevada?" She was like, "No." I said, "Why not?" She's like, "Oh, I don't know. Because people think about black folks they think about the South or you think about Chicago or Detroit or Oakland because there more there. But I'm like, I think we could do this here. I'd like to do this here if there's an opportunity to do it. At the time, it was still brand new. It was early in the year so they were still putting their program together.
Erika Washington: So finally she's like, okay, sure. We were able to do it. I'm sure she thought about it a little bit more than just saying, "Okay, sure." But I was really decided.
Josh Clark: I bet you convinced her.
Erika Washington: Right. She was like, stop calling me. Maybe, I don't know. I felt that it was really important for us to be involved in that. That was something that felt really good for us. And it was, it was really hard too, because that census, that survey was about 25 minutes long to take. It was really long. To get people to take the whole thing was a little bit cumbersome. We had some lessons that we learned through it but it gave us a chance to talk to a lot of different folks. That was anybody who identified as being black or of African origin. Then we're not going to heme and haul over what that is.
Erika Washington: One of the things that I noticed when we were out having people take the survey, were people who had trouble reading. There were times when we were reading the entire survey to people or people took an hour or more to take the survey because, just have some deficits they may have had. After we did it, it really sat with me as to when was the last time people would really ask these questions.
Erika Washington: A lot of the questions that were asked on there, people were like, no one's ever asked me this before. No one has ever asked me anything like this. As we're talking about upcoming elections, people spend a lot of time talking about how great black women are because we're so great and I do know that. It becomes like a hashtag and just almost like talking points of trust black women, black women lead. Thank black women for the work they did in Alabama. We are the most consistent voting block in the democratic party.
Erika Washington: All of that and all of it is true, but it just feels like talk. What exactly are you doing with and for black women? More importantly, what are you... What is it that they want? No one ever asked us what we want. I am 40 years old. I have a 20 year old daughter, so do the math. I was very young when I had her. I was 19 and I had just as much mental capacity as I do now. I know a lot more, but no one ever asked me what I thought about anything.
Erika Washington: People make assumptions of who you are when you are a teenage parent, when you are on WIC or food stamps or Medicaid and all of that. I am one of those people who receive public assistance from the state of Michigan for some years as I was able to get my stuff together. I voted, I knew voting was important. I voted for the first time when I was 20 in a presidential election and I didn't necessarily know all the ins and outs and I wasn't policy savvy at all, but I voted.
Erika Washington: I was also so close to the problems. Anything that happens with federal funding for public assistance programs like WIC or Medicaid or food stamps. I would've been directly affected, but no one came and talked to me about it. No one asked me how these services work for me or what struggles I might be having. For me now being this conduit, I have that opportunity to talk to young moms or just people who are closer to the problem. That's where the black women's agenda the idea sprung from. Is that I want to talk to as many people face to face. I want to talk to as many people who are having all types of struggles. Everyone's not poor and impoverished that we talk to. We talk to people who make six figures, who have doctorate degrees and all of that as well but-
Quentin Savwoir: And they're filling a squeeze just as much as folks who didn't finish high school.
Erika Washington: Yes.
Quentin Savwoir: It's really interesting to see that dichotomy. Someone who says, "I have a terminal degree but I only feel like I'm surviving." I think to get to the point that Erika was making about people assume things about teenage parents. That's generally the problem with most politicians, they assume what you need. Erika is very good about, "Well just ask people. Have conversations with folks."
Quentin Savwoir: When we had our researchers and our staff out in the field, these are young black women talking to black women. I think that's why we were able to have the success that we had in terms of serving as many people as we did. We didn't send our friends from, for example, Planned Parenthood to knock on the door of 86 year old Valerie Johnson because you're probably... Ms. Johnson's probably not going to talk to you. But if I send-
Erika Washington: Not in the same way.
Quentin Savwoir: Not in the same way, that's fair.
Josh Clark: Not in the same way, yes.
Quentin Savwoir: But if I send Jasmine to talk to Ms. Johnson, different story. Different story altogether.
Josh Clark: That's good research. Understanding how you're going to get candid responses. I mean that's good methodology.
Erika Washington: We spent a lot of time also going into some of the beauty shops and barber shops and places like that as well. Also where a lot of truth telling happens in a beauty shop, a lot of truth telly happens in a nail salon. People are more interested in having those conversations I think at that time too. They are a lot more candid about even some of their internal prejudices that they have, inner struggles. All of that is not necessarily... Will be in the data, but it certainly will be in the foundation of how we are going to speak to folks coming up in this year and also how we are going to craft the narrative of the women in Nevada.
Erika Washington: I think it's really important that people see us as not a monolith because we are very different and very unique. But at the same time we have a lot of similar struggles that a lot of times people just don't want to talk about out loud. What my grandma would call mixed company. You keep that stuff inside your household. A lot of times folks having struggle and they have a degree, they have a master's degree or what have you, and they're still having trouble making ends meet.
Erika Washington: They don't necessarily want to tell anybody that because it's embarrassing or whatever strong feelings they have around it. But at the same time it's still happening and they want their voice heard, but they're not necessarily going to... They're not going to go to Biden town hall and stand up and say that and then... Just doesn't work that way.
Josh Clark: Right. I'm sure that you have such a rich set of data and also like you said, things that aren't in the data conversations that you learned that as an organization you're internalizing those lessons and you have those stored in your heads. I hope that all of that gets written down too because that's going to be valuable, not just for your own programs but well beyond like you're saying.
Quentin Savwoir: For sure.
Josh Clark: There was another question on the survey that I thought was interesting and that I was really happy was on there that asks... This goes along with something you said about... The person who said, "I've been voting for Democrats for 20 years. They don't change anything." There are a lot of people who think that having different kinds of candidates as well not just thinking in terms of parties is extremely important.
Josh Clark: You had a question on the survey about whether the person would consider running for office themselves, which I imagine you got a lot of nos. But I wonder if you got... I wonder how that went.
Quentin Savwoir: I will say this, I grew up with all women. I love my mom and I love my sisters and they have made me the man I am today. We have to stop expecting black women to save the world when the world is going up in flames. We had 60 people report. Yes. They weren't interested in running for office out of nearly 1300 responses. That wasn't surprising to me.
Quentin Savwoir: When president Obama was elected, there was the colloquialism... You elect the black man now because the economy's in the tank and I feel like that could be applied to this. Okay, now we want all these black women to rise up and lead the country, which wouldn't be a bad thing, but man, you take the world to the brink of non-existence before you're like, okay, well let's give you all a chance. We have to stop doing that.
Quentin Savwoir: I think the other thing is I would venture to say at least with the women in my family, they understand that their power could be as elected leaders or their power could be as community leaders. My youngest sister has epilepsy. My mother was incredibly active as the parent of a disabled child when they were trying to shut down the only disabled school that we had in my hometown.
Quentin Savwoir: She was asked countless times, why don't you run for state assembly? Think about state Senate. Well, why don't you run for school board? "No, I'm just trying to feed my kids and make sure my baby has somewhere to go." I think that is really what we all want. We want our kids to be safe. We want our neighborhoods to be safe and it shouldn't have to mean I have to run for office and change how you all are conducting government and running government in the interest of just having a full life and doing better. I mean that is not a tall order. That is not a big ask but it seems so in 2020 unfortunately.
Erika Washington: We have some folks within the make your work family, our ambassadors who are interested in running for office and I'm really excited that they are interested in running for office. But yes, I think like most folks, including myself, I don't want to run for office. I just want the world to be better. I want to feel safe. I want to feel like I can raise my children in an environment that is not only safe but also just the world that I want to live in. I think that that's my theme for 2020 and beyond is, what is the world we want to live in? Truly want to live in and what are the steps to get there?
Erika Washington: It doesn't require all of us to run for office, but it does require us to hold folks accountable. I think that in some of the conversations that I have had with folks, with black women, they may vote, but the idea of holding folks accountable, I think it goes back to being a black mama. Just like, I've already told you once what I wanted you to do. If I have to keep repeating myself, you need a whole time out or more. I feel as though they're in the broader sense, I don't want to have to keep saying it over and over again because I'm busy and I'm doing other things.
Erika Washington: It's an odd thing to have to do if you really think about it. If you think about anything else. If I drop my stuff off at the cleaners, I don't call them every day. Did you get the shirt done? Is it done? What about the pants?
Quentin Savwoir: Did you pre-spot the collar. I need the collar pre-spotted.
Erika Washington: Right, remember we talked about the one day. You want to drop it off, then you tell me it's going to be ready on Friday. When I come on Friday, it should be done. I don't have to remind you five times of what you told me you were going to do, but that's what we have to do with politicians, is remind them what they said over and over again. As a mama, I don't want to keep having to remind you to clean your room or to clean up the environment.
Quentin Savwoir: Or that we need affordable childcare, or that black women are paid 51 cents to the dollar... 61 cents to the dollar of their white male counterparts. Or that in this very Christian pro family country we live in, it might be wise to have some affordable childcare that doesn't take up more than a third of most folks income. Childcare in Nevada is more expensive than going to the public university.
Quentin Savwoir: How do you make that make sense? As an elected official, how can you go to bed and know that that is actual factual and not feel a drive to do anything about it?
Erika Washington: Then tell people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Quentin Savwoir: Oh yes, there's that. Or how can you pass a camping ban ordinance for folks that are unhoused when housing is going through the roof in Nevada? That was the top issue that was reported on the black women's agenda survey. Folks are worried about not being able to afford where they live. This is across economic status. This is a cross employment status. This is across educational achievement. Folks are worried about I don't know what my rent is going to be this time next year and I don't know that I can afford that.
Josh Clark: Wow.
Quentin Savwoir: It's scary.
Erika Washington: At the same time they're supposed to be calling their senators and Congress people and state senators and reminding them to do their jobs.
Josh Clark: Right.
Erika Washington: That's a lot.
Josh Clark: It is a lot.
Erika Washington: It's a lot.
Josh Clark: It is a lot.
Erika Washington: We need to also think about what is that doing to us both emotionally and mentally I think because it keeps people on high alert and it just makes you scared. So then, are we going into this election year full of fear? Are we voting with fear? Are we voting with power?
Josh Clark: Make It Work has collected all of this great data. What is your strategy or how are you going to use it in the coming years, pushing particular policy agendas or pushing candidates, making candidates hear these voices that you're... Like you said before, your're a conduit for...
Quentin Savwoir: Can I start? As the political guy-
Erika Washington: Go ahead political director.
Josh Clark: Because Erika is not political.
Erika Washington: No.
Quentin Savwoir: As the political guy would say in 2021... Or I will say this, I'll back up a little bit. Nevada is one of the... I think, are we the only state that has a BI annual legislative session?
Erika Washington: No.
Quentin Savwoir: No, okay. Well we are one of a couple states that have a BI annual legislative session. Our state leaders meet every odd number of years. 2019 we passed a paid sick days bill to ensure that folks don't have to make a decision between going to work and taking care of their child when their kid gets sick. Not the best bill, we're going to work on strengthening it. But what we're also taking up is paid family leave. With this data, we ask folks the question of do you support a paid family leave policy that would allow you to be paid a portion of your salary for an extended period of time to grow your family, to combat illness, to take care of a loved one. Loved one as you define it.
Quentin Savwoir: Because I'm of the mindset that if you create an environment in your workplace where folks feel like they have the space to do what they need to do outside of the workplace, you've created a loyal employee, you've created someone that's going to come back and work just as hard because you've been gracious and kind to them to allow them the space to care for their loved one. There was overwhelming support for that policy across all party lines. I should say that we had about a fifth of our respondents who say, "Hey, I'm not necessarily a Democrat. I don't always vote for Democrats."
Quentin Savwoir: But when we asked the question about paid family leave that had about 91% support across all party lines. That is definitely a data point that I intend to use to lift up our effort in passing paid family leave policy in the state of Nevada in 2021 that's for sure.
Josh Clark: Great.
Erika Washington: I think past the politics and the policy. We are going to lift up paid family leave and affordable childcare and affordable housing. All of those things are imperative, but I think more so, what I am feeling deep inside myself is how are we uplifting the narrative so that we can stop having these very disturbing and strange stereotypes of what a black woman is or what a black family is or what it means to be no longer struggling. We've had some conversations with women around reproductive justice.
Erika Washington: A lot of folks don't realize that the maternal mortality rate in America for black women is really high. Nevada is not the highest. I think I want to say Georgia and Michigan outrank us with the number of mortality of women who have recently given birth, but black women overall are dying. They are dying giving life. Then the question is why. It comes down to a lot of different things. Racial bias, but also the lack of medical facilities. If you live in a rural area or not having transportation.
Erika Washington: There's so many different components to it that for me I feel as though my job is to listen and my job is to help structure some narrative so that we can make some strong changes around everything. Because there's no way that we can move into 2020, 21, 24 because every election is the big election. Yes we know who is president currently, but we got here. How did we get here in the first place? Is because we are not creating a strong enough narrative and keeping our voice heard. I think for me, I feel as though we are starting to lay the track for black women to not just be a talking point or a last minute after thought that when October comes, of an election year, that they start paying attention to and listening to.
Erika Washington: I think they have to hear us now and they have to listen now and they can't make assumptions about what we want to talk about. Because criminal justice was at the top of the list as well. It's something that a lot of candidates will come in and want to talk about, but it might be the only thing they want to talk about. Everyone lives the life of the movie boys in the hood or something. Sometimes that's how I feel candidates walk into a room. That they walk into a room and just say, "Oh, let's talk about criminal justice." Okay, sure. Because that is really important and it is extremely important. I don't want to take anything away from that, but there are so many other things that folks want to talk about and stories that they want to share and struggles that they have.
Erika Washington: They all need to be uplifted and we need to have those strong voices in all aspects. Economic justice. People don't come to black women and talk about the economy. They don't talk about foreign policy. We have a lot of black women who are interested in foreign policy. There are a lot of black women who from the survey, one of their biggest fears is war. Us going into another war. What does that mean? Because then you think about how many black women have black babies that are in the armed forces because they may feel that that was the only way for them to get out of whatever situation they were in. Or that was their way to get a college education or what have you. But then now they have to go off and fight. Their children have to go off and fight a war possibly.
Erika Washington: They're extremely concerned about that. I haven't heard one candidate uplift a black woman's story or come to an event that is specifically for black women, black or Brown women, and want to talk about foreign policy. We care about those things too. I think it's important that folks know that and that they not only know it, but then they make time to acknowledge it and that their campaigns make time to acknowledge it because their campaigns... They're not enough campaigns with black women on them in high enough advisory positions to make sure that those type of narrative stay in their ear too.
Marc Abizeid: That wraps up this episode of who belongs. I'd like to thank our guests, Erika Washington and Quentin Savwoir from the Make It Work - Nevada organization for coming on, as well as my colleague from the institutes Civic Engagement Narrative Change Project, Josh Clark for conducting the interview. Thank you all for listening.