Nick's Appearances - Becoming a Citizen Activist

Building a Better Athens (Georgia)

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By Jim Thompson, in Online Athens (Athens Banner-Herald), Saturday, January 14, 2017

Original article is here:

Part technical guidance, part practical advice, a Friday forum on citizen activism gave dozens of people jammed into Cine in downtown Athens a crash course in how to move their government, and their community, toward their preferred public policy solutions.

Hosted by Avid Bookshop and Athens for Everyone, the forum, attended by longtime local activists along with dozens of eager new faces, featured former Seattle City Council member Nick Licata, author of “Becoming a Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies & Advice for Changing Our World,” along with a panel of Athenians who are doing that work locally.

Friday’s local panel members were Tim Denson, president of Athens for Everyone, Mokah Jasmine Johnson, leader of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, Lemuel “Life” LaRoche, executive director of Chess and Community, Broderick Flanigan, assistant director of Chess and Community, Clarke County Board of Education member Ovita Thornton and Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link.

Licata, who served on Seattle’s city council for 17 years, shepherding initiatives ranging from a $15 hourly minimum wage to a civic poetry program, concentrated on the technical aspects of effective advocacy. Licata told the audience to learn about state and local laws on public meetings and open records, know their local codes and ordinances, and know the procedures used to conduct local government meetings.

In dealing with local officials, Licata advocated unfailing politeness.

 “I’m always polite,” he said, before going on to joke, “I always apologize to people when I know I’m going to defeat them.”

On a more serious note, Licata told the Cine crowd, “The goal is to win with the least amount of pain on your part, and the least amount of pain on the other person’s part.”

Echoing Licata on the need to understand the technical aspects of dealing with government, Link said, “Know how your local government works — or doesnt’t work.”

Johnson, describing herself as “a baby activist,” advocated a relatively loose approach to activism.

She became active locally after learning that many black people in Athens are leery of coming downtown, fearing discriminatory behavior in places like bars, where uneven enforcement of dress codes, dubious claims of hosting private parties and other strategies have allegedly been used in some establishments to keep minorities out.

The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement and Athens for Everyone were instrumental in getting changes in local ordinances addressing discriminatory behavior at bars, and are now pushing for creation of a county-backed civil rights commission. However that plays out, Johnson said, she’ll be relying on spiritual guidance to move the process forward.

“This is not something I signed up for,” she said. “This is something that God has told me to do.”

Flanigan, also describing himself as “a baby in the activist scene,” told the practicing and prospective activists gathered at Cine on Friday that taking the first steps into that arena can be uncomfortable. The first time he spoke at an Athens-Clarke County Commission meeting, Flanigan said, was nerve-wracking.

But, he said, “I knew that to be a responsible citizen, I had to step outside of my comfort zone.”

Flanigan also advocated a personal approach to activism, in terms of getting to know local officials.

“Reach out to them. Invite them to lunch,” he suggested.

Thornton, too, said effective activism can require moving into uncomfortable situations with unfamiliar people. But, she said, “That’s how you’re going to build relationships.”

“I go out of my way to be uncomfortable,” Thornton said, “and then I get comfortable.”

LaRoche urged the members of audience to think of themselves as individual pieces of a puzzle, each with a role to play in forming the community and its future.

Framing the challenges facing Athens-Clarke County, LaRoche pointed to the disparities between surveys that show Athens in a positive light, such as numerous polls that name it one of the top places in the country to retire, compared to the statistics that show Athens-Clarke County is one of the poorest counties in the country.

“You can’t put the fact that Athens is one of the best places to retire, and one of the poorest counties in the country, in the same sentence,” LaRoche said.

Denson told the packed house at Cine on Friday that activism should be framed in the knowledge that it is people, not elected officials, who have the real power.

“The power lies on our side … . We need to politely remind them of that,” Denson said.

Denson also addressed the practical issues of activism, including the need to rely on other like-minded people to carry the load.

“Don’t do it alone,” he said, noting that the keys to effective activism are “leaning on each other” and “being realistic about what you can do” on an individual basis.

Link also told the crowd that activism requires considerable effort.

“It’s work — don’t kid yourself,” she said.

Stories, Strategies & Advice for Changing Our World

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Discussion and book signing with Nick:

The Big Idea Bookstore

4812 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh PA
at 12:00 Noon.

Nick was named “Progressive Municipal Official of the Year” by The Nation.

He will discuss effective strategies of how citizens have taken back their democracy on a local level and how they can be applied anywhere.

Writing for a Cause May 4th

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Hear writing on causes May 4 at 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at the Hugo House

1634 11th Ave.

Join me (discussing Becoming a Citizen Activist), Hugo poet-in-residence Anastacia Tolbert, nonfiction writer Elissa Washuta, and writer Anne Focke. Stay after the reading to have conversations with the readers about how best to write on a cause, then spend some time writing creatively on a cause you believe in.

Writers are especially equipped to convey relevant anecdotes, emotions, and ideas related to the things we believe in. War, poverty, cultural appropriation, racism, the national election: it’s all there for us to bring to light in writing.

Rethinking Prosperity – The Next Systems Teach-in

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Explore solutions @ The Next System Teach-in

April 25, 2016 In the Walker Ames Room, Kane Hall, UW Seattle

The realities of growing inequality, political stalemate, and climate disruption just scratch the surface of global issues we face today.  It is clear that the current system doesn’t work for the vast majority of people on the planet, and we need to work toward something better.

At the same time new ideas and movements are challenging long held boundaries of what’s politically possible, illustrated by the success of Bernie Sanders, the resonance of #BlackLivesMatter, and campaigns to block the fossil fuel economy.

In order to build a world that puts people, communities and the planet first, we need to imagine what’s possible. We invite you to help us build a learning community for realignment of the economy, environment, and democracy so that all three systems work better for people and the planet.

There will be five panels:

How can the economy be equitable and environmentally sustainable?

What local solutions can become models in a global system?

What would real democracy look like?

Can capitalism be fixed?

How can we move beyond “Economy vs. Environment” and “Democracy for the Few”?

I’ll be speaking on the panel: What would real democracy look like?

  • Nick Licata, Former Seattle City Councilmember & author of “Becoming a Citizen Activist”
  • Michael McCann, Director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies
  • Edgar Franks, Farmworker Advocate & Coordinator at Community to Community Development

Recreational Marijuana Panel

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It should be a fun evening at Town Hall’s Great Hall on 1119 Eighth Avenue (enter on Eighth Avenue) April 22, 2016 at 7:30PM


Legal recreational cannabis is still very limited nationally. And even where it is legal there are challenges to face in delivering it and in regulating it. Come to Town Hall this Friday and hear David Schmader and others for evening of weed-centric conversation with a series of guests, including author/podcaster/sex columnist Dan Savage, KEXP DJ Riz Rollins, cartoonist Ellen Forney, writer and poet Sarah Galvin, and longtime Seattle City Council member and author of “Becoming a Citizen Activist” Nick Licata. Special musical guest Spekulation will also be joining the program.