Project Vote Smart is a Des Moines, Iowa based organization that uses volunteer power to create a database of transparent information about candidates and politicians all across the United States. Peter McLaughlin, Vote Smart’s Director of Elections and Candidates Research, explains why nonpartisan research is his passion and vital to American democracy. His story is told by PAYCE Fellow Rana Rishmawi (Al-Quds American Studies) who warns that voting, unlike shopping, requires research in order to avoid a bitter outcome.
Ash Bruxvoort is a young adult active in the local Democratic Socialists of America and Women, Food, and Agriculture Network. PAYCE Fellow Majd Aburrub (Al Quds-Bard) considers what we can learn for ourselves by following Ash’s example of solidarity and helping others. Ash’s superpower is her concern for the question: “How can I help bring out what makes that person special and draw their attention to it?”
In a world full of opportunities, women are told how to present and carry themselves. PAYCE Fellow Alexis Jones’ podcast delves into Dionna Langford’s personal stories of what motivated her to run for School Board. The youngest African-American woman to serve in Des Moines, Dionna offers an enthralling narrative of real-life obstacles she has faced when deciding to run, and how they have helped to shape her perception of what changes need to occur to repair and rebuild Des Moines. Jones is a recent MA recipient from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. She writes that Langford’s story gives her hope.
Join PAYCE Fellow Jeffrey Simmons (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University) as he profiles Abshir Omar Mahamed, a 26-year-old Somali refugee and Muslim, who made the bold decision to run for the Des Moines City Council. Although Abshir did not win the council seat, the change that he was able to make in the Des Moines is far from over. Abshir’s story is one that relates to us all. We all have diverse backgrounds, and we all face hardship, but that does not mean that we can’t make a difference in our communities.
PAYCE Fellow Afnan Abbasi (Al-Quds Bard) profiles Des Moines children’s rights advocate Jill Appelgate. Jill is motivated to fight for children who are vulnerable because they lack a voice in the political process. Afnan reflects on Jill’s story with a commentary on children’s human rights and the ways that we fall short in our obligation to future generations.
Fatima Hashem (ANNU PAYCE Fellow) connects the lines in the story of Drake University student and school board member Josh Hughes. He does the hard work of serving on the school board because of his “original motivator.” His identity as a gay teen and his commitment to fighting for public education moved him to action. He advises young people to do self-care because their voices are needed. “Find out why you want to get involved .” There will be times when its hard to keep going, but that motivator will be what makes it all “make sense.” Fatima challenge each listener to decide: “When will you make that journey into yourself?”
Music credits: “Epic Flight” from PremiumBeat by Immersive Music.
From a young age, Pheobe Clark pushed for gender justice. In this podcast episode, Reeda Alji (Al-Quds Bard) considers Phoebe’s story as a queer feminist campus activist. Reeda worked for social change in the village music lessons she taught during summer break. Together, their stories shed light on young adults working for equity and change.
Peter McLaughlin serves as the Director of Elections and Candidate Research at Project Vote Smart in Des Moines, Iowa. Based on his interview with Peter and PAYCE colleague Rana Rishawi, PAYCE Fellow Justen Norcott (University of New Hampshire) shares Peter’s political upbringing and why Peter is committed to non-partisan research. The story concludes with Justen asking Peter for advice about crafting a career in politics. A passion for research shapes Peter’s current work, his enrollment in Drake University’s MPA program, and future plans.
Marlu Abarca is a Los Angeles native who moved to Iowa for college in 2010. After moving to Des Moines in 2014, she has gotten involved in civic engagement through local non-profits, like Al Éxito!, volunteering at Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs, and a full-time job at the Des Moines Public Library. PAYCE Fellow Genesis Buckhalton (Drake University) describes how Marlu focuses on local change to bring cultural awareness and to represent the Latino community in Iowa.
“Flauta” from Miente, miente, que algo queda by los tu.l.a. Released: 2018. Track 9. At Free Music Archive.
PAYCE Fellow Hala Jaffal (Al Quds-American Studies) profiles Abshir Omar Mahamed, a 2017 Des Moines City Council candidate. She highlights Mohammed’s inspiration for civic engagement from a young age. He describes the anti-Muslim racism he faced and the important ways his campaign changed the conversation about the city’s priorities.