Do you consider yourself a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty” person? Either way, we’d like to challenge you to get away from those terms. Thinking in extremes or seeing things with a “black and white” lens can be dangerous because it limits our ability to navigate the “grey spaces” within our lives. We find that our MasterMind Alumni thrive off these spaces. They are consistently breaking the boxes they are put in by society, whether that be redefining what it means to be “extremely conservative.” “extremely feminine,” or “extremely” anything, really. Bridge Alliance is repeatedly surprised and motivated by what our alumni have accomplished, which is why we’d like to share some exciting updates with you.
Lisa D.T. Rice, Independent political strategist, policy adviser, and member of Cohort #5, is using her creativity to gracefully fight against ignorance. We realize “graceful” and “fight” don’t traditionally go together; but, if you’ve met Lisa, you know exactly what we mean. For those of you who don’t know her, Lisa also serves on the Board of Unite America and is the Chair of Unite America's PAC board. What you might not know about Lisa is that she loves to quilt. Recently, she created a mini-quilt for submission to the D.C. Modern Quilt Guild’s Modern Patriotic Show. She shared the following excerpt with us about this personal passion project:
“America’s representative democracy is in distress. As a leader in the democracy reform movement, it's tough for me to write this. However, this truth cannot be ignored. My most recent quilt, American Democracy in Distress: Ignore Race at Our Peril, brings together three symbols – the U.S. flag displayed with the union down, the Black power fist raised, and the colors of the Pan-African flag intertwined – to illustrate what's at the heart of our American distress. I am a democracy reformer. I am a quilter. This project combines my passion for the two. #LetsTalkAboutRace.”
Lisa wants to open up conversations about how systemic racism in America directly connects to dysfunction in democracy, despite the discomfort those conversations may bring to some. She’s an exemplary alum who embodies what it means to authentically speak your truth, and we know her crucial work will only feed into more important work.
Galen Nishioka, also from Cohort #5, is a photographer and filmmaker. He was formerly the Sound Stage Manager at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and is also a member, Assistant Director, and Second Unit Director for the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Galen shoots natural landscapes as well as portraits, and his films cover environmental and human interests. Galen exudes both sensitivity and strength in telling his stories through film. We caught up with him after the end of Cohort #5, and he shared the following update: In a recent conversation with Bridge Alliance, he shared the following update:
“I became distracted after the completion of Cohort 5. I found myself in Los Angeles for 48 hours to shoot a segment of an industrial film in June. I did manage to zoom the Diversity in the workplace discussions led by Willis and Debilyn. I have also been assisting students in an unofficial capacity with their thesis film projects. Regarding my film project, Responsible and Sustainable Forest Management, I am incorporating an idea Rev. Willis suggested and will be filming some interviews in a shorter, more easily viewable format. It was a matter of pulling back, adding new equipment and refocusing after being ‘stuck’ thinking, where do I go from here? These interviews will be with individuals directly impacted by the Creek Fire, in California last summer, and persons whose forest management policies and hard work saved the town of Shaver from being devastated by the fire.”
Galen is educating the public on the dire situation out West by putting sustainable forest management work on display. He continues to serve as an inspiration to us by pushing through bleak situations with an optimistic attitude. If you would like to check out Galen’s other short films, like Unintended Consequences and Dead Tree Project, please visit: https://vimeo.com/user10951560
During our first MasterMind Cohort refocus group, Eric Bronner of Cohort #4 briefed us on his latest work. Eric is an attorney, U.S. Navy veteran, and volunteer leader with Missouri's premier, fiercely cross-partisan democracy reform organization, Show Me Integrity. This ground-level experience in the reform space has led Eric to launch a new, nationwide veterans’ service organization, called Veterans for Political Innovation (VPI). VPI is kicking off this month and has some incredible members joining its team, including former Department Of Defense civil servant and military spouse Anne Meree, who has helped veterans run for office and find their next steps. Also joining the team is former Marine Jake Harriman of A More Perfect Union; a citizen-led movement working to heal the divide in our nation and make our government work for the people. Other fantastic additions to VPI include Dan Bigga and Todd Connor of Bunker Labs; an organization that helps the military-connected community start and grow businesses. VPI is laser focused on advocating for: open primaries, voting innovations, and Alaska-style final five voting. Their goal is to inspire the military community to advocate for these reforms, and they are premiering this work in Wisconsin with the hopes of including two to three more states in the fall. Congratulations, Eric! We are very proud of the way he continues to make the democracy reform movement more inclusive by pulling the veteran community into this line of work.
Our alumni share an insightful nature. Bridge Alliance will continue to foster this insight and bring it into our own work. Last month, we hosted three MasterMind Cohort refocus groups in order to gather some insight. This frank evaluation will assist us to improve our MasterMind Cohort program and Bridge Alliance’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work as a whole. Thank you to those who participated! We will be using your valuable feedback to re-strategize and center our program around creating space and experience where individuals are exposed to persons different from themselves, and are encouraged to develop organic and authentic relationships. We will be relaunching our program in the fall and look forward to more alumni joining our MasterMind Cohort family!
Lastly, we’d like to remind you that if you’re looking for a platform to amplify your voice…we’ve got it! You may have heard that Bridge Alliance recently acquired The Fulcrum -- a media platform that has in the past exclusively covered democracy and electoral reform issues. We are in the process of doing a redesign on the website and adding columnists! We are looking for columnists who wish to connect kitchen table issues with democracy reform. If you’re interested in this opportunity, please contact [email protected]. .