RAD Member Spotlight: Alison Nihart - Rights & Democracy VT

RAD Member Spotlight: Alison Nihart

Rights & Democracy's strength is thanks to the thousands of members who give time, money, and energy to the movement. Among our membership are dozens of leaders who run our county organizing teams, advise our wide array of campaign and policy teams, as well as serve on our board of directors.

Who are these amazing people?

Starting this month, we’re putting a spotlight on these awesome folks and giving them a chance to tell you a bit about themselves, and why they support RAD—either financially or with their energy and expertise.

This month we invite you to learn more about Alison Nihart, who is a member of our Vermont Leadership Committee and is very active in Movement Politics and RAD's Addison County Organizing Team.


RAD: How did you first get involved with RAD - when and why? How has your involvement grown since you first began? What aspect of this work do you most appreciate?

ALISON: I got involved with RAD after I attended a gubernatorial forum in April 2016. I was really impressed by the facilitation of the conversation and the questions posed to the candidates. I decided that I wanted to learn more about whoever the awesome people were who put that together, so I met up with Isaac Grimm [RAD's Political Engagement Director], and was really struck by the prompting questions he asked me about my interest in politics. I had been searching for a place to be my "political home" for a while, and the more I learned about RAD's strategy for grassroots organizing, the more it resonated with my vision for the type of organization I wanted to be a part of.

That summer, RAD connected me with legislative candidates in my county, and I ended up supporting their campaigns during the 2016 election season. A learned a ton about elections and campaigning, and the process helped me build m confidence in being a political activist. By the time November rolled around, I felt deeply committed to the people I had been working with.

After Trump was elected, I was devastated, but I was also fired up because I felt like I had, through RAD, a mechanism for action in my own community. At that point, I started taking a lead role in facilitating the Addison County Organizing Team, including putting together a community meeting for people to learn about RAD and get involved after the election. Last winter, I also joined the Vermont Leadership Committee, where I have enjoyed working on projects related to RAD's overall organizing structure and our process for endorsing candidates in the upcoming electoral season.

RAD: That’s great and thank you for all of your leadership! Now, tell us a little about yourself: What are you passionate about and why? What is your history of activism? What do you do in your free time? And, tell us a little about your family.

ALISON: I am passionate about a wide range of issues, which is partially why RAD's approach appeals to me so much. I believe that our society has an incredible, untapped potential for more compassion, creativity, and collaboration, but a variety of factors are standing in our way, including poverty, racism, and a fundamentally unjust economy. I believe politics, which is the means through which we fight for power to make decisions on these and other social dynamics, provides a leverage point for making progress on these issues.

My first experience with activism was as a kid—my friend and I held a fundraiser to collect money for endangered species. I don't remember if we sold baked goods, or maybe lemonade, or just asked for donations, but it was a formative moment, when I learned that not all was right in the world, and there was something I could do about it.

In college, I was active in environmental clubs, where we primarily tried to address sustainability issues on campus. One particularly memorable event was organizing a 2007 Step It Up photo shoot as part of the campaign, a precursor to the launch of 350.org.

Developing activism as a part of my identity helped me feel connected to a lineage of visionary people fighting for justice. My parents, who been active in protesting the Vietnam war, encouraged me and shared stories of their resistance. This helped me feel, as a young adult, that I was part of something bigger even than the particular issue I was working on.

In my free time, I try to make time for social dancing, riding my bike, gardening, and cooking. These days my free moments have been taken up by a house renovation, so there's not a lot of time for other things!

RAD: Now, onto the fun questions! First, If you were cryogenically frozen for 100 years, what would be the first question you ask when you wake back up?
ALISON: Probably "Where am I?" followed by a lot of questions about what has happened in the meantime.

RAD: What could you give a 40 minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
ALISON: I could teach a 40 minute class on blues dancing or west coast swing.

RAD: What are three interesting facts about you?

  1. I didn't own my first car until I was 30.
  2. I was home-schooled from fourth grade until college.
  3. I have converted kale haters into kale lovers with my kale salad recipe.

RAD: What book are you reading right now / read recently that stood out to you?
ALISON: No Is Not Enough by Naomi Klein.

Alison also wrote a recent article for The Talk of Main Street ("Why the Left Needs to Be Organizing Everywhere, All The Time"), which provides additional details about how RAD has become her political home.

We couldn't be luckier to have her as part of our leadership team!

If, like Alison, you find your home with Rights & Democracy then consider making a year-end donation of $25, $50, $100, or $250! Every dollar donated to RAD between now and Dec. 31 will be matched - dollar for dollar - as part of a $25,000 matching campaign launched by three RAD donors: Barbarina Heyerdahl, Ben Cohen, and Jerry Greenfield. With your help we can raise $50,000 to ensure that we keep fighting forward in 2018 and beyond.

photo credit: Adam Franco

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