By Naijla Faizi, DC Middle & High School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
Last week AALEAD DC middle and high school youth participated in a guest workshop by DC Fair Elections Coalition. This coalition “represents groups from the environmental, labor, economic justice, social justice, faith, and good government movements.” Their main goal is “to pass meaningful campaign finance reform in D.C. to empower everyday residents and make sure every voice is heard in our democracy.” Youth engaged in an interactive workshop that included information about the DC Fair Elections mission, and simulations that demonstrated the impact of donors on campaign platforms.
Our guest facilitators, Aquene Freechild and Giuliana Parisi, lead two simulations where youth took on various roles such as incumbent, candidate challenger, big donors, election administrator, and citizens. Youth that were citizens and big donors were given specific amounts of candy and issue cards to represent their financial donations to campaigns. Our incumbent and candidate challengers had the responsibility of eliciting donations from the various constituents.
Simulation one modeled our current campaign finance structure and simulation two modeled a fair campaign finance system. Although there were equal donations collected by candidates in both simulations, the majority of issues that the candidates received from their donors were drastically different. For example, in our first simulation the candidates received most of their money from big donors that wanted the candidates to focus on getting profits. However, in simulation two our candidates received their donations from a variety of constituents whose main concern was education.
Throughout this workshop, youth learned about their DC Councilmembers, the current campaign finance system, and an alternative finance structure. They were able to relate the abstract concept of campaign financing to a concrete understanding of the impact of campaign finance on candidate’s issues. Given the recent election outcome, it was hopeful to see ways in which our fellow citizens are trying to create more just campaign systems.
In the midst of what seems like a tumultuous time for our political landscape in the U.S., it was meaningful for our youth to experience and learn from community members that are moving forward with changing local election systems to ensure that all citizens are taken into consideration. The youth recognized ways on the local level to help empower their fellow DC neighbors. As a Program Coordinator, I felt proud to facilitate this opportunity for my youth to see that despite the hardships we may face as people of color, there are ways to help improve systems that may have more of a direct impact on people’s lives, and we have allies that are willing to stand with us in solidarity.