Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

SARAH SOPHIE: My texts are going bananas today.

BROOKE: Why?

SARAH SOPHIE: Because I'm working on like eight different projects and I've got 50,000 Zooms today and everybody needs things. And my children like to text a lot ...

BROOKE: With a million different texts for one piece of information.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, people love to do that. I want all the information in one paragraph. And I want it bullet pointed with questions. I do not want to have to keep looking at my phone for eight different thoughts in a row. I guess it’s a generational thing. I asked all my Millennial friends and my Gen Z friends: “Why do you do that?” And they've all said it's because they're thinking as they write.

BROOKE: How about think first and then write second?

SARAH SOPHIE: Exactly!

BROOKE: Okay, well, our work here is done.

SARAH SOPHIE: We’ve fixed the generational divide and all communication and we're out.

BROOKE: And so let us start for real, I suppose, by introducing ourselves. My name is Brooke Williams; I am ... this is where I always have a lot of difficulty, because I do a lot of different things ... but currently, at this very moment, I am interviewing my dear friend, Sarah Sophie Flicker. And this is something that I do like to do quite a bit — profile people that are amazing and that the world needs to know about and learn from.

SARAH SOPHIE: And am I interviewing you too?

BROOKE: Well, it’s me, asking you all sorts of different things. And then we can talk about them together also. It’s more ...

SARAH SOPHIE: ... conversational. So, for example, if I have question to ask you, I can. And I will.

BROOKE: Yes! And so now you introduce yourself.

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm Sarah Sophie Flicker. I'm a cultural organizer, an artist, a mom, a trapeze, aerial dance enthusiast, sometimes writer ...

BROOKE: Wait, wait, tell me the first one again?

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm a cultural organizer, which took me forever to find the language for. That's what I do. I organize around politics and culture, and usually at the intersection of those two things.

BROOKE: How did you find that? And by that, I mean how did you find that calling in real life? What it is that you're doing? And then also, because this is my big struggle, how did you brilliantly figure out how to put it into words?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think I have smart friends that I was constantly asking, “What do I do? Who am I? What do I call myself?” I think that there's too much pressure on people, and especially in the world we're living in now. Like, when I talk to young people, I'm constantly saying, “You do not need to know what you want to do with your life.”

Obviously, this comes with a lot of privilege, you know, if you have the resources, funds, privilege to follow your passion, then you should. I mean, because that's really how I came to this job. And I certainly did all sorts of, or at least tried to do all sorts of, traditional things. I went to law school, I was a paralegal, I worked at restaurants and cafes, I was a wardrobe assistant, a makeup assistant, I worked in malls and stores doing makeup stuff. I was an actor, I was a singer, I was a dancer, I was in TV and commercials, theater ...

And I finally just realized that the thing I like doing the most is I love creating community, and I love creating community that forces change. On the justice spectrum, obviously. Before really settling in as a cultural organizer, I was doing a lot of content for orgs and campaigns and social justice issues - abortion, reproductive justice, climate, you know, all of the above, and I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution. Whether that's like a concert or a march, or something in my house, or you know, something for a candidate or an org, or creating media content, it always hinges on some form of community and togetherness and the idea that we are certainly better together than we are alone. And that's been sort of my North Star, I guess.

" I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution" - Sarah Sophie

BROOKE: It's a good North Star. My experience of you in your house is that it’s this kind of nerve center for so many different things that are going on. And there's always a million different people in and out. You have a couple of people over on one side, and they're working on something, and then your kids run through, and then there's somebody else over there ... It just feels there's an energy there that helps you feel like you can actually do things. It helps me when I'm there. I feel like “We can get this done!” you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: That makes me really happy. And you're always one of the first people I call to say, “Brooke, I'm doing this weird thing.” And I love that you're always so super down to do it. I think we're very lucky in that we have, over the years, created a really robust community of doers and people who care a lot, but also bring wildly different skill sets to the table and sort of get in where they fit in. I really love that, you know, because there's so much ego attached to work in general. I don't like doing things alone and I know that I'm not good at doing things alone, I'm good when there's lots of people inspiring each other and bringing their best assets to the table. That's when we thrive.

And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing. Even though you can get energy from the mass.

But there always is some sort of core of people who are making it happen. And it’s usually a pretty big group of people. Like with the Women's March. Media wise, you understand why certain people end up being the leaders or the spokespeople or whatever, but the reality is there's always scores of people working together making these things happen. The charismatic leader trope, I think, is pretty dangerous, and ultimately gets in the way of creating sustainable change.

BROOKE: Which I feel like is part of why, at least in my opinion, women-led groups tend to be more successful in this way. Not that there's not ego, because there is, but somehow there's also a balance of that feeling of the importance of community and the importance of working together, and also the understanding that there's too much to do to try to be in charge of it all.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, and who wants that? I mean, I guess some people do, but I don’t. It's interesting, there have been a lot of studies about women-led and fem-led things. [For example] we just had our mayoral primary, and I absolutely ranked a woman first because she spoke to my belief system the most. But people always say, “Oh, well, you know, look at Margaret Thatcher, or look at Sheryl Sandberg, that's not always a good thing." There has been really interesting research around it, which has shown that — this is not a hard and fast rule, but you need 30% of leadership or decision-making people to be women or queer or Black or Brown — whatever shifts you're trying to make, you do need that sort of consortium, and when one person ends up being the token leader of something, then you turn into Margaret Thatcher because you're playing by their rules; you have no choice but to play by their rules. So you have to break that down with a with a small horde.

BROOKE: I like that idea. I mean, personally, you have very much been my guide into the more active world of organizing and of being an activist. You're very welcoming and you're very positive, and it's always fun, even when it’s really not fun, it's fun, because at least you're with people who you care about. That's really great.

We've been through a crazy presidential election in 2016. A crazy, very difficult four years of Trump. And then, just when you think it's almost over ... Bam! There's this pandemic. And then there's a huge uprising. And it's not like this is new, but this uprising in the awareness around police brutality, and George Floyd, and the whole push to the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement ... Now we're sort of panting and out of breath ... And then there was another election, and I feel kind of a little bit frazzled and disorganized, in my brain. I just want to take a nap. But I know that I can take a quick nap, but then I got to get back up.

I want to talk a little bit about voting rights and some other stuff that you're working on, and how we, as a collective — and people who are reading this and listening to this — might be able to find what they want to do.

"And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing." - Sarah Sophie

SARAH SOPHIE: Well, the first thing I want to say is that what you said about me is also a testament to who you are, because I do think to be doing this kind of work you have to just be willing to jump in and not be an expert, but also let the folks who are most impacted lead.

And that joyful energy is really important, especially with what we've been dealing with in the more recent years, which is the rise of fascism, the rise of a white nationalist, misogynist fascism. And so much of authoritarianism and fascism and all that stuff, it relies on keeping people separated, creating divisions amongst communities that have issues in common, and not leaving room for joy, because they make you so tired and so afraid.

So I think one really important way to counteract that is by creating community across differences, creating movements and groups and communities that aren't consensus based, but are like, “We can agree on our shared humanity and our shared issues, and we can also have different strategies and different theories of change.” The joyful, fun welcoming part of it, I think, is really critical. Because I think all oppression sort of relies on us feeling isolated and alone.

BROOKE: Totally. I'm with you. And so how do you deal with the kind of overwhelm, with the tsunami of what's going on, and make sense of how you expend your energy and what you do? And do you just work yourself to the bone?

SARAH SOPHIE: No! I remember a few months after the Women's March we were at some conference that we were all speaking at in LA and someone asked Carmen Perez basically the same question. And Carmen was like, “If you're tired, you should rest.” And I was like, that's a fucking great answer. You're not serving anyone if you're tired.

And I understand why it's confusing right now. The landscape is confusing right now. But I will say, the way I combat overwhelm is I just do one thing at a time. I make my daily list, and then I just do one thing at a time. If I don't get to all of it, then that is just the way it is.

And you know, I prioritize my family and I try to prioritize my health. I know, for example, for me, that I err towards depression and anxiety. That is something that has always been in my life, and so I need to exercise every day, or I get depressed. You need to eat, you need to drink water. And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about.

"And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about." - Sarah Sophie

And you know, if voting rights is your thing, there's so much information and so many good places to get involved. And if police violence or racial justice is your thing, there's so many good places to get involved. Immigration, whatever it is, you know, abortion, that's a big one right now — reproductive rights are certainly under attack. So choose your thing and then you don't need to be an expert. The cool thing is there are people who've been working on this stuff forever, it's their lived experience, and they're from the community most impacted. You let them lead. You just show up and be quiet and ask how you can help, you know, so it sort of takes the pressure off.

Then once you're doing that, you see the ways in which all this stuff is connected. I'm working with the Working Families Party right now on jobs, care and climate, because we're trying to push Congress to pass the jobs bill. The brilliant thing, and where we're at now, is that jobs are connected to care, which is connected to parenting, which is connected to caregiving, which is connected to a minimum wage, which is connected to sustainable environmental new jobs versus the bad jobs where we're just killing the environment. And the intersections just become immediate and felt and seen. Then suddenly, even though you're tackling this big, systemic beast, you also realize like, “Oh, I can just do my one thing at a time over here. And I'm actually affecting all sorts of other stuff.” As long as you're critical and smart about what you're signing up for.

BROOKE: That makes it makes a lot of sense. Do you have any advice when we're looking for organizations to get involved with? How do you judge what is worthy?

SARAH SOPHIE: I mean, I think you just have to look at track records and ask around. I'm a big fan of if I don't know something, I ask. I also think one of the cool things about getting older is that I realized that I'm a pretty curious person. I just remember being in law school, and like, if you don't know the answer, you feel so ashamed. And I'm realizing now there's so much power in asking. I think if you stay curious, you stay young, and then you keep learning. And also, you're not as cynical. There are always good questions to ask and research to be done, and I just happen to be a fan of both of those things. But you know, also don't just do what everyone else is doing. ... Trust the people who are most impacted. Look for them as a resource and don't just get on the bandwagon just because everybody else is. Ask around.

BROOKE: Yeah, I think that it's a really good piece of advice to actually ask people, because it's just so easy with Instagram to just repost, you know? And you just kind of do that without actually taking the extra step.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, I think it's really dangerous to just blindly repost things. I don't repost something unless I do the homework, you know? It’s its own kind of work. If I see something that's interesting to me, I will go to the original source of where it came from, I will read the whole thing, ... And I certainly mess up all the time. It is laborious. On Instagram, for example, people would DM, “Well you didn’t post about blah blah blah,” I'm like, “First of all, you're not paying me to do anything. And second of all, why in the world would I post about something that I don't understand or don't have answers to? I'm gonna wait untilI know what I'm talking about.” And I think that's such a more responsible way to work. It actually takes quite a bit of footwork. And I know that, for example, my Instagram Stories look like chaos, but I I've done the footwork, I'm not posting things unless I really believe in them.

BROOKE: That's actually generally a good social media piece of advice.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's funny because, you know, I'm not technically a social media manager, or I don't consider myself especially good at social media. But I think the reason why I get asked to help with social media so often is I just really believe in — like I said — doing the research, you know? [Activist and writer] Mariame Kaba (who, thank goodness, is finally getting her flowers for the work she does) has this excellent set of questions to ask yourself. I don't have them in front of me, and I might be conflating two sets of questions, but I do tend to ask myself: “Is there somebody else who should be saying this? Does it benefit anyone for you to say this? Are there other people who are already doing the work that I can be uplifting? Is this true? Does it need to be said? Is it kind? If I put this out in the world, how does this affect people with other lived experiences than me? Could this possibly be hurtful?” I go through a whole litany of questions when I'm writing something or pushing something out. I'm always surprised when other people with big platforms don't do that. I really recommend it. I recommend sitting with an idea. Thinking about it, making sure that you're the right person to be saying it, making sure that it's the correct information, making sure that it's helpful.

BROOKE: Yeah, but it's actually a considerable amount of extra work, and time and commitment. And that sometimes can be hard.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, but then I also think if you start asking yourself those questions, it also informs your relationships to people in real face-to-face life. And then I think it affects your work. I used to be so insecure about the fact that I really don't like talking unless I'm really sure I want to say what I want to say. I was always jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, “Blahblahblahblah ...” But then I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything.

BROOKE: All right, let me think of other things I want to talk about. Let's see ... When you talked about exercising, what do you do? Are you sort of specific about that? Do you like switch it up?

SARAH SOPHIE: I realize I have a lot of discipline around exercise, just because I was a pretty serious dancer from when I was a little kid to pretty late in my teens. And it was ballet, which I think is a terrible culture and it's racist and sexist and fat phobic; it's just everything bad out there ... it's okay to be queer, I guess, but I don't know, it’s pretty bad. But it did give me a lot of discipline, so I understand that that's unique to me, and I understand that it's really hard to work exercise into your everyday. I just think it's something that's so ingrained in me that it's easier, so that's my caveat.

Amanda, my trapeze teacher, [and I] started doing trapeze and pilates over FaceTime twice a week. She's been training me from Australia and we've come up with all these like very creative ways to do it; I do that with her two times a week and I love it because she's somebody I love. I get to catch up with her, so it's a total joy. And then I do exercise videos. I like Our Body Electric a lot, that's my favorite. I recommend it, it's very reasonably priced. And there are half an hour to an hour long videos you can do and they're very hard. Some of them are less hard, you're gonna have to ease into it. Or I'll go for a walk or whatever, but I have to do something every day or I get a lot of anxiety.

BROOKE: While we're on the topic of anxiety ... I wanted to touch on being the mother of an emerging teenage daughter.

"I was always sort of jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, 'Blahblahblahblah ... ' But then, I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything." -Sarah Sophie

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine A Shirt Tale main image

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

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Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

The cultural organizer and writer on grass roots activism

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

SARAH SOPHIE: My texts are going bananas today.

BROOKE: Why?

SARAH SOPHIE: Because I'm working on like eight different projects and I've got 50,000 Zooms today and everybody needs things. And my children like to text a lot ...

BROOKE: With a million different texts for one piece of information.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, people love to do that. I want all the information in one paragraph. And I want it bullet pointed with questions. I do not want to have to keep looking at my phone for eight different thoughts in a row. I guess it’s a generational thing. I asked all my Millennial friends and my Gen Z friends: “Why do you do that?” And they've all said it's because they're thinking as they write.

BROOKE: How about think first and then write second?

SARAH SOPHIE: Exactly!

BROOKE: Okay, well, our work here is done.

SARAH SOPHIE: We’ve fixed the generational divide and all communication and we're out.

BROOKE: And so let us start for real, I suppose, by introducing ourselves. My name is Brooke Williams; I am ... this is where I always have a lot of difficulty, because I do a lot of different things ... but currently, at this very moment, I am interviewing my dear friend, Sarah Sophie Flicker. And this is something that I do like to do quite a bit — profile people that are amazing and that the world needs to know about and learn from.

SARAH SOPHIE: And am I interviewing you too?

BROOKE: Well, it’s me, asking you all sorts of different things. And then we can talk about them together also. It’s more ...

SARAH SOPHIE: ... conversational. So, for example, if I have question to ask you, I can. And I will.

BROOKE: Yes! And so now you introduce yourself.

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm Sarah Sophie Flicker. I'm a cultural organizer, an artist, a mom, a trapeze, aerial dance enthusiast, sometimes writer ...

BROOKE: Wait, wait, tell me the first one again?

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm a cultural organizer, which took me forever to find the language for. That's what I do. I organize around politics and culture, and usually at the intersection of those two things.

BROOKE: How did you find that? And by that, I mean how did you find that calling in real life? What it is that you're doing? And then also, because this is my big struggle, how did you brilliantly figure out how to put it into words?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think I have smart friends that I was constantly asking, “What do I do? Who am I? What do I call myself?” I think that there's too much pressure on people, and especially in the world we're living in now. Like, when I talk to young people, I'm constantly saying, “You do not need to know what you want to do with your life.”

Obviously, this comes with a lot of privilege, you know, if you have the resources, funds, privilege to follow your passion, then you should. I mean, because that's really how I came to this job. And I certainly did all sorts of, or at least tried to do all sorts of, traditional things. I went to law school, I was a paralegal, I worked at restaurants and cafes, I was a wardrobe assistant, a makeup assistant, I worked in malls and stores doing makeup stuff. I was an actor, I was a singer, I was a dancer, I was in TV and commercials, theater ...

And I finally just realized that the thing I like doing the most is I love creating community, and I love creating community that forces change. On the justice spectrum, obviously. Before really settling in as a cultural organizer, I was doing a lot of content for orgs and campaigns and social justice issues - abortion, reproductive justice, climate, you know, all of the above, and I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution. Whether that's like a concert or a march, or something in my house, or you know, something for a candidate or an org, or creating media content, it always hinges on some form of community and togetherness and the idea that we are certainly better together than we are alone. And that's been sort of my North Star, I guess.

" I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution" - Sarah Sophie

BROOKE: It's a good North Star. My experience of you in your house is that it’s this kind of nerve center for so many different things that are going on. And there's always a million different people in and out. You have a couple of people over on one side, and they're working on something, and then your kids run through, and then there's somebody else over there ... It just feels there's an energy there that helps you feel like you can actually do things. It helps me when I'm there. I feel like “We can get this done!” you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: That makes me really happy. And you're always one of the first people I call to say, “Brooke, I'm doing this weird thing.” And I love that you're always so super down to do it. I think we're very lucky in that we have, over the years, created a really robust community of doers and people who care a lot, but also bring wildly different skill sets to the table and sort of get in where they fit in. I really love that, you know, because there's so much ego attached to work in general. I don't like doing things alone and I know that I'm not good at doing things alone, I'm good when there's lots of people inspiring each other and bringing their best assets to the table. That's when we thrive.

And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing. Even though you can get energy from the mass.

But there always is some sort of core of people who are making it happen. And it’s usually a pretty big group of people. Like with the Women's March. Media wise, you understand why certain people end up being the leaders or the spokespeople or whatever, but the reality is there's always scores of people working together making these things happen. The charismatic leader trope, I think, is pretty dangerous, and ultimately gets in the way of creating sustainable change.

BROOKE: Which I feel like is part of why, at least in my opinion, women-led groups tend to be more successful in this way. Not that there's not ego, because there is, but somehow there's also a balance of that feeling of the importance of community and the importance of working together, and also the understanding that there's too much to do to try to be in charge of it all.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, and who wants that? I mean, I guess some people do, but I don’t. It's interesting, there have been a lot of studies about women-led and fem-led things. [For example] we just had our mayoral primary, and I absolutely ranked a woman first because she spoke to my belief system the most. But people always say, “Oh, well, you know, look at Margaret Thatcher, or look at Sheryl Sandberg, that's not always a good thing." There has been really interesting research around it, which has shown that — this is not a hard and fast rule, but you need 30% of leadership or decision-making people to be women or queer or Black or Brown — whatever shifts you're trying to make, you do need that sort of consortium, and when one person ends up being the token leader of something, then you turn into Margaret Thatcher because you're playing by their rules; you have no choice but to play by their rules. So you have to break that down with a with a small horde.

BROOKE: I like that idea. I mean, personally, you have very much been my guide into the more active world of organizing and of being an activist. You're very welcoming and you're very positive, and it's always fun, even when it’s really not fun, it's fun, because at least you're with people who you care about. That's really great.

We've been through a crazy presidential election in 2016. A crazy, very difficult four years of Trump. And then, just when you think it's almost over ... Bam! There's this pandemic. And then there's a huge uprising. And it's not like this is new, but this uprising in the awareness around police brutality, and George Floyd, and the whole push to the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement ... Now we're sort of panting and out of breath ... And then there was another election, and I feel kind of a little bit frazzled and disorganized, in my brain. I just want to take a nap. But I know that I can take a quick nap, but then I got to get back up.

I want to talk a little bit about voting rights and some other stuff that you're working on, and how we, as a collective — and people who are reading this and listening to this — might be able to find what they want to do.

SARAH SOPHIE: Well, the first thing I want to say is that what you said about me is also a testament to who you are, because I do think to be doing this kind of work you have to just be willing to jump in and not be an expert, but also let the folks who are most impacted lead.

And that joyful energy is really important, especially with what we've been dealing with in the more recent years, which is the rise of fascism, the rise of a white nationalist, misogynist fascism. And so much of authoritarianism and fascism and all that stuff, it relies on keeping people separated, creating divisions amongst communities that have issues in common, and not leaving room for joy, because they make you so tired and so afraid.

So I think one really important way to counteract that is by creating community across differences, creating movements and groups and communities that aren't consensus based, but are like, “We can agree on our shared humanity and our shared issues, and we can also have different strategies and different theories of change.” The joyful, fun welcoming part of it, I think, is really critical. Because I think all oppression sort of relies on us feeling isolated and alone.

BROOKE: Totally. I'm with you. And so how do you deal with the kind of overwhelm, with the tsunami of what's going on, and make sense of how you expend your energy and what you do? And do you just work yourself to the bone?

SARAH SOPHIE: No! I remember a few months after the Women's March we were at some conference that we were all speaking at in LA and someone asked Carmen Perez basically the same question. And Carmen was like, “If you're tired, you should rest.” And I was like, that's a fucking great answer. You're not serving anyone if you're tired.

And I understand why it's confusing right now. The landscape is confusing right now. But I will say, the way I combat overwhelm is I just do one thing at a time. I make my daily list, and then I just do one thing at a time. If I don't get to all of it, then that is just the way it is.

And you know, I prioritize my family and I try to prioritize my health. I know, for example, for me, that I err towards depression and anxiety. That is something that has always been in my life, and so I need to exercise every day, or I get depressed. You need to eat, you need to drink water. And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about.

"And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about." - Sarah Sophie

And you know, if voting rights is your thing, there's so much information and so many good places to get involved. And if police violence or racial justice is your thing, there's so many good places to get involved. Immigration, whatever it is, you know, abortion, that's a big one right now — reproductive rights are certainly under attack. So choose your thing and then you don't need to be an expert. The cool thing is there are people who've been working on this stuff forever, it's their lived experience, and they're from the community most impacted. You let them lead. You just show up and be quiet and ask how you can help, you know, so it sort of takes the pressure off.

Then once you're doing that, you see the ways in which all this stuff is connected. I'm working with the Working Families Party right now on jobs, care and climate, because we're trying to push Congress to pass the jobs bill. The brilliant thing, and where we're at now, is that jobs are connected to care, which is connected to parenting, which is connected to caregiving, which is connected to a minimum wage, which is connected to sustainable environmental new jobs versus the bad jobs where we're just killing the environment. And the intersections just become immediate and felt and seen. Then suddenly, even though you're tackling this big, systemic beast, you also realize like, “Oh, I can just do my one thing at a time over here. And I'm actually affecting all sorts of other stuff.” As long as you're critical and smart about what you're signing up for.

BROOKE: That makes it makes a lot of sense. Do you have any advice when we're looking for organizations to get involved with? How do you judge what is worthy?

SARAH SOPHIE: I mean, I think you just have to look at track records and ask around. I'm a big fan of if I don't know something, I ask. I also think one of the cool things about getting older is that I realized that I'm a pretty curious person. I just remember being in law school, and like, if you don't know the answer, you feel so ashamed. And I'm realizing now there's so much power in asking. I think if you stay curious, you stay young, and then you keep learning. And also, you're not as cynical. There are always good questions to ask and research to be done, and I just happen to be a fan of both of those things. But you know, also don't just do what everyone else is doing. ... Trust the people who are most impacted. Look for them as a resource and don't just get on the bandwagon just because everybody else is. Ask around.

BROOKE: Yeah, I think that it's a really good piece of advice to actually ask people, because it's just so easy with Instagram to just repost, you know? And you just kind of do that without actually taking the extra step.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, I think it's really dangerous to just blindly repost things. I don't repost something unless I do the homework, you know? It’s its own kind of work. If I see something that's interesting to me, I will go to the original source of where it came from, I will read the whole thing, ... And I certainly mess up all the time. It is laborious. On Instagram, for example, people would DM, “Well you didn’t post about blah blah blah,” I'm like, “First of all, you're not paying me to do anything. And second of all, why in the world would I post about something that I don't understand or don't have answers to? I'm gonna wait untilI know what I'm talking about.” And I think that's such a more responsible way to work. It actually takes quite a bit of footwork. And I know that, for example, my Instagram Stories look like chaos, but I I've done the footwork, I'm not posting things unless I really believe in them.

BROOKE: That's actually generally a good social media piece of advice.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's funny because, you know, I'm not technically a social media manager, or I don't consider myself especially good at social media. But I think the reason why I get asked to help with social media so often is I just really believe in — like I said — doing the research, you know? [Activist and writer] Mariame Kaba (who, thank goodness, is finally getting her flowers for the work she does) has this excellent set of questions to ask yourself. I don't have them in front of me, and I might be conflating two sets of questions, but I do tend to ask myself: “Is there somebody else who should be saying this? Does it benefit anyone for you to say this? Are there other people who are already doing the work that I can be uplifting? Is this true? Does it need to be said? Is it kind? If I put this out in the world, how does this affect people with other lived experiences than me? Could this possibly be hurtful?” I go through a whole litany of questions when I'm writing something or pushing something out. I'm always surprised when other people with big platforms don't do that. I really recommend it. I recommend sitting with an idea. Thinking about it, making sure that you're the right person to be saying it, making sure that it's the correct information, making sure that it's helpful.

BROOKE: Yeah, but it's actually a considerable amount of extra work, and time and commitment. And that sometimes can be hard.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, but then I also think if you start asking yourself those questions, it also informs your relationships to people in real face-to-face life. And then I think it affects your work. I used to be so insecure about the fact that I really don't like talking unless I'm really sure I want to say what I want to say. I was always jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, “Blahblahblahblah ...” But then I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything.

BROOKE: All right, let me think of other things I want to talk about. Let's see ... When you talked about exercising, what do you do? Are you sort of specific about that? Do you like switch it up?

SARAH SOPHIE: I realize I have a lot of discipline around exercise, just because I was a pretty serious dancer from when I was a little kid to pretty late in my teens. And it was ballet, which I think is a terrible culture and it's racist and sexist and fat phobic; it's just everything bad out there ... it's okay to be queer, I guess, but I don't know, it’s pretty bad. But it did give me a lot of discipline, so I understand that that's unique to me, and I understand that it's really hard to work exercise into your everyday. I just think it's something that's so ingrained in me that it's easier, so that's my caveat.

Amanda, my trapeze teacher, [and I] started doing trapeze and pilates over FaceTime twice a week. She's been training me from Australia and we've come up with all these like very creative ways to do it; I do that with her two times a week and I love it because she's somebody I love. I get to catch up with her, so it's a total joy. And then I do exercise videos. I like Our Body Electric a lot, that's my favorite. I recommend it, it's very reasonably priced. And there are half an hour to an hour long videos you can do and they're very hard. Some of them are less hard, you're gonna have to ease into it. Or I'll go for a walk or whatever, but I have to do something every day or I get a lot of anxiety.

BROOKE: While we're on the topic of anxiety ... I wanted to touch on being the mother of an emerging teenage daughter.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

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Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

The cultural organizer and writer on grass roots activism

HASSON

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

"And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing." - Sarah Sophie

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

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Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

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Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

No items found.

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Pink

frost

Thistle

brown

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Super talented stylist-turned-photographer Thistle Browne and stylist Heathermary Jackson — both in New Zealand during COVID-19 lockdowns — traveled to Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano off the coast of Central Auckland, to shoot the new campaign for New Zealand jewelry designer Jasmin Sparrow. The shoot showcases Sparrow’s timeless gold and silver jewelry, and a beautiful collection of hand-beaded bras and skull caps designed with Glen Prentice. Models wore mainly vintage from Search and Destroy and Brownstone Cowboys’ collection, combined with some local, sustainable brands and New Zealand gumboots (rainboots).
Photography: Thistle Brown
Styling: Heathermary Jackson
Designers: Jasmin Sparrow and Glen Prentice
Models: Charlotte Moffatt, Nina Katungi, Obadiah Russon

Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

SARAH SOPHIE: My texts are going bananas today.

BROOKE: Why?

SARAH SOPHIE: Because I'm working on like eight different projects and I've got 50,000 Zooms today and everybody needs things. And my children like to text a lot ...

BROOKE: With a million different texts for one piece of information.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, people love to do that. I want all the information in one paragraph. And I want it bullet pointed with questions. I do not want to have to keep looking at my phone for eight different thoughts in a row. I guess it’s a generational thing. I asked all my Millennial friends and my Gen Z friends: “Why do you do that?” And they've all said it's because they're thinking as they write.

BROOKE: How about think first and then write second?

SARAH SOPHIE: Exactly!

BROOKE: Okay, well, our work here is done.

SARAH SOPHIE: We’ve fixed the generational divide and all communication and we're out.

BROOKE: And so let us start for real, I suppose, by introducing ourselves. My name is Brooke Williams; I am ... this is where I always have a lot of difficulty, because I do a lot of different things ... but currently, at this very moment, I am interviewing my dear friend, Sarah Sophie Flicker. And this is something that I do like to do quite a bit — profile people that are amazing and that the world needs to know about and learn from.

SARAH SOPHIE: And am I interviewing you too?

BROOKE: Well, it’s me, asking you all sorts of different things. And then we can talk about them together also. It’s more ...

SARAH SOPHIE: ... conversational. So, for example, if I have question to ask you, I can. And I will.

BROOKE: Yes! And so now you introduce yourself.

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm Sarah Sophie Flicker. I'm a cultural organizer, an artist, a mom, a trapeze, aerial dance enthusiast, sometimes writer ...

BROOKE: Wait, wait, tell me the first one again?

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm a cultural organizer, which took me forever to find the language for. That's what I do. I organize around politics and culture, and usually at the intersection of those two things.

BROOKE: How did you find that? And by that, I mean how did you find that calling in real life? What it is that you're doing? And then also, because this is my big struggle, how did you brilliantly figure out how to put it into words?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think I have smart friends that I was constantly asking, “What do I do? Who am I? What do I call myself?” I think that there's too much pressure on people, and especially in the world we're living in now. Like, when I talk to young people, I'm constantly saying, “You do not need to know what you want to do with your life.”

Obviously, this comes with a lot of privilege, you know, if you have the resources, funds, privilege to follow your passion, then you should. I mean, because that's really how I came to this job. And I certainly did all sorts of, or at least tried to do all sorts of, traditional things. I went to law school, I was a paralegal, I worked at restaurants and cafes, I was a wardrobe assistant, a makeup assistant, I worked in malls and stores doing makeup stuff. I was an actor, I was a singer, I was a dancer, I was in TV and commercials, theater ...

And I finally just realized that the thing I like doing the most is I love creating community, and I love creating community that forces change. On the justice spectrum, obviously. Before really settling in as a cultural organizer, I was doing a lot of content for orgs and campaigns and social justice issues - abortion, reproductive justice, climate, you know, all of the above, and I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution. Whether that's like a concert or a march, or something in my house, or you know, something for a candidate or an org, or creating media content, it always hinges on some form of community and togetherness and the idea that we are certainly better together than we are alone. And that's been sort of my North Star, I guess.

" I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution" - Sarah Sophie

BROOKE: It's a good North Star. My experience of you in your house is that it’s this kind of nerve center for so many different things that are going on. And there's always a million different people in and out. You have a couple of people over on one side, and they're working on something, and then your kids run through, and then there's somebody else over there ... It just feels there's an energy there that helps you feel like you can actually do things. It helps me when I'm there. I feel like “We can get this done!” you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: That makes me really happy. And you're always one of the first people I call to say, “Brooke, I'm doing this weird thing.” And I love that you're always so super down to do it. I think we're very lucky in that we have, over the years, created a really robust community of doers and people who care a lot, but also bring wildly different skill sets to the table and sort of get in where they fit in. I really love that, you know, because there's so much ego attached to work in general. I don't like doing things alone and I know that I'm not good at doing things alone, I'm good when there's lots of people inspiring each other and bringing their best assets to the table. That's when we thrive.

And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing. Even though you can get energy from the mass.

But there always is some sort of core of people who are making it happen. And it’s usually a pretty big group of people. Like with the Women's March. Media wise, you understand why certain people end up being the leaders or the spokespeople or whatever, but the reality is there's always scores of people working together making these things happen. The charismatic leader trope, I think, is pretty dangerous, and ultimately gets in the way of creating sustainable change.

BROOKE: Which I feel like is part of why, at least in my opinion, women-led groups tend to be more successful in this way. Not that there's not ego, because there is, but somehow there's also a balance of that feeling of the importance of community and the importance of working together, and also the understanding that there's too much to do to try to be in charge of it all.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, and who wants that? I mean, I guess some people do, but I don’t. It's interesting, there have been a lot of studies about women-led and fem-led things. [For example] we just had our mayoral primary, and I absolutely ranked a woman first because she spoke to my belief system the most. But people always say, “Oh, well, you know, look at Margaret Thatcher, or look at Sheryl Sandberg, that's not always a good thing." There has been really interesting research around it, which has shown that — this is not a hard and fast rule, but you need 30% of leadership or decision-making people to be women or queer or Black or Brown — whatever shifts you're trying to make, you do need that sort of consortium, and when one person ends up being the token leader of something, then you turn into Margaret Thatcher because you're playing by their rules; you have no choice but to play by their rules. So you have to break that down with a with a small horde.

BROOKE: I like that idea. I mean, personally, you have very much been my guide into the more active world of organizing and of being an activist. You're very welcoming and you're very positive, and it's always fun, even when it’s really not fun, it's fun, because at least you're with people who you care about. That's really great.

We've been through a crazy presidential election in 2016. A crazy, very difficult four years of Trump. And then, just when you think it's almost over ... Bam! There's this pandemic. And then there's a huge uprising. And it's not like this is new, but this uprising in the awareness around police brutality, and George Floyd, and the whole push to the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement ... Now we're sort of panting and out of breath ... And then there was another election, and I feel kind of a little bit frazzled and disorganized, in my brain. I just want to take a nap. But I know that I can take a quick nap, but then I got to get back up.

I want to talk a little bit about voting rights and some other stuff that you're working on, and how we, as a collective — and people who are reading this and listening to this — might be able to find what they want to do.

"And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing." - Sarah Sophie

SARAH SOPHIE: Well, the first thing I want to say is that what you said about me is also a testament to who you are, because I do think to be doing this kind of work you have to just be willing to jump in and not be an expert, but also let the folks who are most impacted lead.

And that joyful energy is really important, especially with what we've been dealing with in the more recent years, which is the rise of fascism, the rise of a white nationalist, misogynist fascism. And so much of authoritarianism and fascism and all that stuff, it relies on keeping people separated, creating divisions amongst communities that have issues in common, and not leaving room for joy, because they make you so tired and so afraid.

So I think one really important way to counteract that is by creating community across differences, creating movements and groups and communities that aren't consensus based, but are like, “We can agree on our shared humanity and our shared issues, and we can also have different strategies and different theories of change.” The joyful, fun welcoming part of it, I think, is really critical. Because I think all oppression sort of relies on us feeling isolated and alone.

BROOKE: Totally. I'm with you. And so how do you deal with the kind of overwhelm, with the tsunami of what's going on, and make sense of how you expend your energy and what you do? And do you just work yourself to the bone?

SARAH SOPHIE: No! I remember a few months after the Women's March we were at some conference that we were all speaking at in LA and someone asked Carmen Perez basically the same question. And Carmen was like, “If you're tired, you should rest.” And I was like, that's a fucking great answer. You're not serving anyone if you're tired.

And I understand why it's confusing right now. The landscape is confusing right now. But I will say, the way I combat overwhelm is I just do one thing at a time. I make my daily list, and then I just do one thing at a time. If I don't get to all of it, then that is just the way it is.

And you know, I prioritize my family and I try to prioritize my health. I know, for example, for me, that I err towards depression and anxiety. That is something that has always been in my life, and so I need to exercise every day, or I get depressed. You need to eat, you need to drink water. And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about.

"And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about." - Sarah Sophie

And you know, if voting rights is your thing, there's so much information and so many good places to get involved. And if police violence or racial justice is your thing, there's so many good places to get involved. Immigration, whatever it is, you know, abortion, that's a big one right now — reproductive rights are certainly under attack. So choose your thing and then you don't need to be an expert. The cool thing is there are people who've been working on this stuff forever, it's their lived experience, and they're from the community most impacted. You let them lead. You just show up and be quiet and ask how you can help, you know, so it sort of takes the pressure off.

Then once you're doing that, you see the ways in which all this stuff is connected. I'm working with the Working Families Party right now on jobs, care and climate, because we're trying to push Congress to pass the jobs bill. The brilliant thing, and where we're at now, is that jobs are connected to care, which is connected to parenting, which is connected to caregiving, which is connected to a minimum wage, which is connected to sustainable environmental new jobs versus the bad jobs where we're just killing the environment. And the intersections just become immediate and felt and seen. Then suddenly, even though you're tackling this big, systemic beast, you also realize like, “Oh, I can just do my one thing at a time over here. And I'm actually affecting all sorts of other stuff.” As long as you're critical and smart about what you're signing up for.

BROOKE: That makes it makes a lot of sense. Do you have any advice when we're looking for organizations to get involved with? How do you judge what is worthy?

SARAH SOPHIE: I mean, I think you just have to look at track records and ask around. I'm a big fan of if I don't know something, I ask. I also think one of the cool things about getting older is that I realized that I'm a pretty curious person. I just remember being in law school, and like, if you don't know the answer, you feel so ashamed. And I'm realizing now there's so much power in asking. I think if you stay curious, you stay young, and then you keep learning. And also, you're not as cynical. There are always good questions to ask and research to be done, and I just happen to be a fan of both of those things. But you know, also don't just do what everyone else is doing. ... Trust the people who are most impacted. Look for them as a resource and don't just get on the bandwagon just because everybody else is. Ask around.

BROOKE: Yeah, I think that it's a really good piece of advice to actually ask people, because it's just so easy with Instagram to just repost, you know? And you just kind of do that without actually taking the extra step.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, I think it's really dangerous to just blindly repost things. I don't repost something unless I do the homework, you know? It’s its own kind of work. If I see something that's interesting to me, I will go to the original source of where it came from, I will read the whole thing, ... And I certainly mess up all the time. It is laborious. On Instagram, for example, people would DM, “Well you didn’t post about blah blah blah,” I'm like, “First of all, you're not paying me to do anything. And second of all, why in the world would I post about something that I don't understand or don't have answers to? I'm gonna wait untilI know what I'm talking about.” And I think that's such a more responsible way to work. It actually takes quite a bit of footwork. And I know that, for example, my Instagram Stories look like chaos, but I I've done the footwork, I'm not posting things unless I really believe in them.

BROOKE: That's actually generally a good social media piece of advice.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's funny because, you know, I'm not technically a social media manager, or I don't consider myself especially good at social media. But I think the reason why I get asked to help with social media so often is I just really believe in — like I said — doing the research, you know? [Activist and writer] Mariame Kaba (who, thank goodness, is finally getting her flowers for the work she does) has this excellent set of questions to ask yourself. I don't have them in front of me, and I might be conflating two sets of questions, but I do tend to ask myself: “Is there somebody else who should be saying this? Does it benefit anyone for you to say this? Are there other people who are already doing the work that I can be uplifting? Is this true? Does it need to be said? Is it kind? If I put this out in the world, how does this affect people with other lived experiences than me? Could this possibly be hurtful?” I go through a whole litany of questions when I'm writing something or pushing something out. I'm always surprised when other people with big platforms don't do that. I really recommend it. I recommend sitting with an idea. Thinking about it, making sure that you're the right person to be saying it, making sure that it's the correct information, making sure that it's helpful.

BROOKE: Yeah, but it's actually a considerable amount of extra work, and time and commitment. And that sometimes can be hard.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, but then I also think if you start asking yourself those questions, it also informs your relationships to people in real face-to-face life. And then I think it affects your work. I used to be so insecure about the fact that I really don't like talking unless I'm really sure I want to say what I want to say. I was always jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, “Blahblahblahblah ...” But then I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything.

BROOKE: All right, let me think of other things I want to talk about. Let's see ... When you talked about exercising, what do you do? Are you sort of specific about that? Do you like switch it up?

SARAH SOPHIE: I realize I have a lot of discipline around exercise, just because I was a pretty serious dancer from when I was a little kid to pretty late in my teens. And it was ballet, which I think is a terrible culture and it's racist and sexist and fat phobic; it's just everything bad out there ... it's okay to be queer, I guess, but I don't know, it’s pretty bad. But it did give me a lot of discipline, so I understand that that's unique to me, and I understand that it's really hard to work exercise into your everyday. I just think it's something that's so ingrained in me that it's easier, so that's my caveat.

Amanda, my trapeze teacher, [and I] started doing trapeze and pilates over FaceTime twice a week. She's been training me from Australia and we've come up with all these like very creative ways to do it; I do that with her two times a week and I love it because she's somebody I love. I get to catch up with her, so it's a total joy. And then I do exercise videos. I like Our Body Electric a lot, that's my favorite. I recommend it, it's very reasonably priced. And there are half an hour to an hour long videos you can do and they're very hard. Some of them are less hard, you're gonna have to ease into it. Or I'll go for a walk or whatever, but I have to do something every day or I get a lot of anxiety.

BROOKE: While we're on the topic of anxiety ... I wanted to touch on being the mother of an emerging teenage daughter.

"I was always sort of jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, 'Blahblahblahblah ... ' But then, I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything." -Sarah Sophie

SARAH SOPHIE: We have that in common, right?

BROOKE: Oh, yes, we do.

SARAH SOPHIE: I love how different they are, and because of our friendship they've been sort of like smushed together their whole lives. They kind of treat each other like cousins; they're kinda dismissive and like, “What's that weirdo doing?” Right? I mean, they really couldn't be more different. It's really funny. And I love them both so much.

BROOKE: I haven't gone deep into this universe yet. But I feel like, as a new mom, there were millions of blogs and websites, but when they get a little bit older, everything just gets quiet. Where's the community of mothers and parents of these teenage kids? Especially daughters. I'm prejudiced, because I only have a female, you have both [teenagers now], they're exploding in this way that is really kind of amazing. Do you talk to your daughter about what you're up to? How much is she just like “Ugh!”? Or how much is she engaged? What do you think about what it's like, right now, raising a teenage girl?

SARAH SOPHIE: It's so funny that you're saying all this, because you and I have been in this parenting game for a while now. It's always so funny the way that somebody will have a baby, and suddenly they're on blogs and writing and they're an expert. And honestly yes, having a baby is very hard. And to be honest, it’s not my favorite part of parenting; it's physically hard. What shifts as your kids get older, is that their needs for you really change. So I would say the first thing about parenting is understanding that, from the second they leave your body, it is an endless process of letting go. And that is your job.

It is not our job to raise babies, or toddlers. Our job is to raise adults who can function out in the world and who, ideally, don't need us in the way that they need us now. But that is a hard thing. It's hard, and it's sad. And you know, it breaks my heart daily, but then when I see them thrive at something on their own, that's so much better than me doing it for them, so it ends up being worthwhile. My boys are younger, they're not teenagers yet, not even necessarily preteens. But I do think what I've learned, and I'm curious to hear what you think also, what I've learned about having a teenager is, first of all, I love it — it's really fun. It's really satisfying in a way that babies aren’t. You can have the most intense and deep and meaningful conversations, because you know each other so well, and you are there, you know? I mean, the other weird thing about parenting is that you're their safe place and because you're their safe place, you're also their garbage can; they bring home all their anxiety and frustration and questioning about things, and dump it on you. I would say the other thing to just start with is: don't take it personally, which is really hard. You have to be the garbage man, you just have to be like, “Throw your garbage on me and I will absorb it, because I don't want you going out in the world and being a psychopath.” And once they've dumped their garbage on you, finding ways to root through the garbage and have conversations that are helpful around it.

I would just say that with teenagers, so much is changing for them. You just have to sink into what you felt like as a teenager and not let go of that, keep it present, always. Because I think so many adults just forget what it was like to be a kid or forget what it was like to be a teenager, and then you become unrelatable to your kid. I know a lot of my friends and a lot of other parents think I'm definitely too lax and too fast and loose. But my feeling is (and I know that this is also a sort of trope of a white mom, and I know that I am leaning into that trope) but I would so much rather have my kids come to me and be honest, and explore all the things, whether they're dangerous, or sexual, or drugs or whatever. I would rather be part of that exploration and have an open communication line and have them feel like they can talk to me about it, versus being a harsh disciplinarian. I have seen people really beautifully balance those things. There are people I know who are parents and who are hardcore disciplinarians, but also somehow managed to keep a line of communication and trust and love open. That's just not something I've managed to do. When it counts, I'll come down on them. And someday I will ground somebody, mark my words! I'm gonna do it. But I think if you have that trust and connection to your teenage self, then your disappointment in them is as bad as you grounding them, it's as bad as you taking something they care about away. Because they don’t want to disappoint you when you have that relationship. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't know. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

"I would just say that with teenagers, so much is changing for them. You just have to sink into what you felt like as a teenager and not let go of that, keep it present, always. Because I think so many adults just forget what it was like to be a kid or forget what it was like to be a teenager, and then you become unrelatable to your kid." - Sarah Sophie Flicker

BROOKE: I feel like it's all swimming in the dark a little bit. But I do feel similarly. And I do feel like my personal struggle is trying to figure out how to balance the discipline and the freedom. And it is also true that the most important thing to me is having that trust and having that communication. The most important thing is that we have the line of communication open, like that's the absolute most important thing that you know, when the shit hits the fan, I'd much rather her come to us [her parents] then to some 15-year-old random boy she met two weeks ago. Do you know what I mean? That's always been my goal; if the time comes when she takes the mushrooms, I want her to understand that she should call me and I'll come and bring her home, not try to crawl back home, you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: You know they're gonna do what they're going to do. They are going to take the mushrooms or they're going to have the sex or they're going to drink the drink or get on the subway by themselves. Whatever they're gonna do, they're gonna do it -- they really will, whether you discipline them or not. My feeling is, imagine how shitty it is to be a kid. I think about it all the time. Having no agency. I felt so bad for my kids when they were little. They didn't want to put their fucking socks on or something, you know, because the seams were annoying on the socks, or one of my sons being like, “I hate hard pants, they hurt my penis!” And I was like, “I don't have one of those, but that makes so much sense.” They have no agency. So I really try to say yes as much as I can to things that really don't matter. If you don't want to wear socks, don't wear socks, and then your feet are gonna be cold. And then tomorrow, you'll come home and you'll put socks on. Giving them control over their bodies, like, what hairstyle they want, what they want to wear ... I think the more agency you give them as they grow up, the better decisions they make when they're older. And all I really want is somebody who feels safe and confident and is kind and a good person making good choices out in the world. That's it.

BROOKE: How involved are your kids in your activist work?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think that's another one. When they're younger it's much easier, and I think they're more interested. But then I let them dictate what they want to go to, and what they don't want to go to, and where their interest lies around something. All three of my kids have had hugely activist moments around issues they really cared about, but I don't want to make it a chore for them. At the end of the day I know they get really proud when they see something that they know I played some small part in. It makes them feel very happy.

I think the important thing is not forcing them to go to things. The important thing is having conversations about it. The important thing is who are the community you're surrounding your kids with? Are you intentional about diversity in your community? Especially for white parents? Are you intentional about talking to kids about race, sex, gender, birth control, the climate, class, whatever? Because the truth is, there are bajillions of kids all over the world whose lived experience is injustice or oppression, or poverty or racism. Certainly, my kids can handle conversations around it if other kids have to experience it in their daily lives. That's the thing that feels important to me. I don't care if they come to a march with me, or whatever. I want them to have all the information I have in ways that are age appropriate for them.

BROOKE: Exactly. And then I’ve listened to my daughter talk to other people, and say really thoughtful things. And I'm sort of like, “Oh, it sank in and all those different conversations and the documentary we watched or ... ”

SARAH SOPHIE: She's also so wonderful. You just see her absorbing information and absorbing her surroundings, she has such a keen awareness of things that it doesn't surprise me she's a really wonderful person.

BROOKE: Like you are, too, but that's that whole thing about being curious. I think it's maybe the most important quality.

SARAH SOPHIE: I agree. And I'm not trying to generalize, but it’s something that straight men have a real problem with: If you don't know, just ask. Don't pretend like you know.

BROOKE: Haha! Yeah, that’s so true! Okay, last thing, I feel like we should just touch really quickly on the chorus, The Resistance Revival Chorus, of which you are one of the founders.

SARAH SOPHIE: And you are a founding member.

BROOKE: I am a founding member; I was there right at the beginning, which was amazing. And I'm so incredibly grateful, I have no idea how I would have made it through, no idea.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, my gosh. We are so lucky, SO lucky. I mean, because that was sort of a fluke, right? The way that all came about was about, let's see, a month or so after the Women's March, we organized -- and you were part of organizing this -- A Day Without a Woman, which was on International Women's Day.

And it was in the tradition of how that day originated, as you know, in the spirit of women's striking and with a socialist vibe. And we all had this big rally and march. This is in 2017. So I was with Nelini, who is one of my best friends and also just the best cultural organizer out there in my biased opinion, and she also is at the Working Families Party. She's just amazing. She also, which a lot of people don't know, has a very robust history in acting and musical theater and has the voice of an angel/powerhouse ... and she can tap dance. So we were marching and she had somehow grabbed someone's bullhorn and just started singing, and I was singing with her and I thought, “Oh, we need music. Where’s the music been this year?”

I was the creative director of a political theater group called The Citizens Band for 12 years in New York, and I was thinking, “Okay, The Citizens Band was a lot of work. But what if we just got a bunch of women identifying people together, and we sang together?” I think everyone can remember 2017... it was a heartbreaker. And also just coming off the Women's March, which was so intense in good ways, and in bad ways. We were in that together. It was a painful time, a really painful time for everybody — certainly the people most affected by all of Trump’s chaos.

And so I thought, “Let's just have people over to my house, and let's just sing together. And let's just start a chorus.” In a lot of ways it was for our own healing, but then also with the idea that we would resurface old songs that we could bring to rallies and protests and whatever, and also write our new music.

Oh, and another cool thing was when we were working on the Women's March, Harry Belafonte let us work in his office. There are all these great anecdotes about him, but I just remember this one time where we were talking about something and it was so chaotic in that office, and we were surrounded by all of Mr. Belafonte’s awards and movie posters -- it was just so amazing to be in that environment -- and someone said, “Well, then we're just preaching to the choir if we do this thing,” and he's literally in the corner, 90 years old, and he says, “Sometimes you got to preach to the choir if you want them to keep on singing.”

And I was like, oh, man, we need people to keep singing right now. And look what they're doing to our song. We need to reclaim the music. So then Nelini and I had to convince Ginny — she’s now the manager of the Chorus, she was the road manager of The Roots and all this stuff — we had to convince Ginny and Paola and they were like, “I don't get it? Why do we want to sing together?” and Nelini and I were like, “You just have to believe us."

Then we had this first rehearsal at my house, you were there, right? It was amazing. I have videos from it, it was so magical. There's something so healing about singing with people and then specifically singing with women and femmes and that feeling when your voices are blending. I'm not a professional singer, like you Brooke — you’re a great musician and singer, I am not, but I love it so much. It was just that feeling, like yesterday — we had rehearsal yesterday, and when our voices are melding together, that's so much more communal and powerful and community-oriented than just being a badass singer by yourself. You know what I mean? There's something that happens when people's voices harmonize together.

BROOKE: I think that literally there's a serotonin release or something. And you feel this in community, as opposed to singing by yourself, which is why people are singing in churches and synagogues and temples, you know? I think that circles us back to what we were talking about, at the very beginning, about community and the importance of community. The Chorus in itself is a community.

"I think that literally there's a serotonin release or something. And so you feel this in community, as opposed to singing by yourself, which is why people are singing in churches and synagogues and temples, you know? I think that circles us back to what we were talking about, at the very beginning, about community and the importance of community. The Chorus in itself is a community." - Sarah Sophie

And then there are also other Choruses that have started in other cities, which are their own communities, but then we're all this community together. It is just this incredible thing to see how the idea is really spreading in this great way. When we have our performances and we're connecting with people, whether it be on the streets, at a march, or on a stage with an audience, that's a whole other sense of community that we're building together. At the beginning, that first year, we did a lot of those nights where we would sing songs, we'd have guests come and sing with us, and we would also pepper the evening with different things that were going on politically and celebrate some of the positive things that were going on. I have a number of friends who said, “God, you know, I felt so horrible, and I wasn't even going to go out and then I came and by the time I left, I was like, ‘Yes! We got this!’” You know, it's just this really nice feeling.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's amazing. Wait, there's something else I was gonna say that's really amazed me about the RRC. I mean the very public falling apart of the Women's March was so painful and I was so afraid that the takeaway was going to be that women really can't work together across class, race, whatever. So much of that [conflict within the Women’s March] has been resolved, at least inter-personally — I don't really care about publicly — but the Chorus has been just so heartening. One thing that I found incredibly beautiful about this last year was, rightfully, so many similar groups or performance spaces just sort of went dark, because what else were you gonna do? It is pretty noteworthy that we stayed out on the streets the whole year. I don't think a month went by, maybe the first or certainly the first two months of pandemic when no one left the house — in New York you couldn’t — but we still found ways to be in community. We had digital music nights, in these little boxes, and everyone would be performing solo because you can't sing together on Zoom. But I like the fact that we've managed to do everything we've done. And really, barring the first few months, there hasn't been a month where we haven't been together, out on the streets. And no one's gotten paid this year. It was all just protests and rallies — that was it. But it's just been really wonderful. And I'm very grateful that we have it.

BROOKE: Yeah, totally. Me too, sister. So that was really good. Okay, I think that even though I would like to continue talking forever, I have to get to UPS with a box to send to Maine, because we're leaving tomorrow morning.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, that's exciting. You're gonna have the best time.

BROOKE: Yeah, we're very excited. Although, I'm not going to show you what my house looks like now ...

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, wow. Yeah, no, I can only imagine. That's a lot. So I have some more Zooms I get to be on, don't be jealous.

BROOKE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, so, so much.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh my gosh, thank you. It was so fun. I love you so much.

BROOKE: I love you too.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

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Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine CONSCIOUS GIVING Main Image

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

SARAH SOPHIE: My texts are going bananas today.

BROOKE: Why?

SARAH SOPHIE: Because I'm working on like eight different projects and I've got 50,000 Zooms today and everybody needs things. And my children like to text a lot ...

BROOKE: With a million different texts for one piece of information.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, people love to do that. I want all the information in one paragraph. And I want it bullet pointed with questions. I do not want to have to keep looking at my phone for eight different thoughts in a row. I guess it’s a generational thing. I asked all my Millennial friends and my Gen Z friends: “Why do you do that?” And they've all said it's because they're thinking as they write.

BROOKE: How about think first and then write second?

SARAH SOPHIE: Exactly!

BROOKE: Okay, well, our work here is done.

SARAH SOPHIE: We’ve fixed the generational divide and all communication and we're out.

BROOKE: And so let us start for real, I suppose, by introducing ourselves. My name is Brooke Williams; I am ... this is where I always have a lot of difficulty, because I do a lot of different things ... but currently, at this very moment, I am interviewing my dear friend, Sarah Sophie Flicker. And this is something that I do like to do quite a bit — profile people that are amazing and that the world needs to know about and learn from.

SARAH SOPHIE: And am I interviewing you too?

BROOKE: Well, it’s me, asking you all sorts of different things. And then we can talk about them together also. It’s more ...

SARAH SOPHIE: ... conversational. So, for example, if I have question to ask you, I can. And I will.

BROOKE: Yes! And so now you introduce yourself.

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm Sarah Sophie Flicker. I'm a cultural organizer, an artist, a mom, a trapeze, aerial dance enthusiast, sometimes writer ...

BROOKE: Wait, wait, tell me the first one again?

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm a cultural organizer, which took me forever to find the language for. That's what I do. I organize around politics and culture, and usually at the intersection of those two things.

BROOKE: How did you find that? And by that, I mean how did you find that calling in real life? What it is that you're doing? And then also, because this is my big struggle, how did you brilliantly figure out how to put it into words?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think I have smart friends that I was constantly asking, “What do I do? Who am I? What do I call myself?” I think that there's too much pressure on people, and especially in the world we're living in now. Like, when I talk to young people, I'm constantly saying, “You do not need to know what you want to do with your life.”

Obviously, this comes with a lot of privilege, you know, if you have the resources, funds, privilege to follow your passion, then you should. I mean, because that's really how I came to this job. And I certainly did all sorts of, or at least tried to do all sorts of, traditional things. I went to law school, I was a paralegal, I worked at restaurants and cafes, I was a wardrobe assistant, a makeup assistant, I worked in malls and stores doing makeup stuff. I was an actor, I was a singer, I was a dancer, I was in TV and commercials, theater ...

And I finally just realized that the thing I like doing the most is I love creating community, and I love creating community that forces change. On the justice spectrum, obviously. Before really settling in as a cultural organizer, I was doing a lot of content for orgs and campaigns and social justice issues - abortion, reproductive justice, climate, you know, all of the above, and I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution. Whether that's like a concert or a march, or something in my house, or you know, something for a candidate or an org, or creating media content, it always hinges on some form of community and togetherness and the idea that we are certainly better together than we are alone. And that's been sort of my North Star, I guess.

" I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution" - Sarah Sophie

BROOKE: It's a good North Star. My experience of you in your house is that it’s this kind of nerve center for so many different things that are going on. And there's always a million different people in and out. You have a couple of people over on one side, and they're working on something, and then your kids run through, and then there's somebody else over there ... It just feels there's an energy there that helps you feel like you can actually do things. It helps me when I'm there. I feel like “We can get this done!” you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: That makes me really happy. And you're always one of the first people I call to say, “Brooke, I'm doing this weird thing.” And I love that you're always so super down to do it. I think we're very lucky in that we have, over the years, created a really robust community of doers and people who care a lot, but also bring wildly different skill sets to the table and sort of get in where they fit in. I really love that, you know, because there's so much ego attached to work in general. I don't like doing things alone and I know that I'm not good at doing things alone, I'm good when there's lots of people inspiring each other and bringing their best assets to the table. That's when we thrive.

And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing. Even though you can get energy from the mass.

But there always is some sort of core of people who are making it happen. And it’s usually a pretty big group of people. Like with the Women's March. Media wise, you understand why certain people end up being the leaders or the spokespeople or whatever, but the reality is there's always scores of people working together making these things happen. The charismatic leader trope, I think, is pretty dangerous, and ultimately gets in the way of creating sustainable change.

BROOKE: Which I feel like is part of why, at least in my opinion, women-led groups tend to be more successful in this way. Not that there's not ego, because there is, but somehow there's also a balance of that feeling of the importance of community and the importance of working together, and also the understanding that there's too much to do to try to be in charge of it all.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, and who wants that? I mean, I guess some people do, but I don’t. It's interesting, there have been a lot of studies about women-led and fem-led things. [For example] we just had our mayoral primary, and I absolutely ranked a woman first because she spoke to my belief system the most. But people always say, “Oh, well, you know, look at Margaret Thatcher, or look at Sheryl Sandberg, that's not always a good thing." There has been really interesting research around it, which has shown that — this is not a hard and fast rule, but you need 30% of leadership or decision-making people to be women or queer or Black or Brown — whatever shifts you're trying to make, you do need that sort of consortium, and when one person ends up being the token leader of something, then you turn into Margaret Thatcher because you're playing by their rules; you have no choice but to play by their rules. So you have to break that down with a with a small horde.

BROOKE: I like that idea. I mean, personally, you have very much been my guide into the more active world of organizing and of being an activist. You're very welcoming and you're very positive, and it's always fun, even when it’s really not fun, it's fun, because at least you're with people who you care about. That's really great.

We've been through a crazy presidential election in 2016. A crazy, very difficult four years of Trump. And then, just when you think it's almost over ... Bam! There's this pandemic. And then there's a huge uprising. And it's not like this is new, but this uprising in the awareness around police brutality, and George Floyd, and the whole push to the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement ... Now we're sort of panting and out of breath ... And then there was another election, and I feel kind of a little bit frazzled and disorganized, in my brain. I just want to take a nap. But I know that I can take a quick nap, but then I got to get back up.

I want to talk a little bit about voting rights and some other stuff that you're working on, and how we, as a collective — and people who are reading this and listening to this — might be able to find what they want to do.

SARAH SOPHIE: Well, the first thing I want to say is that what you said about me is also a testament to who you are, because I do think to be doing this kind of work you have to just be willing to jump in and not be an expert, but also let the folks who are most impacted lead.

And that joyful energy is really important, especially with what we've been dealing with in the more recent years, which is the rise of fascism, the rise of a white nationalist, misogynist fascism. And so much of authoritarianism and fascism and all that stuff, it relies on keeping people separated, creating divisions amongst communities that have issues in common, and not leaving room for joy, because they make you so tired and so afraid.

So I think one really important way to counteract that is by creating community across differences, creating movements and groups and communities that aren't consensus based, but are like, “We can agree on our shared humanity and our shared issues, and we can also have different strategies and different theories of change.” The joyful, fun welcoming part of it, I think, is really critical. Because I think all oppression sort of relies on us feeling isolated and alone.

BROOKE: Totally. I'm with you. And so how do you deal with the kind of overwhelm, with the tsunami of what's going on, and make sense of how you expend your energy and what you do? And do you just work yourself to the bone?

SARAH SOPHIE: No! I remember a few months after the Women's March we were at some conference that we were all speaking at in LA and someone asked Carmen Perez basically the same question. And Carmen was like, “If you're tired, you should rest.” And I was like, that's a fucking great answer. You're not serving anyone if you're tired.

And I understand why it's confusing right now. The landscape is confusing right now. But I will say, the way I combat overwhelm is I just do one thing at a time. I make my daily list, and then I just do one thing at a time. If I don't get to all of it, then that is just the way it is.

And you know, I prioritize my family and I try to prioritize my health. I know, for example, for me, that I err towards depression and anxiety. That is something that has always been in my life, and so I need to exercise every day, or I get depressed. You need to eat, you need to drink water. And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about.

"And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about." - Sarah Sophie

And you know, if voting rights is your thing, there's so much information and so many good places to get involved. And if police violence or racial justice is your thing, there's so many good places to get involved. Immigration, whatever it is, you know, abortion, that's a big one right now — reproductive rights are certainly under attack. So choose your thing and then you don't need to be an expert. The cool thing is there are people who've been working on this stuff forever, it's their lived experience, and they're from the community most impacted. You let them lead. You just show up and be quiet and ask how you can help, you know, so it sort of takes the pressure off.

Then once you're doing that, you see the ways in which all this stuff is connected. I'm working with the Working Families Party right now on jobs, care and climate, because we're trying to push Congress to pass the jobs bill. The brilliant thing, and where we're at now, is that jobs are connected to care, which is connected to parenting, which is connected to caregiving, which is connected to a minimum wage, which is connected to sustainable environmental new jobs versus the bad jobs where we're just killing the environment. And the intersections just become immediate and felt and seen. Then suddenly, even though you're tackling this big, systemic beast, you also realize like, “Oh, I can just do my one thing at a time over here. And I'm actually affecting all sorts of other stuff.” As long as you're critical and smart about what you're signing up for.

BROOKE: That makes it makes a lot of sense. Do you have any advice when we're looking for organizations to get involved with? How do you judge what is worthy?

SARAH SOPHIE: I mean, I think you just have to look at track records and ask around. I'm a big fan of if I don't know something, I ask. I also think one of the cool things about getting older is that I realized that I'm a pretty curious person. I just remember being in law school, and like, if you don't know the answer, you feel so ashamed. And I'm realizing now there's so much power in asking. I think if you stay curious, you stay young, and then you keep learning. And also, you're not as cynical. There are always good questions to ask and research to be done, and I just happen to be a fan of both of those things. But you know, also don't just do what everyone else is doing. ... Trust the people who are most impacted. Look for them as a resource and don't just get on the bandwagon just because everybody else is. Ask around.

BROOKE: Yeah, I think that it's a really good piece of advice to actually ask people, because it's just so easy with Instagram to just repost, you know? And you just kind of do that without actually taking the extra step.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, I think it's really dangerous to just blindly repost things. I don't repost something unless I do the homework, you know? It’s its own kind of work. If I see something that's interesting to me, I will go to the original source of where it came from, I will read the whole thing, ... And I certainly mess up all the time. It is laborious. On Instagram, for example, people would DM, “Well you didn’t post about blah blah blah,” I'm like, “First of all, you're not paying me to do anything. And second of all, why in the world would I post about something that I don't understand or don't have answers to? I'm gonna wait untilI know what I'm talking about.” And I think that's such a more responsible way to work. It actually takes quite a bit of footwork. And I know that, for example, my Instagram Stories look like chaos, but I I've done the footwork, I'm not posting things unless I really believe in them.

BROOKE: That's actually generally a good social media piece of advice.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's funny because, you know, I'm not technically a social media manager, or I don't consider myself especially good at social media. But I think the reason why I get asked to help with social media so often is I just really believe in — like I said — doing the research, you know? [Activist and writer] Mariame Kaba (who, thank goodness, is finally getting her flowers for the work she does) has this excellent set of questions to ask yourself. I don't have them in front of me, and I might be conflating two sets of questions, but I do tend to ask myself: “Is there somebody else who should be saying this? Does it benefit anyone for you to say this? Are there other people who are already doing the work that I can be uplifting? Is this true? Does it need to be said? Is it kind? If I put this out in the world, how does this affect people with other lived experiences than me? Could this possibly be hurtful?” I go through a whole litany of questions when I'm writing something or pushing something out. I'm always surprised when other people with big platforms don't do that. I really recommend it. I recommend sitting with an idea. Thinking about it, making sure that you're the right person to be saying it, making sure that it's the correct information, making sure that it's helpful.

BROOKE: Yeah, but it's actually a considerable amount of extra work, and time and commitment. And that sometimes can be hard.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, but then I also think if you start asking yourself those questions, it also informs your relationships to people in real face-to-face life. And then I think it affects your work. I used to be so insecure about the fact that I really don't like talking unless I'm really sure I want to say what I want to say. I was always jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, “Blahblahblahblah ...” But then I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything.

BROOKE: All right, let me think of other things I want to talk about. Let's see ... When you talked about exercising, what do you do? Are you sort of specific about that? Do you like switch it up?

SARAH SOPHIE: I realize I have a lot of discipline around exercise, just because I was a pretty serious dancer from when I was a little kid to pretty late in my teens. And it was ballet, which I think is a terrible culture and it's racist and sexist and fat phobic; it's just everything bad out there ... it's okay to be queer, I guess, but I don't know, it’s pretty bad. But it did give me a lot of discipline, so I understand that that's unique to me, and I understand that it's really hard to work exercise into your everyday. I just think it's something that's so ingrained in me that it's easier, so that's my caveat.

Amanda, my trapeze teacher, [and I] started doing trapeze and pilates over FaceTime twice a week. She's been training me from Australia and we've come up with all these like very creative ways to do it; I do that with her two times a week and I love it because she's somebody I love. I get to catch up with her, so it's a total joy. And then I do exercise videos. I like Our Body Electric a lot, that's my favorite. I recommend it, it's very reasonably priced. And there are half an hour to an hour long videos you can do and they're very hard. Some of them are less hard, you're gonna have to ease into it. Or I'll go for a walk or whatever, but I have to do something every day or I get a lot of anxiety.

BROOKE: While we're on the topic of anxiety ... I wanted to touch on being the mother of an emerging teenage daughter.

SARAH SOPHIE: We have that in common, right?

BROOKE: Oh, yes, we do.

SARAH SOPHIE: I love how different they are, and because of our friendship they've been sort of like smushed together their whole lives. They kind of treat each other like cousins; they're kinda dismissive and like, “What's that weirdo doing?” Right? I mean, they really couldn't be more different. It's really funny. And I love them both so much.

BROOKE: I haven't gone deep into this universe yet. But I feel like, as a new mom, there were millions of blogs and websites, but when they get a little bit older, everything just gets quiet. Where's the community of mothers and parents of these teenage kids? Especially daughters. I'm prejudiced, because I only have a female, you have both [teenagers now], they're exploding in this way that is really kind of amazing. Do you talk to your daughter about what you're up to? How much is she just like “Ugh!”? Or how much is she engaged? What do you think about what it's like, right now, raising a teenage girl?

SARAH SOPHIE: It's so funny that you're saying all this, because you and I have been in this parenting game for a while now. It's always so funny the way that somebody will have a baby, and suddenly they're on blogs and writing and they're an expert. And honestly yes, having a baby is very hard. And to be honest, it’s not my favorite part of parenting; it's physically hard. What shifts as your kids get older, is that their needs for you really change. So I would say the first thing about parenting is understanding that, from the second they leave your body, it is an endless process of letting go. And that is your job.

It is not our job to raise babies, or toddlers. Our job is to raise adults who can function out in the world and who, ideally, don't need us in the way that they need us now. But that is a hard thing. It's hard, and it's sad. And you know, it breaks my heart daily, but then when I see them thrive at something on their own, that's so much better than me doing it for them, so it ends up being worthwhile. My boys are younger, they're not teenagers yet, not even necessarily preteens. But I do think what I've learned, and I'm curious to hear what you think also, what I've learned about having a teenager is, first of all, I love it — it's really fun. It's really satisfying in a way that babies aren’t. You can have the most intense and deep and meaningful conversations, because you know each other so well, and you are there, you know? I mean, the other weird thing about parenting is that you're their safe place and because you're their safe place, you're also their garbage can; they bring home all their anxiety and frustration and questioning about things, and dump it on you. I would say the other thing to just start with is: don't take it personally, which is really hard. You have to be the garbage man, you just have to be like, “Throw your garbage on me and I will absorb it, because I don't want you going out in the world and being a psychopath.” And once they've dumped their garbage on you, finding ways to root through the garbage and have conversations that are helpful around it.

I would just say that with teenagers, so much is changing for them. You just have to sink into what you felt like as a teenager and not let go of that, keep it present, always. Because I think so many adults just forget what it was like to be a kid or forget what it was like to be a teenager, and then you become unrelatable to your kid. I know a lot of my friends and a lot of other parents think I'm definitely too lax and too fast and loose. But my feeling is (and I know that this is also a sort of trope of a white mom, and I know that I am leaning into that trope) but I would so much rather have my kids come to me and be honest, and explore all the things, whether they're dangerous, or sexual, or drugs or whatever. I would rather be part of that exploration and have an open communication line and have them feel like they can talk to me about it, versus being a harsh disciplinarian. I have seen people really beautifully balance those things. There are people I know who are parents and who are hardcore disciplinarians, but also somehow managed to keep a line of communication and trust and love open. That's just not something I've managed to do. When it counts, I'll come down on them. And someday I will ground somebody, mark my words! I'm gonna do it. But I think if you have that trust and connection to your teenage self, then your disappointment in them is as bad as you grounding them, it's as bad as you taking something they care about away. Because they don’t want to disappoint you when you have that relationship. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't know. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

"I would just say that with teenagers, so much is changing for them. You just have to sink into what you felt like as a teenager and not let go of that, keep it present, always. Because I think so many adults just forget what it was like to be a kid or forget what it was like to be a teenager, and then you become unrelatable to your kid." - Sarah Sophie Flicker

BROOKE: I feel like it's all swimming in the dark a little bit. But I do feel similarly. And I do feel like my personal struggle is trying to figure out how to balance the discipline and the freedom. And it is also true that the most important thing to me is having that trust and having that communication. The most important thing is that we have the line of communication open, like that's the absolute most important thing that you know, when the shit hits the fan, I'd much rather her come to us [her parents] then to some 15-year-old random boy she met two weeks ago. Do you know what I mean? That's always been my goal; if the time comes when she takes the mushrooms, I want her to understand that she should call me and I'll come and bring her home, not try to crawl back home, you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: You know they're gonna do what they're going to do. They are going to take the mushrooms or they're going to have the sex or they're going to drink the drink or get on the subway by themselves. Whatever they're gonna do, they're gonna do it -- they really will, whether you discipline them or not. My feeling is, imagine how shitty it is to be a kid. I think about it all the time. Having no agency. I felt so bad for my kids when they were little. They didn't want to put their fucking socks on or something, you know, because the seams were annoying on the socks, or one of my sons being like, “I hate hard pants, they hurt my penis!” And I was like, “I don't have one of those, but that makes so much sense.” They have no agency. So I really try to say yes as much as I can to things that really don't matter. If you don't want to wear socks, don't wear socks, and then your feet are gonna be cold. And then tomorrow, you'll come home and you'll put socks on. Giving them control over their bodies, like, what hairstyle they want, what they want to wear ... I think the more agency you give them as they grow up, the better decisions they make when they're older. And all I really want is somebody who feels safe and confident and is kind and a good person making good choices out in the world. That's it.

BROOKE: How involved are your kids in your activist work?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think that's another one. When they're younger it's much easier, and I think they're more interested. But then I let them dictate what they want to go to, and what they don't want to go to, and where their interest lies around something. All three of my kids have had hugely activist moments around issues they really cared about, but I don't want to make it a chore for them. At the end of the day I know they get really proud when they see something that they know I played some small part in. It makes them feel very happy.

I think the important thing is not forcing them to go to things. The important thing is having conversations about it. The important thing is who are the community you're surrounding your kids with? Are you intentional about diversity in your community? Especially for white parents? Are you intentional about talking to kids about race, sex, gender, birth control, the climate, class, whatever? Because the truth is, there are bajillions of kids all over the world whose lived experience is injustice or oppression, or poverty or racism. Certainly, my kids can handle conversations around it if other kids have to experience it in their daily lives. That's the thing that feels important to me. I don't care if they come to a march with me, or whatever. I want them to have all the information I have in ways that are age appropriate for them.

BROOKE: Exactly. And then I’ve listened to my daughter talk to other people, and say really thoughtful things. And I'm sort of like, “Oh, it sank in and all those different conversations and the documentary we watched or ... ”

SARAH SOPHIE: She's also so wonderful. You just see her absorbing information and absorbing her surroundings, she has such a keen awareness of things that it doesn't surprise me she's a really wonderful person.

BROOKE: Like you are, too, but that's that whole thing about being curious. I think it's maybe the most important quality.

SARAH SOPHIE: I agree. And I'm not trying to generalize, but it’s something that straight men have a real problem with: If you don't know, just ask. Don't pretend like you know.

BROOKE: Haha! Yeah, that’s so true! Okay, last thing, I feel like we should just touch really quickly on the chorus, The Resistance Revival Chorus, of which you are one of the founders.

SARAH SOPHIE: And you are a founding member.

BROOKE: I am a founding member; I was there right at the beginning, which was amazing. And I'm so incredibly grateful, I have no idea how I would have made it through, no idea.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, my gosh. We are so lucky, SO lucky. I mean, because that was sort of a fluke, right? The way that all came about was about, let's see, a month or so after the Women's March, we organized -- and you were part of organizing this -- A Day Without a Woman, which was on International Women's Day.

And it was in the tradition of how that day originated, as you know, in the spirit of women's striking and with a socialist vibe. And we all had this big rally and march. This is in 2017. So I was with Nelini, who is one of my best friends and also just the best cultural organizer out there in my biased opinion, and she also is at the Working Families Party. She's just amazing. She also, which a lot of people don't know, has a very robust history in acting and musical theater and has the voice of an angel/powerhouse ... and she can tap dance. So we were marching and she had somehow grabbed someone's bullhorn and just started singing, and I was singing with her and I thought, “Oh, we need music. Where’s the music been this year?”

I was the creative director of a political theater group called The Citizens Band for 12 years in New York, and I was thinking, “Okay, The Citizens Band was a lot of work. But what if we just got a bunch of women identifying people together, and we sang together?” I think everyone can remember 2017... it was a heartbreaker. And also just coming off the Women's March, which was so intense in good ways, and in bad ways. We were in that together. It was a painful time, a really painful time for everybody — certainly the people most affected by all of Trump’s chaos.

And so I thought, “Let's just have people over to my house, and let's just sing together. And let's just start a chorus.” In a lot of ways it was for our own healing, but then also with the idea that we would resurface old songs that we could bring to rallies and protests and whatever, and also write our new music.

Oh, and another cool thing was when we were working on the Women's March, Harry Belafonte let us work in his office. There are all these great anecdotes about him, but I just remember this one time where we were talking about something and it was so chaotic in that office, and we were surrounded by all of Mr. Belafonte’s awards and movie posters -- it was just so amazing to be in that environment -- and someone said, “Well, then we're just preaching to the choir if we do this thing,” and he's literally in the corner, 90 years old, and he says, “Sometimes you got to preach to the choir if you want them to keep on singing.”

And I was like, oh, man, we need people to keep singing right now. And look what they're doing to our song. We need to reclaim the music. So then Nelini and I had to convince Ginny — she’s now the manager of the Chorus, she was the road manager of The Roots and all this stuff — we had to convince Ginny and Paola and they were like, “I don't get it? Why do we want to sing together?” and Nelini and I were like, “You just have to believe us."

Then we had this first rehearsal at my house, you were there, right? It was amazing. I have videos from it, it was so magical. There's something so healing about singing with people and then specifically singing with women and femmes and that feeling when your voices are blending. I'm not a professional singer, like you Brooke — you’re a great musician and singer, I am not, but I love it so much. It was just that feeling, like yesterday — we had rehearsal yesterday, and when our voices are melding together, that's so much more communal and powerful and community-oriented than just being a badass singer by yourself. You know what I mean? There's something that happens when people's voices harmonize together.

BROOKE: I think that literally there's a serotonin release or something. And you feel this in community, as opposed to singing by yourself, which is why people are singing in churches and synagogues and temples, you know? I think that circles us back to what we were talking about, at the very beginning, about community and the importance of community. The Chorus in itself is a community.

"I think that literally there's a serotonin release or something. And so you feel this in community, as opposed to singing by yourself, which is why people are singing in churches and synagogues and temples, you know? I think that circles us back to what we were talking about, at the very beginning, about community and the importance of community. The Chorus in itself is a community." - Sarah Sophie

And then there are also other Choruses that have started in other cities, which are their own communities, but then we're all this community together. It is just this incredible thing to see how the idea is really spreading in this great way. When we have our performances and we're connecting with people, whether it be on the streets, at a march, or on a stage with an audience, that's a whole other sense of community that we're building together. At the beginning, that first year, we did a lot of those nights where we would sing songs, we'd have guests come and sing with us, and we would also pepper the evening with different things that were going on politically and celebrate some of the positive things that were going on. I have a number of friends who said, “God, you know, I felt so horrible, and I wasn't even going to go out and then I came and by the time I left, I was like, ‘Yes! We got this!’” You know, it's just this really nice feeling.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's amazing. Wait, there's something else I was gonna say that's really amazed me about the RRC. I mean the very public falling apart of the Women's March was so painful and I was so afraid that the takeaway was going to be that women really can't work together across class, race, whatever. So much of that [conflict within the Women’s March] has been resolved, at least inter-personally — I don't really care about publicly — but the Chorus has been just so heartening. One thing that I found incredibly beautiful about this last year was, rightfully, so many similar groups or performance spaces just sort of went dark, because what else were you gonna do? It is pretty noteworthy that we stayed out on the streets the whole year. I don't think a month went by, maybe the first or certainly the first two months of pandemic when no one left the house — in New York you couldn’t — but we still found ways to be in community. We had digital music nights, in these little boxes, and everyone would be performing solo because you can't sing together on Zoom. But I like the fact that we've managed to do everything we've done. And really, barring the first few months, there hasn't been a month where we haven't been together, out on the streets. And no one's gotten paid this year. It was all just protests and rallies — that was it. But it's just been really wonderful. And I'm very grateful that we have it.

BROOKE: Yeah, totally. Me too, sister. So that was really good. Okay, I think that even though I would like to continue talking forever, I have to get to UPS with a box to send to Maine, because we're leaving tomorrow morning.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, that's exciting. You're gonna have the best time.

BROOKE: Yeah, we're very excited. Although, I'm not going to show you what my house looks like now ...

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, wow. Yeah, no, I can only imagine. That's a lot. So I have some more Zooms I get to be on, don't be jealous.

BROOKE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, so, so much.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh my gosh, thank you. It was so fun. I love you so much.

BROOKE: I love you too.

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Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

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Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

CONVERSATIONS

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

SARAH SOPHIE: My texts are going bananas today.

BROOKE: Why?

SARAH SOPHIE: Because I'm working on like eight different projects and I've got 50,000 Zooms today and everybody needs things. And my children like to text a lot ...

BROOKE: With a million different texts for one piece of information.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, people love to do that. I want all the information in one paragraph. And I want it bullet pointed with questions. I do not want to have to keep looking at my phone for eight different thoughts in a row. I guess it’s a generational thing. I asked all my Millennial friends and my Gen Z friends: “Why do you do that?” And they've all said it's because they're thinking as they write.

BROOKE: How about think first and then write second?

SARAH SOPHIE: Exactly!

BROOKE: Okay, well, our work here is done.

SARAH SOPHIE: We’ve fixed the generational divide and all communication and we're out.

BROOKE: And so let us start for real, I suppose, by introducing ourselves. My name is Brooke Williams; I am ... this is where I always have a lot of difficulty, because I do a lot of different things ... but currently, at this very moment, I am interviewing my dear friend, Sarah Sophie Flicker. And this is something that I do like to do quite a bit — profile people that are amazing and that the world needs to know about and learn from.

SARAH SOPHIE: And am I interviewing you too?

BROOKE: Well, it’s me, asking you all sorts of different things. And then we can talk about them together also. It’s more ...

SARAH SOPHIE: ... conversational. So, for example, if I have question to ask you, I can. And I will.

BROOKE: Yes! And so now you introduce yourself.

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm Sarah Sophie Flicker. I'm a cultural organizer, an artist, a mom, a trapeze, aerial dance enthusiast, sometimes writer ...

BROOKE: Wait, wait, tell me the first one again?

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm a cultural organizer, which took me forever to find the language for. That's what I do. I organize around politics and culture, and usually at the intersection of those two things.

BROOKE: How did you find that? And by that, I mean how did you find that calling in real life? What it is that you're doing? And then also, because this is my big struggle, how did you brilliantly figure out how to put it into words?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think I have smart friends that I was constantly asking, “What do I do? Who am I? What do I call myself?” I think that there's too much pressure on people, and especially in the world we're living in now. Like, when I talk to young people, I'm constantly saying, “You do not need to know what you want to do with your life.”

Obviously, this comes with a lot of privilege, you know, if you have the resources, funds, privilege to follow your passion, then you should. I mean, because that's really how I came to this job. And I certainly did all sorts of, or at least tried to do all sorts of, traditional things. I went to law school, I was a paralegal, I worked at restaurants and cafes, I was a wardrobe assistant, a makeup assistant, I worked in malls and stores doing makeup stuff. I was an actor, I was a singer, I was a dancer, I was in TV and commercials, theater ...

And I finally just realized that the thing I like doing the most is I love creating community, and I love creating community that forces change. On the justice spectrum, obviously. Before really settling in as a cultural organizer, I was doing a lot of content for orgs and campaigns and social justice issues - abortion, reproductive justice, climate, you know, all of the above, and I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution. Whether that's like a concert or a march, or something in my house, or you know, something for a candidate or an org, or creating media content, it always hinges on some form of community and togetherness and the idea that we are certainly better together than we are alone. And that's been sort of my North Star, I guess.

" I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution" - Sarah Sophie

BROOKE: It's a good North Star. My experience of you in your house is that it’s this kind of nerve center for so many different things that are going on. And there's always a million different people in and out. You have a couple of people over on one side, and they're working on something, and then your kids run through, and then there's somebody else over there ... It just feels there's an energy there that helps you feel like you can actually do things. It helps me when I'm there. I feel like “We can get this done!” you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: That makes me really happy. And you're always one of the first people I call to say, “Brooke, I'm doing this weird thing.” And I love that you're always so super down to do it. I think we're very lucky in that we have, over the years, created a really robust community of doers and people who care a lot, but also bring wildly different skill sets to the table and sort of get in where they fit in. I really love that, you know, because there's so much ego attached to work in general. I don't like doing things alone and I know that I'm not good at doing things alone, I'm good when there's lots of people inspiring each other and bringing their best assets to the table. That's when we thrive.

And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing. Even though you can get energy from the mass.

But there always is some sort of core of people who are making it happen. And it’s usually a pretty big group of people. Like with the Women's March. Media wise, you understand why certain people end up being the leaders or the spokespeople or whatever, but the reality is there's always scores of people working together making these things happen. The charismatic leader trope, I think, is pretty dangerous, and ultimately gets in the way of creating sustainable change.

BROOKE: Which I feel like is part of why, at least in my opinion, women-led groups tend to be more successful in this way. Not that there's not ego, because there is, but somehow there's also a balance of that feeling of the importance of community and the importance of working together, and also the understanding that there's too much to do to try to be in charge of it all.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, and who wants that? I mean, I guess some people do, but I don’t. It's interesting, there have been a lot of studies about women-led and fem-led things. [For example] we just had our mayoral primary, and I absolutely ranked a woman first because she spoke to my belief system the most. But people always say, “Oh, well, you know, look at Margaret Thatcher, or look at Sheryl Sandberg, that's not always a good thing." There has been really interesting research around it, which has shown that — this is not a hard and fast rule, but you need 30% of leadership or decision-making people to be women or queer or Black or Brown — whatever shifts you're trying to make, you do need that sort of consortium, and when one person ends up being the token leader of something, then you turn into Margaret Thatcher because you're playing by their rules; you have no choice but to play by their rules. So you have to break that down with a with a small horde.

BROOKE: I like that idea. I mean, personally, you have very much been my guide into the more active world of organizing and of being an activist. You're very welcoming and you're very positive, and it's always fun, even when it’s really not fun, it's fun, because at least you're with people who you care about. That's really great.

We've been through a crazy presidential election in 2016. A crazy, very difficult four years of Trump. And then, just when you think it's almost over ... Bam! There's this pandemic. And then there's a huge uprising. And it's not like this is new, but this uprising in the awareness around police brutality, and George Floyd, and the whole push to the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement ... Now we're sort of panting and out of breath ... And then there was another election, and I feel kind of a little bit frazzled and disorganized, in my brain. I just want to take a nap. But I know that I can take a quick nap, but then I got to get back up.

I want to talk a little bit about voting rights and some other stuff that you're working on, and how we, as a collective — and people who are reading this and listening to this — might be able to find what they want to do.

"And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing." - Sarah Sophie

SARAH SOPHIE: Well, the first thing I want to say is that what you said about me is also a testament to who you are, because I do think to be doing this kind of work you have to just be willing to jump in and not be an expert, but also let the folks who are most impacted lead.

And that joyful energy is really important, especially with what we've been dealing with in the more recent years, which is the rise of fascism, the rise of a white nationalist, misogynist fascism. And so much of authoritarianism and fascism and all that stuff, it relies on keeping people separated, creating divisions amongst communities that have issues in common, and not leaving room for joy, because they make you so tired and so afraid.

So I think one really important way to counteract that is by creating community across differences, creating movements and groups and communities that aren't consensus based, but are like, “We can agree on our shared humanity and our shared issues, and we can also have different strategies and different theories of change.” The joyful, fun welcoming part of it, I think, is really critical. Because I think all oppression sort of relies on us feeling isolated and alone.

BROOKE: Totally. I'm with you. And so how do you deal with the kind of overwhelm, with the tsunami of what's going on, and make sense of how you expend your energy and what you do? And do you just work yourself to the bone?

SARAH SOPHIE: No! I remember a few months after the Women's March we were at some conference that we were all speaking at in LA and someone asked Carmen Perez basically the same question. And Carmen was like, “If you're tired, you should rest.” And I was like, that's a fucking great answer. You're not serving anyone if you're tired.

And I understand why it's confusing right now. The landscape is confusing right now. But I will say, the way I combat overwhelm is I just do one thing at a time. I make my daily list, and then I just do one thing at a time. If I don't get to all of it, then that is just the way it is.

And you know, I prioritize my family and I try to prioritize my health. I know, for example, for me, that I err towards depression and anxiety. That is something that has always been in my life, and so I need to exercise every day, or I get depressed. You need to eat, you need to drink water. And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about.

"And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about." - Sarah Sophie

And you know, if voting rights is your thing, there's so much information and so many good places to get involved. And if police violence or racial justice is your thing, there's so many good places to get involved. Immigration, whatever it is, you know, abortion, that's a big one right now — reproductive rights are certainly under attack. So choose your thing and then you don't need to be an expert. The cool thing is there are people who've been working on this stuff forever, it's their lived experience, and they're from the community most impacted. You let them lead. You just show up and be quiet and ask how you can help, you know, so it sort of takes the pressure off.

Then once you're doing that, you see the ways in which all this stuff is connected. I'm working with the Working Families Party right now on jobs, care and climate, because we're trying to push Congress to pass the jobs bill. The brilliant thing, and where we're at now, is that jobs are connected to care, which is connected to parenting, which is connected to caregiving, which is connected to a minimum wage, which is connected to sustainable environmental new jobs versus the bad jobs where we're just killing the environment. And the intersections just become immediate and felt and seen. Then suddenly, even though you're tackling this big, systemic beast, you also realize like, “Oh, I can just do my one thing at a time over here. And I'm actually affecting all sorts of other stuff.” As long as you're critical and smart about what you're signing up for.

BROOKE: That makes it makes a lot of sense. Do you have any advice when we're looking for organizations to get involved with? How do you judge what is worthy?

SARAH SOPHIE: I mean, I think you just have to look at track records and ask around. I'm a big fan of if I don't know something, I ask. I also think one of the cool things about getting older is that I realized that I'm a pretty curious person. I just remember being in law school, and like, if you don't know the answer, you feel so ashamed. And I'm realizing now there's so much power in asking. I think if you stay curious, you stay young, and then you keep learning. And also, you're not as cynical. There are always good questions to ask and research to be done, and I just happen to be a fan of both of those things. But you know, also don't just do what everyone else is doing. ... Trust the people who are most impacted. Look for them as a resource and don't just get on the bandwagon just because everybody else is. Ask around.

BROOKE: Yeah, I think that it's a really good piece of advice to actually ask people, because it's just so easy with Instagram to just repost, you know? And you just kind of do that without actually taking the extra step.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, I think it's really dangerous to just blindly repost things. I don't repost something unless I do the homework, you know? It’s its own kind of work. If I see something that's interesting to me, I will go to the original source of where it came from, I will read the whole thing, ... And I certainly mess up all the time. It is laborious. On Instagram, for example, people would DM, “Well you didn’t post about blah blah blah,” I'm like, “First of all, you're not paying me to do anything. And second of all, why in the world would I post about something that I don't understand or don't have answers to? I'm gonna wait untilI know what I'm talking about.” And I think that's such a more responsible way to work. It actually takes quite a bit of footwork. And I know that, for example, my Instagram Stories look like chaos, but I I've done the footwork, I'm not posting things unless I really believe in them.

BROOKE: That's actually generally a good social media piece of advice.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's funny because, you know, I'm not technically a social media manager, or I don't consider myself especially good at social media. But I think the reason why I get asked to help with social media so often is I just really believe in — like I said — doing the research, you know? [Activist and writer] Mariame Kaba (who, thank goodness, is finally getting her flowers for the work she does) has this excellent set of questions to ask yourself. I don't have them in front of me, and I might be conflating two sets of questions, but I do tend to ask myself: “Is there somebody else who should be saying this? Does it benefit anyone for you to say this? Are there other people who are already doing the work that I can be uplifting? Is this true? Does it need to be said? Is it kind? If I put this out in the world, how does this affect people with other lived experiences than me? Could this possibly be hurtful?” I go through a whole litany of questions when I'm writing something or pushing something out. I'm always surprised when other people with big platforms don't do that. I really recommend it. I recommend sitting with an idea. Thinking about it, making sure that you're the right person to be saying it, making sure that it's the correct information, making sure that it's helpful.

BROOKE: Yeah, but it's actually a considerable amount of extra work, and time and commitment. And that sometimes can be hard.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, but then I also think if you start asking yourself those questions, it also informs your relationships to people in real face-to-face life. And then I think it affects your work. I used to be so insecure about the fact that I really don't like talking unless I'm really sure I want to say what I want to say. I was always jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, “Blahblahblahblah ...” But then I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything.

BROOKE: All right, let me think of other things I want to talk about. Let's see ... When you talked about exercising, what do you do? Are you sort of specific about that? Do you like switch it up?

SARAH SOPHIE: I realize I have a lot of discipline around exercise, just because I was a pretty serious dancer from when I was a little kid to pretty late in my teens. And it was ballet, which I think is a terrible culture and it's racist and sexist and fat phobic; it's just everything bad out there ... it's okay to be queer, I guess, but I don't know, it’s pretty bad. But it did give me a lot of discipline, so I understand that that's unique to me, and I understand that it's really hard to work exercise into your everyday. I just think it's something that's so ingrained in me that it's easier, so that's my caveat.

Amanda, my trapeze teacher, [and I] started doing trapeze and pilates over FaceTime twice a week. She's been training me from Australia and we've come up with all these like very creative ways to do it; I do that with her two times a week and I love it because she's somebody I love. I get to catch up with her, so it's a total joy. And then I do exercise videos. I like Our Body Electric a lot, that's my favorite. I recommend it, it's very reasonably priced. And there are half an hour to an hour long videos you can do and they're very hard. Some of them are less hard, you're gonna have to ease into it. Or I'll go for a walk or whatever, but I have to do something every day or I get a lot of anxiety.

BROOKE: While we're on the topic of anxiety ... I wanted to touch on being the mother of an emerging teenage daughter.

"I was always sort of jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, 'Blahblahblahblah ... ' But then, I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything." -Sarah Sophie

SARAH SOPHIE: We have that in common, right?

BROOKE: Oh, yes, we do.

SARAH SOPHIE: I love how different they are, and because of our friendship they've been sort of like smushed together their whole lives. They kind of treat each other like cousins; they're kinda dismissive and like, “What's that weirdo doing?” Right? I mean, they really couldn't be more different. It's really funny. And I love them both so much.

BROOKE: I haven't gone deep into this universe yet. But I feel like, as a new mom, there were millions of blogs and websites, but when they get a little bit older, everything just gets quiet. Where's the community of mothers and parents of these teenage kids? Especially daughters. I'm prejudiced, because I only have a female, you have both [teenagers now], they're exploding in this way that is really kind of amazing. Do you talk to your daughter about what you're up to? How much is she just like “Ugh!”? Or how much is she engaged? What do you think about what it's like, right now, raising a teenage girl?

SARAH SOPHIE: It's so funny that you're saying all this, because you and I have been in this parenting game for a while now. It's always so funny the way that somebody will have a baby, and suddenly they're on blogs and writing and they're an expert. And honestly yes, having a baby is very hard. And to be honest, it’s not my favorite part of parenting; it's physically hard. What shifts as your kids get older, is that their needs for you really change. So I would say the first thing about parenting is understanding that, from the second they leave your body, it is an endless process of letting go. And that is your job.

It is not our job to raise babies, or toddlers. Our job is to raise adults who can function out in the world and who, ideally, don't need us in the way that they need us now. But that is a hard thing. It's hard, and it's sad. And you know, it breaks my heart daily, but then when I see them thrive at something on their own, that's so much better than me doing it for them, so it ends up being worthwhile. My boys are younger, they're not teenagers yet, not even necessarily preteens. But I do think what I've learned, and I'm curious to hear what you think also, what I've learned about having a teenager is, first of all, I love it — it's really fun. It's really satisfying in a way that babies aren’t. You can have the most intense and deep and meaningful conversations, because you know each other so well, and you are there, you know? I mean, the other weird thing about parenting is that you're their safe place and because you're their safe place, you're also their garbage can; they bring home all their anxiety and frustration and questioning about things, and dump it on you. I would say the other thing to just start with is: don't take it personally, which is really hard. You have to be the garbage man, you just have to be like, “Throw your garbage on me and I will absorb it, because I don't want you going out in the world and being a psychopath.” And once they've dumped their garbage on you, finding ways to root through the garbage and have conversations that are helpful around it.

I would just say that with teenagers, so much is changing for them. You just have to sink into what you felt like as a teenager and not let go of that, keep it present, always. Because I think so many adults just forget what it was like to be a kid or forget what it was like to be a teenager, and then you become unrelatable to your kid. I know a lot of my friends and a lot of other parents think I'm definitely too lax and too fast and loose. But my feeling is (and I know that this is also a sort of trope of a white mom, and I know that I am leaning into that trope) but I would so much rather have my kids come to me and be honest, and explore all the things, whether they're dangerous, or sexual, or drugs or whatever. I would rather be part of that exploration and have an open communication line and have them feel like they can talk to me about it, versus being a harsh disciplinarian. I have seen people really beautifully balance those things. There are people I know who are parents and who are hardcore disciplinarians, but also somehow managed to keep a line of communication and trust and love open. That's just not something I've managed to do. When it counts, I'll come down on them. And someday I will ground somebody, mark my words! I'm gonna do it. But I think if you have that trust and connection to your teenage self, then your disappointment in them is as bad as you grounding them, it's as bad as you taking something they care about away. Because they don’t want to disappoint you when you have that relationship. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't know. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

"I would just say that with teenagers, so much is changing for them. You just have to sink into what you felt like as a teenager and not let go of that, keep it present, always. Because I think so many adults just forget what it was like to be a kid or forget what it was like to be a teenager, and then you become unrelatable to your kid." - Sarah Sophie Flicker

BROOKE: I feel like it's all swimming in the dark a little bit. But I do feel similarly. And I do feel like my personal struggle is trying to figure out how to balance the discipline and the freedom. And it is also true that the most important thing to me is having that trust and having that communication. The most important thing is that we have the line of communication open, like that's the absolute most important thing that you know, when the shit hits the fan, I'd much rather her come to us [her parents] then to some 15-year-old random boy she met two weeks ago. Do you know what I mean? That's always been my goal; if the time comes when she takes the mushrooms, I want her to understand that she should call me and I'll come and bring her home, not try to crawl back home, you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: You know they're gonna do what they're going to do. They are going to take the mushrooms or they're going to have the sex or they're going to drink the drink or get on the subway by themselves. Whatever they're gonna do, they're gonna do it -- they really will, whether you discipline them or not. My feeling is, imagine how shitty it is to be a kid. I think about it all the time. Having no agency. I felt so bad for my kids when they were little. They didn't want to put their fucking socks on or something, you know, because the seams were annoying on the socks, or one of my sons being like, “I hate hard pants, they hurt my penis!” And I was like, “I don't have one of those, but that makes so much sense.” They have no agency. So I really try to say yes as much as I can to things that really don't matter. If you don't want to wear socks, don't wear socks, and then your feet are gonna be cold. And then tomorrow, you'll come home and you'll put socks on. Giving them control over their bodies, like, what hairstyle they want, what they want to wear ... I think the more agency you give them as they grow up, the better decisions they make when they're older. And all I really want is somebody who feels safe and confident and is kind and a good person making good choices out in the world. That's it.

BROOKE: How involved are your kids in your activist work?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think that's another one. When they're younger it's much easier, and I think they're more interested. But then I let them dictate what they want to go to, and what they don't want to go to, and where their interest lies around something. All three of my kids have had hugely activist moments around issues they really cared about, but I don't want to make it a chore for them. At the end of the day I know they get really proud when they see something that they know I played some small part in. It makes them feel very happy.

I think the important thing is not forcing them to go to things. The important thing is having conversations about it. The important thing is who are the community you're surrounding your kids with? Are you intentional about diversity in your community? Especially for white parents? Are you intentional about talking to kids about race, sex, gender, birth control, the climate, class, whatever? Because the truth is, there are bajillions of kids all over the world whose lived experience is injustice or oppression, or poverty or racism. Certainly, my kids can handle conversations around it if other kids have to experience it in their daily lives. That's the thing that feels important to me. I don't care if they come to a march with me, or whatever. I want them to have all the information I have in ways that are age appropriate for them.

BROOKE: Exactly. And then I’ve listened to my daughter talk to other people, and say really thoughtful things. And I'm sort of like, “Oh, it sank in and all those different conversations and the documentary we watched or ... ”

SARAH SOPHIE: She's also so wonderful. You just see her absorbing information and absorbing her surroundings, she has such a keen awareness of things that it doesn't surprise me she's a really wonderful person.

BROOKE: Like you are, too, but that's that whole thing about being curious. I think it's maybe the most important quality.

SARAH SOPHIE: I agree. And I'm not trying to generalize, but it’s something that straight men have a real problem with: If you don't know, just ask. Don't pretend like you know.

BROOKE: Haha! Yeah, that’s so true! Okay, last thing, I feel like we should just touch really quickly on the chorus, The Resistance Revival Chorus, of which you are one of the founders.

SARAH SOPHIE: And you are a founding member.

BROOKE: I am a founding member; I was there right at the beginning, which was amazing. And I'm so incredibly grateful, I have no idea how I would have made it through, no idea.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, my gosh. We are so lucky, SO lucky. I mean, because that was sort of a fluke, right? The way that all came about was about, let's see, a month or so after the Women's March, we organized -- and you were part of organizing this -- A Day Without a Woman, which was on International Women's Day.

And it was in the tradition of how that day originated, as you know, in the spirit of women's striking and with a socialist vibe. And we all had this big rally and march. This is in 2017. So I was with Nelini, who is one of my best friends and also just the best cultural organizer out there in my biased opinion, and she also is at the Working Families Party. She's just amazing. She also, which a lot of people don't know, has a very robust history in acting and musical theater and has the voice of an angel/powerhouse ... and she can tap dance. So we were marching and she had somehow grabbed someone's bullhorn and just started singing, and I was singing with her and I thought, “Oh, we need music. Where’s the music been this year?”

I was the creative director of a political theater group called The Citizens Band for 12 years in New York, and I was thinking, “Okay, The Citizens Band was a lot of work. But what if we just got a bunch of women identifying people together, and we sang together?” I think everyone can remember 2017... it was a heartbreaker. And also just coming off the Women's March, which was so intense in good ways, and in bad ways. We were in that together. It was a painful time, a really painful time for everybody — certainly the people most affected by all of Trump’s chaos.

And so I thought, “Let's just have people over to my house, and let's just sing together. And let's just start a chorus.” In a lot of ways it was for our own healing, but then also with the idea that we would resurface old songs that we could bring to rallies and protests and whatever, and also write our new music.

Oh, and another cool thing was when we were working on the Women's March, Harry Belafonte let us work in his office. There are all these great anecdotes about him, but I just remember this one time where we were talking about something and it was so chaotic in that office, and we were surrounded by all of Mr. Belafonte’s awards and movie posters -- it was just so amazing to be in that environment -- and someone said, “Well, then we're just preaching to the choir if we do this thing,” and he's literally in the corner, 90 years old, and he says, “Sometimes you got to preach to the choir if you want them to keep on singing.”

And I was like, oh, man, we need people to keep singing right now. And look what they're doing to our song. We need to reclaim the music. So then Nelini and I had to convince Ginny — she’s now the manager of the Chorus, she was the road manager of The Roots and all this stuff — we had to convince Ginny and Paola and they were like, “I don't get it? Why do we want to sing together?” and Nelini and I were like, “You just have to believe us."

Then we had this first rehearsal at my house, you were there, right? It was amazing. I have videos from it, it was so magical. There's something so healing about singing with people and then specifically singing with women and femmes and that feeling when your voices are blending. I'm not a professional singer, like you Brooke — you’re a great musician and singer, I am not, but I love it so much. It was just that feeling, like yesterday — we had rehearsal yesterday, and when our voices are melding together, that's so much more communal and powerful and community-oriented than just being a badass singer by yourself. You know what I mean? There's something that happens when people's voices harmonize together.

BROOKE: I think that literally there's a serotonin release or something. And you feel this in community, as opposed to singing by yourself, which is why people are singing in churches and synagogues and temples, you know? I think that circles us back to what we were talking about, at the very beginning, about community and the importance of community. The Chorus in itself is a community.

"I think that literally there's a serotonin release or something. And so you feel this in community, as opposed to singing by yourself, which is why people are singing in churches and synagogues and temples, you know? I think that circles us back to what we were talking about, at the very beginning, about community and the importance of community. The Chorus in itself is a community." - Sarah Sophie

And then there are also other Choruses that have started in other cities, which are their own communities, but then we're all this community together. It is just this incredible thing to see how the idea is really spreading in this great way. When we have our performances and we're connecting with people, whether it be on the streets, at a march, or on a stage with an audience, that's a whole other sense of community that we're building together. At the beginning, that first year, we did a lot of those nights where we would sing songs, we'd have guests come and sing with us, and we would also pepper the evening with different things that were going on politically and celebrate some of the positive things that were going on. I have a number of friends who said, “God, you know, I felt so horrible, and I wasn't even going to go out and then I came and by the time I left, I was like, ‘Yes! We got this!’” You know, it's just this really nice feeling.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's amazing. Wait, there's something else I was gonna say that's really amazed me about the RRC. I mean the very public falling apart of the Women's March was so painful and I was so afraid that the takeaway was going to be that women really can't work together across class, race, whatever. So much of that [conflict within the Women’s March] has been resolved, at least inter-personally — I don't really care about publicly — but the Chorus has been just so heartening. One thing that I found incredibly beautiful about this last year was, rightfully, so many similar groups or performance spaces just sort of went dark, because what else were you gonna do? It is pretty noteworthy that we stayed out on the streets the whole year. I don't think a month went by, maybe the first or certainly the first two months of pandemic when no one left the house — in New York you couldn’t — but we still found ways to be in community. We had digital music nights, in these little boxes, and everyone would be performing solo because you can't sing together on Zoom. But I like the fact that we've managed to do everything we've done. And really, barring the first few months, there hasn't been a month where we haven't been together, out on the streets. And no one's gotten paid this year. It was all just protests and rallies — that was it. But it's just been really wonderful. And I'm very grateful that we have it.

BROOKE: Yeah, totally. Me too, sister. So that was really good. Okay, I think that even though I would like to continue talking forever, I have to get to UPS with a box to send to Maine, because we're leaving tomorrow morning.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, that's exciting. You're gonna have the best time.

BROOKE: Yeah, we're very excited. Although, I'm not going to show you what my house looks like now ...

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, wow. Yeah, no, I can only imagine. That's a lot. So I have some more Zooms I get to be on, don't be jealous.

BROOKE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, so, so much.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh my gosh, thank you. It was so fun. I love you so much.

BROOKE: I love you too.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Brooke Williams & Sarah Sophie Flicker

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Close friends Brooke Williams and Sarah Sophie Flicker discuss what it means to be a community organizer, how to manage social justice overwhelm, parenting a teen and the power of song with The Resistance Revival Chorus.

SARAH SOPHIE: My texts are going bananas today.

BROOKE: Why?

SARAH SOPHIE: Because I'm working on like eight different projects and I've got 50,000 Zooms today and everybody needs things. And my children like to text a lot ...

BROOKE: With a million different texts for one piece of information.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, people love to do that. I want all the information in one paragraph. And I want it bullet pointed with questions. I do not want to have to keep looking at my phone for eight different thoughts in a row. I guess it’s a generational thing. I asked all my Millennial friends and my Gen Z friends: “Why do you do that?” And they've all said it's because they're thinking as they write.

BROOKE: How about think first and then write second?

SARAH SOPHIE: Exactly!

BROOKE: Okay, well, our work here is done.

SARAH SOPHIE: We’ve fixed the generational divide and all communication and we're out.

BROOKE: And so let us start for real, I suppose, by introducing ourselves. My name is Brooke Williams; I am ... this is where I always have a lot of difficulty, because I do a lot of different things ... but currently, at this very moment, I am interviewing my dear friend, Sarah Sophie Flicker. And this is something that I do like to do quite a bit — profile people that are amazing and that the world needs to know about and learn from.

SARAH SOPHIE: And am I interviewing you too?

BROOKE: Well, it’s me, asking you all sorts of different things. And then we can talk about them together also. It’s more ...

SARAH SOPHIE: ... conversational. So, for example, if I have question to ask you, I can. And I will.

BROOKE: Yes! And so now you introduce yourself.

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm Sarah Sophie Flicker. I'm a cultural organizer, an artist, a mom, a trapeze, aerial dance enthusiast, sometimes writer ...

BROOKE: Wait, wait, tell me the first one again?

SARAH SOPHIE: I'm a cultural organizer, which took me forever to find the language for. That's what I do. I organize around politics and culture, and usually at the intersection of those two things.

BROOKE: How did you find that? And by that, I mean how did you find that calling in real life? What it is that you're doing? And then also, because this is my big struggle, how did you brilliantly figure out how to put it into words?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think I have smart friends that I was constantly asking, “What do I do? Who am I? What do I call myself?” I think that there's too much pressure on people, and especially in the world we're living in now. Like, when I talk to young people, I'm constantly saying, “You do not need to know what you want to do with your life.”

Obviously, this comes with a lot of privilege, you know, if you have the resources, funds, privilege to follow your passion, then you should. I mean, because that's really how I came to this job. And I certainly did all sorts of, or at least tried to do all sorts of, traditional things. I went to law school, I was a paralegal, I worked at restaurants and cafes, I was a wardrobe assistant, a makeup assistant, I worked in malls and stores doing makeup stuff. I was an actor, I was a singer, I was a dancer, I was in TV and commercials, theater ...

And I finally just realized that the thing I like doing the most is I love creating community, and I love creating community that forces change. On the justice spectrum, obviously. Before really settling in as a cultural organizer, I was doing a lot of content for orgs and campaigns and social justice issues - abortion, reproductive justice, climate, you know, all of the above, and I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution. Whether that's like a concert or a march, or something in my house, or you know, something for a candidate or an org, or creating media content, it always hinges on some form of community and togetherness and the idea that we are certainly better together than we are alone. And that's been sort of my North Star, I guess.

" I just realized that the thing I like doing the most is creating spaces that feel comfortable for people to get together in and organize for revolution" - Sarah Sophie

BROOKE: It's a good North Star. My experience of you in your house is that it’s this kind of nerve center for so many different things that are going on. And there's always a million different people in and out. You have a couple of people over on one side, and they're working on something, and then your kids run through, and then there's somebody else over there ... It just feels there's an energy there that helps you feel like you can actually do things. It helps me when I'm there. I feel like “We can get this done!” you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: That makes me really happy. And you're always one of the first people I call to say, “Brooke, I'm doing this weird thing.” And I love that you're always so super down to do it. I think we're very lucky in that we have, over the years, created a really robust community of doers and people who care a lot, but also bring wildly different skill sets to the table and sort of get in where they fit in. I really love that, you know, because there's so much ego attached to work in general. I don't like doing things alone and I know that I'm not good at doing things alone, I'm good when there's lots of people inspiring each other and bringing their best assets to the table. That's when we thrive.

And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing. Even though you can get energy from the mass.

But there always is some sort of core of people who are making it happen. And it’s usually a pretty big group of people. Like with the Women's March. Media wise, you understand why certain people end up being the leaders or the spokespeople or whatever, but the reality is there's always scores of people working together making these things happen. The charismatic leader trope, I think, is pretty dangerous, and ultimately gets in the way of creating sustainable change.

BROOKE: Which I feel like is part of why, at least in my opinion, women-led groups tend to be more successful in this way. Not that there's not ego, because there is, but somehow there's also a balance of that feeling of the importance of community and the importance of working together, and also the understanding that there's too much to do to try to be in charge of it all.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, and who wants that? I mean, I guess some people do, but I don’t. It's interesting, there have been a lot of studies about women-led and fem-led things. [For example] we just had our mayoral primary, and I absolutely ranked a woman first because she spoke to my belief system the most. But people always say, “Oh, well, you know, look at Margaret Thatcher, or look at Sheryl Sandberg, that's not always a good thing." There has been really interesting research around it, which has shown that — this is not a hard and fast rule, but you need 30% of leadership or decision-making people to be women or queer or Black or Brown — whatever shifts you're trying to make, you do need that sort of consortium, and when one person ends up being the token leader of something, then you turn into Margaret Thatcher because you're playing by their rules; you have no choice but to play by their rules. So you have to break that down with a with a small horde.

BROOKE: I like that idea. I mean, personally, you have very much been my guide into the more active world of organizing and of being an activist. You're very welcoming and you're very positive, and it's always fun, even when it’s really not fun, it's fun, because at least you're with people who you care about. That's really great.

We've been through a crazy presidential election in 2016. A crazy, very difficult four years of Trump. And then, just when you think it's almost over ... Bam! There's this pandemic. And then there's a huge uprising. And it's not like this is new, but this uprising in the awareness around police brutality, and George Floyd, and the whole push to the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement ... Now we're sort of panting and out of breath ... And then there was another election, and I feel kind of a little bit frazzled and disorganized, in my brain. I just want to take a nap. But I know that I can take a quick nap, but then I got to get back up.

I want to talk a little bit about voting rights and some other stuff that you're working on, and how we, as a collective — and people who are reading this and listening to this — might be able to find what they want to do.

"And I also think that small groups of committed people, throughout time immemorial, is really what has created the most important change. It's never one person and it's rarely a mass movement kind of thing." - Sarah Sophie

SARAH SOPHIE: Well, the first thing I want to say is that what you said about me is also a testament to who you are, because I do think to be doing this kind of work you have to just be willing to jump in and not be an expert, but also let the folks who are most impacted lead.

And that joyful energy is really important, especially with what we've been dealing with in the more recent years, which is the rise of fascism, the rise of a white nationalist, misogynist fascism. And so much of authoritarianism and fascism and all that stuff, it relies on keeping people separated, creating divisions amongst communities that have issues in common, and not leaving room for joy, because they make you so tired and so afraid.

So I think one really important way to counteract that is by creating community across differences, creating movements and groups and communities that aren't consensus based, but are like, “We can agree on our shared humanity and our shared issues, and we can also have different strategies and different theories of change.” The joyful, fun welcoming part of it, I think, is really critical. Because I think all oppression sort of relies on us feeling isolated and alone.

BROOKE: Totally. I'm with you. And so how do you deal with the kind of overwhelm, with the tsunami of what's going on, and make sense of how you expend your energy and what you do? And do you just work yourself to the bone?

SARAH SOPHIE: No! I remember a few months after the Women's March we were at some conference that we were all speaking at in LA and someone asked Carmen Perez basically the same question. And Carmen was like, “If you're tired, you should rest.” And I was like, that's a fucking great answer. You're not serving anyone if you're tired.

And I understand why it's confusing right now. The landscape is confusing right now. But I will say, the way I combat overwhelm is I just do one thing at a time. I make my daily list, and then I just do one thing at a time. If I don't get to all of it, then that is just the way it is.

And you know, I prioritize my family and I try to prioritize my health. I know, for example, for me, that I err towards depression and anxiety. That is something that has always been in my life, and so I need to exercise every day, or I get depressed. You need to eat, you need to drink water. And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about.

"And when you're tired, you should rest. I mean, I honestly think that is like the best advice in the world. And then once you feel a little more rested — I’m hoping everyone does — choose the issues you care about." - Sarah Sophie

And you know, if voting rights is your thing, there's so much information and so many good places to get involved. And if police violence or racial justice is your thing, there's so many good places to get involved. Immigration, whatever it is, you know, abortion, that's a big one right now — reproductive rights are certainly under attack. So choose your thing and then you don't need to be an expert. The cool thing is there are people who've been working on this stuff forever, it's their lived experience, and they're from the community most impacted. You let them lead. You just show up and be quiet and ask how you can help, you know, so it sort of takes the pressure off.

Then once you're doing that, you see the ways in which all this stuff is connected. I'm working with the Working Families Party right now on jobs, care and climate, because we're trying to push Congress to pass the jobs bill. The brilliant thing, and where we're at now, is that jobs are connected to care, which is connected to parenting, which is connected to caregiving, which is connected to a minimum wage, which is connected to sustainable environmental new jobs versus the bad jobs where we're just killing the environment. And the intersections just become immediate and felt and seen. Then suddenly, even though you're tackling this big, systemic beast, you also realize like, “Oh, I can just do my one thing at a time over here. And I'm actually affecting all sorts of other stuff.” As long as you're critical and smart about what you're signing up for.

BROOKE: That makes it makes a lot of sense. Do you have any advice when we're looking for organizations to get involved with? How do you judge what is worthy?

SARAH SOPHIE: I mean, I think you just have to look at track records and ask around. I'm a big fan of if I don't know something, I ask. I also think one of the cool things about getting older is that I realized that I'm a pretty curious person. I just remember being in law school, and like, if you don't know the answer, you feel so ashamed. And I'm realizing now there's so much power in asking. I think if you stay curious, you stay young, and then you keep learning. And also, you're not as cynical. There are always good questions to ask and research to be done, and I just happen to be a fan of both of those things. But you know, also don't just do what everyone else is doing. ... Trust the people who are most impacted. Look for them as a resource and don't just get on the bandwagon just because everybody else is. Ask around.

BROOKE: Yeah, I think that it's a really good piece of advice to actually ask people, because it's just so easy with Instagram to just repost, you know? And you just kind of do that without actually taking the extra step.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, I think it's really dangerous to just blindly repost things. I don't repost something unless I do the homework, you know? It’s its own kind of work. If I see something that's interesting to me, I will go to the original source of where it came from, I will read the whole thing, ... And I certainly mess up all the time. It is laborious. On Instagram, for example, people would DM, “Well you didn’t post about blah blah blah,” I'm like, “First of all, you're not paying me to do anything. And second of all, why in the world would I post about something that I don't understand or don't have answers to? I'm gonna wait untilI know what I'm talking about.” And I think that's such a more responsible way to work. It actually takes quite a bit of footwork. And I know that, for example, my Instagram Stories look like chaos, but I I've done the footwork, I'm not posting things unless I really believe in them.

BROOKE: That's actually generally a good social media piece of advice.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's funny because, you know, I'm not technically a social media manager, or I don't consider myself especially good at social media. But I think the reason why I get asked to help with social media so often is I just really believe in — like I said — doing the research, you know? [Activist and writer] Mariame Kaba (who, thank goodness, is finally getting her flowers for the work she does) has this excellent set of questions to ask yourself. I don't have them in front of me, and I might be conflating two sets of questions, but I do tend to ask myself: “Is there somebody else who should be saying this? Does it benefit anyone for you to say this? Are there other people who are already doing the work that I can be uplifting? Is this true? Does it need to be said? Is it kind? If I put this out in the world, how does this affect people with other lived experiences than me? Could this possibly be hurtful?” I go through a whole litany of questions when I'm writing something or pushing something out. I'm always surprised when other people with big platforms don't do that. I really recommend it. I recommend sitting with an idea. Thinking about it, making sure that you're the right person to be saying it, making sure that it's the correct information, making sure that it's helpful.

BROOKE: Yeah, but it's actually a considerable amount of extra work, and time and commitment. And that sometimes can be hard.

SARAH SOPHIE: Yeah, but then I also think if you start asking yourself those questions, it also informs your relationships to people in real face-to-face life. And then I think it affects your work. I used to be so insecure about the fact that I really don't like talking unless I'm really sure I want to say what I want to say. I was always jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, “Blahblahblahblah ...” But then I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything.

BROOKE: All right, let me think of other things I want to talk about. Let's see ... When you talked about exercising, what do you do? Are you sort of specific about that? Do you like switch it up?

SARAH SOPHIE: I realize I have a lot of discipline around exercise, just because I was a pretty serious dancer from when I was a little kid to pretty late in my teens. And it was ballet, which I think is a terrible culture and it's racist and sexist and fat phobic; it's just everything bad out there ... it's okay to be queer, I guess, but I don't know, it’s pretty bad. But it did give me a lot of discipline, so I understand that that's unique to me, and I understand that it's really hard to work exercise into your everyday. I just think it's something that's so ingrained in me that it's easier, so that's my caveat.

Amanda, my trapeze teacher, [and I] started doing trapeze and pilates over FaceTime twice a week. She's been training me from Australia and we've come up with all these like very creative ways to do it; I do that with her two times a week and I love it because she's somebody I love. I get to catch up with her, so it's a total joy. And then I do exercise videos. I like Our Body Electric a lot, that's my favorite. I recommend it, it's very reasonably priced. And there are half an hour to an hour long videos you can do and they're very hard. Some of them are less hard, you're gonna have to ease into it. Or I'll go for a walk or whatever, but I have to do something every day or I get a lot of anxiety.

BROOKE: While we're on the topic of anxiety ... I wanted to touch on being the mother of an emerging teenage daughter.

"I was always sort of jealous of people that just walked into a meeting or room and were just like, 'Blahblahblahblah ... ' But then, I realized that my style is different. My style is: I wait until I have something really important, or at least that I feel is important and helpful to say, and if I don't have something like that to say, I just don't say anything." -Sarah Sophie

SARAH SOPHIE: We have that in common, right?

BROOKE: Oh, yes, we do.

SARAH SOPHIE: I love how different they are, and because of our friendship they've been sort of like smushed together their whole lives. They kind of treat each other like cousins; they're kinda dismissive and like, “What's that weirdo doing?” Right? I mean, they really couldn't be more different. It's really funny. And I love them both so much.

BROOKE: I haven't gone deep into this universe yet. But I feel like, as a new mom, there were millions of blogs and websites, but when they get a little bit older, everything just gets quiet. Where's the community of mothers and parents of these teenage kids? Especially daughters. I'm prejudiced, because I only have a female, you have both [teenagers now], they're exploding in this way that is really kind of amazing. Do you talk to your daughter about what you're up to? How much is she just like “Ugh!”? Or how much is she engaged? What do you think about what it's like, right now, raising a teenage girl?

SARAH SOPHIE: It's so funny that you're saying all this, because you and I have been in this parenting game for a while now. It's always so funny the way that somebody will have a baby, and suddenly they're on blogs and writing and they're an expert. And honestly yes, having a baby is very hard. And to be honest, it’s not my favorite part of parenting; it's physically hard. What shifts as your kids get older, is that their needs for you really change. So I would say the first thing about parenting is understanding that, from the second they leave your body, it is an endless process of letting go. And that is your job.

It is not our job to raise babies, or toddlers. Our job is to raise adults who can function out in the world and who, ideally, don't need us in the way that they need us now. But that is a hard thing. It's hard, and it's sad. And you know, it breaks my heart daily, but then when I see them thrive at something on their own, that's so much better than me doing it for them, so it ends up being worthwhile. My boys are younger, they're not teenagers yet, not even necessarily preteens. But I do think what I've learned, and I'm curious to hear what you think also, what I've learned about having a teenager is, first of all, I love it — it's really fun. It's really satisfying in a way that babies aren’t. You can have the most intense and deep and meaningful conversations, because you know each other so well, and you are there, you know? I mean, the other weird thing about parenting is that you're their safe place and because you're their safe place, you're also their garbage can; they bring home all their anxiety and frustration and questioning about things, and dump it on you. I would say the other thing to just start with is: don't take it personally, which is really hard. You have to be the garbage man, you just have to be like, “Throw your garbage on me and I will absorb it, because I don't want you going out in the world and being a psychopath.” And once they've dumped their garbage on you, finding ways to root through the garbage and have conversations that are helpful around it.

I would just say that with teenagers, so much is changing for them. You just have to sink into what you felt like as a teenager and not let go of that, keep it present, always. Because I think so many adults just forget what it was like to be a kid or forget what it was like to be a teenager, and then you become unrelatable to your kid. I know a lot of my friends and a lot of other parents think I'm definitely too lax and too fast and loose. But my feeling is (and I know that this is also a sort of trope of a white mom, and I know that I am leaning into that trope) but I would so much rather have my kids come to me and be honest, and explore all the things, whether they're dangerous, or sexual, or drugs or whatever. I would rather be part of that exploration and have an open communication line and have them feel like they can talk to me about it, versus being a harsh disciplinarian. I have seen people really beautifully balance those things. There are people I know who are parents and who are hardcore disciplinarians, but also somehow managed to keep a line of communication and trust and love open. That's just not something I've managed to do. When it counts, I'll come down on them. And someday I will ground somebody, mark my words! I'm gonna do it. But I think if you have that trust and connection to your teenage self, then your disappointment in them is as bad as you grounding them, it's as bad as you taking something they care about away. Because they don’t want to disappoint you when you have that relationship. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't know. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

"I would just say that with teenagers, so much is changing for them. You just have to sink into what you felt like as a teenager and not let go of that, keep it present, always. Because I think so many adults just forget what it was like to be a kid or forget what it was like to be a teenager, and then you become unrelatable to your kid." - Sarah Sophie Flicker

BROOKE: I feel like it's all swimming in the dark a little bit. But I do feel similarly. And I do feel like my personal struggle is trying to figure out how to balance the discipline and the freedom. And it is also true that the most important thing to me is having that trust and having that communication. The most important thing is that we have the line of communication open, like that's the absolute most important thing that you know, when the shit hits the fan, I'd much rather her come to us [her parents] then to some 15-year-old random boy she met two weeks ago. Do you know what I mean? That's always been my goal; if the time comes when she takes the mushrooms, I want her to understand that she should call me and I'll come and bring her home, not try to crawl back home, you know?

SARAH SOPHIE: You know they're gonna do what they're going to do. They are going to take the mushrooms or they're going to have the sex or they're going to drink the drink or get on the subway by themselves. Whatever they're gonna do, they're gonna do it -- they really will, whether you discipline them or not. My feeling is, imagine how shitty it is to be a kid. I think about it all the time. Having no agency. I felt so bad for my kids when they were little. They didn't want to put their fucking socks on or something, you know, because the seams were annoying on the socks, or one of my sons being like, “I hate hard pants, they hurt my penis!” And I was like, “I don't have one of those, but that makes so much sense.” They have no agency. So I really try to say yes as much as I can to things that really don't matter. If you don't want to wear socks, don't wear socks, and then your feet are gonna be cold. And then tomorrow, you'll come home and you'll put socks on. Giving them control over their bodies, like, what hairstyle they want, what they want to wear ... I think the more agency you give them as they grow up, the better decisions they make when they're older. And all I really want is somebody who feels safe and confident and is kind and a good person making good choices out in the world. That's it.

BROOKE: How involved are your kids in your activist work?

SARAH SOPHIE: I think that's another one. When they're younger it's much easier, and I think they're more interested. But then I let them dictate what they want to go to, and what they don't want to go to, and where their interest lies around something. All three of my kids have had hugely activist moments around issues they really cared about, but I don't want to make it a chore for them. At the end of the day I know they get really proud when they see something that they know I played some small part in. It makes them feel very happy.

I think the important thing is not forcing them to go to things. The important thing is having conversations about it. The important thing is who are the community you're surrounding your kids with? Are you intentional about diversity in your community? Especially for white parents? Are you intentional about talking to kids about race, sex, gender, birth control, the climate, class, whatever? Because the truth is, there are bajillions of kids all over the world whose lived experience is injustice or oppression, or poverty or racism. Certainly, my kids can handle conversations around it if other kids have to experience it in their daily lives. That's the thing that feels important to me. I don't care if they come to a march with me, or whatever. I want them to have all the information I have in ways that are age appropriate for them.

BROOKE: Exactly. And then I’ve listened to my daughter talk to other people, and say really thoughtful things. And I'm sort of like, “Oh, it sank in and all those different conversations and the documentary we watched or ... ”

SARAH SOPHIE: She's also so wonderful. You just see her absorbing information and absorbing her surroundings, she has such a keen awareness of things that it doesn't surprise me she's a really wonderful person.

BROOKE: Like you are, too, but that's that whole thing about being curious. I think it's maybe the most important quality.

SARAH SOPHIE: I agree. And I'm not trying to generalize, but it’s something that straight men have a real problem with: If you don't know, just ask. Don't pretend like you know.

BROOKE: Haha! Yeah, that’s so true! Okay, last thing, I feel like we should just touch really quickly on the chorus, The Resistance Revival Chorus, of which you are one of the founders.

SARAH SOPHIE: And you are a founding member.

BROOKE: I am a founding member; I was there right at the beginning, which was amazing. And I'm so incredibly grateful, I have no idea how I would have made it through, no idea.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, my gosh. We are so lucky, SO lucky. I mean, because that was sort of a fluke, right? The way that all came about was about, let's see, a month or so after the Women's March, we organized -- and you were part of organizing this -- A Day Without a Woman, which was on International Women's Day.

And it was in the tradition of how that day originated, as you know, in the spirit of women's striking and with a socialist vibe. And we all had this big rally and march. This is in 2017. So I was with Nelini, who is one of my best friends and also just the best cultural organizer out there in my biased opinion, and she also is at the Working Families Party. She's just amazing. She also, which a lot of people don't know, has a very robust history in acting and musical theater and has the voice of an angel/powerhouse ... and she can tap dance. So we were marching and she had somehow grabbed someone's bullhorn and just started singing, and I was singing with her and I thought, “Oh, we need music. Where’s the music been this year?”

I was the creative director of a political theater group called The Citizens Band for 12 years in New York, and I was thinking, “Okay, The Citizens Band was a lot of work. But what if we just got a bunch of women identifying people together, and we sang together?” I think everyone can remember 2017... it was a heartbreaker. And also just coming off the Women's March, which was so intense in good ways, and in bad ways. We were in that together. It was a painful time, a really painful time for everybody — certainly the people most affected by all of Trump’s chaos.

And so I thought, “Let's just have people over to my house, and let's just sing together. And let's just start a chorus.” In a lot of ways it was for our own healing, but then also with the idea that we would resurface old songs that we could bring to rallies and protests and whatever, and also write our new music.

Oh, and another cool thing was when we were working on the Women's March, Harry Belafonte let us work in his office. There are all these great anecdotes about him, but I just remember this one time where we were talking about something and it was so chaotic in that office, and we were surrounded by all of Mr. Belafonte’s awards and movie posters -- it was just so amazing to be in that environment -- and someone said, “Well, then we're just preaching to the choir if we do this thing,” and he's literally in the corner, 90 years old, and he says, “Sometimes you got to preach to the choir if you want them to keep on singing.”

And I was like, oh, man, we need people to keep singing right now. And look what they're doing to our song. We need to reclaim the music. So then Nelini and I had to convince Ginny — she’s now the manager of the Chorus, she was the road manager of The Roots and all this stuff — we had to convince Ginny and Paola and they were like, “I don't get it? Why do we want to sing together?” and Nelini and I were like, “You just have to believe us."

Then we had this first rehearsal at my house, you were there, right? It was amazing. I have videos from it, it was so magical. There's something so healing about singing with people and then specifically singing with women and femmes and that feeling when your voices are blending. I'm not a professional singer, like you Brooke — you’re a great musician and singer, I am not, but I love it so much. It was just that feeling, like yesterday — we had rehearsal yesterday, and when our voices are melding together, that's so much more communal and powerful and community-oriented than just being a badass singer by yourself. You know what I mean? There's something that happens when people's voices harmonize together.

BROOKE: I think that literally there's a serotonin release or something. And you feel this in community, as opposed to singing by yourself, which is why people are singing in churches and synagogues and temples, you know? I think that circles us back to what we were talking about, at the very beginning, about community and the importance of community. The Chorus in itself is a community.

"I think that literally there's a serotonin release or something. And so you feel this in community, as opposed to singing by yourself, which is why people are singing in churches and synagogues and temples, you know? I think that circles us back to what we were talking about, at the very beginning, about community and the importance of community. The Chorus in itself is a community." - Sarah Sophie

And then there are also other Choruses that have started in other cities, which are their own communities, but then we're all this community together. It is just this incredible thing to see how the idea is really spreading in this great way. When we have our performances and we're connecting with people, whether it be on the streets, at a march, or on a stage with an audience, that's a whole other sense of community that we're building together. At the beginning, that first year, we did a lot of those nights where we would sing songs, we'd have guests come and sing with us, and we would also pepper the evening with different things that were going on politically and celebrate some of the positive things that were going on. I have a number of friends who said, “God, you know, I felt so horrible, and I wasn't even going to go out and then I came and by the time I left, I was like, ‘Yes! We got this!’” You know, it's just this really nice feeling.

SARAH SOPHIE: It's amazing. Wait, there's something else I was gonna say that's really amazed me about the RRC. I mean the very public falling apart of the Women's March was so painful and I was so afraid that the takeaway was going to be that women really can't work together across class, race, whatever. So much of that [conflict within the Women’s March] has been resolved, at least inter-personally — I don't really care about publicly — but the Chorus has been just so heartening. One thing that I found incredibly beautiful about this last year was, rightfully, so many similar groups or performance spaces just sort of went dark, because what else were you gonna do? It is pretty noteworthy that we stayed out on the streets the whole year. I don't think a month went by, maybe the first or certainly the first two months of pandemic when no one left the house — in New York you couldn’t — but we still found ways to be in community. We had digital music nights, in these little boxes, and everyone would be performing solo because you can't sing together on Zoom. But I like the fact that we've managed to do everything we've done. And really, barring the first few months, there hasn't been a month where we haven't been together, out on the streets. And no one's gotten paid this year. It was all just protests and rallies — that was it. But it's just been really wonderful. And I'm very grateful that we have it.

BROOKE: Yeah, totally. Me too, sister. So that was really good. Okay, I think that even though I would like to continue talking forever, I have to get to UPS with a box to send to Maine, because we're leaving tomorrow morning.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, that's exciting. You're gonna have the best time.

BROOKE: Yeah, we're very excited. Although, I'm not going to show you what my house looks like now ...

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh, wow. Yeah, no, I can only imagine. That's a lot. So I have some more Zooms I get to be on, don't be jealous.

BROOKE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, so, so much.

SARAH SOPHIE: Oh my gosh, thank you. It was so fun. I love you so much.

BROOKE: I love you too.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Brooke Williams

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