Keeping Watch Podcast Episode 003 – News and Interviews with Brandon J. Wolf and Ida Eskamani

Brandon Wolf
In the fight for civil rights. The front line was always going to be somewhere. And it just so happens that it’s here in Florida and there. There isn’t a world where I could imagine being anywhere but on it, fighting alongside the people that I love dearly.

Natasha Sutherland
Hey, everybody, welcome to Keeping Watch. I’m just very excited to have you all on here. We’ve got some really great guests coming up in a little bit. Brandon Wolf, press secretary with Equality Florida and Ida Eskamani. So before we dive into the guests that I have on the show, let’s go through a little bit of the news that’s been going on lately.

So, first of all, the biggest thing in the news lately, education, education, education, people have been talking about education. You know, get the AP African-American history stuff going on. But nationally, I found this really, really fascinating. I read in that Congresswoman Lauren Boebert out of Colorado, somebody that is has railed against comprehensive sex education in schools, specifically wanting to cut funding from that program, just announced that her 17 year old son will be making her a 36 year old grandmother.

I thought that was kind of an interesting line there. Another thing. So book bans, according to popular information, there has been some pushback around folks talking about the book banning that’s happening in the state of Florida. So the state of Florida right now is number two in the country for the amount of books that K through 12 schools are banning.

And that’s because of HB seven, the also known as the Stop Work Act. I like to call it the Stop Learning Act. And the governor had a press conference with a big sign that says, Oh, book banning is a hoax. Well, if you have to backpedal right, we’re having some serious problems. Book banning is a real thing. We have videos, we have photos, We have teachers coming out talking about it.

We even had a substitute get fired because they released a video of evidence of book bans. And now we want to go back and talk about how it’s a hoax. Okay. Next thing, Florida lawmakers answer to the insurance crisis make it harder to sue the insurers. This is coming out of the Herald Times and Tallahassee bureau. Apparently, Floridians are paying the highest auto and homeowner’s insurance premiums in the nation, and those rates are going to continue to rise.

And we all know that the legislature had at least one most recent special session to address this, and it actually made things worse. There was a special session before that to address it. It seems like this sort of never ending problem that keeps popping up like Whac-A-Mole in the state of Florida finally coming out of Florida politics. College Board isn’t all bad.

DeSantis cites S.A.T. standardizing testing to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s really interesting because on the one hand, the governor does not like the College Board because of the AP African-American studies course that he had banned and is saying that potentially if they don’t change things based on what he wants, he’s going to ban all AP courses in the state of Florida.

But when it comes to talking mess about DI programs, now all of a sudden we love the College Board. Okay. Coming up next, we’ll be talking to Brandon, Jay Wolf, press secretary of Equality Florida, about all the craziness that’s happening in Florida. And we really don’t have a shortage of any of the craziness. So the conversation will be very, very interesting. Stay tuned.

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Natasha Sutherland
We’re very excited to have Brandon Wolf on with us today. He’s the press secretary for Equality Florida. Brandon is a nationally recognized gun safety and LGBTQ plus civil rights advocate. I know him as a dynamic public speaker. Really enjoyed the speaking engagement when we went to the gala here for Equality Florida in Tallahassee just a few weeks ago. And we’re just so happy to have you. Welcome, Brandon.

Brandon Wolf
Thank you. Great to be here.

Natasha Sutherland
How are you?

Brandon Wolf
It feels like a loaded question. I am. I’m in the state capitol. I’m in Tallahassee. So it is it’s a difficult time to be up here. It’s really challenging to watch these lawmakers move in concert with one another in service to Ron DeSantis as presidential ambitions, to watch them totally disregard the voices of their own constituents. But it’s also really empowering to see so many people show up to continue to be heard.

We’ve got 200 plus people on the ground in Tallahassee this week with us at Equality Florida for pride at the Capitol. We had a really powerful moment yesterday when we were in this Omnia Max Theater at the Challenger Learning Center, and we’re going through some training together with everyone. And we asked for whom it was their first time doing lobbying in Tallahassee, and 90% of people in the room raised their hands.

This is a group that has been inspired and mobilized, you know, based on all of the things that that we’ve been working on over the last year or two. So while it’s challenging to be here, it’s certainly a difficult time to be here. I’m really inspired by the community and everyone who’s shown up to fight back.

Natasha Sutherland
Well, I’m inspired by you. I mean, thank you for being in the lion’s den, so to speak. Yeah.You know, up here. Somebody’s got to do it, right? So, yeah, that’s actually really awesome. And I can’t wait to dive in a little bit more about the Equality Florida Lobby days. But for listeners that maybe aren’t familiar with who you are, if you wouldn’t mind just sort of sharing a little bit more about yourself just in general terms.

Brandon Wolf
Yeah, sure. I I’ve been in in Florida for a number of years now. I consider myself a Floridian. I’m not a Floridian by birth, but I am a Floridian by choice, which, depending on what what city I’m visiting, elicits a different kind of reaction every single time. But I love Florida. I chose Florida in 2008, moving from very rural Oregon, 3000 miles away with nothing more than a couple of suitcases.

I worked at Disney for a number of years. I had a career at Starbucks for a long time and have really fallen in love with the Orlando community. I got involved in the fight for advocacy. You know, I wasn’t I ever had grand dreams of conversations like this or, you know, talking about policy and politics. I really was, you know, had in my mind that I was going to lead a corporate career at Starbucks and maybe move back to Seattle and work in H.R. for some time.

And and all of that really changed for me. When the Pulse nightclub shooting happened. I am very lucky to have gone to two polls that night and made it out with my life. Unfortunately, my best friends through and Juan were not so lucky and and there were 47 others who didn’t make it out to say goodbye to their parents either.

And for me, that, you know, that moment really changed the way I see my myself in this work, in this community. I realized in that moment that we all have a deep obligation to create, you know, places of safety and belonging for people around us. So everything shifted. My work shifted, my life shifted. I, you know, started, you know, volunteering and in the gun violence prevention movement, I started understanding the political process more fully.

I founded an organization called the Dru Project. I still sit on the board of that organization today that gets resources to LGBTQ young people to help them, you know, find that sense of safety and belonging and school and then go off and achieve their wildest dreams through higher education then. And ultimately, that led me in 2019 to leave my corporate career and go to work full time at Equality Florida.

00;08;36;00 – 00;08;58;10
Speaker 1
As the organization’s press secretary. And now I just I have the honor every single day working at the state’s LGBTQ civil rights organization of helping people learn to tell their stories, of helping amplify the voices of LGBTQ Floridians, of helping people understand what it really looks and feels like to live in the state of Florida, especially under the authoritarian rule of Ron DeSantis.

So often in this work, our stories have been the catalyst for change, right? The marriage equality movement was driven by people telling their stories, people holding hands with one another and saying, My love is love and deserves to be recognized. The LGBTQ civil rights movement in general has been fueled by people saying, I am your friend, I am your neighbor, I am your family member.

Listen to my story and hear why I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. So I just feel very honored that every day I get to not only help share my own story, but but help teach other people to share theirs as well.

Natasha Sutherland
Wow. Thank thank you for sharing that. You know, I it’s every time I you know, I’m familiar with with a good amount of your story, but just hearing it coming from you directly is incredibly powerful for me. And, you know, very sorry about your your friends, very sorry about what happened at Pulse, but also very grateful that it it became something that you were able to turn into, hopefully a force for good.

Right. And, you know, any time that we can take tragedies in our lives, you know, and use them as a sort of a motivator for good, I think is, you know, is a good thing, even though it doesn’t, you know, change the loss. So I definitely feel that with you.

Brandon Wolf
Thank you.

Natasha Sutherland
And, you know, I find it very interesting that you and I sort of have some similarities when it comes to the native Floridian and thing. I’m also not native and I’m also a Floridian by choice. You know, my story started in oh three. And like you, I think I remember you saying something along the lines of, you know, we’re going to have to pry those beaches out of your hands, right?

Brandon Wolf
That’s right.

Natasha Sutherland
I’m not giving up the white sandy beaches. That’s why I’m here.

Brandon Wolf
Absolutely not. And you know, it’s interesting because I know that I have a feeling you share some similar sort of experiences on social media with folks that are like, well, I’ll just move. How can I move in? I’m staying right here. I want to make this place better. Right. And that’s why we do what we do is why not Why not dream bigger and better and have have it all?

Why can’t we have the sandy beaches and the Florida that we love? And also it be an inclusive place where people like you and I can exist in peace and safety and be embraced by our state like that we deserve.

So, I mean, that’s that’s the bare minimum. We deserve that. And really, there’s there’s two things for me because I see it, too. And I also see the people with the Bugs Bunny meme saying Florida off and sending it into the Atlantic Ocean like, that’s cute. It’s unrealistic, but it’s cute for social media content. But the truth is, there’s a lot of first of all, there’s a lot of privilege to be able to suggest that someone can just uproot their entire life, especially if they have kids and a family and move somewhere else.

Who’s paying for that? Are you are you offering someone, you know, grants for them to move to Manhattan? The most expensive state in the United States? These things are not realistic for a lot of people, and there’s an immense amount of privilege to suggest that all you know, that the millions of LGBTQ Floridians and allied Floridians that are living here are just going to pick up the roots and go somewhere else.

And the second is that, you know, this is something my my executive director and Dean Smith says so often, and she probably says it more eloquently than I, but I’ll give it a shot. You know, she says that that in the fight for civil rights, the frontline was always going to be somewhere. And it just so happens that it’s here in Florida and there there isn’t a world where I could imagine being anywhere but on it, fighting alongside the people that I love dearly.

I couldn’t imagine right now being, you know, in a a safe blue haven living in San Francisco and just, you know, looking at what’s happening in Florida from afar, because Florida is my home and I love the community here. I love the people here. I believe that all Floridians deserve a voice in government, in politics, in the future of our state.

And I just couldn’t imagine myself anywhere but on the front lines fighting for that.

Natasha Sutherland
I’m so glad we have you. I just need to just a personal.

Brandon Wolf
Thank you. I’m glad to be in it with you.

Natasha Sutherland
So. Okay, That’s perfect. So speaking of being on the front lines, right. So lobby days, you know, for folks at home that aren’t sure what that is, you know, different people come up to Tallahassee here where I live to talk to lawmakers about the issues that matter the most to them. And so that’s what lobby days are. And so different organizations that advocate for different issues or different people or whatever you would like to to say with that, come here and say, hey, lawmakers, these are the things that we want to prioritize.

These are the things we encourage you to prioritize. But, Brandon, I’m going to let you sort of talk a little bit more about Equality Florida, specifically in the lobby days and the work that you all are doing up here.

Brandon Wolf
Yeah. Thank you. So our you know, coming up to Tallahassee every year is is a pride and joy of equality Florida and I should say Equality Florida has been around since 1997 and up until 2021, we were successful in killing every explicit anti LGBTQ piece of policy that came through the legislature that changed with the trans sports fan.

But that has been fueled that, you know, 24 year run of killing all of those bad bills was really fueled by bringing people to Tallahassee, by bringing our advocates to Tallahassee, putting them in front of lawmakers, scheduling meetings, whether they’re with Republicans or Democrats, bringing people to hearing rooms, getting people access to the political process has allowed us to be successful in pushing back against anti LGBTQ policy.

We’re in a different moment politically. Certainly that is being driven by Ron DeSantis is desperation to be president of the United States. It’s being driven by right wing politicians who are obsessed with seeing themselves trend on Twitter or get another crack at a Newsmax, Kiran. But that doesn’t mean we stop showing up. And what I’m really excited about this year with our pride at the Capitol lobby Days program is that it’s not just two days.

Typically, we do a couple of days. We bring people up. We’re mobilizing for seven, eight straight weeks. We’re inviting people to come up to Tallahassee to join us. We’ll put you to work. We’ll give you some meetings to attend. We’ll put you in hearing rooms. And our mantra this session really is every single place they show up to try to peel back our civil rights, we’re going to show up to challenge them.

We’re never going to leave a room unchallenged. We’re never going to leave a meeting unattended. We’re always going to take every opportunity to put LGBTQ voices in the conversation. And that serves a number of purpose purposes, right? Like on the on the one hand, the political climate tells us these politicians are not changing their mind because we showed up to a hearing room and told them how awful they’re their political actions are.

But the outside world sees it. LGBTQ young people see that and they know that people are fighting for them. Students see that and they get inspired. They get mobilized to to leave class, to walk out into the streets, to demand a different kind of Florida. And the fact that we’re present and visible in those spaces is a reminder to everyone in this building that we belong here, too, that this is our Florida, too.

So I’m really excited about pride of the Capitol, about lobby days. This is the largest contingent I’ve ever seen. I think it’s the largest in our organization’s history to have. I think around 200 people in the Capitol and again, it’s just week one of a seven week, eight week program. We invite people, come on up anytime you’re in Tallahassee, get connected with us.

We’re going to put you to work.

Natasha Sutherland
That’s awesome. We’re like, where can they? Is there a website or. Yeah, sign up.

Brandon Wolf
Yeah, I would say head to Equality Florida dot org. And right there on the very top, you’ll see a link to our pride of the Capital program that will get you plugged in with our volunteer leadership team, our field team, and they’ll they’ll pull you in.

Natasha Sutherland
That’s awesome. Do they get a free rainbow flag for signing up?

Brandon Wolf
I don’t know about flag. I don’t know if we have flags, but we certainly have swag. We had t shirts yesterday. We had like stickers and pins and yeah, there’s all sorts of stuff. And honestly, the sense of community for me is what’s been so remarkable. We had a press conference outside the Senate chambers yesterday and just have 200 people in there chanting and holding signs and being in community with one another.

That feels good.

Natasha Sutherland
So for people that maybe aren’t able to come up to Tallahassee, are there other ways that they can support Equality Florida’s lobby days?

Brandon Wolf
Yeah, absolutely. First of all, we encourage people to share their stories wherever they are, right? We’re really excited because if you go to Equality Florida dot org, you you tune in to to our Resistance report. That’s our new weekly update. That’s on our website. You’ll see it there listed under our blog posts. You’ll get plugged into how you can engage in a digital way.

We’re really excited that we made there’s these posters you may have seen them if you checked out our press conference that say Free states don’t ban and there’s a blank and you can fill it in with with the sort of things that free states don’t ban. And then we’ve got another one that says ban blank, not books. And so we’ve made some of those graphics available to people to print out their own and post it on social media.

So that’s one way you can get engaged as digitally through social media, sharing your own story, tagging lawmakers, telling them to defeat these bills. That resistance report gives you all the information you need to be an expert on the policies. And then, of course, if you want to support financially, we would we would really welcome financial contributions to Equality Florida just as a flavor.

Those helped get people to Tallahassee this week. They helped cover travel. They helped cover accommodations, especially. We’ve got parents of trans kids who are able to bring their trans kids up here. We were able to help put them in Airbnbs and get them gas to get up here. So any way you can help, we welcome it, whether it’s financially, some of your time, some of your treasure.

We would love to have you engaged in the process, even if you can’t make it to Tallahassee.

Natasha Sutherland
That’s awesome. You know, I didn’t even think about that. Right. The monetary contribution for folks that are at a distance. But it really does matter, right? Because you all aren’t, you know, you’re a nonprofit, right? So. Right. It’s not like you can just you know, you’re not like a business. You know, you’re doing this advocacy work, you know, with the help of of the community of of Floridians.

I mean, you know, so there are over 20 million of us. And if we all pitched in in some way, you know, we could actually make real change. And it’s so encouraging early when you were talking about the ability to kill awful bills and I you know, I long for the day when you all come up here and are instead of pushing to kill bills, you’re pushing for supporting good bills that are helpful to the community.

So yes.
We’ll get there. I feel like we’ll get there. But, you know, for we kind of got to also after all this wonderful stuff we’re talking about, we do need to talk about a little bit about why you know, what you all are doing is so important. And so we’re going to talk about like the attacks that are happening.

So these bad bills that you’re working to kill. Can you briefly talk with us about sort of what’s happening in session this year that is so harmful to the LGBTQ community? Please?

Brandon Wolf
Sure. Yeah. You know, this has been several year maturation process, right. And and really, it’s being fueled by a couple of things. On the one hand, you have these national, you know, right wing zealot organizations like Moms for Liberty, the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance Defending Freedom, And their entire purpose has been to peel away LGBTQ progress. Right? They’ve been in there think tanks, their war rooms for years, trying to figure out what the next culture war issue is that allows them space to begin to erode some of the civil rights protections that we’ve won.

And then on the other hand, you have politicians like Ron DeSantis and his allies in the legislature who don’t actually care about the outcome for LGBTQ people or really for people at all. They’re in it for the political ambition, right? They’re in it for access to power, wealth and fame. And for Ron DeSantis, that looks like running for president and sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.

So for people like that, cruelty is currency, right? That the LGBTQ extreme anti LGBTQ extremist movement is a vehicle to get where they’re going. And the merging of these two groups, the zealots and the political mercenaries, is what has created this national firestorm. It started for us in earnest in 2021 with the ban on trans kids participating in sports.

If you remember, the right wing insisted that their focus was very narrow. They were just really worried about girls sports and fairness on athletic teams. LGBTQ people told folks at that time that that was a Trojan horse, that worse was coming, that they were just, you know, they were just a focus grouping, their anti LGBTQ agenda. And so then 2022 rolls around, we get the don’t say LGBTQ bill filed, we get you know, that bill makes it over the finish line.

These attacks are now in education. Then the governor starts weaponizing state agencies against the community, the Board of Medicine, the Board of Osteopathy, the Department of Business and professional regulations all bent toward this anti LGBTQ agenda. And now here we are in this legislative session, we’ve seen over 20 anti LGBTQ bills filed. Many of them have already begun moving.

Yesterday, we had hearings on a number of bills that are on our legislative slate. Again, if you go to Equality Florida dot org, you can see our entire slate. But some of the things that jump out to me are, you know, a this is a broad swath of attacks, whether it’s education, health care, arts and entertainment. They are directly aimed at erasing LGBTQ people.

And they’re animated by a belief that trans people are not real, a bigoted belief that trans people are inventing their lived experience, that it is all in their imaginations and the only way to stop their imaginary identity from spreading to other people. This idea that there are contagion is for the right wing of our country to use the levers of government to punish them so severely that they go into hiding.

That is that that’s what’s animating all of these horrible, atrocious bills and and so we’ve got a number of them. Folks are probably familiar with the bills to criminalize gender affirming care. Those bills are basically designed to rip away parents rights, to go to the doctor and get the very best health care available for their trans kids. You know, one of those bills, Senate Bill 254, threatens parents and doctors with prison time for accessing gender affirming care.

It gives Florida courts the power to dissolve custody agreements from other states to rip children out of a home, upend their family, and put them with an unsupportive parent who wants to forcibly detransition them. We’ve also seen bills filed to expand the don’t say, LGBTQ provisions to eighth grade. We’ve seen bills filed attacking, you know, drag art and LGBTQ performance venues.

So there’s a whole broad swath of attacks. They’re focused on education, health care, arts and entertainment. And they’re all animated by this idea that we have to you the right wing has to use government to punish and erase LGBTQ people, specifically trans and non-binary people, to stop our spread in society. It’s incredibly bigoted, it’s incredibly dangerous, and it’s going to do a ton of damage before we’re done.

Natasha Sutherland
So. BRADY That’s horrific. And, you know, first of all, I think about, gosh, what’s left for them to do, because I know every session it seems like it keeps getting worse and worse. But really, more than anything, how does this make you feel?

Brandon Wolf
Yeah, it’s well, it’s listen, it’s really hard to be an LGBTQ person in America right now with this onslaught against the community. But it’s especially hard to be an LGBTQ person in Florida. Remember that, You know, the legislative attacks are one thing. The political agenda is one thing. Remember that it comes with a lot of of hostile and and dangerous rhetoric as well.

Remember that during the the don’t say LGBTQ fight last year, the governor’s press secretary is who launched the, you know, anti LGBTQ smear campaign calling us groomers, accusing us of posing a threat to children simply for existing. In the wake of that, the Human Rights campaign found that anti LGBTQ, you know, I’m putting in air quotes groomer language spiked 400% online as a result of the governor’s office trafficking in those disgusting tropes.

And it was showing up in, you know, the Twitter mentions or Instagram comments of teenagers. I saw an LGBTQ young person, high schooler post a prom photo, and all of a sudden these right wing trolls who had been sicked on them from the governor’s office were saying some of the most disgusting things I’ve seen online. And all of that, of course, weighs heavily on people.

You know, you see teachers fleeing the profession. In January, we had 7500 teacher vacancies in the state of Florida. And teachers are telling us it’s just not worth it anymore. If you tell me that I pose a threat to children every day I walk into my classroom, you don’t pay me enough. You don’t give me the resources I need to teach the kids.

I don’t want to do it anymore. There was a study done to of LGBTQ parents, for instance, by the Williams Institute out of UCLA, and it showed that over 50% of those parents, over 50% of those families considered leaving Florida because they don’t think it’s safe to raise their children in our state anymore. And of course, we know that young people are bearing the brunt of this most intensely LGBTQ youth.

Suicide attempts spiked in 2021 for the first time in a really long time, as we saw from the CDC, is Youth Risk Behavior Survey. You want to know what the response was from Governor Ron DeSantis? He pulled Florida’s 30 year participation in that survey altogether, accusing the survey of sexualizing children. We got bad data that said more young people are in mental health crisis today than we’ve seen in a really long time.

And our governor’s response was to stop asking the question entirely. This is an incredibly dangerous moment in Florida. And when you ask how it feels for me, it’s heartbreaking to see so many people put in a position of being afraid to call Florida their home anymore because of the extreme policies and agenda of this governor and his allies.

Natasha Sutherland
I mean, it just seems really intentional to me. Right? It’s almost like that’s what they want. I mean, whether it’s driving us out for being LGBTQ, driving us out for being black. Right. With all the the black attacks on education or the way that they’re taking over new college in our state university systems, just anyone and everyone that isn’t who they want.

The government wants us to be like, if we don’t conform to what they want, they want to either have us be hurt by other people or basically scared out of the state. Right. And it’s it’s which is really interesting because for the guy that says that he wants to Florida America, what does that mean for America, Right. Like, are you going to drive us out of the country at some point, too?

Like, is this kind of a anyway, I’m sorry, I just this is just awful and I just can’t even I don’t even know how you I don’t know how we do it. It’s well.

Brandon Wolf
You know, this is this is the other thing that that our executive director says is we’ve been here before, right? We’ve we’ve been here before with fewer resources and fewer allies than we have now. And at the same time, certainly in the LGBTQ civil rights movement, at every point of great tension, there was always something more beautiful than we could have comprehended just over those hurdles.

Right? People didn’t pick up bricks at Stonewall Inn and Riot against the police, imagining that just decades later the globe would pour into the streets for pride festivals. But that’s what was waiting over that hurdle. So I hear you and I feel that a lot. Like, I don’t know how we keep doing it, but I think that’s what what fuels me is this idea that something great is just over these obstacles.

And the right wing wouldn’t be fighting back so intensely if they hadn’t already lost culture and society.

Natasha Sutherland
100%. I’m going to hold on to that. I’m going to replay that.

Brandon Wolf
Hold on. Okay.

Natasha Sutherland
When I’m having those days where I’m like, what am I doing? Wow. Yeah. I mean, okay, so that’s actually a perfect segue way to sort of call to action for listeners or anything else that aside from the things that you mentioned or if there’s anything you want to reiterate for folks as far as now, they’ve heard all the things that are going on and they’re inspired finally, like I don’t know where they’ve been, but hey, you’re here with us, they can do something about this.

Brandon Wolf
Yeah, well, the first thing is to just get engaged in the process. Part of the right wing strategy is to make people feel isolated, to make them feel alone in this fight, and to stop people of their will or desire to be a part of the process. Right. This defeatism of, oh, Florida’s a lost cause. It’s a deep red state now.

It’s never coming back. It’s not worth our investment. That’s part of the right wing strategy. Part of the right wing strategy is to get us to stop investing in the future of Florida. My challenge is that we have to show up because this is our state, too. This is our home, too. Florida is worth fighting for. And that’s why we continue to show up to fight for it.

So my first ask for people is just get engaged, get engaged in the process, figure out where you can have a voice, where you can have the most impact. And that may not be, you know, sitting in a hearing room in Tallahassee. That may not be the thing that makes sense for you. It could be talking to your neighbors.

It could be, you know, getting courageously curious about your own discomfort about things. If you found yourself listening. And the one thing you got uncomfortable with is like, yeah, you’re with I’m with you all the way. Except I don’t understand trans kids in sports, that’s the space you have to begin to understand people more deeply. Those butterflies in your stomach are telling you that there’s an opportunity to get to know someone new, to understand an issue that you don’t understand today.

So get curious about the world around you and be willing to have those difficult, uncomfortable dialogs with people in our communities so that they’ll get engaged, too, so that they’ll understand why people are deserving of dignity and respect. And of course, I’ll plug equality. Florida would love to have people involved go to Equality Florida dot org, come up to Tallahassee, spend time with us, get involved digitally, make a financial contribution if you can, any way you can be involved with us.

We would encourage you to we will get you plugged into the process and help amplify your voice.

Natasha Sutherland
That’s perfect. Yes, I’m excited. I don’t know. You just got me excited about doing more. So awesome. Thank you for that. I know you’ve got a book. I do. Coming. I was wondering if you would wouldn’t mind just sort of talking to us a little bit about your book. I’m excited.

Brandon Wolf
Yeah. Thank you. You know, I. So I did. I wrote my first book. My debut memoir comes out July 1st. It’s available for preorder. You can find it. Amazon It’s called A Place for US. And what I’m really excited about with this book, when I was first pitching it to the publisher, they said, So is it a book about Pulse?

Is it a book about your experience at Pulse? And they said kind of Pulse is actually only one chapter in this book. And the reason that it’s only one chapter is because Pulse, the events that happened on June 12th of 2016 won’t matter to you. They won’t have the gravity necessary to you if you don’t understand why spaces like pulse exist in the first place.

So I have to take you all the way back to the beginning, to what it felt like to grow up as a queer person of color in this country. What it felt like to run away from home and find, you know, discover chosen family for the first time what it felt like to be loved unconditionally for the first time, and what it felt like to have that safety, that belonging ripped away in such violent fashion.

And then we get into the part of, you know, how do we recover from that? How do we heal from that? I think it’s a book, you know, not just about being a queer person of color, not just about loss and grief. It’s also a book about overcoming adversity, learning to forgive ourselves, learning to be authentic. And I hope that some of those themes speak to everyone.

Even if you haven’t had some of those lived experiences, that everyone can understand what it feels like to to seek belonging in the world and hopefully find power in in a sense of purpose.

Natasha Sutherland
It sounds beautiful. Thank you. I’m very much looking forward to reading it. And it also sounds to me like you have lived multiple lifetimes. It feels like in your life.

Brandon Wolf
I think that’s I think that’s the ache in my knees. Maybe could be explained by that.

Natasha Sutherland
Yeah. No, I mean, I just, you know, I don’t know. I just think it’s there’s just so much there that you’ve experienced that I think a lot of people will live their entire lives and maybe not even scratch the surface of and to think that you’ve been able to put that pour that all into a book is just incredibly beautiful, that you’re sharing that with the world.

I know that that I can’t imagine that that’s an easy thing to do. But I think it’s wonderful and I think that it’s going to be something that’s going to touch a lot of people in ways that maybe they won’t even realize until they’ve read it. So I invite folks to check the book out and I can’t wait.

Brandon Wolf
Thank you. Thank you so much.

Natasha Sutherland
So, yeah, no, absolutely. I’m just really yeah, this is just really great. I’m really glad that we were able to have you on our on our program, you know, sharing the good work that you’re doing, your organization, the importance of of advocating for just other human beings. Right? Like at the end of the day, folks, whatever label or whatever, you know, way we choose to define ourselves, you know, don’t have fear because we’re really just people.

Right? And that’s right at the core of it all. And we all are deserving of love and respect and, you know, a place in this world.

Brandon Wolf
But at the end of the day, we don’t there are a lot of things we don’t understand about each other. There are a lot of people I don’t understand. There are a lot of lived experiences I haven’t had, but where people and when we get down to the core of treating each other as people, treating each other as humans first, treating each other with a basic level of dignity and respect, that’s where our advocacy stems from.

So again, as I’m thinking about getting people encouraged to to be engaged, to be involved, that’s it. If you believe that people are deserving of a basic level of dignity and respect in the state of Florida, then you halfway on your advocacy journey already.

Natasha Sutherland
So, Brandon, if you could say anything to the young people, 14 year old, you know, LGBT kids here in Florida, anything, what would that be?

Brandon Wolf
Oh my gosh, there’s so many things. And I and I think about 14 year old me and how hard life was back then. I grew up in in a really small rural town outside of Portland, Oregon. And I felt alone a lot when I was in high school was at the height of the the fight against marriage equality.

My home state of Oregon banned same sex marriage by constitutional amendment when I was a sophomore in high school. And I remember what it felt like to watch adults spend all day every day hysterical about whether or not I had a right to be seen and valued, whether or not my love was as valuable as other people’s love.

And I just know how hurtful it can be, know how difficult those moments can be. And so if I could say anything to 14 year old me, I would say that you are not alone, that you are not isolated, that there are millions of people who love you, who care for you. And what I’d say to LGBTQ young people today is that we are those people.

There’s a reason that Equality Florida brought 200 of our closest friends to Tallahassee and will keep mobilizing for seven straight weeks. There’s a reason that we don’t stop showing up after that, that we show up to school board meetings, we show up to the Board of Medicine hearings. We show up each and every day because you’re worth fighting for.

Your life is worth fighting for. Your future is worth fighting for. We love you. We care for you. Please don’t give up hope. There is something brighter on the horizon and we’re just fighting for it together so that you can eventually have the life you deserve.

Natasha Sutherland
Thank you so much, Brandon, for joining us and sharing so many important pieces of wisdom and about, you know, things about yourself and just sort of, you know, the struggle to, you know, achieve that equality that every type of Floridian deserves. So thank you.

Brandon Wolf
Thank you. Great to be here.

Natasha Sutherland
Up next, we’re going to be talking with Ida Eskamani. I like to call her a people’s advocate for a session update.

Nothing changes in local or national politics unless you vote. And due to recent changes in Florida law, all requests for vote by mail ballots expired at the end of 2022 to continue to receive an absentee ballot and be able to vote by mail. Contact your local supervisor of elections at my Florida election. Satcom slash contact. Dash your dash S.O.B. and request your absentee ballot today.

Natasha Sutherland
So I’m really excited to have somebody that I’ve actually been working with since the beginning of my political career at Florida politics. Ida eskamani we go way back to working in the Florida House together. Thank you so much for joining us and so happy to have you.

Ida Eskamani
Thank you for having me, Natasha. Yeah, I feel like we’ve got some serious trauma bonds girl. So being in the trenches for a long time together so it’s great to share virtual space with you.

Natasha Sutherland
Absolutely. So if you could just sort of give us a background about your experience. I mean, I know for me you’re everywhere, but just tell us about yourself and your work in Florida politics overall if you can.

Ida Eskamani
Absolutely. Yeah. So like I said, my name is Ida Eskamani, born and raised in Orlando, Florida, daughter of immigrants from Iran, working class parents. So I’m a lifelong Serbian. And for the last ten plus years I’ve been working in Florida politics. I started as a student organizer. I’ve worked for groups like Equality Florida and other Social justice organizations.

And in the last six years, I’ve been on the ground in the Florida Capitol, two years as legislative aide, four years as an advocate, and I just continued to work, really trying to push the people’s agenda in the state capital, which a lot of times is a lot of fights and you’re trying to stop bad things from happening.

But sometimes we’ve had some wins too, and some really important issues, but it takes a lot of people power. I always say our opponents, the far right, the corporate donors, they’re trying to buy what we are building. But it’s it’s priceless, right? But we got to keep building people power. So that’s the quick and dirty. You know, the last ten plus years of, you know, blood, sweat and a lot of tears in the state.

Natasha Sutherland
Yeah, I know. I mean, I know for me, like, I just feel like you’re everywhere. I feel like if it’s anything to do with specifically, like progressive policies, ideas, I feel like the I just got those to say the eskamani is. We can get into that in a second. But I feel like you just have your hand in everything.

I mean, I feel like whether it’s on a zoom or emails or like a summary of like the bills that are moving, you know, that kind of thing. I mean, you’re just kind of everywhere. And then that leads me to the fact that you might actually seem like you’re everywhere because you also have a twin sister.

Have a double.

Three. There are two of you somehow. I don’t know how Florida got blessed with the both of you, but can you tell us a little bit about your sister, too?

Ida Eskamani
Absolutely. And that’s do kind. And I always forget to mention that I have a twin sister because for me, that’s just my life. That’s you know, it’s just my day to day. But I know it’s a big thing, especially because she is representative on TV. Eskamani, a people’s champion representing the Orlando area. We are roommates as well. We’re we’re best friends, soulmates.

I think we are everything to each other and yes. And so she’s my representative and she’s an incredible champion for everyday people. And I feel very fortunate to have her representing me and to call her my friend. And so, yes, when you are often seeing double because are indeed two of us.

Natasha Sutherland
I think that’s the only way you guys get as much done as you do, is it takes it takes to.

Ida Eskamani
But even individually, a lot of us 100%. I mean, it’s it’s a lot of emotional support for each other. And you know, it’s funny, growing up, we in high school, we were in high school theater together. In college, we were vice president and vice president of the College Democrats. So, you know, we were still roommates in our thirties.

So we are definitely just really close and just partners in this work. And I really appreciate those really kind of remarks around just that. The movement, like the progressive work in Florida, I have felt that it is so important for everyone to be connected because sometimes the magic that comes from just a relationship and what that can like build is so important.

And particularly as our opponents, the far right corporations, they’re always trying to divide and conquer us. And so it’s really important that we as a as a movement with people stand together, right. And see that our fights are interconnected. And so I see myself often as just that connector. And then I can just like the magic does happens.

So I appreciate that and always sharing countless zooms with you and so forth. Yeah.

Natasha Sutherland
So let’s get into the nitty gritty. Let’s talk budget. Big scary word, but you know, recently there was a press conference where folks were talking about demanding a people’s budget or people’s agenda from the legislature. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Ida Eskamani
Absolutely, yeah. The People’s Budget Campaign is a really exciting effort in Florida, and it’s all about putting people in charge of how the state spends your money. If I could bring up bring us up, take a bird’s eye view a little bit. Right. The the only constitutional responsibility of the Florida legislature is to pass a budget, and that is your tax dollars.

That is a lot of federal dollars that are still your tax dollars right now. And it’s over $100 billion. And the state. Yeah, it’s a lot of money. And actually the budget’s gotten bigger and bigger in Florida over the last few years. So this we’re in one of the biggest budgets we’ve ever had. COVID relief dollars from the federal government were so critical to keeping the state afloat when we saw massive losses in sales tax because the state of Florida disproportionately relies on sales tax over corporate income tax because they disproportionately it’s all by design, because who is out here writing the laws in Florida capital?

It’s corporate donors. And so they always write laws. The tax code serves the corporate class over the working class. And so Floridians disproportionately pay more in taxes than corporations do and billionaires do in Florida, and particularly like the most low income folks, which is just of course, the people of color carry more of the tax burden in Florida than the richest people who live in the state.

Right. And so it’s all by design. And this so this is our money that we should have a say in how we spend it. And so the People’s Budget campaign is really all about that. It’s about bringing people into the policy and budget making process and and really sort of illuminating to the fact that, you know, but the budget, to your point, is like inherently complicated.

That’s because it’s not written for or by us. Right. So we try to the whole effort is around you know, teaching folks about how your government is spending your money, giving you a say in how those those dollars are spent. And, you know, I always say in politics, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of nuances. Right. There’s different personalities.

There is there’s rumors. There is like, you know, wonky, but all this stuff, right? All this stuff that can just be really overwhelming and can like add a lot of gray area to stuff. But money money’s pretty gotten clear Like that is out. That is a value statement. That is your priorities. And so when you really look at how the state is spending money, it doesn’t matter about partizanship like none that matters.

It’s pretty clear where they stand. Who who do they want to invest in? Who do your state leaders care about? Is it corporate donors or is it people? It’s right there in the budget. So the budget is is such a really powerful tool not only to invest our communities so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive in this state, but also to like, you know, put the put the curtain back and really show like who your state is working for.

Natasha Sutherland
Yeah. No, it’s it’s, it’s about how we invest our money, like what our values are, like you said. And, you know, I remember when I first started working, you know, when the political process, you know, because I come from education before coming to politics. And one of my jobs was to analyze this budget. Right. And I was just sort of surprised at just how much money goes into so many different things I didn’t even know were paid for by our tax dollars.

You know, But I mean, comment, you know, a lot of folks don’t realize things like the fact that it’s got to be done every year and it’s, you know, how our schools are funded, whether or not, you know, college students in Florida will qualify for bright Futures, they can say that Bright Futures is available, but if they don’t funded in the budget, then there’s not.

They’re going to go, well, we’re out of money. Sorry, I guess you’re not getting bright futures this year like.

Ida Eskamani
You just stuff that. Exactly.

Natasha Sutherland
I was like, how is that even a thing? So, you know, and to your point, this is the one mandatory thing that these folks want to do. And I’ll be honest with you, can they just come here and only do the budget? I’ll need them to be doing all these laws. They do enough damage, like, can we just do the budgeting?

Ida Eskamani
But I totally agree with what.

Natasha Sutherland
You’re doing to us. Not to mention that they is like the same people have been in charge for like more than 20 years. So you would think by now they were happy with the laws they’ve already made, but now they’re like, Oh, we got to fix all these problems that you guessed it, we created ten, 20 years ago.

So anyway, we’ll get into that. Okay.

Ida Eskamani
Why don’t you get me started.

Natasha Sutherland
You know, So it’s our money. It’s where our money goes to provide us the services. And it’s interesting because you also mentioned the tax burden portion and think about people that talk to me that I saw a military background. A lot of people I know out of state and they’re like, oh, Florida is low tax. It’s so great.

No income tax. But like you said, because it’s with the sales taxes, you know, if you have less money to work with the proportion of what you have, you end up spending on your necessities and, you know, other things that are taxed. And so you end up giving more plus the loopholes, all the corporate giveaway loopholes.

Ida Eskamani
Right, right. Exact Oh, no, you named it so. And data prove this. We’re not just saying it right. And this is this is one of my major pet peeves with the Florida legislature and the folks in charge is that they put out a lot of stuff where the facts don’t line up with any of it. Right. So, for example, they say, oh, well, sales tax, mostly tourists pay that not for fault, like the data shows and so forth.

Like every day people who live here are disproportionally paying sales tax and are paying like our whole budget. It’s not tourism. Well, I think that’s such a lot. And and to your point, there’s so many corporate tax giveaways in the form of a lot of policy trips. There’s loopholes, there’s incentives or subsidies, there’s breaks there. There’s grants like there are so many legal ways that corporations are not paying the taxes they owe because those corporations wrote the tax code that the leaders in charge of the state of Florida have passed right over a long time.

If I could give like a quick little history, you know, Governor even asked you as Democratic governor in the seventies, he ran on a platform to create a corporate income tax in Florida, and it was a ballot initiative. So he ran because the legislature wouldn’t do it. And so the voters so he he ran on a campaign to pass a corporate income tax in Florida.

All the big corporations like Winn-Dixie at the time was one of most powerful corporations in Florida, opposed it. A lot of the same special interests that we fight today. The Associated of Florida that represents all the big corporations, the state of Florida Chamber of Commerce, same thing. These are the front groups that corporations pay into to do the dirty work for them so that their logos and the brands are not like in the capital, but like their money is right.

And so a lot of the same entities. Oh, yes. Oh, my goodness. Yes. The the they they know exactly what they’re doing. Right. And so a lot of these same entities are the ones that fought the corporate income tax by in Florida and families. And even despite that the governor at the time, Reuben, you Democratic governor from the panhandle, he led a ballot initiative campaign to get it on the ballot.

And and it passed overwhelmingly. I forget the exact numbers, but like every county supported it, it was just overwhelmingly popular. And that’s why we even have a corporate income tax in Florida of 5.5%. But in the last few years, the legislature has temp like they the temporarily cut the corporate tax rate. It’s written in a way where 99% of companies don’t pay it at all.

And the ones that do pay it, it’s a secret. You don’t know who pays or how much. And they’re always trying to evade it, too. We had a big win last session when we they wanted to basically extend the cut because this is I could go on, as you can tell, but I’ll say this is one thing corporations do a lot is they will pass a temporary tax break and then once it’s going to expire, they’ll come out and say, well, you can’t you can’t raise taxes on us, like, heaven forbid.

And so it gets extended. So every time there’s like a temporary tax break, it’s always permanent. That’s their goal. Right? But we were able to organize like working people, students, renters, like we were able to organize last session and we stopped the bill from passing and so we were able to restore. Florida’s already very low and like of the corporate income tax rate back to the percent of 5.5%.

But again, it’s still so if you pay while disproportionately Floridians and it’s always working class and people of color that disproportionately pay and carry the burden of taxes in Florida. And again, to your point, so they say it’s a low tax state, but when you do the data, it’s the people with working class folks who pay more than billionaires and corporations and the things that we need like health care, education, child care, housing, that ends up being a disproportionate part of our budget as like everyday people versus corporations, the billionaires.

Right. And we still we are spending a lot of money on stuff that our state should be investing in so that we all have access because this is about economic freedom and opportunity to flourish in this state. And we all have a right to it, especially when it’s our tax dollars that we are paying into the state to support us.

But instead it’s going is things that are actually working against our freedom.

Natasha Sutherland
Yeah, the gaslighting. It’s insane. Like it’s my.

Ida Eskamani
Money. My God.

Natasha Sutherland
You know, I deserve fully funded schools. Like we’re already.

Ida Eskamani
Paying. Exactly, like, right. So hundred percent.

Natasha Sutherland
Corporations, we’re paying you, like, all kinds of money for the products you’re selling us, and you’re coming to our state and using up our resources, and you’re not. Offset that, like draining up our water and plowing.

Ida Eskamani
Down our. Exactly. And also paying poverty wages to their workers and all right. It is so it’s so outrageous, like just a robbery there robbing us, you know, like this. It’s like we’re being robbed. So it’s so real. Like these these corporations that are buying out politicians to pass laws and make them more money are also paying their workers terrible wages, not providing health care coverage.

Their workers, they are polluting our waters, polluting our air, all for profit where we are paying the price right.

Natasha Sutherland
All right. So I feel like we should continue to talk about the budget and taxes and that kind of thing. But we also have folks that are listening that may be like, that’s not their jam. I don’t know why because, you know, we all have to deal with money. But, you know, it’s fine. Everybody’s different. So what about actual policies?

One of the things that I saw yesterday, HB nine, nine nine, which is like a bill that’s going to make it, from what I understand, like banning certain like college majors from people being able to choose whatever major to potentially getting rid of like multicultural student organizations, campuses and things like that. But if you could just kind of briefly, however briefly, sort of talk to us about what’s happening with educational policy this session.

Ida Eskamani
And you, Bruce, that. Well, so Haskell, 99 is the bill you’re talking about that moved through committee yesterday and over. I mean, it was like over 100 people. The committee room was packed with people opposing. There was actually no one who testified in support. The James Madison Institute, which is a far right think tank that’s funded by far right billionaires wave in support, couldn’t even go out and argue about the benefits of this policy to.

Overwhelmingly, folks opposed it and it still passed on a party line vote that the Florida legislature is a twilight zone. It does not line up with anything people want. Right. And then when people come out, they they don’t they limit debate to 45 seconds like usual, take a day off of work. You drove hours to be there. You were sitting in this room and the chair tells you you have 45 seconds to testify about why you put up with them and they’re still going to vote on a on a party line vote.

And I think that can let people come to the conclusion that, like, your voice doesn’t matter. And I have to say no, it does. Like the fact that they put all these roadblocks is because they’re scared of us. So it’s really important that we show up and make our voices heard because they do this because they want to disenchanted us to think like our voice doesn’t matter.

But it does. If our voices that matter, they wouldn’t work this hard to make it so hard for us to have a say. Right? So come out and turn out as it was really beautiful to see so many folks come out. And the bill in a nutshell, to your point, it censors academic freedom. It won’t. There’s certain degrees like around gender studies, women’s studies, black history, all these things that they will basically the state is mandating you cannot teach in public colleges universities it targets professors around tenure and free speech as well.

And it’s just in a lot of ways these bills are just are giveaways to the far right donors like because they’re basically creating our they’re degrading our education system to the benefit of the few. And we’re seeing the same thing on public education. House Bill one is a massive universal voucher bill, is what they call it, basically privatizing public education and giving giving public funded vouchers, taxpayer dollars to millionaires and billionaires to send their kids to private.

And it’s taking money away from public schools. And so, yeah, and like it or I know we were just talking about like budgets and money and Right and Yeah.

Natasha Sutherland
But it’s all connected.

Ida Eskamani
Exactly. You finish my sentence for me. It’s all connected, right?
All connected and it’s, it’s and so all these fights are really about enriching the few with public dollars. So they’re taking money out of public schools. Out of public universities, Out of public K-through-12. Right. And they’re moving it into these, like, private, far right ideological schools that are also anti LGBTQ. They are not teaching real history. They’re not teaching black history.

They’re not teaching about the structural system, systemic issues that we want to dismantle because they want to create. You know, a population of Floridians that are uneducated and I don’t have economic opportunities. And so a lot of it is back to like economic justice. And racial justice isn’t economic justice by economic justice is a racial justice, right? They’re all connected.

And when you really look at a lot of these policies that the state is pushing around education is is specifically removing opportunities for success for black and brown people, for women, for working class people, for LGBTQ people, for people with disabilities, like it’s targeting us and our opportunity to succeed. I, as a daughter of working class immigrant from Iran, could not have gone to college without bright futures.

And I’m here now fighting this system because I studied political science and sociology, and I realized that this is this is rigged against us. And like we have to fight and dismantle it. This is what they don’t want us to learn. They don’t want to learn this. They want to be just a person. Exactly. And that’ll put them out of power.

And so it’s like it’s all they’re right. It’s very transparent. And I think I had the most like aha moment recently reading these bills when they are specifically targeting job fairs that center like diversity, equity and inclusion. And they’re they’re targeting merit based scholarships that focus on working class families, immigrant families and people of color. And, you know, we like people, not of means are the folks most impacted by this.

Even this House bill 99, a lot of these classes can still be taught in private universities, just not in public university. And so even then, the class war like. So if you can afford you can afford a private school, you’ll get everything you want. But if you if you go to a public university, you can’t. And so that’s why I’ve been saying that over and over again every single culture war is a class war, because if you are of means, you can leave the state and get an education, you can get an abortion, you can get gender affirming care like you can go and get what you want.

But if you are working and middle class, you are here and you cannot leave and get access to these things that are our right and it’s our money. So yeah, anyway, I could go off, but that’s the other piece on. Well, if I could talk a little bit more about education for you in a sense, like so, House Bill one is this big privatization bill, $4 billion of our tax dollars going to private schools that are unaccountable, that can discriminate against LGBTQ kids, against kids with disabilities, do not have to provide the basic education that our kids deserve.

And and then House Bill 99 is this big higher ed bill that just dismantles higher education in Florida for public universities. But you’re also seeing these bills that target workers ability to organize. Those are teachers and educational support staff, bus drivers, custodians like. So it’s dismantling the power of workers to demand fair wages and benefits who work for schools and for other public institutions.

Right. So you’re seeing like this anti-worker agenda that’s targeting educational staff, professors, teachers, custodians, bus drivers. Then you’re seeing these bills that make school board elections, partizan Then you’re seeing the attack on black history in our schools. Then you’re seeing this hack on LGBTQ kids in our schools. You’re seeing the fight on sex ed in our schools. You’re seeing separate immigrant children targeting immigrant children and their opportunities.

01;01;49;12 – 01;02;10;25
Speaker 4
And it could be very easy to see all these things as individual fights. But when you follow the money, it’s funded by the same far right billionaires and it’s the same goal, which to dismantle education, which is economic opportunity, right? Like as a daughter of immigrants, that was that was what I always knew. If I said if you study if, you focus.

Your dreams are a reality. Right. Exactly. And so when you take away economic opportunity, you’re taking away like economic prosperity. You’re taking away like any opportunity to stop a cycle of poverty in your family, right? It’s targeting our economic prosperity because that is a threat to the status quo, because then we can pay our bills, then we can vote, then we can get involved, then we can change first.

Yeah, right. And so and it’s disproportionately impacting the communities that challenge as well that have long been impacted by racial discrimination and class discrimination and all sorts of different civil rights movements. Right. And it’s because we our power is scaring those in charge. Right. And they’re trying to set a system where they’re enriching themselves. They can further fund these systems for disadvantage through public institutions.

And our tax dollars, but also push a very dangerous ideology that erases communities that challenge them or incarcerates those communities or just keeps us, like divided and uneducated and poor right now. So we see these fights on multiple fronts in education, right? We see efforts to harm workers, right. To organize partizan school board races, privatization of schools, a race in black history, erasing LGBTQ history.

The list goes on and on and on. And we would think these fights are separate, but they’re actually one big fight, all funded by the same far right billionaires that want to enrich themselves off of our public institutions by defunding and moving that money to private entities that they invest in. And they want to push their radical, dangerous ideology on on us because they want keep Floridians divided, uneducated and taking away our economic prosperity and opportunity so we can’t fight back and then we can’t flourish.

So we are up against a Goliath. But people power will win.

Natasha Sutherland
Well, all this means is you’ve got to come back subsequent episodes, because I feel like we can’t even cover we’re not going to cover all these. We’re going to have to do one week. No, this is great. But if you could, just for folks that are fired up about education, because you’ve got them all fired up because you got me all fired up, any calls to action, like what can we do.

Ida Eskamani
Before we report that? Oh, my goodness. There’s so many amazing groups that are organizing around this issue. So if you’re a student, there is absolutely a student club organizing around this stuff. So join a registered student organization or write a cause you care about and get involved. I if you are a professor, the the USF United Faculty of Florida is leading a lot of this effort.

If you’re a worker, AFL-CIO, SEIU, your different labor unions are fighting on these issues. Groups like Florida Rising for the Immigrant Coalition, Faith in Florida, the Florida for All Coalition are leading these fights. I guarantee you, if there’s an issue you care about, there is an organization that’s on the ground doing it, and they need your support, equality Florida, Planned Parenthood, these are all groups on the ground in the capital day in and day out, organizing people and in advocating for these causes that we care about and that includes you don’t have to just go to the capital.

You can find who your lawmaker is. Go to my Florida House dot gov fl Senate dot gov. Identify who a state lawmaker is, Reach out to them. They’re counting on you to think your voice doesn’t matter. And I’m telling you it does. It makes a huge difference. And so whether you can donate, you can do a lobby day or call your lawmaker, you can doorknock, help register voters.

There is a cause. I’ll give one last sort of uplift to people power for Florida. My sisters voter registration organization that is organizing around college campuses and legislative session. And so please you know these are people people power Florida and get involved there. They are scared of our power and that is why they’ve created a system to silence us, to censor us, to divide us, and to take away our.

But, you know, we are not going anywhere. This is our state, our money, and we are here to stay. So just really want to encourage folks not to get to stand in your power and remind yourself that, you know, we this is our state and we have every right to have a say in what they do with money.

Natasha Sutherland
Hell, yeah. Well, you heard it from Ida. Thank you so, so much. We will not give up the fight. And like I said earlier, I would love for you to come back.

Ida Eskamani
But I’d love to come back. Listen, if you just want me to yell about stuff, girl, call me like, awesome. Usually listen to the ether. So if I get to yell at y’all, I mean, cool. Yeah.

Natasha Sutherland
Thank you so much.

Ida Eskamani
I do thank you for having me. And thank you for all that y’all do. And just keeping a watch on the shenanigans in the state Capitol. So much of what they fear is us exposing and just shining a light. So the work they’ll do is so important because people can’t organize and we don’t know what’s going on. So keep up the good work.

Natasha Sutherland

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Natasha Sutherland
Thank you guys so much for joining. It’s been an action packed episode, talking with Brandon, talking with Ida, going through the news. I’m just really grateful that you all are listening and are interested in what’s happening in Florida politics. If you have any questions or want to be featured on our show, please be sure to send us an email at That’s podcast at

And this is Natasha with Keeping Watch. See you next time.