We are excited to welcome Samantha Lias to our team! Samantha is a long time member of Down Home who has also worked to turn out voters in Granville County in 2022. She’s dedicated to our people and places and we can’t wait to see what she will help build in Person County!
Welcome to Down Home, Sam! You’ve been here a while as a member, but now are joining our staff. Can you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to join the Down Home team and continue your work here?
I got involved with Down Home in May 2022 by getting in the Granville County Chapter! But first, let’s back up a second: I moved back south from the northeast about a year into the pandemic (I worked in media prior, an industry wrecked by covid and I was a budget-cut girlie), and when I moved to Durham, I knew after years of constantly moving because of my media job, that Durham and North Carolina was finally going to be the place I could settle and form roots and relationships. Having a long, sometimes unhealthy obsession with politics and an eagerness to get involved in my new community and make friends as an adult (why is it so hard???), I searched high and low for political organizations I could sink my teeth into. It being Durham, there was no shortage of nonprofits doing the work in the Bull City, and I even got involved with a few of them; but for whatever reason, and a blow to my soul, nothing fit.
I eventually realized it was my experiences in poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, abusive employers and landlords, my studies in White Christian Nationalism and its impacts, and just simply the life I had, that meant I couldn’t just be with any political organization. It had to be intentional and centered around electing working people; it couldn’t be scared to address and highlight the racial, gender, heteronormative, and class divide in this country and within all of us. Sadly, that realization narrowed my search for getting involved in Durham politics – and then I got a Down Home email. It was a general information email looking for canvassers in rural North Carolina, the closest one to me: Granville County. My immediate thought was, “Wow, it pays well, but RURAL?!”; but then I considered and reflected on my own experiences in rural America and the challenges I had getting involved in Durham politics.
It dawned on me that’s where the real work is, not in Democratic strongholds, but in rural places where most people, myself included, discount them because they’re in “trump country.” People are not lost causes because of where they live, they’ve been purposely abandoned for decades, and progressives don’t go to them, and that’s why change is coming too slowly; Down Home had cracked the code. It was so obvious, and I had to get involved.
Fast forward through the midterm elections, I had the incredible honor of helping to elect Robert Fountain as the first Black sheriff in the county’s 276-year history and even elected Mary Willis Bode into the 2022 Senate, preventing a Republican supermajority in North Carolina for a time. I stand firm that the work Down Home did in Granville County elected those two individuals and is creating headaches for those in Granville that do not want to see progress, even on something as small as a local park (it’s not small, that’s why they’re nervous). Sorry besties, we’re just getting started, and we have our eyes on Person County next.
What experiences are you bringing with you into your new role that you think will help guide your work?
I mentioned it a bit above, but sadly I have experienced poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, and unsafe working and living environments with abusive bosses and landlords. And while I was already a partisan hack by the time I experienced that – that era of my life really radicalized me in a way that I still haven’t fully processed. It has impacted how I see the world, interact with people, engage politically, how I advocate for myself and others, how I present myself to others, how I take up spaces in rooms, how I spend my money and time, how I plan my future, and who I associate with. It’s a massive trauma that is complicated and messy and reveals itself in really unique ways, and I imagine it will take me years to recover from that, if ever fully. But I have discovered there is healing in solidarity. I feel myself healing and getting stronger every day I’m with Down Home and doing this work, and will carry that with me in Person County.
What are you most passionate about?
I am so excited to absorb myself in Person County and its people and continue the amazing work so many others have done and continue to do there. I got to experience incredible success next door in Granville County and have every reason to believe and push for similar success in Person. So let’s manifest some political power, baby: I want everyone everywhere to be able to go to the dentist, have access to great affordable housing, fresh fruit and vegetables, quality free healthcare right up the road, transportation, free education, more sleep, ending the war on drugs, universal childcare, living wages, more free time for hobbies, fully funded lunch/afterschool programs, representation and reparations, free broadband internet, clean air and water, a future you can plan for, a world where it’s easy to vote, and ending bans on books, bodies and people. You know… just the basics. I’m passionate and fired up about fighting for the basics in Person County and all of North Carolina, and I know it can be done with the incredible Piedmont Regional Team and Down Home North Carolina.
Okay, final question: Which is the superior Carolina and why is it North Carolina?
North Carolina wins by default because Lindsey Graham doesn’t live here.