Meet a Progressive: Bucks County Activist Kierstyn Zolfo Is Relentless
I’ve been following Kierstyn Zolfo for a while on Twitter @BucksCoKierstyn and her relentless work trying to hold PA-01 Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick accountable for both his actions and inactions. We’ve also shared deep frustrations and criticisms over the Bucks County Courier Times’ (the newspaper I am now writing for) accommodation and appeasement of far-right voices and neglect of progressive ones — something that actually had been changing for the better even before they asked me to be a regular contributor on their editorial page (thanks largely to Gannett).
This week I interviewed Kierstyn about the climate activism she is currently engaged in for my column, which just coincidentally landed on Earth Day. I thought this provided a great opportunity to also showcase her on Meet a Progressive so folks can learn more about her and her work.
And if you haven’t read my column yet, please check it out here: To ‘Restore our Earth,’ we need the THRIVE Agenda
What inspired you to start working for progressive social change?
I'm one of those stereotypical suburban women that the newspapers devote too much ink to - I was "activated" by the election of Donald Trump. Once upon a time I was a registered Republican, mostly because where I grew up you only had a say in local politics if you voted in the GOP primaries. I left that party in 2005 when I moved to Bucks County, and I've been an Independent ever since. Each two-year cycle, I'd do some call-banking for the Democratic congressional candidate and think I had done my part. But the feeling I had when I woke up on the morning of November 9, 2016, made it clear that whatever I had been doing, it was not nearly enough. And shortly after that Indivisible found me and my activism work really began after that.
What do you identify as the top issue progressives must confront a) locally, b) statewide in PA, c) across the nation, and d) around the globe?
Locally: outing the white nationalists and insurrectionists in our communities, particularly in leadership and decision-making positions.
Statewide: opposing voter suppression and gerrymandering.
Nationally: nothing can move forward unless we push a democracy strengthening agenda, including ending the filibuster, statehood for Washington DC (and territories ... if they want it), voting rights, and campaign finance and ethics reform.
Globally: the climate crisis, because none of the rest of it matters if we don't have a viable planet.
What types of organizing and projects are you working on right now?
This quarter I have been spending a lot of time on the THRIVE Agenda, a resolution to focus recovery efforts on the twin challenges of creating good-paying jobs and taking steps to mitigate the climate crisis. THRIVE (Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy - H. Res. 104 i n the House and S. Res. 43 in the Senate) is engaging because of its focus on equity and environmental justice, and a Biden infrastructure plan with THRIVE at its heart would build back even better.
A lot of my time primarily goes toward the Pennsylvania Member of Congress Tracking Report. It comes out each Sunday night after weeks when Congress has taken votes, and provides a recap of information about current bills in Congress as well as what the 20 MoCs in our Pennsylvania delegation have been saying on traditional and social media. That is a big part of my role as Legislative Chair on the Pennsylvania Indivisible steering committee. I also do my best to keep attention in Bucks County on what Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick is doing at any given moment. Because of COVID, we haven't been having in-person events focused on Fitz, but I expect that will be changing soon, as more and more people get vaccinated.
How can folks get engaged and involved?
It probably feels a bit hypocritical for me to say this, after all my chatter about Congress and my statewide involvement ... but the best way to get involved is to do so locally. There are so many spectacular groups right here in Bucks County, doing amazing work. I recently joined the Bucks County chapter of the NAACP and they are a model for collaborative, continuous activism that has sustained for decades. I am constantly inspired by the events that the Rainbow Room in Doylestown regularly hosts. Orange Wave for Gun Safety in Bucks County, Bucks County Women's Advocacy Coalition and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network are groups that create fabulous content and do great work. But my heart belongs to Indivisible. The monthly gatherings hosted by Indivisible Lambertville New Hope are an inspiration to me, literally. The supportive, engaged community that the ILNH crew has fostered has sustained me through this quarantine year.
Which journalists, writers, podcasts, and publications do you turn to for information and inspiration?
My regular diet includes articles on Vox, NPR, Democracy Now!, and the Levittown Now (a truly underrated local news source); I listen to podcasts incessantly, and my week is not complete without the Slate and Crooked Media array of casts, The Daily Beans, Lawfare, The Daily Punch and 538. My work on MoCTrack leads me into little niche publications too, because a lot of big sources don't pay a lot of attention to legislation. And time and again I find really great coverage of wonky but important bills on Government Executive and Government Technology. Lastly, I stumbled across Native News Online as I was covering the Debra Haaland confirmation a few weeks ago, and I am kind of obsessed with it right now ... definitely going to be including regular check ins with that outlet to get the perspective of Indigenous communities.
Thanks for reading! I look forward to your feedback and suggestions.