[VIRTUAL] Slay the Dragon: A Conversation with Katie Fahey
An online forum co-hosted by PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Program and Participant Media as part of our student-centered evening workshop series, Free Speech Live!
Gerrymandering and voter suppression are alarming threats to American democracy. Nobody knows this better than voting rights activist Katie Fahey, who successfully led a grassroots movement in Michigan to end political gerrymandering in the state. In 2011, Michigan lawmakers launched a secretive, high-tech initiative to rig the redistricting process in their favor, carving up communities to best suit their reelection bids and party majority. Slay the Dragon, a new documentary produced by Participant Media, follows Fahey and her team as they organize and fight to end gerrymandering and restore the rights of everyday citizens.
Join PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Program for this special online forum featuring Fahey to discuss gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the First Amendment right to petition the government. High school and college alumni of PEN America’s student programs and other students are welcome to join.
Katie Fahey served as founder and executive director of Voters Not Politicians, a grassroots, nonpartisan campaign that ran a successful effort to end gerrymandering in Michigan by amending the State Constitution in 2018 with 61 percent of the vote. Responding to extreme divisiveness in politics following the 2016 election, Fahey posted on Facebook asking if anyone would like to take on gerrymandering in Michigan and, almost by accident, sparked a political movement. The campaign mobilized over 10,000 volunteers to collect more than 425,000 petition signatures from 83 counties in the state without spending a dime—a feat unheard of in Michigan political history. Now, Fahey is the executive director of The People, a nascent nonprofit organization committed to sharing the lessons learned in Michigan with voters across the ideological spectrum in all 50 states, bridging political divides and supporting nonpartisan good governance reforms nationwide. The People gathers and empowers everyday Americans to find common ground and take action together to create a more responsive government of, by, and for the people.
Nicholas Perez is the program coordinator for campus free speech at PEN America. He supports PEN America’s advocacy, analysis, and outreach in the national debate around free speech and inclusion in higher education. Perez previously worked for the Columbia University Human Rights Advocates Program and consulted for the Human Rights Education and Training section at the United Nations. He holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in human rights and humanitarian policy and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in international politics. He also was a Global Leadership Fellow at Waseda University in Japan, a Model United Nations advisor at Mira Costa High School, and a forensics researcher for the Yahad-in Unum Genocide Research Agency.