Sherae Lascelles can trace their activism back to the third grade. A fellow student was sent to the hall after she “acted out of turn” in class. Lascelles talked to her on the way to the bathroom and she said she was hungry. So Lascelles pulled out some Red Vines and brought them to her.
This resulted in a confrontation with the teacher who was upset that Lascelles had brought the girl a snack.
“I learned quickly that I would have to advocate for myself at every turn to survive,” Lascelles tells CHS. “I didn’t even know why I felt like I had to do that, but I just didn’t understand the punishment and I didn’t understand how she was being treated and it didn’t make any sense so I put it upon myself to do something about it.”
Lascelles sees this sort of action as a microcosm of their activism. Lascelles organized for Strippers are Workers before founding two nonprofits: People of Color Sex Worker Outreach Program and Green Light Project. The former is an advocacy and community building organization for sex workers of color and the latter works at the intersection of drug use and sex work by providing direct outreach harm reduction services.
“Being a sex worker and being friends with sex workers, made it so that became a highlight of where I put my efforts to support my community,” Lascelles said.
This work has propelled Lascelles into the race for the 43rd Legislative District’s Position 2, which includes Capitol Hill, Madison Park, and Montlake, among other neighborhoods.
Lascelles joins Capitol Hill activist Jessi Murray in the race to oust longtime Democratic leader Rep. Frank Chopp. Murray has raised more than $24,000 for her run, according to Public Disclosure Commission filings.
Last month, incumbent Chopp announced he would seek reelection to the seat he has held since 1995, highlighting his part in building “a 20-year Democratic majority that passed significant legislation to expand health care, build union membership throughout Washington, raise teacher salaries, safeguard reproductive rights and women’s health care, reduce gun violence, and so much more.”
“I’m very committed to running this year,” he saidlast week in response to questions about whether this might be his final run. Chopp told CHS he’ll decide how much longer to spend in the legislature after November.
Lascelles, who lives in the University District, previously ran for the interim Seattle City Council District 4 position when it was vacated by Rob Johnson. The “outpouring of support” Lascelles received in that run made them want to turn it into tangible goals as a permanent lawmaker in Olympia.
Lascelles noted policy planks, such as housing first and Medicare for All, that would animate the campaign. Lascelles points to Africatown Community Land Trust as an example of the lead the candidate wants to take in office to stunt gentrification and housing insecurity.
While conceding it will be an uphill battle for money and media coverage, Lascelles’s on-the-ground relationships could be an advantage. And Lascelles is ready to be busier than expected given interest in volunteering (“it’s really exciting”) and the relationships the candidate wants to build within the district.
While Murray told CHS that her challenge wasn’t about Chopp, Lascelles is running in part because of the longtime representative’s perceived shortcomings over the past couple decades.
“There are so many voices that are trying to get the mic and no matter how many audiences they have with him, it still feels like there’s more room for accessibility to our representative,” Lascelles said, adding a desire to open the door for more organizations to take the mic if in office.
Sherae is planning a campaign “entirely funded by the community and is centered around engaging local artists and first-time voters.”
“This means, unlike the incumbent, Sherae will not be funded by large polluters and monopolistic telecom corporations,” the Lascelles campaign website reads. “Only a movement of the people can ever hope to represent the people.”
Lascelles says it’s easier to make it accessible when you’re advocating for yourself, which is how the challenger sees the job in the legislature.
“They could take my narratives and take my experiences and my stories and relay them, but it’s like telephone,” Lascelles said. “If you’re passing it through a bunch of different channels to get it where needs to go to make change, it can get distorted.”
You can learn more at sheraeforstate.com.
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