Interview with Leslie Van Every, Co-Founder of Solidarity Sundays


Leslie Van Every is one of my favorite people ever, anywhere.

She and I worked together years ago, when she was the high-powered publicist for CBS Interactive, and I was the Executive Video Producer for Chowhound, the food website. Leslie’s energy is boundless, and she and I immediately found the sort of kinetic power that comes from two people who vibe off each other.

One of the many things I appreciate about Leslie is that she is a doer. She bakes, she sews, she crafts beyond compare (she made Alice one of her favorite baby blankets). And when Donald Trump was elected president, she jumped into action. Along with co-founder Kate Schatz and Jennye Garibaldi, she created Solidarity Sundays, an incredible grassroots movement of action. (Learn more here or join the Facebook group in your area).

I asked Leslie if I could interview her about what it feels like to take action when you’re feeling powerless. I want to know what creating this group has done for her mental health, and the mental health of the women who met at her house every week. She said yes!

Question #1: Hello dear. Thank you for letting me interview you! Can you tell me about your state of mind leading into the creation of Solidarity Sundays? How did it all begin?


Well, I was in a bad place. It was just after the San Bernadino shootings in Jauary 2016 and I just felt so helpless and angry at the “slactivism” I was seeing on social media–so many angry updates that did nothing in the long run. My friend and neighbor, Kate Schatz and I were talking that morning as we were dropping off our kids and decided on the spot to get some friends together along with our other friend, Jennye Garibaldi and call/email senators letting them know we demanded action in supporting more gun control laws. We thought we would get a dozen folks to show up but 50 came.


I find the concept of slactivism really interesting. I once heard that when people write down to-do lists, their brains get a hit as if they have actually taken action and done the thing they need to do.

Question 2ish: @Leslie_Dotson_Van_Ev Do you think social media has made people less likely to actually take action in real life because people feel that they are airing their anger, etc? Or do you think slactivism is just a sign that people aren’t sure what kind of action to take?


I think social media as hopefully helped people turn their frustration into action. I think social media has made us aware of more social injustices that people didn’t realize were happening on a daily basis. However, I do think social media can be hurtful to action and lead to slacktivism in two ways–1) it overwhelms and 2) is normalizes. It is for these reasons that in-person community activism is a really powerful tool because helps people feel connected and that their action is truly being seen and heard in a deeply impactful way.


I couldn’t agree with you more. Connecting with others in-person while taking action really does seem like a magical connection for mental health, too.

Question 3: Has working on Solidarity Sundays made you feel better–mentally–since the election? It’s a hard question because obviously in many ways things are much harder than ever, so it would make sense to feel worse. Yet the work you’re doing is incredible. What impact does that have on your daily mindset?


I would say it has made me feel better because it’s not just me alone–or even my group in Alameda. It is now a nationwide network of activists who are determined to do the work. It is so much easier realizing you are not alone in your anguish and feeling powerless. And it is something bigger than you that makes the difference. Just a few emails/letters/calls would not make an impact, but it’s the huge wave of calls/emails/letters does and proves that every single voice–every single action does add up. It is very easy to get discouraged because the news is like a battering ram of negativity and more and more people are feeling the impact of all those negative decisions made by some influential people, so you must celebrate the wins. Even the small ones.


Brilliant advice for people who are feeling down: Celebrate the wins.

In your case, building this network and creating momentum is an ongoing huge win.

Question 4: Was it hard to keep it going in the early days? What helped you get that momentum along the way?


In the early days I think the thing that helped the most was having partners. It wasn’t me alone, but a team of amazing folks–Kate Schatz and Jennye Garibaldi are the best partners a person could ask for. They both inspire me to keep going even when I don’t want to and laugh a lot as well. They both kick so much ass and are two of the smartest people I know. It amazes me how lucky I am to work with such talented and super fun people and Kate and Jennye. Many hands make light work!


It’s so amazing to see Solidarity Sunday grow and grow @Leslie_Dotson_Van_Ev – I find it really inspiring on behalf of the Beautiful Voyager.

Last question: If there was one thing you would like other people to know about the impact of taking action, either on personal life or community life…what is it?