James Chizungu, Candidate for International Treasurer, for "Dream Team"

Overarching Rational Traditionally, candidate endorsements have not been a regular part of our global elections. However, this year’s election has proven to be quite dynamic and presented us with an array of surprises. At the highest level, each of the three candidates for International Chair have (1) demonstrated their commitment to Democrats Abroad in various ways, (2) are driven to pushing our organizational goals to the next level and (3) --most importantly-- have very different leadership styles. I draw attention to the strength that comes from variations in leadership styles because it is an often-overlooked form of diversity whose impact has multiplying effects. It is of the utmost importance that our International ExCom is made up of highly qualified individuals that analyze and approach problems in divergent ways. A 2015 McKinsey study of data sets from 366 publicly traded companies across three regions of the world provided statistical backing for something that we have known for much longer: diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams and that “when [organizations] commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful.” As my opponent (Quyen) touched on during the Diversity and Inclusion Meet the Candidates Event, increased diversity of thought leads to more innovative solutions and better outcomes (my own introduction to the D&I event has been transcribed at the end of this document). What often make it difficult is that diverse teams feel less comfortable…and that’s why they perform better. This discomfort comes from working and deliberating with people from across the table that think very differently than you do. While it can feel more effective to go with what feels easy, you lose out on the complementary richness that comes from having a team that is truly capable of (1) anticipating potential problems before they occur and (2) able to create workarounds that actually address the key pain-points. It is for the above, and the reasons stated further below, that I would consider these candidates my International ExCom Dream Team: International Chair: Ada Shen International Vice Chair: Aaron Kruse International Secretary: Beth Landry International Legal Counsel: Joshua Van der Ploeg International Treasurer: James Chizungu (myself), with Quyen Nguyen as Deputy Treasurer


Support for Ada Shen for International Chair

Ada, one of the longest serving female candidates running for international office, has also been the most consistent in her support of me and my race for International Treasurer. As a non-voter, and relative small-fry when it comes to DA, there was no real advantage to reaching out to me so early-on in the race. Over time, in her attempts to try to understand my strengths and how I might be able to contribute to Democrats Abroad’s international leadership, it became clear to me that her empirically proven effectiveness (both in APAC and EMEA) most likely stems from (1) the passion she has for democratic values and radical inclusion, (2) the expertise that she has built over her 14 years “on the job” and (3) her ability to serve as a catalyst for the talents of others.


Over those 14 years of extensive organizing (at the local, regional and global levels), she’s contributed to our organization through every key global team and in almost every capacity imaginable: bylaws, governance, communications, GOTV. With our membership surpassing 200,000, we need a leader that knows how to be effective across the board while staying committed to making sure everyone is represented at the table.


Moreover, it speaks volumes of her that she has built a team around her that includes two other candidates whose opinion I have the utmost respect for: Aaron Kruse (running for International Vice Chair) and Josh Van Der Ploeg (running for International Legal Counsel).


Support for Aaron Kruse for International Vice Chair

What makes it clear to me that Aaron “gets it” is that he sees the role of Vice Chair as a facilitator and multiplier of a larger vision. As stated in his candidate profile, he believes that the “Democratic Party should aspire to be a deeply empathetic organization, and [he] hopes to have the opportunity to build with other DA leaders on that basis.”


From another perspective, Aaron is highly analytical and always thinks through the minute details in any situation that requires sensitivity. Additionally, his technical skills in survey design, research methodology, data analysis and visualization are exactly what we need to look for and identify untapped Americans living abroad.


There is real value in having had the experience of taking a country committee from conception to the point that DA China is now (over 3,000 members and 4 votes). This on-the-ground organizing has been supplemented with two terms on the Bylaws Committee, as Chair of the Platform Committee, and serving as our youngest ever DNC representative.


Support for Beth Landry for International Secretary

Despite only joining Democrats Abroad in 2019, Beth has gotten off to a rockstar start: all the way from the local level in Sweden to our global WebEx team, their impact has been felt throughout the entire organization. Throughout the multiple Meet the Candidate events, I’ve been very impressed with their calm leadership style, commitment to our GOTV efforts and deliberate approach to way they spend their energy. Their special focus on UOCAVA voters is especially welcome and their expertise in working with and managing our various tools and systems makes them a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the International Secretary race.


As DPCA’s the first non-binary executive office officer, Beth would provide much needed visibility of the commitment that Democrats Abroad has made to diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality.


Support for Josh Van Der Ploeg for International Legal Counsel

Having publicly endorsed my opponent, it would be the easy way out to discount Josh as a candidate. However, I would be honored to work with him on the ExCom not only because I believe he is the best candidate for the role, but also because his own personal approach to problem solving would help round out my stated “International ExCom Dream Team.” His commitment holding ourselves to higher standards, anti-bullying/harassment and establishing a culture of mutual respect is much needed in a world where “Be Best” was simply not enough. Moreover, his commitment to reorganizing our internal governance will provide us with modernized operating models to better serve the needs of a rapidly growing membership base.


Transcript: James Chizungu’s introduction for the Diversity and Inclusion event

Since recordings of the other Meet the Candidates events are available online, I’ll do my best to not repeat anything that was previously said and provide you with new information that gives another perspective on the same old me.


Since Diversity and Inclusion has been stated as the principal concern of this candidate forum, it seems fitting to mention that some might be inclined to describe me as a poster boy for D&I:


I was originally born in Congo (to two very religious Congolese parents), however my family actually relocated to the US from South Africa due to work related reasons. After finishing high school, and before starting university, I took a gap year to work for an educational non-profit in Quito, Ecuador. I graduated from the same all-boys historically black

university as Martin Luther King Jr., Morehouse College, and went on to complete a MSc in Finance and Financial Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. I somehow managed to squeeze in a White House Internship in there, in between the two degrees, under the Nation’s first African-American president and served as Co-Lead for the White House LGBT Intern Policy and Working Group. Somehow, because the Universe is constantly playing at its own tricks, I’ve found myself currently working in financial controlling for a multi-national headquartered in Denmark.


However, I acknowledge the neoliberal mechanisms that were required to put together the package that is speaking to you now and requesting your vote of confidence for the role of International Treasurer. Not everyone is of the opinion that this is the best example of what we should be aiming for when we speak of “Diversity and Inclusion.”

When most people speak of diversity, they are referring to “tolerance” and cosmetic changes. This is not enough for me; what tends to happen is that organizations will choose to incorporate/uplift people are superficially different but ultimately have had the same life experiences and hold viewpoints that are identical to the larger group at hand (it’s mostly for the optics). When most people speak of inclusion, they are referring to making sure that everyone feels part of the group and are made to feel welcome. This is not enough for me as the focus is still on the ingroup and the ultimate beneficiary of their efforts is the group itself. Any organization that is lucky enough to have a team dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion is already, by definition--and the unfortunate way our society is set up-- already part of an extremely privileged group.


When I speak of Diversity and Inclusion, I speak of sovereignty. I speak about creating the environment and ensuring that the necessary resources are available for people of all backgrounds --and especially for those from marginalized communities-- to: (1) feel safe and loved, wherever they are (2) identify, for themselves, the values that they consider important and (3) to be able to pursue whatever life that they deem is most appropriate for them without having to justify, defend or explain it to anyone. Far too often, all three (diversity, inclusion, and sovereignty) are focused on identifying and uplifting the top performers of any group. This is not enough for me; When I speak of sovereignty, I reject the default that this is something reserved for the exceptional. Sovereignty and self-determination are things that we must work to ensure is protected and available for everyone because it is the members of the outgroup that need the support to do so the most.


One of life’s greatest luxury is the ability to actively choose a path that others might deem mediocre and remain perfectly safe/taken care of, content, and utterly fulfilled. This remains elusive to even the most exceptional women, queers and BIPOC…and yet continues to be the default for the rest.