MEET A FLIPster: Kumi Smith

Kumi is an infectious disease epidemiologist on the faculty of UNC's school of public health. Her focus on HIV prevention forces her to contend with issues like health care access and chemical dependency. Even though she sees nothing “political” in these issues, the current climate has turned her into an accidental activist. The Chapel Hill resident had never canvassed before FLIP NC. Now she has three canvasses and some text banking under her belt! We appreciate her making the time, especially considering her travel schedule for work. Here, a Q&A with Kumi.

What's surprised you most about canvassing? 

How nice people turn out to be! I've been thanked by voters more often than I've been turned away.

Do you like to recruit a friend or relative to sign up to canvass with you, or do you prefer to be paired with a stranger to add to the fun? 

I've enjoyed both. Canvassing with my friend opened up a lot of new conversations we'd never had before. Whereas canvassing with a stranger has been a fun way to make a good friend a matter of hours.

  Kumi (left) with fellow FLIPster Michelle Craig at a recent Wake County canvass.

Kumi (left) with fellow FLIPster Michelle Craig at a recent Wake County canvass.

How did you find out about FLIP NC? 

Through helping a friend run an Indivisible group of our own. But the energy and organizational power of FLIP NC is unparalleled in our network.

Have a touching moment to share from your time canvassing with FLIP NC?

During my most recent canvass, we met a resident who received us politely but listlessly, saying how hopeless she felt about the state of affairs in Washington, D.C. She had been an active canvasser until the 2016 presidential election but had felt paralyzed to act since. As we shared more information with her about FLIP NC's mission and work, however, she came alive and was soon asking us about ways she could became involved. I'm very much hopeful she is able to stick to her wish to join our next canvass.

What's your top canvassing tip?

I've found that asking people the name of their dogs is a great way to open up the conversation.

Let’s talk about what motivates you. Obviously, you want to FLIP NC, but tell us a bit about the "why."

Living in a purple state means progressive activism in NC can go a long way to bring about substantive change. The court-appointed Special Master's new maps also have a potential to even out the playing field for the first time in seven years. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

How are you feeling about the 2018 election?

I'm feeling very optimistic! The recent Democratic victories in places like Virginia and Alabama were not flukes but rather due to the thoughtful and tireless efforts of groups like FLIP NC. Breaking the Republican supermajority in November is possible!