Interviews

Off Duty With Artist, Organizer, and Activist Sarah Sophie Flicker

Written By James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by: The Bleu

Sarah Sophie Flicker is an ebullient force in the name of standing up for human rights. She is loud and outspoken and unafraid to ruffle feathers. She will march in the streets and knock on doors to spread awareness everywhere she turns. Both street and book-smart on all things activism, Sarah knows politics, healthcare and education reform, and all that it takes to create effective and palpable change in America today. From intersectional protests to speaking openly about LGBTQ and abortion rights, no injustice is too wrong for this showgirl-style author, organizer, and mother of three to try and make right. I admire her very, very much.

In addition to the work that she does on a personal level both near and far away from her home in Brooklyn, she is also one of the founding members of The Citizen’s Band, a political cabaret group that — behind the glitz, glamor, and incredible ensembles — gives melodic voice to the causes they support. She’s one half of the mastermind behind Firebrand, a company that operates at the intersection of culture and politics, and she’s a vital part of the Women’s March On Washington and The Resistance Revival Chorus. Needless to say, when it comes to operating in the name of equality, we should all be taking notes.

I met Sarah here in Nashville when she was in town advocating for Tennessee’s election last year. She organized a number of volunteer groups including a city phone bank that I attended. We had dinner afterwards and I left that night feeling so much more educated, inspired, and passionate to make change. Last month, while I was working in New York, the 40-something creative director, performer, and now friend invited me into her home and set down her many hats to get candid with Bleu on all things career, politics, style, family, and more. This is one you’ll want to read to the end. Enjoy!

Dôen dress. Vintage floral crown.
Dôen dress. Vintage floral crown.

How do you typically spend a day off when the work can wait?  “It’s hard to imagine a day off! With kids, I’m not sure that totally exists. That said, I can think of no finer day off than one spent with my family. We are also very into dinner parties and gatherings at our place. I try to exercise most days. I am an aerialist and try to work with my friend and trainer, Amanda Topaz, a few times a week. I also really love Obé streaming videos. It’s affordable and each video is around 30 minutes long, thus doable!”

Do you sleep-in on your days off?  “I LOVE sleeping in. I can sleep in like nobody’s business. My kids got into bed ‘challenges’ where the challenge is to stay in bed for 12 hours (or more). Needless to say, I am all in for this!”

What’s the story behind your home and how long have you lived there?  “We have lived in Brooklyn for around five years. Before that, we were in Manhattan on Canal street which was an entirely different vibe that was not entirely suited for life with three kids.”

Favorite part about living in Brooklyn?  “Community! In New York, it can feel hard to know your neighbors. I love knowing ours. I also love how many friends are in walking distance. Our kids can walk to school and their friends are close by. My favorite thing to do in Brooklyn is sit on our stoop with a kid or two or three and talk to whoever comes by. We also love a stoop sale and have done some great fundraising from our stoop!”

Would you live anywhere else?  “I don’t think so. My partner is a director, so we are often asked why we don’t live in Los Angeles. Again, the community aspect of New York is what keeps us here. We also love that we have a diverse group of friends who work in all different fields. I love New York; it fits my pace. I love walking, I love its spontaneity, I love bumping into people, I love the subway, I love the culture, and I love the agency and self-sufficiency it’s giving my kids. I go back and forth to D.C. quite a bit, so the proximity to that is great as well.”

Any favorite items you cherish in your home?  “I love our stoop for reasons stated above. I love our kitchen. We host a lot of dinner parties and, like every home, the kitchen is the epicenter of all our gatherings. I’m grateful for the privilege of a big space. We throw a ton of political meetings, fundraisers, and consciousness-raising events. I think if you have the privilege of a big space, you have to give back by making it an open house for community gatherings. I love my bed. I get my best work done in bed. I love it when the whole family is in bed together. The bed is the coziest spot in the house.”

Tell us about the art in your home.  “Although we have a lot of friends who are artists, we are just starting to get it together to collect their work. We have a lot of kid art, photos (my partner is an amazing photographer), and a ton of crappy flea market finds. We aren’t into anything too precious, so we don’t have anything fancy. I have a ton of art from The Women’s March collaboration with Amplifier that I’m really proud of. I’m trying to someday get it framed, so I can hang it.”

Where do you find / shop for home decor?  “This is not my area of expertise. I used to love going to flea markets and thrift stores. As we had more kids and got busier, I stopped making time for interior design, so we are admittedly a bit of a mess. We are in the process of looking for new couches after having the same ones for 15 years or so. So, I guess I should be asking you and all your readers the above question!”

What’s on your bedside table?  “Books! I’m grateful that so many of my friends are gifted writers and send me their books. I have a beautiful stack of my community’s work. Also water, face cream, tissues (I’m relentlessly allergy-prone), and eye masks (I’ve tried to instill in my kids that an eye mask is like a ‘do not disturb’ sign…this only works occasionally).”

Favorite, must-read books? Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, Together We Rise (I am admittedly a co-author of this book, but I’m just so proud of it!), Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich. I’m re-reading A Taste Of Power by Elaine Brown right now. I just finished Heavy by Kiese Laymon, and it was beautiful. I’m also really into poetry and reading a lot of Muriel Rukeyser.”

What are your favorite Netflix series / shows / movie?  “Ugh, again I’m the worst. I’m still figuring out how people with kids binge-watch things. A beautiful thing that’s happened now that my eldest child is 12 is that we can watch things together. This has been a real joy! I love documentaries. A few of my favorites are: How To Survive A Plague, What Happened, Miss Simone?, and She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. I just started the second season of Fleabag, which I highly recommend. I loved Shrill, but am a little biased because my partner worked on it, and a bunch of friends did as well. That said, it’s brilliant! When They See Us, Ava Duvernay’s powerful mini series, is also critical watching, especially for white people.”

Any podcasts you’d recommend and why?  “I LOVE podcasts. I listen to them when I’m exercising, walking, doing my make-up, whenever I can. A few faves: Call Your Girlfriend, Democracy Now, Pod Save The People, Why Is this Happening, Healing Justice, On Being, and for meditation, Tara Brach.”

Coffee table books or magazines you love?  “I don’t read a ton of magazines any more. Of course, I’m partial to Violet Book.”

Favorite candles?  “The Ikea tapered candles for candle holders. We go through them at a breakneck pace.”

What are your hobbies?  “Aerial work is my number one favorite hobby. I’ve been studying with Amanda Topaz for a long time and used to perform in my political theater group The Citizens Band. I’d love to get back into performing.”

Night in or night out? How do you spend it?  “I do both. Once you have kids, you have to be strategic about nights out. After the Women’s March, a few of my organizer friends and I were feeling depleted, so we formed The Resistance Revival Chorus. We now perform a lot, and many of the shows that aren’t at protests / rallies are at night. In the last few years, I’ve been asked to be on a lot of panels and host political events, so many nights are spent doing all this. I like to invite friends over or host events at my place, so I’m not away from the kids too many nights a week.”

Song on repeat?  “I have the new Lizzo album on repeat right now. We also got the kids into Lauryn Hill, so we are enjoying some oldies, but goodies with them.”

Signature scent?  “I don’t have one! I love night blooming jasmine. I look for scents that remind me of jasmine, honeysuckle, tuberose, and gardenia.”

Suzie Kondi tracksuit. Brother Vellies boots.
Suzie Kondi tracksuit. Brother Vellies boots.

Your career is so multifaceted. Tell us a bit about what you do, and the projects that currently have your attention.  “Paola Mendoza and I founded Firebrand, a company working at the intersection of culture and politics, after we left the Women’s March. We work with everyone from Families Belong Together to The Domestic Workers Alliance to NARAL . We have a big, secret feminist project in the works with a lot of my (s)heroes. We are doing quite a bit of electoral work through 2020 both locally and nationally.”

You’re a talented and passionate activist / organizer. What inspired you to start campaigning for the rights of others?  “I’m a very privileged white woman and a lifelong feminist. That has always meant that agitating for just my rights would not be helpful to most people. The people closest to the pain are always closest to solution, so I’ve always tried to use whatever resources or platform I had to pass the mic to those on the frontlines. When the most marginalized people are centered, we all benefit. If I only uplift issues that benefit me, then I’m not in service to feminism, women, or anybody. Once you are paying attention, you recognize that all these issues are interconnected and that our liberation is bound in each other’s.”

Who / what / where has been your biggest inspiration?  “My kids, of course. That love is the deepest I have known. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the scores are families that are raising their kids with fewer resources than ours has. They are an inspiration to me.”

What does a typical work day look like?  “I am grateful that I mostly make my own schedule. If my partner is in town, I try to get him to do school drop-off, otherwise I do it. Then, emails and exercise. I either go into our office or work from home depending on the day. We have an amazing sitter who does school pick-up. She usually leaves around 6:00 or 6:30 p.m. We eat together, hang out, do homework, watch a show, or I watch my younger kids do obstacle courses; they are really into that right now. They can be on iPads for a spell before bed. Then we read, listen to music, cuddle, and all that good stuff.”

In addition to positivity and progress, there can be a lot of defeat and heartbreak in activism, what keeps you motivated to keep fighting?  “The great community I’m lucky to be part of is really what makes it all doable. Community is my biggest form of self-care. When we were burnt out after the Women’s March, Nelini Stamp and I had the idea of singing in community and also to bring protest music (both new and old) into the movement space. A brilliant poet named Toi Derricotte said that ‘joy is an act of resistance’ and that has become our North Star. Keeping people in a place of fear and isolation is a tactic of repressive / authoritarian governments. Expressing joy, togetherness, celebration, and laughter is in direct opposition to how they want to keep us. Honestly, this all has kept me going.”

What’s been the most rewarding project you’ve been a part of thus far? What made it so?  “I will forever be proud of the Women’s March. All the work that I did leading up to it and after it have been connected, so it feels like a beautiful continuum. It was not without its pain and fraught moments, but I think that building a truly intersectional movement will always be uncomfortable at times. There is beauty in the discomfort and I’m really proud of the community and work that has grown out of it.”

In your opinion, what are a few relevant movements that everyone should know more about? Any tips on where to learn more?  “Oh wow, yes, we stand on the shoulders of giants. A few to google: Combahee River Collective, Act Up, Black Lives Matter, The Jane Collective, Sister Song and The Reproductive Justice Movement, The Black Panthers, WITCH, The Brown Berets, The Farmworkers Movement…there are so many.”

If you were to give advice to your younger self, what would you say?  “You don’t need to know what you are doing. Follow your instincts and your intuition; they are your guardian angels.”

Any advice to others looking to get involved in organizations / movements that they’re passionate about?  “I’m excited about the recently launched ‘Super Majority‘ with my friends Ai-Jen Poo, Alicia Garza, Cecile Richards, and Jess Morales Rocketto at the helm. I trust these women with my life. Getting out of the mess we are in, both nationally and internationally, is going to take ALL of us. If you can’t find a good fit for your activism, slip into my DMs, I’ll happily tell you what I know. Also, watch this space for a new project we have in the works.”

Breakfast / brunch of choice?  “Breakfast isn’t my jam. Usually granola or an apple with some almonds.”

Coffee or tea? How do you take it?  “Coffee with nut milk.”

Favorite local cup?  “Mine from my house, with Aldo’s coffee (from the North Fork).”

Fave cookbooks?  “I don’t cook too much. [My partner] Jesse is an amazing cook. If he’s out of town, which is often, I’m a little useless aside from kid food basics.”

Favorite local restaurant and what is your go-to order?  “Number one favorite restaurant is in my kitchen cooked by Jesse. Otherwise, we order a lot of Japanese food.”

Regular Postmates / takeout order?  “Ramen, Sushi, or Thai.”

Suzie Kondi tag.
Suzie Kondi tag.

Any supplements you take / magic elixirs you make or swear by?  “I’m unimpressive in this arena.”

How do you stay active?  “Walking, aerial work on hoop or fabric, Obé (Our Body Electric streaming videos).”

What does self-care look like for you when you’re off duty?  “Exercise, reading, bed, and long walks.”

You decide to treat yourself, how do you indulge?  “I love a good facial.”

Ulla Johnson dress. Rachel Comey earring. Miu Miu shoes.
Ulla Johnson dress. Rachel Comey earring. Miu Miu shoes.

Describe your personal style.  “Over the top! I cut my teeth in San Francisco in the queer scene in the ’90s, so I think that is where my heart will always be. Sort of a mis-mash of cabaret, silent movie, drag queen, punk, and showgirl.”

What’s the one thing in your closet you would save in a fire?  “I cannot imagine saving anything in my closet in a fire. I would likely grab my collection of showgirl costumes. Well, after actual important things like my family and passports!”

What do you wear when you’re spending the day comfortable, at home, and off duty?  “Suzie Kondi tracksuits! Suzie is a friend and has been the magnificent and generous creator of my favorite loungewear! I also love just wearing long dresses around the house, and gratefully know some of the best designers for what I call a ‘secret nightgown’: Ulla Johnson, Mara Hoffman, Jane Mayle, Rachel Comey, and Dôen. While I’m at it, I will shout out my favorite shoe designer, Aurora James, of Brother Vellies.”

Who, what, where inspires your style the most?  “I suppose I inspire my own style the most. I think one thing we all grapple with is who we are and how we present ourselves. My brilliant friend, the artist Shantell Martin, asks the question, ‘Are You You?’ and that is at the heart of how we put ourselves out in the world, right? So style, for me, has always been an extension of putting my most honest version of myself out in the world. I’m inspired by the idea of distilling my truth in life. Whether that is style, politics, work, or parenting.”

Your five wardrobe staples, go…  “Secret nightgowns, headdresses by Jennifer Behr, berets, sparkly shoes, sheer summer dresses, Brother Vellies shoes.”

Favorite designers / brands and why?  “I like knowing the values of who I’m wearing and where it was made. I tend to stick with Mara Hoffman, Ulla Johnson, Brother Vellies, Jennifer Behr, Rachel Comey, Jane Mayle, Dôen, Batsheva, The Vampire’s Wife, Suzie Kondi, Rosie Assoulin, and other small women and people of owned and designed brands. And of course, vintage!”

Shoes by Brother Vellies, Sophia Webster, Rachel Comey, and Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
Shoes by Brother Vellies, Sophia Webster, Rachel Comey, and Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

Dresses or jeans?  “Rarely jeans.”

Heels or flats?  “Both!”

Vintage or new?  “Both!”

If you could raid one person’s closet (alive or dead), who’s would it be? Why?  “Josephine Baker. She had the showgirl outfits and the gowns and headdresses. Plus, the good politics. Plus, Paris!”

What are three things on your want list?  “A new president. A massive voter turnout in 2020. More interest in local politics in general.”

Hair and makeup by Cate Ureña using Anastasia Beverly Hills.

Written by: James Kicinski-McCoy

James Kicinski-McCoy is the 30-something Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Bleu. She likes tequila, picks fights with her husband so she can have the bed to herself, and is trying to figure out that work / life balance.

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