Amanda Lugg

From Bernie to Hillary: the fight for social justice

“In no particular order, I am a woman, I am a lesbian, I am black, I am an immigrant, and why in all likelihood, I am a social justice activist!

I was born in London, England. I grew up in pre-revolution Iran and I’ve been living in New York City since 1993. I am easygoing and love life -- and dogs. I love dogs! Oh yes, and I have a great sense of humor (probably something to do with being English).

Because I live in a solid blue [liberal] state, I know that my vote isn’t going to make a dramatic difference to the outcome, but I am going to vote because I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to do so, that real power is in the hands of the voter, and because this year, I can!

Amanda Lugg first came to the U.S. under rather favorable conditions. It was the 1980s and she was trying to decide what to do with her life. Soon, she found a job she loved, working among immigrant communities, and everything fell into place.

But Lugg’s story is one of mixed identity and discrimination as an immigrant in the U.S. She was born in London to a Ugandan father and white English mother, and adopted as a 4-week-old baby. Her British accent, she says, has served her well. But people are often stunned when they see her for the first time.

“I used to say that some of my best work is done on the phone,” Lugg jokes. “They’re imagining Kate Winslet walking into the room, and then it’s me. We don’t look that much alike.”

As Lugg became more politically active in the U.S., she decided to listen to her conscience and become a citizen, despite the rising application costs. She says she felt it was important in terms of maintaining her personal safety, in case she were ever arrested for civil disobedience — an act that could otherwise result in deportation.

Lugg officially gained citizenship in August 2014, just in time for the fall local elections in New York. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized the vital importance of her vote, she says, particularly as a liberal residing in a heavily Democratic state.

“Unlike countries where perhaps many new immigrants come [from], the president cannot make decisions on his or her own, it has to come through the agreement of Congress,” Lugg said.

She says she strongly encourages new immigrants to become politically engaged — in particular among emerging African diaspora communities — referencing a popular expression to sum up her feelings: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Lugg’s choice: Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

Lugg disapproves of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and says the rhetoric against Muslims in the country has gone “off the rails.”

“I’m embarrassed to go home [to England] because I know what friends and family will be saying to me: ‘What the hell? Why would you want to stay in this country?’ ” she says.

“The current xenophobia that appears to have gripped this country, along with the rest of Europe, I find despicable, ugly and extremely dangerous.”

Lugg says she favored Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for president during the Democratic primary but has since come around to supporting Clinton.

“The Bernie or bust camp” — a popular reference to Sanders supporters who will not back Clinton during the general election — “I just see that as extremely irresponsible,” Lugg says. “What we’ve seen happen in Europe in terms of Brexit, which I’m very upset about, I think we’ve learned on a global scale that we can’t take anything for granted.”

However, she says she supported Sanders’ efforts to stay in the race [not concede the nomination] for as long as he did. By doing so, Sanders helped to shape a more progressive party platform during the Democratic convention and over the next four years, Lugg says.

Lugg says she looks forward to her first general election as a U.S. citizen, as well as her first vote in any national election since 1979, a year she voted for former British Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Margaret Thatcher.

“It was her first time in, I didn’t know,” she laughs, defensively. “My parents were conservative. She was a woman. I thought, ‘That’s cool!’ ”

Lugg says she is determined to “get it right” this time.

“There’s no muddy water between the two presumptive nominees. Clinton is one way and Trump is another.”

Amanda Lugg emcees at a rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations headquarters, during the U.N. High-Level Meeting on AIDS in 2011.

Top five issues for Amanda Lugg

5. Climate change. “Studies have shown that, without a doubt, we are slowly killing this planet. We must therefore do everything within our means to slow down and halt that process.”

4. Crime and punishment. “I wholeheartedly support a review of the laws that have resulted in the fact that proportionally the U.S. imprisons more individuals than any other country in the world and that those prisons disproportionately incarcerate blacks over whites. Additionally, the current for-profit private prison system must be dismantled — to have a financial incentive to increase the number of people in prison is unconscionable.”

3. Gun control. “How this country can allow people to buy high-impact assault rifles without a background check, to me, is a crime in itself. I fully support gun control and an amendment [revising] of the Second Amendment itself.”

2. Health care. “I’m afraid that the Republicans will roll back Obamacare, which will be very bad news for the millions of Americans who can now afford to see a doctor if they need to.”

1. Immigration. “This country is a land of, and a country built by, immigrants. To tighten this country’s immigration laws any further, to deport individuals who have lived and contributed to the U.S. for decades, to intentionally break up families or to build a wall across its borders, goes against everything America is and what she stands for.”

Status updates

July 14, 2016, 12:38 PM

“I'm not 100 percent sure why these latest murders by the police [in Louisiana and Minnesota], and then of the police [in Dallas], has got me more incensed than previous recent shootings by U.S. law enforcement.

Perhaps it was because we got to witness — one of them "live" — two extremely violent, point-blank assassinations in the space of just two days.

Perhaps it was because the police killings in Dallas, as wrong as they were, suddenly stole all the attention away from the very reasons that it occurred in the first place.

Perhaps it was because we went back to hearing that "All Lives Matter," inferring that to chant "Black Lives Matter" is somehow racist when in fact it's not until Black Lives actually Matter that we can truly say that, yes, "All Lives Matter."

Or perhaps it was because two black men were murdered by the police, and five policemen were killed by a black man. …”

September 7, 2016, 5:04 PM

"Brexit! I never in a million years believed that we, or I guess now I should say, Britain, would ever vote to leave the EU, but it happened! Against all odds, it happened. This does not bode well for the US.

I feel like the Brexit vote and all its anti-immigrant rhetoric has given some level of validation to Trump, and his supporters—or more worryingly, those voters still on the fence—have been delivered proof positive that yes, in politics anything is possible.

As November loomed closer, I was believing less and less in a Trump win. After Brexit, all bets are off.”