Okay, now what?

You win some, you lose some. But when you’re working to shape a better future for your community, those losses can hit hard.

The avenues for change are vast and varied, and the Pollen community is full of folks who are working across many of them. No matter where they stood on the issues going into this election cycle, there are people in our communities facing disappointment and loss. We asked six people who have experienced tough defeats — as candidates, organizers, or policy advocates — to share their advice for dealing with, and growing from, these setbacks.

Jillia PessendaAfter a decade of organizing and campaigning, I’ve won — and lost — a number of hard-fought campaigns and elections. This includes losing my own election in 2017 for Minneapolis City Council by a razor-thin margin. I was devastated and heartbroken, but over time, I realized that the conversations we had during that campaign changed our community and helped push it forward. Young people saw themselves in the political process and neighbors participated on the local level for the first time.

When I give everything of myself and it doesn’t work out the way I hoped, it’s difficult in the moment to remember that this work — fighting for a more just world — will last our whole lifetimes — far beyond one win or loss. We must care for ourselves and each other, take space to grieve, or rejoice and then carry on in any way we’re capable of. For me, the biggest loss of all, would be to give up hope that another world is possible.

Asma Nizami2021 almost killed me. I moved. I had a baby. I had a traumatic labor and postpartum depression. I thought I’d be home in Minneapolis, knocking doors, making calls, making sure that our city showed up for the most vulnerable amongst us. And all of a sudden I couldn’t even take care of myself. So how the hell was I supposed to take care of community?

The truth is: You can’t take care of yourself without your people. So I talked about what I was feeling online. And then to my friends and family. I learned that I wasn’t so alone. That people wanted me to live. I have to remind myself every single day that I have people to fight and live for, and that I am one of those people.

When we lean on community we’re reminding ourselves that we are worthy of care. When you feel defeated, lean on your people. And if you think you don’t have any, I promise you — you’re wrong. If you’ve loved Minneapolis long enough, you know that it doesn’t always love you back. But the cool thing? Your neighbors do.

Davis Senseman

Caring about politics isn’t a choice for many of us, because “politics” so deeply affect our lives — when or if to have a child, who you can marry, or whether our communities will ever truly be safe for all of us. And the more you care and work for it, the more it hurts when an election doesn’t turn out well.

Sometimes the only way to keep going is thinking about folks who were in this fight 10, 20, even 50 years ago—folks whose names we know, and even more who will never get the recognition they deserve. Good people have been fighting so hard for so long — continuing the work is our only way of showing them our gratitude.

Mark Haase

November 6, 2018 – At 6pm the house was packed with friends and supporters, ready to celebrate a victory in my run for Hennepin County Attorney. By 7:30 my concession speech was over, and I numbly tried to smile as people trickled out. I’ve never felt so deflated. Later that night a dam broke, and I started sobbing.

The next few months were spent focusing back on my family and reorienting mentally, emotionally, and physically — a political campaign, as candidate, staff or volunteer, can take a lot out of you. But it didn’t take long to pivot to my next “campaign” — developing the Minnesota Justice Research Center and becoming its executive director. It really wasn’t just about winning that election, it was about making change from wherever possible, and I know we made a difference despite the loss. If you truly go into it because it’s about something more, then the cost, the work, the stress — they’ll all be worth it, and the sting of defeat will soon fade.

Dan Cramer

​​I’ve been working on elections for 31 years. My mentor Paul Wellstone said that “elections are the primary way we contest for power in this country.” I agree, but unfortunately, like many who campaign for progressive and equitable social change I’ve lost more than I’ve won.

So what to do with that? How do you handle a loss? How do we sustain ourselves? For me, it’s about three things. 1) Allow time and space for grieving — and celebrating. When you go to a funeral you grieve the loss and celebrate the life. I try to do the same thing after a losing campaign: mourn the loss and celebrate who I’ve met and what I’ve experienced. 2) Lean into community — don’t isolate. 3) Embrace learning — what will we carry forward or do differently next time? Reflection is strength. Learning is power. Let’s keep contesting for the power we need.

Erica Mauter

I ran for city council in 2017, and lost. After election day, I was spinning, wondering “Now what?!” Here’s how I suggest moving through it:

Feel your feelings. There will be pride AND grief. Thank your team. Debrief with them. It’s tempting to just walk away from it all. But it will reinforce for you what you did well, and you’ll need those lessons learned.

Then ask yourself “What can I do now that wasn’t possible before I did this really big thing?” Ask people you trust to tell you what they saw in your race. Let them help you make sense of it all, and ask them to help you answer this question. Give yourself time for answers to come.

And then be discerning when possibilities come your way. If you’re worried that you won’t be relevant or influential anymore, that’s not true (unless that’s what you want). You’ve already proven yourself to everyone. Congratulations, and thank you for running.

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Asma Nizami
Asma Nizami is an unapologetic Muslim survivor. She is active in movements for survivors of sexual violence, mutual aid efforts, and justice for our people. Most recently, she helped eliminate the statute of limitations for reporting sexual violence in Minnesota. As Advocacy Director at Reviving Sisterhood, Asma regularly works to make sure Muslim women are included in all levels of the political process.
Erica Mauter
Erica Mauter is the Mobile Innovation Director at MoveOn, was a 2017 candidate for Minneapolis city council, and is appointed to the city of Minneapolis Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee. Erica lives in the Phillips West neighborhood with her wife, Missy, and their two dogs.
Mark Haase
Mark Haase was appointed in January of 2020 by Governor Tim Walz to be the Ombudsperson (Ombuds) for Corrections for the State of Minnesota. The Office of the Ombuds promotes the competent and just administration of corrections by independently investigating complaints. Prior to his appointment Mark was the Executive Director of the Minnesota Justice Research Center, led his own consulting and lobbying firm, and was Vice President of the Council on Crime and Justice. Mark received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota, and Master’s and Juris Doctor Degrees from the University of Saint Thomas. Prior to law school, he served as a U.S. Coast Guard and Army Reserve Officer.
Davis Senseman
Davis Senseman founded Davis Law Offices in 2010 after nearly a decade of practicing in the corporate department of a larger law firm. Armed with this experience, Davis set out to bring the same level of service to smaller organizations and individuals. Davis serves on the boards of the Main Street Alliance, Partnership in Property Commercial Land Trust, as the President of the Johnson Street Merchants Association in NE Minneapolis and serves on the City's Trans Equity Commission and Workplace Advisory Committee.
Dan Cramer
Dan Cramer (he/him/his) is the Co-founder of Grassroots Solutions, a consulting firm that advises campaigns, advocacy organizations and foundations on purposeful engagement for the public good. Dan currently focuses on one-to-one leadership coaching. His “Purposeful Coaching” approach emphasizes racial and gender equity, imagination, curiosity and relationship-building as key principles for both established and emerging leaders. Dan and his wife Cassie are also cancer bloggers chronicling their efforts to navigate life after her Metastatic Breast Cancer diagnosis. You can see their reflections at meaningandstuff.com.
Jerome Rankine
As Editorial Director, Jerome is the keeper of Pollen’s editorial voice and vision. He works with Pollen’s talented stable of writers to produce stories that entertain, enlighten, and invite readers to take action. Jerome spends a lot of time hunched over keyboards--either editing the latest Pollen feature, or composing music in his home studio. He’s active in local politics, less active on social media, and more active in his kitchen.
Melanie Walby
Melanie Walby is the Design Director of Pollen Midwest who joined our team after working at various ad agencies in Minneapolis. Her illustration, typography and design bring stories to life in collaboration with our freelance network of illustrators and photographers. Melanie’s work is driven by a deep understanding of how art and design moves people towards social change.
Jaida Grey Eagle
Jaida Grey Eagle is an Oglala Lakota artist, currently located in St. Paul, MN. Jaida is a photojournalist, producer, beadwork artist, and writer. She is a Report for America Fellow with the Sahan Journal covering communities of color in the Twin Cities. She is also researching Indigenous photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as an ongoing former Curatorial Fellow. She is passionate about bringing awareness to indigenous issues, especially those which impact indigenous women. Her work is inspired by her family's usage of color, passed down from a great grandmother’s star-quilt color-philosophy of using six colors or more in every piece. She holds her Bachelors of Fine Arts emphasizing in Fine Art Photography from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Ben Hovland
Ben is a Korean-American photographer & videographer reporting from Dakota land in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He became interested in photography while attending Minneapolis South High, and during his career has had work featured in the Washington Post, Agence France-Presse & Minnesota Public Radio. Currently, he serves as multimedia producer at Sahan Journal, a nonprofit digital newsroom that reports on immigrants and communities of color.
Allegra Lockstadt
Allegra Lockstadt was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and raised in Lexington, Ky. In 2006, she moved to Minneapolis to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Since graduating in 2010, she has worked as a freelance illustrator, designer, and brand consultant while still devoting time to her personal arts practice. A few of her past clients include: Rookie Magazine, GOOD, Kentucky for Kentucky, MCAD, Springboard for the Arts, Paper Darts, and Utah Valley University. Aside from her creative design practice, Allegra also produces cultural events alongside local events team Cult Collective.
Emma Eubanks
Emma Eubanks is an illustrator and designer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Clients include Target, the Fulton Brewing Company, the Nassauischer Kunstverein in Wiesbaden, Germany, the Children’s Theatre Company, 5ive Advertising Agency, MN Women for Political Change, the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market, Flip Phone Events, and All-City Cycles.
Ryan Stopera
Ryan Stopera is a photographer, videographer, social worker, community organizer,and entrepreneur. He has worked in direct social services and grassroots community organizing for over ten years. This privilege has allowed Ryan to build a vast amount of relationships and experiences constructing a deep analysis of the social issues our communities face today. During the Occupy Wall Street movement, Ryan produced a video sharing the story of five homeowners in foreclosure with Bank of America. The video, which included the cell phone number of Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, asked the nation to call and demand he negotiate with the homeowners who were victims of the mortgage crisis. By the second day of the video going viral executives from the office of the CEO contacted each of the homeowners to help them negotiate their foreclosure and avoid homelessness. He recognized the power of media as a tool to create powerful narratives that can be used to create social change.
Ricardo Levins Morales
Ricardo Levins Morales is an artist and organizer based in Minneapolis. He has been active in movements for racial, environmental and economic justice since his family moved from Puerto Rico to Chicago in the late 1960s. His first political home was the Chicago Black Panther Defense Committee and his most recent, MPD150. Ricardo was a founding member of Northland Poster Collective (1979-2009) and continues to use art, writing and teaching as political medicines to promote healing and resistance in the face of oppression. He works out of a storefront studio with a team of radical troublemakers (all members of the Newspaper and Communications Guild/CWA).
Leslie Barlow
Leslie Barlow is an artist living and working on occupied Očeti Šakówin and Wahpekute land now known as Minneapolis, MN. Barlow is interested in reimagining our relationship to our racial identities through healing our collective understanding of belonging and what it means to be family. Her life-size oil paintings serve as both monuments to community members and explorations into how race entangles the intimate sphere of love, family, and friendship. Her work is colorful, tender and nuanced, and inspired by community dialogue and personal experience. Barlow received her BFA in 2011 from the University of Wisconsin- Stout and her MFA in 2016 from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Luis Fitch
Luis Fitch is an internationally artist, designer, mentor and creative entrepreneur who is currently the founder of UNO Branding a multicultural, strategic visual communication agency. Raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Luis moved to the U.S.A. in 1985. There he attended the prestigious Art Center College of Design at Pasadena, California. He graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. While he has enjoyed great success with commercial art through his agency UNO, his artwork has been presented nationally and internationally and is in more than 100 collections in Latin America and the U.S.A. With the accelerated growth of the Latinx population in the U.S.A., Luis is anxious to insure this community is served. “More than ever in the new face of America there is a great opportunity to make art centered primarily in Latinx themes with a cross-over appeal,” says Luis Fitch.
Terresa Moses
Terresa Moses is the Creative Director of Blackbird Revolt. Influenced by artists and activists, Blackbird Revolt was founded because we felt compelled to engage our community through art and design. The idea to form a company came about in Fall of 2016. We noticed the continued lack of representation and the intentional exclusion of diverse voices from the dominant narrative. We are an alternative to that exclusion. At Blackbird Revolt, we act as a platform for conscious creatives looking to transform our communities. We want to find ways to support the causes we care about, while providing opportunities for others to do the same. Through design we aim to inspire people to engage in activism and movement work. Blackbird Revolt aspires to break the social & political barriers that keep us caged. Our designs go beyond media and apparel, we find creative solutions to help challenge the way people move through the world.