Zee Cohen-Sanchez was in college when the protests bolstering the Occupy Wall Street movement were just hitting their stride in 2011. She will be the first one to admit the movement radicalized her.
Spurred by political fervor surrounding her, Zee did what many young people interested in social justice issues do: she joined a political campaign. Dropping out of graduate school to work for the Bernie Sanders campaign, Zee caught the political bug and caught it hard.
Sole Strategies is Born
Zee wanted to make something of her desire to elevate working-class voices. Sole Strategies came from that aspiration, becoming the first people-powered political activist organization, with a novel twist on grassroots campaigning.
The “sole” in the name refers to wearing out one’s shoes, pounding the pavement, and drumming up organic support for candidates who may not necessarily have the financial backing or clout that richer, more well-heeled politicians have.
“The idea came from a need for more working class operatives to be part of the process,” says Zee, “The races that matter across the country are overwhelmingly in poor working class districts and yet the advice being given to candidates running in these districts is coming from white, older, and overwhelmingly male consultants that dominate the industry.”
Zee knew that working-class candidates could start flipping important seats in areas where they could make a monumental impact if given the right support, resources, access to finances, and political consultants who worked hands-on.
A Seat at the Table
Sole Strategies began as a way to give the working class and other disenfranchised people a “seat at the table”, so to speak. The consultants seek to elevate the voices of women, people of color, and others who the overwhelmingly white political machine has long ignored.
“I know it’s been said before, but don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t have a seat at the table,” says Zee, “at our office, we have a poster of Shirley Chisholm because she said, “if there isn’t a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
The concept behind Sole Strategies is truly novel, and its creation looks to solve a problem that has been growing in urgency over the past decade. Gerrymandering and cash infusions from partisan political action committees have long kept the political landscape uneven.
Zee has effectively created a stockpile of folding chairs with folks to open them up and help others belly up to the table to start changing things.
Sole Strategies has already had a hand in some exciting, change-making campaigns, and Zee knows exciting things are on the horizon.
She was incredibly proud of her team amid the 2021 Buffalo, NY Mayoral election.
“Our digital team was tweeting for India Walton throughout the entire debate, and seeing our team’s tweets go viral and seeing people ask who was behind her account was incredible,” says Zee.
She acknowledges her team and the Sole Strategies idea is still in its infancy, but has optimistic plans for the organization’s future.
Passion and Progressive Politics
Zee and her team truly believe that people-powered movements flip seats and create change. Passion fuels every decision made for Sole Strategies, and Zee’s team members are just as dedicated to the mission as she is.
“It’s about time that political organizations are led by those who have the lived experience to speak to the issues,” Zee says. She is well-poised to make Sole Strategies the go-to consultancy organization for those who had been ignored in the past.
When approached by someone interested in getting involved in their community, the Sole Strategies team helps them visualize their campaign, give expert political advice, and facilitate fundraising, field operations, and public relations. They are an “all-hands-on-deck” squad of cheerleaders, ready to take underdog campaigns and make them attention-getting machines.
Zee and her team continue to promote the one-stop-shop campaign services to progressive voices needing a little helping hand to change the uneven political landscape.
From her humble activist beginnings as a young person motivated by the Occupy Wall Street movement, Zee has created something utterly innovative and game-changing with Sole Strategies. She remains dedicated to continuing to flip seats and spurring the progressive movement forward.