Q&A with Addisu Demissie: Celebrating Leaders of Color
In April 2021, we introduced our inaugural National Advisory Board. In this new series of posts, we’re diving in with our board members to learn about their careers, inspirations, and vision for the future.
Addisu Demissie has more than 20 years of professional experience in political advocacy and campaign strategy. He started his career as a legal and research assistant at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, fighting to preserve affirmative action and fight reactionary judicial appointments. In 2003, Demissie was a field organizer in Iowa for John Kerry’s successful Iowa caucus and has since led campaigns at the national, state, and local level for electoral, nonprofit, and corporate clients.
Addisu, you have been a political strategist for over two decades. What are you working on now?
In 2020, I founded 50+1 Strategies, a political consultancy based in the Bay Area. The goal of our consultancy is to bring more representation, more inclusion, and more diversity into the political sphere.
I’m also the Executive Director of More Than a Vote, an organization devoted to educating, empowering, and engaging Black voters using the voices of prominent Black athletes.
What’s the one thing you want people to know when they embark on a political or community leadership career?
You have to be really comfortable asking for things (and being told no). So much of the job is learning how, when, and who to ask, over and over again. You need to be comfortable with asking friends and strangers alike for things, whether it be money, votes, advice, or other.
Understanding how to convene people and quickly learn about issues is more important than knowing everything about everything - and is a big part of leadership. To those ends, communications skills - not just public speaking, but negotiations, perfecting “the ask,” mastering the question and answer format - all of these things are paramount to success.
What do you think are the key features of the Leaders of Color program that help address your answer?
Leaders of Color gives candidates both the network and the hard skills necessary to succeed. And importantly, the program doesn't shy away from engaging in the nitty gritty parts of campaigning that might not be why people enter in politics but are critical for success.