We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the Midwest and beyond.
Annie Wood has truly embraced life in Fargo.
In the summer, you’ll find her paddling up and down the river in a canoe or peddling along the trails on her mountain bike. In the winter, she likes snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
And whenever the weather allows, she likes to stroll along the river or set up her hammock for an afternoon of reading. “I love to spend time outdoors, no matter the season,” she says.
When she’s not outside, Annie likes to try her hand at new artsy projects. “Thanks to the fine folks at Unglued, I’ve picked up a few new crafty hobbies over the last few years.” And she’s got a plant collection that’s still mostly alive, a garden with plenty of herbs, and a sourdough starter named Bubbly.
Fargo is a great place to live, Annie says. And that’s why she also spends a lot of time trying to make it even better by volunteering for local organizations and advocating for change. “I love being involved with organizations or programs that are trying to amplify the good people and good work happening in our community,” she says.
That she gets to do that with great people makes it even better.
“I’m grateful for the wonderfully weird community of friends I have in Fargo who believe in creating the community we want to be part of,” she says. “I’m so thankful our crew can vibe just as easily while dancing to some good tunes as we can at a rally or protest.”
When did you first hear about the ACLU?
I’d known about the ACLU since it came up in my communications law class during my undergrad career, but I honestly didn’t give it much thought at the time. I first became a member of the ACLU when a cousin suggested it as an option in lieu of gifts for her wedding. As I researched and learned more about the ACLU, that was when I recognized the good work the organization does to benefit all of us as citizens, fighting to ensure our rights are protected. I’ve been a member since 2017.
What’s your favorite way to get involved in your community?
I love being involved with organizations or programs that are trying to amplify the good people and good work happening in our community. I currently serve on the board for Food of the North where our mission is to celebrate, connect, and empower our local food community in Fargo-Moorhead and beyond. Through our work, we focus on educating about food waste and “ugly food,” holding space for conversations about food and our food systems through First Fridays and promoting the growing and sharing of food through the Little Free Garden Project. I appreciate that Food of the North is not trying to recreate what already exists in our community – we’re simply using our collective power to raise awareness about it.
Do you consider yourself a change maker?
Calling myself a “change maker” doesn’t feel quite right for me – I’m less of an initiator and more of a supporter of change. I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and get to work helping create change, however, I’m not going to be the person who you’d see on the TV talking about a particular movement or change that needs to happen. I love to play a supporter role and keep things running the back end so that the folks who are passionate spokespeople can shine. I’m a believer that every movement needs those on the forefront who are pushing for change and needs folks who are willing to be great supporters or followers. You can’t be a leader without followers!
Do you have any advice for someone who might be interested in getting more politically involved in their community?
As you start to learn more about issues or injustices, don’t think that you alone are the one to solve it. There’s a pretty high likelihood that others are already working on the issue in some way, shape, and form. So start by showing up with curiosity and humility. Start by learning more and learning from those who’ve been doing the work and leading efforts already. Especially as a white woman, I recognize that there are many folks in our communities who are committed to important work and have probably been doing the work long before I became aware of it. So as I become more aware and involved, I am careful to not think that “I know how to fix XYZ.” Instead, I ask, “What does support look like?” and take direction from the community.
Which of the Constitution’s Amendments are most important to you and why?
I think the 24th Amendment is an important one for us to understand because there are lessons to be learned from the efforts surrounding it perhaps even more so than from the amendment itself. The decades-long efforts to bring it forth show us that those of us who believe in the right to vote need to fight to protect that right and ensure others can also vote. It demonstrates to us the will and desire of people to combat voter suppression tactics. In this case, by outlawing poll taxes and making that the law of the land, we found a way to protect voting from the whims of those in power. However, it also shows us the dangers of narrow legislation – it only protects from one form of voter suppression. It begs us to ask the question of where would we be today if we’d been able to write more voter protections into the amendment? Instead, we see continued efforts such as gerrymandering and voter ID laws. I believe that people deserve the right to vote – and this amendment can serve as both hope for protections and a cautionary tale that there are those among us who will get creative to keep others from voting. The fight to protect people’s right to vote is not over and we can learn from the 24th Amendment that there is more work to do.
What issues do you think are most important for the North Dakota Legislature?
I’d like to see the North Dakota Legislature the support what families need – such as access to food, transportation, childcare and housing. I firmly believe that every person deserves to have their basic needs met and that together we can ensure that folks are housed and fed. I’d also like to see additional focus on education, not only K-12 and higher education but also alternative training programs. Education is a way to empower people to contribute to their communities and we need to re-think the investments we’re currently making in education or North Dakotans will be left behind.
Which of the ACLU’s issue areas are you particularly passionate about and why?
As I’ve started to pay more attention to the laws and policies that affect voting rights, I’ve become increasingly passionate about making sure that people understand the voting process and their right to participate is protected. Voting is an essential part of people participating in democracy. I work with students in my day-to-day role at a university, so I aim to help them understand why voting is important and how they can participate in voting. So often I find that it’s not that students don’t care about voting, it’s that they don’t have the information or aren’t sure where to find out what they need to do in order to vote because of the complexity of casting a ballot. I see many efforts to curtail people’s ability to vote by adding barriers or removing options and I care deeply about making sure that peoples’ voices can be heard through their votes. In addition to voting rights, I’ve been trying to stay informed on where people in power are trying to use gerrymandering to stay in power. Gerrymandering is a concern for me because it’s about unfairly designing a system that will benefit some people while disenfranchising others.