Seattle’s famed socialist firebrand and city council member Kshama Sawant announced in January 2023 that she would not be seeking reelection at the end of the year. After a decade as an elected official, Sawant, a leading member of Socialist Alternative, has launched her own worker-led organization Workers Strike Back, and started a new podcast called On Strike.
While on the city council, Sawant changed expectations for elected officials, refusing to bow down to financial and political pressures that most of her colleagues succumbed to, inviting and leading protests on issues of unions, corporate taxes and fair wages, housing and rent, racial justice, and caste discrimination, and beating back a recall campaign. As one of her last acts in office, she recently introduced a resolution demanding a ceasefire in Israel’s assault on Gaza—which the city council ultimately declined to bring to a vote before the end of its term.
Sawant joined YES! Racial Justice Editor Sonali Kolhatkar on YES Presents: Rising Up With Sonali for an in-depth conversation about her city council legacy and what’s next for her.
Sonali Kolhatkar joined YES! in summer 2021, building on a long and decorated career in broadcast and print journalism. She is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and host and creator of YES! Presents: Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. She is also Senior Correspondent with the Independent Media Institute’s Economy for All project where she writes a weekly column. She is the author of Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (2023) and Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (2005). Her forthcoming book is called Talking About Abolition (Seven Stories Press, 2025). Sonali is co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women’s Mission which she helped to co-found in 2000. She has a Master’s in Astronomy from the University of Hawai’i, and two undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. Sonali reflects on “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host” in her 2014 TEDx talk of the same name.