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Bucks County Changemakers Interview with Kim Barbaro, Red Wine & Blue’s Deputy Director of ‘TroubleNation’

"Everyone has the power to create change."

I am a suburban mom, as is Kim Barbaro. We share similar reasons for standing up, showing up, and speaking out; the vital importance of maintaining democracy in our country, beginning at the local, grassroots level.

Barbaro is a powerhouse who acknowledges being an introvert and needing to rise to the occasion and let her voice be heard when her son required additional support from the medical and school systems. What she found when she attended school board meetings in the district were that things were disturbingly amiss, and she knew she needed to up her level of involvement, which eventually led her to joining Red Wine & Blue. 

Please share the origin of TroubleNation.

TroubleNation is a program started by Red Wine & Blue, a powerful grassroots network of half a million diverse suburban women working together to defeat extremism. Red Wine & Blue offers resources to learn about the issues impacting our communities, and provides ways to take action and get involved, primarily by training our members on relational (aka “friend to friend”) organizing. Suburban women have unique relationships and networks – we live rich, complex lives. Sharing our stories and having conversations about what matters most to us can be phenomenally impactful.

Red Wine & Blue was founded in 2019 by Katie Paris, an Ohio suburban mom, after feeling a personal responsibility to mobilize other suburban moms to do their part. Initially focused on building a network of women in Ohio, we expanded nationally in 2021, and now have organizers on the ground in each of our target states: Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. 

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Our national presence is fueled by our engaging online events and our SWEEP (Suburban Women Engaged Empowered and Pissed) Facebook group. Red Wine & Blue has its own unique flavor, one of community, hope, and empowerment, bundled in a fun and inspiring experience. Women from across the country continually ask us, “When are you coming to my state?” TroubleNation is the answer to that question.

We launched TroubleNation to harness and grow the power of women across the country. The program helps people connect with their local community, using the tools and strategies of Red Wine & Blue, no matter where they live. People can look to TroubleNation to find values-aligned groups working in their area, start their own local advocacy group, or even help strengthen their existing grassroots organization. We provide engaging educational content, leadership and advocacy training, and tangible opportunities to stay involved and avoid political fatigue.

I enjoyed reading about the values of your group. Why are they important?

The values of Red Wine & Blue are foundational to the trust-based relationships we rely on in building community. We are all in this together and seek to carry as we climb. We do not believe you have to be a political activist to do your part. We believe in meeting you where you are and then moving where we want to go together. Our shared values cut across partisan lines and bring women into a community of empowerment, hope, and action. 

Is Red Wine & Blue an event-based aspect of the primary organization?

I talked about this a little bit in the first question, but Red Wine & Blue hosts virtual events every week, along with many in-person organizing events in our target states. You can learn more and see what upcoming events we have planned on our website – redwine.blue/events

I understand that there are Pennsylvania chapters. Can you please tell us where they are?

One of the unique aspects of TroubleNation is that we do not use a top-down chapter model. We believe the people organizing on the ground know the needs of their communities best. Each group in TroubleNation remains independent and participation in programs or actions is entirely voluntary. Our website features a clickable map where our national audience can search the TroubleNation network by city/state or zip code. Member groups all get a dot on the map, a dedicated landing page where they can create events and petitions, and access to an exclusive resources page where we provide the latest training and educational content.

We are just getting started in Pennsylvania, with nine groups located in suburban Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg. The leaders of these groups do inspiring work, and we are honored to support them in the ways they need to keep making good trouble in their communities.

What led you to get involved?

My oldest son was born with a rare disorder that required me to advocate in the medical arena, as well as within the public school system. I began attending school board and committee meetings to ask for accommodations for him and in the process, learned everything I possibly could about how it all works. In early 2021, though still categorically high needs, my son’s most debilitating physical symptoms went into remission, and I found myself with time to breathe and take stock of what was happening in my community. 

At the time, the anti-masking movement was raging, and the culture wars were beginning to take hold in our district. I became aware of an extremist candidate running for school board and was absolutely stunned at the depth of the harmful conspiracy theories and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on display. Though I had never done anything overtly political beyond voting, my concern for my kids, their schools, and our community compelled me to get involved. I volunteered to help a couple of school board candidates on their campaigns and throughout that experience noticed gaping holes in general awareness of the rising tide of extremism at the school board level. No one was talking about it and there was a distinct absence of reliable information regarding local electoral issues and common-sense candidates. 

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In 2022, I started a community organization to raise awareness of the looming threats of school board extremism and provide sources of reliable information. Most importantly, my co-founder and I worked to create a community of values-aligned neighbors and friends to help end the isolation that so often comes with rural living, which had been exacerbated by the pandemic. We built our community, one conversation at a time, reaching out to folks within our networks. A friend referred me to a Red Wine & Blue Troublemaker Training in June of 2022, and I learned the name for the type of work we were doing – relational organizing. By the end of the month, I was working for Red Wine & Blue, and the rest is history!

Were you always outspoken?

This is a hard question for me because I am a massive introvert. It took me a long time to become even mildly comfortable speaking publicly and taking on a leadership role in my local organizing. I have strong convictions and feel a deep commitment to my community and our future generations. I carry empathy in my bones and have always felt compelled to speak up for those who are treated unfairly. I was bullied mercilessly as a teenager, and I suppose working through the accompanying trauma helped me find my voice.

Why is it essential to get involved in this moment in history?

We are fighting an extraordinary fight. History tells us we are at an intensely pivotal juncture. Voting is our minimum contribution and quite literally the only way to stop the trajectory of this extremism. We need to be talking to our friends and family about the issues that matter to us and making sure they vote. 2024 is all hands on deck!

What do you see as the best possible outcome of your work?

The best possible outcome would be vibrant, diverse communities with healthy, inclusive public schools. I plan on working as long as I possibly can to help achieve this.

What gives you hope when it would be easy to fall into despair?

I find so much hope in our youth. They are growing up in an impossibly difficult time and despite the challenges they face, their intelligence, drive, immense talent, and bold voices shine through like a beacon for me (no pun intended!)

How can people get involved?

You can check out all of the amazing resources Red Wine & Blue has to offer on our website, redwine.blue. We have exhilarating and informative events, The Suburban Woman Podcast and Substack , and so much more. Our limited series podcast, The Cost of Extremism, is in its second season and the first season was phenomenal, so I encourage everyone to listen!

Check out the TroubleNation map and see if there is a grassroots group working near you. If there is, join it! If there isn’t, grab a couple of friends and start a group to make some good trouble. We will help you every step of the way. 

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Everyone has the power to create change. Women are an unstoppable force and the whole is greater than the sum of our parts. In our current circumstance, all actions, big and small, make an indelible difference. We’ve got this! Now, get your friends, have a little fun, and make some good trouble!

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Picture of Edie Weinstein

Edie Weinstein

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, journalist, interfaith minister, speaker and author. She is the co-founder of Bucks County Kind.

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