Rocket Science: Francoise Stovall
On free buses, lazy pit bulls, great nonprofits, and Beyoncé.
Francoise is Acting Vice President of Digital at Voto Latino, a pioneering civic media organization that seeks to transform America by recognizing Latinos’ innate leadership.
What’s been your best read of 2019?
I’m rereading all of Margaret Atwood in order, and this year I got to my favorite book of all time, which is Oryx and Crake. That remains the best thing I’ve read this year.
She’s very prolific and she’s actually written at least one more book since I started this process, so it keeps getting longer and longer. I haven’t read The Testaments yet. So, for now at least, that will be the end of this journey.
Your favorite Beyonce song and/or moment?
You’ve clearly done your research, you know I love Beyonce. My favorite Beyonce song is Countdown, and my favorite Beyonce moment is at a concert … I’ve been to see her live four times … where she did Hold Up and Countdown back to back, and I basically just stopped breathing.
She does Hold Up and Countdown in the Coachella performance as well, and it just makes me so happy every time. It just really gets me going. I feel like I could conquer the world with that song.
Change one thing about the transportation grid in DC.
I would make all buses free. I take the bus, and I think the bus is great for democracy.
It costs $2 to take the bus in DC. It’s still the cheapest way to get around, but that’s not really that cheap, and the buses in DC are actually really good. They’re quite well connected and easy to navigate. Most bus drivers are okay, if you don’t have fare, they let you on anyway.
But … I have seen mothers trying to get their kids to school. They won’t have the fare, and they aren’t let on, and that’s appalling and unnecessary. I would open up the whole system for free, and I think that would encourage more ridership. It would get more cars off the road and it would be really egalitarian.
What’s on your podcast rotation?
I subscribe to some politics podcasts, but I mostly listen to pop culture podcasts. I really love How Did This Get Made? and My Dad Wrote a Porno and Pop Culture Happy Hour. I’ve been to two live tapings of Who?Weekly, which is another fave.
If there’s an issue I am having trouble breaking down where I’m like, “Oh I don’t really get it, what’s going on?” I’ll find something that’s good at explaining it. But mainly, I listen to podcasts to relax. The last thing I need is more impeachment news. That’s not relaxing.
You rescued a pit bull a few years ago. What’s been the most surprising trait of the breed?
I don’t know if this is true of all pits, but ours is unbelievably lazy. He will not even get off the couch when I come home from work. He will not get out of bed for his morning walk. We have to push him out of bed. He’s just a beautiful, loving lump of a dog that likes soft surfaces at all times.
His name is Sawyer and we got him in 2012, so he’s probably about eight. It’s a little hard to know exactly how old he is. He was found as a stray in North Carolina and he actually has bullet fragments in his back leg, but he also shows no sign of having been abused. It’s a very strange history we can’t quite put together. He doubled in size since we adopted him, so that was unexpected. He was 35 pounds then, and he’s 80 pounds now. So, yikes.
What’s a nonprofit (other than Voto Latino) you think does good work?
I have two that I’m personally involved with. I am a doula in my free time, and there’s a group of us called DC Doulas for Choice. We believe that people should have emotional support regardless of what reproductive choice they come to.
I’ve also done a good amount of volunteer work with So Others Might Eat, a DC charity that provides food assistance, but they also provide affordable housing and support services for people who are transitioning from homelessness into long-term housing. A lot of families, especially.
SOME approaches the problem from a holistic point of view. It’s not just, “Let’s get you into housing.” They make sure that your kids have support and afterschool tutoring, that you have job counseling, that you can see a doctor and a dentist, that you understand how your credit score works. They treat people as full human beings with a full range of needs. I really admire their work.
What’s your superpower at work?
I think I stay calm when things are not calm, shall we say? When there are fire drills, I’m good at keeping our eye on the prize. What’s our goal? How do we get there? Let’s stay calm. Let’s figure out how to make this work and let’s get it done.
Are you drawn to places where your superpower is needed?
Well, I work in politics, so yeah. I never thought of it that way, but I suppose so. Boy, in the year 2019 that is definitely true.