“Where is Guam?” was trending on Google search in August 2017 when North Korea was threatening to nuke the island. Many Americans then learned about Guam for the first time.
The small island drew the world’s attention, and those who didn’t know already have since learned that it is U.S. territory. The devastation left by hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands also educated the world about the political situation of these territories.
"It's sad that these unfortunate things have to happen first. It's not something that one would wish for, but we were able to take advantage of the attention to make people aware that these territories exist, and elevate the issue of disenfranchisement and the unequal benefits in the territories," said Neil Weare, founder and president of Equally American.
People from insular areas are no strangers to the blank stares they get when Guam and the U.S. territories come up in conversation. "I use that as an opportunity to educate people and take it as a teaching moment, rather than getting upset about it," said Weare, a civil rights attorney now teaching a Law on Territories course at Yale Law School.
Aside from their lack of historical and geographical awareness, many Americans are also unaware of the political predicament of people from U.S. territories, who are considered second-class Americans and shut out of the national presidential election.
Advocating for equality and voting rights for the 4 million residents on Guam and other U.S. territories is not an easy path, but Weare is determined to make things right. After realizing that the issues and rights of the people in the territories are being ignored by other national sovereign rights organizations, Weare figured it was time to make a move