RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Galindez writes: "There was one question I kept hearing from the corporate media at the People's Summit. All they wanted to hear from the People's Summit organizers was how they would get the Bernie Sanders supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton. For them, the election is a horse race that ends with a fight between the two candidates who survive the flawed nominating process. What they fail to understand is that Bernie Sanders has always believed that building a long-term movement to transform our country is more important than one election."

Journalists Juan Gonzales, John Nichols, and Naomi Klein, Actress Rosario Dawson, and RoseAnne DeMoro from National Nurses United at the People's Summit. (photo: Gerardo Mora/Getty)
Journalists Juan Gonzales, John Nichols, and Naomi Klein, Actress Rosario Dawson, and RoseAnne DeMoro from National Nurses United at the People's Summit. (photo: Gerardo Mora/Getty)

The People's Summit: "Together We Can Win!"

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

22 June 16


here was one question I kept hearing from the corporate media at the People’s Summit. All they wanted to hear from the People’s Summit organizers was how they would get the Bernie Sanders supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton. For them, the election is a horse race that ends with a fight between the two candidates who survive the flawed nominating process. What they fail to understand is that Bernie Sanders has always believed that building a long-term movement to transform our country is more important than one election.

This past weekend in Chicago, National Nurses United convened a summit of many sectors of the movement that rallied behind Bernie. They understand that Bernie didn’t create the progressive movement, he exposed it. He united groups that have been organizing for decades. Bernie’s campaign also attracted young people and breathed new life into what is now a political revolution.

It was a great networking experience for all involved. I attended with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI). I plan to get further involved in their work as one way that I will continue to support the Political Revolution.

The combination of younger and older activists at this conference was inspiring. The enthusiastic energy of the youth combined with the wisdom of long-time activists created a powerful dynamic.

Day 1

The summit began with a panel called “Visions of Justice.” The segment was moderated by Democracy Now! host Juan González. González opened with a story from 1968, in Chicago. Juan was a member of SDS at Columbia and came to Chicago to protest the DNC. He talked about how they had unseated the sitting president and how Eugene McCarthy was their candidate. We all know what happened. There was violence in the streets, and the DNC establishment nominated Hubert Humphrey even though he didn’t compete in a single primary. Juan explained that they were in the streets fighting for a better world. The problem was that the rest of America saw the protests and clashes with the police in a negative light. The movement then decided to vote in the streets, and not for Humphrey or Nixon. Gonzalez said it was the right slogan—“vote with your feet”—but the wrong tactic. We got Nixon.

For me, Juan was telling us to be careful. A tactic that we think it is right for 2016 could lead to a result we don’t want.

Also on the panel was author and activist Naomi Klein. Klein talked about how we won a battle against neoliberalism. A democratic socialist was successful in capturing the hearts and minds of the American people. She cautioned however that we have not won the war, and that neoliberalism is alive and well in our country.

Klein also offered lessons from the past, telling a story about her time in Argentina prior to an election. “Our Dreams Don’t Fit on Your Ballot” was the slogan of Argentina's workers. She explained that it didn’t mean not to vote. It meant don't expect to get everything you want from an election.

John Nichols of The Nation echoed that sentiment and told the summit that we are making progress but shouldn’t let elections swallow up our movement.

Actress Rosario Dawson was also on the opening panel. She has been out there campaigning for Bernie Sanders for months. Dawson called the campaign and the Summit a “call to encourage courage.” Rosario stressed that we all have to support each other no matter what tactics we use. She said that some will be in the street, some will vote, some won’t, some will engage in civil disobedience, but no matter what, we must support each other.

Calling the political revolution a movement of movements, Dawson called on the activists gathered to discover their power. She told the crowd we didn’t lose and we must continue the fight.

Day 2

I have to apologize. There were many great panels and breakout sessions on day two that I missed after Nina Turner brought down the house. There were many Sanders campaign surrogates at the Summit but none with more knowledge of what Bernie is planning to do next, so I followed Turner and Tulsi Gabbard around the rest of the afternoon. Like I said, Nina Turner brought down the house.

Tulsi Gabbard and Chuy Garcia were also on the panel that was billed as “A People’s Agenda."

Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia, who is from Chicago and gave Rahm Emanuel a scare in the last mayoral election, opened the panel. He spoke about the gains progressives have made in Chicago and Illinois, but warned at the end that we must do a better job of diversifying the revolution. People of color must be at the table if we are going to build a movement for all of us.

Nina Turner then took the stage and even left the stage during a speech that had some asking her if she was ready to announce her candidacy in 2020. I heard others saying that they wished she was on the Ohio Senate ballot instead of Ted Strickland. At one point, she left the stage to be with the people as she told a personal story about her upbringing and explained why Bernie Sanders resonated with her. The crowd was on its feet giving her high-fives as she passed them, calling for people to be “Doers of the Deed.”

I heard a woman standing in front of the press riser tell her friend, “I really needed this. She is reigniting the Bern!”

Election after election I have been disappointed by the Democrats' poll-tested message about fighting for the middle class. Nina correctly pointed out that candidate after candidate refuses to acknowledge the poor or talk about poverty. Turner said that there are 100 million people in this country who either live in or on the brink of poverty, and it's time to fight for them.

She had fighting words for the establishment as well, warning them that, "We don’t have time for the okie dokie. We need people elected who actually give a shit! We are not going back to business as usual. We don’t care what their party affiliation is, whether they be Democrat or Republican. We need to form the party of the RT, the party of the right thing.” Turner then held a brochure up in the air and pushed the hashtag #ReformTheParty.

After her rousing speech, she met with reporters. When asked about her feelings on people being angry at the Democratic Party, she called herself a rogue Democrat and vowed to stay in the party and fight to change it.

If you won't watch any of the other videos, watch the next two. I believe Nina will play a huge role in whatever organization Bernie forms beyond the election.

Following her speech Turner took questions from the press:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had the hardest task of the weekend. She followed Nina Turner on stage. Tulsi was one of the few speakers to tackle foreign policy. She was a medic in Iraq and is the first American-Samoan to be elected to Congress.

Tulsi called on the Summit to stand up and fight against regime change interventions in general and specifically the intervention in Syria. It was the only anti-war message that I heard on the main stage. It was a message well received by the conference attendees.

What followed on day two were many breakout groups that I missed. One was on the media and you can see it at the end of this video of the whole day...

Day 3

We got going early on Sunday morning…8:30 a.m. The theme for the day was Juneteenth. Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South. The keynote speaker for the first session was Heather McGhee, the President of Demos. She spoke about racial politics in 2016. McGhee challenged the audience to change their thinking about racism. She pointed out that while most people think racism benefits white people and only harms people of color, in reality it hurts all people.

She concluded: “Our movement must be an irresistible call to experience solidarity across race and class and origin and gender and sexual identity.

"Our policy demands, as Bernie has shown us, must be audacious because of the very notion that those that have more money are worth more in our democracy and economy.

"This is our destiny, this is our charge, this is our sacred compact we have to make with each other and with our country. This political revolution has begun and will never be stopped. We have to be able to say that my children's dreams are not a threat to yours, that we all do better when we all do better and that today, this generation, the most diverse in American history, the Bernie generation of revolutionaries, are going to be the ones to finally create a Demos in this country. One people united by a shared fate.”

McGhee was followed by an emotional, inspiring call to action from two young women who told us how racism affected their lives. One young African-American who experienced the brunt of racism, and one white daughter of an alcoholic father who took ownership of her role in racism.

Alicia Johnson talked about going from playing with Barbie dolls to being a teenage mother who stole 500 dollars to pay her rent. She then had age, race, and her criminal record used as strikes against her when looking for work at the age of 16. Allison Kennedy was in the back seat when her alcoholic father was pulled over. She explained that because he was white he was just given a warning and not arrested like Alicia’s father would have been. She spoke of people like her prepared to vote for Trump because they haven’t been organized yet. Kennedy said: “There are masses of people who look like me who are voting for Donald Trump because no-one has bothered to organize them yet. I have not bothered to organize them yet, because I haven’t been clear in my stake in ending racism.”

It was a powerful call to action on racism and economic justice. For me it was a highlight of the weekend.

Another highlight was a segment called stories from the field. We heard from a dreamer, a student organizer, a millennial, an environmental activist and a labor organizer. They inspired us with stories about their work and how it impacts their lives. Take a look:

The final keynote speech came form populist, activist, and syndicated author Jim Hightower. He was happier than a flea in a dog pound to be there. He was billed as a hell-raiser by the organizers in their program. Jim told the crowd that "those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t interrupt those that are doing it.” Hightower's message was that it is up to us, its not up to Bernie. It's not up to some organization, its up to you and me. I’m proud to be a part of the revolution with each and every one of you.

National Nurses United convened the summit so it was fitting for their leader RoseAnn Demoro to close the Summit. It was an inspiring weekend. One of the reasons is there wasn’t an agenda in place. There was no starring committee bringing proposals to the floor. For example, when people broke down by state, they created their own agenda and began the work of planning action in their communities. Change comes from the bottom up and that was the model for the People’s Summit. Bernie united us. We don’t need a few national talking heads to give us marching orders. We need to keep organizing and making relationships in our communities.

The answer to the corporate media’s question about how we will bring the movement over to Hillary was loud and clear in that room: We are not going to Hillary. Hillary and the Democratic Party have to come to us. They have to earn our vote. But it really isn’t about November. We are building a movement to transform America. Elections are just one tool in our box. Some of us will vote for Hillary, some will vote for Jill Stein, some will write in Bernie or someone else. All of us will fight for a just society and we will win. See you in Philly!

Here is RoseAnn closing out the Summit:

Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador's slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush's first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
Email This Page


THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.