Netroots Nation 2018 gets a traditional welcome from Louisana's largest tribe
Netroots Nation 2018 gets a traditional welcome from Louisana's largest tribe

Good after­noon, and wel­come back to our con­tin­u­ing live cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2018, tak­ing place in New Orleans, Louisiana.

After a long day of cau­cus­es, pan­els, train­ings, and screen­ings, atten­dees are gath­ered togeth­er in the main hall for the open­ing keynote.

The Rev. angel Kyo­do williams opened the keynote with some intro­duc­to­ry remarks stress­ing the need for uni­ty and love in dif­fi­cult times, and led every­one through a series of col­lec­tive quick deep breaths.

Net­roots Nation Board Chair Arshad Hasan then greet­ed the atten­dees and con­duct­ed an impromp­tu sur­vey to find out how many peo­ple are at Net­roots for the first time and how many are return­ing vet­er­ans. He empha­sized that this year’s con­ven­tion has the largest atten­dance in the even­t’s history.

Hasan then intro­duced Tom Stey­er, the founder of NextGen Amer­i­ca, a lead­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic activist, and one of Barack Oba­ma’s lead­ing fundraisers.

Stey­er salut­ed atten­dees for their orga­niz­ing work and imme­di­ate­ly launched into a cri­tique of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic estab­lish­ment con­cern­ing its lack of response to the “dev­as­tat­ing and obvi­ous truth” of Don­ald Trump’s corruption.

Stey­er lament­ed that con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats haven’t mount­ed a seri­ous effort to impeach Trump. While many Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed offi­cials will say they sup­port it in pri­vate, they have been pub­licly non­com­mit­tal or silent, he said.

Peo­ple are tired of speech­es that do not trans­late to action, he added. NextGen is build­ing infra­struc­ture to change Con­gress, empow­er­ing count­less young peo­ple to orga­nize and can­vass in Repub­li­can-held dis­tricts in an effort to help flip seats.

Those efforts are yield­ing results, Stey­er said. Youth vot­er reg­is­tra­tion is up 100%. 80,000 young peo­ple have reg­is­tered to vote in the past few months.

Stey­er empha­sized that Democ­rats need to be bold­er in order to win.

Patri­ot­ic Amer­i­cans are hon­est with the truth, he said.

That’s what it will take to take down Trump and his enablers, bring a more just, inclu­sive and pros­per­ous era to the Unit­ed States.

Fol­low­ing Stey­er was the cur­rent and first female May­or of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, who was elect­ed by the vot­ers in last year’s local elections.

Cantrell revved up the con­ven­tion hall talk­ing about activism and hope, shar­ing her pride in the City of New Orleans and its recov­ery from Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na. New Orleans is the twelfth city that New Orleans has vis­it­ed, and Cantrell told atten­dees she’s incred­i­bly grate­ful that the city is able to host this year.

Cantrell exit­ed the stage after intro­duc­ing her friend Colette Pichon Bat­tle, Esq., founder of the Gulf Coast Cen­ter for Law & Policy.

Bat­tle gave atten­dees a primer on ris­ing sea lev­els and coastal ero­sion — both con­se­quences of the cli­mate cri­sis that are impact­ing Louisiana heavily.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in states like Louisiana, cli­mate sci­ence is often doubt­ed, mak­ing action more dif­fi­cult. And the impact goes beyond lost coast­line. Com­mu­ni­ties are hav­ing to be relo­cat­ed because of it too.

Bat­tle offered light­heart­ed shout-outs to orga­niz­ers in Mis­sis­sip­pi and Texas (Louisana’s neigh­bors to the east and west), where some great work is being done to advance caus­es like clean ener­gy devel­op­ment by activists whose work isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly get­ting any atten­tion from the mass media.

Bat­tle then turned to the top­ic of racism and race rela­tions, encour­ag­ing white orga­niz­ers and activists to get involved and get engaged with black com­mu­ni­ties and lead­er­ship. Most orga­niz­ing does not hap­pen from behind a com­put­er screen, she told the atten­dees. All pro­gres­sive activists should make time to sit down, hold face-to-face con­ver­sa­tions, share a meal, and real­ly listen.

Dirty forms of ener­gy have led to the deaths of black peo­ple, she not­ed, explain­ing that there’s a con­nec­tion between envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice and social jus­tice. It is vital that we pay atten­tion to where mate­ri­als like solar pan­els are built. “Clean ener­gy can­not pol­lute black and brown com­mu­ni­ties,” she said.

Ms. Bat­tle signed off with a call to action to pro­tect the Earth and the Earth­’s cli­mate — our com­mon home — for the ben­e­fit of everyone.

After she left the stage, atten­dees were shown a video fea­tur­ing Ady Barkan, a young father who is dying from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Dis­ease.

The video, a pow­er­ful doc­u­men­tary short shar­ing the sto­ry of his jour­ney as an activist, was addressed to his son Carl.

In it, Ady explained why he’s gone to our nation’s cap­i­tal, con­front­ed sen­a­tors, and tak­en his “Be a Hero” cam­paign to twen­ty-two states, chal­leng­ing every­one along the way to get involved in the fight for a bet­ter future.

Fol­low­ing the video, Net­roots Nation Board Chair Arshad Hasan returned to the stafe with Sara Robin­son to share thoughts from and about the late Joel Sil­ber­man of Democ­ra­cy Part­ners, a leg­end in the net­roots com­mu­ni­ty who served as the board chair of one of the two orga­ni­za­tions that orga­nizes Net­roots Nation.

This was fol­lowed by an announce­ment of the estab­lish­ment of the Joel Sil­ber­man Schol­ar­ship Fund. There is a web­site with all the details at, where you can learn more and make a con­tri­bu­tion if you wish.

Next up was the may­or of Brad­dock, Penn­syl­va­nia, John Fet­ter­man, who is the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor in the Key­stone State.

Mr. Fet­ter­man shared how his pro­gres­sive lead­er­ship has pos­i­tive­ly impact­ed Brad­dock, which has strug­gled for many years with pover­ty and vio­lent crime.

Talk­ing about com­ing togeth­er, Mr. Fet­ter­man described his whole­heart­ed sup­port for Hillary Clin­ton in the 2016 race, despite hav­ing been a Bernie Sanders sup­port­er pri­or to the 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion. It was the just, moral, and appro­pri­ate thing to do, Fet­ter­man told the convention.

After Fet­ter­man, Net­roots Nation heard from Gina Ortiz-Jones, a ground­break­ing con­gres­sion­al can­di­date from Texas’ 23rd District.

Ortiz-Jones shared her back­ground as the daugh­ter of a Fil­ipino woman who came to Amer­i­ca to make a bet­ter future, start­ing as a domes­tic helper. She knew her chil­dren could live their best life in Amer­i­ca, Jones explained.

She described how crit­i­cal invest­ments in pub­lic hous­ing and meal pro­grams helped her make it to the USAF Acad­e­my on a four-year schol­ar­ship. She lat­er served her coun­try in Iraq and and around the world and lat­er worked in the White House dur­ing Barack Obama’s admin­is­tra­tion. Her sto­ry under­scores how the essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices that sup­port­ed her ear­ly on in her life were investments.

As men­tioned, Ortiz-Jones is a ground­break­ing can­di­date. Her can­di­da­cy marks a num­ber of firsts for Texas and her dis­trict, includ­ing her Fil­ip­ina her­itage, being female, being an Iraq War vet­er­an, and being open about being out.

Next up was Amie Alli­son, Direc­tor of Democ­ra­cy in Col­or, who addressed the need to con­tin­ue to seek eco­nom­ic and racial jus­tice — par­tic­u­lar­ly for women of color.

Democ­rats spent 75% of their 2016 war chest chas­ing white, swing vot­ers. And Trump won. That play­book is dead. New oppor­tu­ni­ties are emerg­ing. Women of col­or are enter­ing races and reach­ing out to vot­ers who have large­ly been ignored. Those can­di­dates deserve the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s sup­port, Alli­son said.

She high­light­ed the cam­paign of Sta­cy Abrams in Geor­gia, who addressed last year’s Net­roots Nation in Atlanta, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of mul­ti-racial coali­tions. Women of col­or like Stacey are show­ing that the key to win­ning in many dis­tricts is get­ting non-vot­ers to vote more than court­ing poten­tial swing voters. is the group sup­port­ing this strat­e­gy and can­di­dates like Stacey Abrams. Women of col­or are lead­ing the way.

Clos­ing out the pro­gram was Chock­we Antar Lumum­ba, activist and may­or of Jack­son, Mis­sis­sip­pi. (Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er was orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to par­tic­i­pate in the open­ing pro­gram, but his address has been resched­uled for tomorrow).

Lumum­ba start­ed with a strong state­ment about pro­gres­sivism and radicalism.

“We need to be as rad­i­cal as the cir­cum­stances dic­tate we should be,” he said.

Because the def­i­n­i­tion of “rad­i­cal” is “some­one who seeks change.”

“We claim this rad­i­cal agen­da. We wear it as a badge of honor.”

Lumum­ba focused on income inequal­i­ty and pover­ty as he con­tin­ued his remarks, point­ing out that we often approach these issues from the per­spec­tive of look­ing for some­thing that has gone wrong, rather than rec­og­niz­ing that it’s often the sys­tem work­ing as it was intend­ed by the peo­ple who designed it.

The son of two orga­niz­ers, Lumum­ba dis­cussed the impor­tance of com­mu­ni­ty, local polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion, and self-deter­mi­na­tion. Peo­ple need the pow­er to gov­ern them­selves, he said. In Jack­son, they have cre­at­ed “people’s assem­blies” where peo­ple can address their lead­ers and get beyond polit­i­cal monologue.

Lumum­ba described a “sol­i­dar­i­ty econ­o­my” that allows peo­ple to live with dig­ni­ty, where peo­ple do not go through cycles of fail­ure. Our mis­sion should be to lift peo­ple up instead of allow­ing them to live in poverty.

A big symp­tom of a bro­ken sys­tem is the sheer size of our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, which has over-incar­cer­at­ed peo­ple, spend­ing mil­lions on all the peo­ple required to keep that sys­tem run­ning. And the sta­tis­tics show this is not mak­ing us safer.

This sys­tem must be fixed, he declared.

“Each gen­er­a­tion must dis­cov­er its mis­sion, ful­fill it or betray it, in rel­a­tive opacity.”

– Frantz Fanon

The ener­gy of young peo­ple today must play a role in orga­niz­ing and get­ting Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates elect­ed, espe­cial­ly in the Deep South, Lumum­ba told the con­ven­tion. The young peo­ple of Park­land, Flori­da exem­pli­fy the kind of change we need to see, fight­ing for sen­si­ble gun safe­ty laws everywhere.

“As a black man, I long for the day when I have as many rights as a gun does,” he said to sus­tained applause.

Lumum­ba closed with a call to be sin­cere in our mis­sion to touch the lives of indi­vid­u­als and effec­tu­ate the change they want to see.

If progress can be obtained in Jack­son, in one of the red­dest states in the coun­try, it can be obtained any­where, he said.

With that, the keynote wrapped up. Day One of Net­roots Nation 2018 (with the excep­tion of tonight’s off-site spe­cial events) is in the books. We invite you to join us again tomor­row as our live cov­er­age of the con­ven­tion continues.

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