NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

LIVE from New Orleans: Netroots Nation hears what progressive women of color are doing to lift up communities across America

Wel­come back to our live cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2018.

It is Day Two here in New Orleans of the coun­try’s largest annu­al gath­er­ing of pro­gres­sive activists, elect­ed lead­ers, and advo­ca­cy journalists.

This after­noon, Net­roots Nation heard from a group of speak­ers orga­nized by Aimee Alli­son dur­ing the con­ven­tion’s sec­ond ple­nary session.

The pan­el dis­cus­sion, pre­sent­ed under the title Hid­den Fig­ures: How Women of Col­or are Mak­ing His­to­ry in the Midterms, high­light­ed women of col­or who are work­ing to devel­op polit­i­cal strat­e­gy, ener­gize vot­er turnout, and build polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture in com­mu­ni­ties of col­or through­out the South and beyond.

The pan­el’s first speak­er was Dejua­na Thomp­son, the cre­ator of Woke Vote, a pro­gram designed to mobi­lize the vot­er turnout of black youth and faith based vot­ers. Woke Vote (along with her oth­er orga­ni­za­tion, Think Rubix), were influ­en­tial in mov­ing over one hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple of col­or to the polls to help elect Doug Jones, the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Sen­a­tor from Alaba­ma in decades.

Thomp­son empha­sized the need to build off of the work done in Alaba­ma last year by expand­ing polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture and pro­gram­ming in black com­mu­ni­ties. She remind­ed atten­dees that black women have been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly polit­i­cal­ly ignored in this coun­try despite being some of the most reli­able Demo­c­ra­t­ic voters.

The pan­el dis­cus­sion then moved to Vir­ginia and Texas, where Tram Nguyen’s orga­ni­za­tion New Vir­ginia Major­i­ty and Crys­tal Zer­meno’s Texas Orga­niz­ing Project have been help­ing to orga­nize com­mu­ni­ties of col­or to trans­form and devel­op pro­gres­sive lead­ers and vot­er engagement.

LaTosha Brown of the Black Vot­ers Mat­ter Fund spoke of the need to invest in rur­al polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, areas that are too often ignored in polit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion. She men­tioned the impor­tance of tap­ping into the exist­ing social infra­struc­ture of rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, such as church­es and com­mu­ni­ty groups, instead of try­ing to rein­vent the wheel and build polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture from scratch.

Sayu Bho­jwani, founder of New Amer­i­can Lead­ers, was the pan­el’s final speak­er. Her orga­ni­za­tion helps to recruit and train first and sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­can lead­ers to run for office. The orga­ni­za­tion helps break down soci­etal bar­ri­ers for new can­di­dates and works with elect­ed lead­ers once they are in office to ensure they stay true to pro­gres­sive val­ues and remain con­nect­ed to the movement.

For­mer Michi­gan State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Rashi­da Tlaib, is a past mem­ber of their pro­gram who is run­ning for Con­gress in the midterms.

This after­noon’s ple­nary ses­sion also fea­tured pow­er­ful speech­es from two high pro­file pro­gres­sive lead­ers who are con­sid­ered poten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates: Mass­a­chu­setts Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren and Cal­i­for­nia Sen­a­tor Kamala Harris.

In her speech, Eliz­a­beth War­ren took her audi­ence back to the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis, detail­ing how our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Con­gress repeat­ed­ly put the inter­ests of pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tions and banks ahead of work­ing people.

“Who does the gov­ern­ment work for?” she asked rhetor­i­cal­ly. “The rich and pow­er­ful prof­it when gov­ern­ment does­n’t work for work­ing people.”

In order to keep con­trol of pub­lic pol­i­cy, she argued, the rich and pow­er­ful engage in pol­i­tics of divi­sion, pit­ting work­ing peo­ple against each other.

“They want us point­ing fin­gers at each oth­er so that we won’t notice their hands are in our pock­ets,” War­ren said. “The pol­i­tics of divi­sion may be the one thing that Don­ald Trump is actu­al­ly good at.”

War­ren stat­ed over­turn­ing Cit­i­zens Unit­ed, lock­ing the revolv­ing door, get­ting big mon­ey out of pol­i­tics, and fight­ing back against ger­ry­man­der­ing and vot­er sup­pres­sion are nec­es­sary steps towards mak­ing gov­ern­ment work for all people.

When Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris took the stage, she took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to reit­er­ate the over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage from the Hid­den Fig­ures pan­el discussion.

“Black women were crit­i­cal for Doug Jones’ vic­to­ry,” said Harris.

“We should be elect­ing women of col­or as those lead­ers, not just thank­ing them for help­ing to elect others.”

This after­noon’s dis­cus­sion and keynote speak­ers were inspired and impas­sioned, high­light­ing incred­i­ble women who advo­cate every day for poli­cies based on the log­ic of pro­gres­sive val­ues that will strength­en our communities.

If the pro­gres­sive move­ment is suc­cess­ful in field­ing a diverse field of can­di­dates for office across the coun­try, it won’t be long before pio­neer­ing women like Thomp­son, Nguyen, Zer­meno, Brown, and Bho­jwani will be hid­den fig­ures no longer, but instead rep­re­sent­ing us at the local, state, and fed­er­al level.

Want to see this keynote in its entire­ty? Play the video any time on demand here.

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