High Points of Remarks from 50th Anniversary March of Washington

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High Points of Remarks from 50th Anniversary March of Washington

Saturday, August 24, 2013

There were, fittingly, 50 speakers at the rally preceding the March on Saturday – representing civil rights and labor organizations. They ranged in age from 10 to 80. Most had only 2 minutes, forcing them to be succinct. Almost all connected the issues and movements of the past with the current struggles and opportunities of the present.

Here are points from the speeches, which were especially meaningful to me. None of the remarks (expect the last 2) are linked to those who presented them.

• This must not be commemoration but a continuation. Are you here to commemorate or to participate? To be seen or to make change? We just can’t stand here at the Lincoln Memorial. We have to organize for change. Shame on us if we’re back here 50 years from now with the same demands.
• We’ve come a long way but we have a long way to go
• The Supreme Court has eviscerated the Voting Rights Act
• Economic indicators: we’ve increased in inequality over the last 50 years. Minimum wage is less in real terms that it was 50 years ago. Unemployment and underemployment then was 10%, now it’s 13%
• We must keep dreaming
• We’re tired of being sick and tired
• It’s movement time
• Voices in the courtroom or in Congress aren’t enough. We need people in the streets.
• Immigrant used to be a word that bounded people together. Now it’s used to divide
• Rights are self-evident, given not by man, but by God
MLK’s triplets of evil: racism, materialism and militarism
• People are being put in prison to make profit for others
• We need a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote
• He had a dream. We need a team.
• Voices at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago weren’t the end but the beginning. Our voices matter.
• We need to make Congress fear us more than they do the corporate gun lobby
• We must pick up the burdens left by others
• Something is wrong when corporations are making record profits and service workers are making minimum wage
• Racial justice and economic equality go hand in hand
• Yesterday it was racism; today it’s hatred and greed
• It’s no longer about providing civil rights to one group. It’s now about civil rights to all groups
• When they say no you can’t, we say yes you can
• We need to fight for a level playing field.
• When people work full time and don’t have enough to live on, we still have a lot of work to do.
• MLK’s 1963 speech was not simple about a dream but a call to action. A fierce urgency of now to combat the drug of complacency.
• We must make minimum wage a livable wage. And paid sick leave.
• Think of the term “Stand Your Ground” as a positive ring for freedom, justice and equality
• Marcia Fudge (Congresswomen from Cleveland and head of the Congressional Black Caucus): We are still fighting for good jobs, equal education, fair housing and right to vote. Tomorrow’s dream depends on today’s movement. As King said, it is time to be uncomfortable, to take risks, to stand for something and march for something.
• John Lewis (current Congressman and former leader of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who spoke at the 1963 rally): We can’t go back. We can’t be patient. We want jobs and freedom now. You have to stand up, speak up and get in the way.

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Summary of Constitutional Reform Conference

The Democracy Convention, which ended today, was composed on nine separate Conferences – each with their own Workshops. Some had their own Plenaries. Many Workshops were sponsored by more than one Conference and major Plenaries had representatives from multiple Conferences.

At the concluding Plenary today, each Conference had three minutes to share 3-5 major points or themes which arose during the four days.

I was asked to present the summary at the Plenary for the Constitutional Reform Conference.

1.     The current social, political and economic systems are racist, sexist, and classist.

2.     The US Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” and supports and protects the racist, sexist, and classist system.  So we need a new Constitutional framework to move us towards liberation, peace, justice, ecology and democracy

3.     An over-arching question– do we need an entirely new Constitution or a series of Amendments?

4.     We must create racially and ethnically diverse processes and gatherings across the country that represent various sectors of society to help connect forces in motion to participate in demanding this new society and new legal framework.

5.     We must create a social movement that is broad, deep, educated, militant and nonviolent that commits itself to independent political action.

Flush the TPP [Trans Pacific Partnership]

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Flush the TPP [Trans Pacific Partnership]

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, the major conveners of this workshop at the Democracy Convention, had to say this about the TPP:

“The TPP will fundamentally change the global economy in a way that further entrenches global corporate power and gives multinational corporations the power to challenge national environmental, labor and consumer protection laws in a rigged court system. The TPP will affect every aspect of our lives from wages to the environment to access to medicine and internet freedom. Rather that a trade treaty, the TPP is a corporate property protection act. A global campaign is underway to stop the TPP.”

TPP actually stands for Total Planetary Power or Terrible Plutocratic Plan. It has little to do with trade (be it free or fair) and a lot to do with privatization and deregulation. Only 4 of roughly 28 chapters of what is known about of the proposed agreement deals with trade.

Negotiations among 11 countries have been going on since 2010. Negotiations have been in secret to people but completely transparent to corporations — 600 corporations have representatives in the negotiations. Only 1 US Congressperson has seen any part of it – which could only happen if he couldn’t make any copies or even take any notes.

Most telling is the statement from former US trade representative Ron Kirk who admitted if the American public ever found out what was in it, they would oppose it.

“If ratified, the TPP would establish a system of international tribunals allowing corporations to challenge the laws, regulations and even court decisions of any member nation (including local, county and state laws) if they are deemed to adversely impact the corporation’s expected future profits.” (Source, TPP, Occucard #21)

TPP will not pass unless President Obama, who is strongly behind these negotiations, receives Fast Track authority. Congress would relinquish their Constitutional authority to the President is they approve Fast Track. They couldn’t make amendments, only vote straight up or down.

The latest round of TPP negotiations is August 22-30. Flush The TPP encourages everyone to make calls to their Congressperson every Tuesday on the TPP.

The US trade deficit is already 600 billion per year. US corporations producing abroad want to move their production from China to Vietnam (where the labor costs are 1/3rd). TPP allows this to happen.

The Flush the TPP link below has a great list of photos/images that can used for emails and social media mediums.

More information:
flushthetpp.org
occucards.com

US Social Forum

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US Social Forum

Engaging and Relating to the next US Social Forum (USSF)

The U.S. Social Forum is both an event and a process.

As an event, it is one of the largest gathering of social change leaders in one place. In 2007, about 15,000 people came to Atlanta. In 2010 about 20,000 gathered in Detroit. During the same week time as the Detroit gathering, the Tea Party had their first major rally in DC that attracted 5-10,000. Guess which event received all the corporate media attention and reports of a burgeoning social movement? I had the privilege to attend both gatherings, which are composed on literally 100s of workshops, cultural celebrations, marches, rallies and actions in the host community.

As a process, the USSF is lead by people of color, women, indigenous people, GLBT people, immigrants and other who are traditionally marginalized in our society. Decisions are made in what are called “People’s Movement Assemblies” (PMAs) – a heavily participatory method allowing for genuine sharing of information, ideas and respect for views in seeking consensus as much as possible.

The next USSF is scheduled for 2015. It looks like it will be in Philadelphia. It theme will be “From Convergence to Coherence.”

The workshop at the Democracy Convention on this subject focused on what took place at both previous gatherings and how we can help build for the USSF in our own communities by organizing local and regional PMAs where we live.

Information about the USSF is at ussocialforum.net
Information on PMAs (including a organizing manuel) is at
http://www.peoplesmovementassembly.org/

Move to Amend and Nonprofits

Ben Manski and David Cobb, both attorneys connected to Move to Amend, led this session at the Democracy Convention.

The session addressed one of the major questions heard at the grassroots from many potential supporters: wouldn’t eliminating corporate personhood adverse non-profit corporations and unions?

Manski and Cobb addressed these questions by making the following major points:

– State governments via charters create virtually all corporations.

– No entity (business corporation, non-profit corporation, union, etc.) has inalienable constitutional rights.

– They don’t have rights but they do have privileges and protections granted by local, state and/or federal laws.

– Inalienable constitutional rights don’t effect non-profit corporations. It doesn’t effect the issue of books or audits. All nonprofits now are subject to audits via existing state or federal laws.

– On the question of shielding membership lists, the court case NAACP vs Alabama established that individual members of organizations have rights to protect themselves from being exposed.

– MTA will actually democratize social movements since non-profits will have less control over their members.

– Citizens United didn’t actually address labor unions.

– The basic right of workers doesn’t come through incorporation, but through the first amendment right of freedom of assembly and association. Unions don’t need the corporate form to freely exist.