America is divided. With two controversial candidates at the helm of the country’s major political parties, many are turning their backs on conventional politics.
The growing tension will culminate Saturday with the People’s Convention here. The People’s Revolution, a Chicago-based organization, is hosting the convention with the stated hope of uniting those who feel disenfranchised by the U.S. political system. Founders Shana East and Jackrabbit Pollack, both of whom worked with the group The People for Bernie (Sanders), stress the importance of staying engaged in politics regardless of the outcome of an election.
“It’s the right time,” said East, who was on the staff for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ official campaign, “a lot of people have it on their mind: Whether Bernie’s the candidate or not, what’s going to happen with this momentum?”
The People’s Revolution, a name inspired by Sanders’ words, was formed officially in August 2015 to try to take that momentum and shape it into a long-standing movement, according to East. The next step the organization is taking is to officially establish a “People’s Platform” that candidly addresses issues important to its supporters. That’s where their convention comes in.
“A lot of people were mentioning the idea of a ‘shadow convention,’” East said. “We did a bunch of online polls to find what issues were most pressing to people and then we began finding people who are working in those areas at the grassroots level to begin crafting” a platform. According to East, it’s a “crowd-sourced platform” and Saturday’s convention will mark its ratification.
The organization lists its platform planks: “Getting Big Money out of politics, racial justice, income and wealth inequality, climate change, and healthcare for all,” in that order. During the convention, these issues will be discussed culminating in a talk about organizing for the future by Green Party presidential hopeful Dr. Jill Stein and former Ohio senator Nina Turner.
It’s no coincidence that the convention is being held in Philadelphia right before the Democratic National Convention starts; the organization hopes to attract delegates and demonstrators who wouldn’t otherwise be able to meet in order to unite under a single revolution.
One such delegate is Yamina Roland, a Sanders-pledged representative of Fresno who will be attending the convention.
Roland, a grocery store clerk and grassroots organizer, was attracted to the convention as it prioritized giving a voice to black activists. “I was excited that we were asked [to speak] at the beginning,” said Roland, “and to address the ‘elephant’ in the nation that is the racial disparity and how it affects people of color.”
She hopes to be inspired by Nina Turner and to learn more about Jill Stein, she said.
The People’s Convention is “omni-partisan,” as stated by East. Unlike the Republican and Democratic national conventions, the goal is not to rally people behind a presidential candidate but rather to establish a strong group to continuously work toward progress in politics. The Revolution’s goal remains the same whether the nation is under a President Trump, Clinton, or Sanders, according to East.
“It doesn’t matter what the presidential election results are,” said East, “we’re still going to need to stay organized if we want to see any sort of long-lasting change happen.”
The Temple University School of Media and Communication has assembled a team of student reporters to cover the Democratic National Convention in their hometown. Harrison Brink is a graduating senior journalism major at Temple: email@example.com