At People’s Convention, Fresno delegate stresses racial justice

Fresno delegate Yamina Roland at the The People’s Convention on Saturday in Philadelphia’s Arch Street Meeting House.
Fresno delegate Yamina Roland at the The People’s Convention on Saturday in Philadelphia’s Arch Street Meeting House. Special to The Bee

Sweat and tears were shed at the People’s Convention in Philadelphia on Saturday. Rather than flags, participants waved fans and programs, braving 97-degree weather to congregate within the walls of the Arch Street Meeting House, which lacked air conditioning, ready to start a revolution.

The People’s Revolution, that is. An organization dedicated to inspiring political activism, The People’s Revolution hosted its own convention in order to ratify a “people’s platform” under which the masses can rally together to promote change in politics.

“We are far more powerful than we dare to believe,” said David Cobb, the Green Party presidential nominee in 2004, “but our power as individuals is almost meaningless.”

The platform focused on addressing racial justice, income and wealth inequality, climate change, removing big money from politics, and health care, all of which were ratified Saturday.

Yamina Roland, a delegate representing Fresno at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, introduced the convention’s platform on racial justice, a task she stepped up for when the previous speaker, Anoa Changa, fell ill.

Roland stressed the importance of action and the difference in being a black “ally” and “comrade.” “You need to be with me, in the trenches ready to die for my cause like I am,” Roland declared to a mostly white crowd.

A second speaker, Erica Mines, was more than ready to point out the crowd’s lack of diversity.

“It’s a privilege that you are able to be here,” said Mines, a member of the Philadelphia Coalition of REAL Justice. “Where are my people at? They’re out working.” She proceeded to speak about the excessive use of police force in the United States, culminating in several minutes spent listing the names of black men and women whose lives were lost at the hands of police.

After a unanimous vote to ratify the platform, Roland and Mines continued their discussion in a forum space where people were given the opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions and support.

“(The discussion) was kind of confrontational, intentionally so,” said Roland, in reference to candid talk about white privilege, “but it’s a conversation that needs to be had, and it’s not a conversation that can be tiptoed around.”

The platform discussion was a success, Mines said. “We were able to have the conversation in a way that did not offend people who know that they are actually privileged,” she said. “While the room wasn’t very diverse, white people are the ones who can actually take this to places we don’t have access to and advocate for us.”

Fatigue could be felt throughout the convention but evaporated when its keynote speakers, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and former Ohio senator Nina Turner, took the microphone. The pair spoke about the importance of political activism, saying that the struggle doesn’t end with the presidential election. “What we are doing today, you might not see actualized,” Turner said, “but you are setting the stage for generations yet to be born.”

“It takes all of us working on everything, which is what we’re doing,” Stein said. “You have said that politics as usual is over and done.”

Following a short wrapup by Jackrabbit Pollack, one of the convention’s organizers, the event concluded as people slowly started shuffling out of the building and into the courtyard. There, for a group of passionately political people enduring a heat wave and seeking some relief, it started to rain.

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: tue75105@temple.edu