Skip to comments.State activists question inclusivity of Sanders Institute Gathering
Posted on 12/04/2018 10:16:13 AM PST by GreyHoundSailor
At first, Rutland Area NAACP president Tabitha Pohl-Moore was excited about the prospect of last weeks Sanders Institute Gathering, which its publicity said would bring 250 leading progressive minds to Burlington to envision and to actualize a better future for our country and the world.
A progressive agenda that promised to raise an intersectional approach to ending injustice and oppression in our backyard? Pohl-Moore recalls thinking. We would finally be heard and seen here in Vermont.
Then the Wallingford counselor, wife and mother read the guest list for the Burlington-based nonprofit think tanks $350-suggested-donation gathering: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife, institute co-founder Jane OMeara Sanders, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis As I neared the end of the star-laden roster, she says, I wondered how many justice leaders from Vermont had been invited.
A schedule of speakers revealed that, amid such celebrities as Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon, only a half-dozen Green Mountain State residents would take the stage: Sanders and his wife, ice cream icon Ben Cohen, Burlington Associates partner John Davis, environmental writer Bill McKibben and Champlain Housing Trust CEO Brenda Torpy.
Not seeing any local social-justice volunteers like herself represented, Pohl-Moore contacted friend and peer Steffen Gillom, president of the Windham County NAACP.
I thought progressive politics was about lifting the voices of common people, Gillom says. For a group that prides itself on grassroots organization, it seemed that this progressive event had forgotten its roots the people of Vermont.
And so Pohl-Moore and Gillom composed a letter and shared it with more than a dozen other Vermont diversity leaders who added their signatures and have posted the statement on Facebook.
I write this not to complain about the fact that none of us were invited; I write this to point out the hypocrisy of the situation, says the letter directed to the senator and institute staff. How do you say that you are a person of the people, how can you be awoken, in the words of Victor Lee Lewis, when you come home to Vermont to talk about justice and institutional oppression and dont invite the very people you represent?
We hope that we are missing something, the letter continues, but if we are not, this is either a major oversight or just one more example of how institutional oppression looks, even among those who are progressive.
Pohl-Moore and Gilloms letter has been endorsed by, in alphabetical order, ACLU community organizer Nico Amador; Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington leaders Katrina Battle and Jabari Jones; Migrant Justice representative Marita Canedo; Vermonters for Justice in Palestine member Wafic Faour; Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools member Amanda Garces; Justice For All executive director Mark Hughes; Brattleboros The Root Social Justice Center co-founder Shela Linton; Lakota community Kunsi Keya Tamakoce founder Beverly Little Thunder; I Am Vermont Too co-coordinator Shaan Mouliert; the Vermont State Polices Fair and Impartial Policing Committee co-chair Etan Nasreddin-Longo; and Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity executive director Curtiss Reed Jr. and special projects assistant Gemma Seymour.
Former state Rep. Kiah Morris, D-Bennington, who recently resigned as one of just five lawmakers of color in the 180-member Legislature after facing racial harassment, not only added her name but also shared her own concerns on Twitter.
How many POC (person of color) leaders in Vermont were invited to the #sandersinstitutegathering18? Morris tweeted. I am just curious what sort of future plans might be discussed without us in the room.
I have no problem w/ @SenSanders, she continued. He has been a friend & supporter for years now. I DO have a problem with systems of exclusion, segregation, power and control used by many predominantly white-led institutions that deny marginalized peoples an equal seat at the table.
In response, the Sanders Institute, founded by Jane Sanders and her son, David Driscoll, who serves as its executive director, told VTDigger: There seems to be some confusion about what this event was, and was not, about. The Sanders Institute Gathering was not a Vermont meeting sponsored by Senator Sanders. It was a gathering of progressive leaders from across the country and around the world hosted by the Sanders Institute. We understand the overall concerns the writers of the letter addressed and will continue to work for the same goals of racial, social, economic and environmental justice.
Bernie Sanders Senate office, for its part, emailed Vermont Public Radio: The Sanders Institute is a totally independent 501(c)3 organization. The senator is proud that the Sanders Institute was able to bring progressives from all over the country and from throughout the world to our state of Vermont to discuss some of the biggest issues we face. Needless to say, in Vermont, like other states across the country, there are some very serious social and racial justice challenges, and the senator looks forward to continuing his work with Vermonters on these issues.
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, who saw Morris tweet while attending the gathering, is one of the few participants so far to comment.
Always good (to) be critiqued and learn, Zuckerman wrote on Facebook. I brought up to the organizers these concerns, and they are aware and planning to incorporate these concerns for next time. I agree, we need to build the bench. We also need to build the knowledge of those who are in all levels.
Outside protesters seeking to promote local issues said they had spoken with Sanders 2016 presidential campaign manager Jeff Weaver and event speaker Dr. Cornel West, both who reportedly replied theyd convey what was communicated to them to the Vermont senator.
The Sanders Institute Gathering capped a week in which Bernie Sanders released a new book, Where We Go from Here, that many pundits view as a precursor to a 2020 White House bid.
Sanders is no stranger to questions about his handling of diversity issues. In 2015, he no sooner had stepped onto the stage of the Netroots Nation convention the countrys largest annual gathering of progressive activists when young Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted him with cries for racial equality.
Black lives, of course, matter, and Ive spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity, he replied. But if you dont want me to be here, thats OK. I dont want to outscream people.
Sanders response soon echoed nationally. The candidate flashed with annoyance, Time magazine reported, and became frustrated, the New Republic added.
Sanders is understandably irritated, Salon writer Joan Walsh opined, that 50 years of work on civil rights going back to attending the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., fighting segregation with CORE in Chicago, endorsing Rev. Jesse Jacksons presidential run in 1988 dont seem to count, especially with people who were born a generation after those events.
Sanders didnt help himself last month when, commenting on Democratic midterm election near-misses in the South, he told The Daily Beast: I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American.
After, Sanders spokesman said the quote was taken out of context.
Vermont diversity leaders say their letter wasnt written to enrage but instead to educate.
The purpose of publicizing these feelings is not to throw shade at the national progressive movement that Senator Bernie Sanders is trying to foster, they said in their statement, but to point out that Vermonters in marginalized positions, be they poor, disabled, LGBTQ, people of color, indigenous, immigrant or non-mainstream in other facets of identity, help to create this state and make it what it is, yet still, we find ourselves excluded from the movement.
How could Senator Sanders host what is supposed to be an intersectional, progressive event without inviting the very people whom he serves? If this is really about economic justice, where are the poor folks? If it is really about racial justice, why are there no local racial justice leaders? Chief Don Stevens of the Abenaki? Disability rights? Where is Justicia Migrante? I dont see them on the list.
To call out when we have been excluded invariably elicits an accusation of sabotage, selfishness, or saltiness. To ignore it is to relegate ourselves to invisibility, thus fortifying the very systemic inequity the progressive movement works to deconstruct.
Pohl-Moore, now fielding calls from the press and fellow activists, hopes the Sanders Institute will learn and adapt.
All weve gotten is a litany of excuses, yet Im sorry, lets make this right doesnt take that much, she says. If we here in progressive Vermont are missing the boat, imagine whats happening in the rest of the nation. If Bernie Sanders and his people are making these kinds of mistakes, imagine the mistakes that are being made elsewhere.
One of the code words meaning the user haws absolutely no understanding of that word.
Also means that the probability of intelligence dwelling on the left side of the curve is quite high.
That guest list is a so-called target-rich environment. What a bunch of loons.
So’s the list of those not invited. Legends in their own minds.
Eating their own. Ha.
wow, where to begin
Sanders: "We progressives are always looking towards the future. Our firm support of unlimited abortion rights, particularly for persons of color, is based on a vision of the future that does not include persons of color. So we saw no need to invite representatives of people that will not be there at all."
Vermont is a magnet for these lunatics, where everybody gets to be a ‘leader’, ‘director’, ‘chairman’ or ‘representative’ of some useless, constantly aggrieved group.
Just shaking my head at these people...
Reminds me of high school. Some friends and I started the Science Club. The unstated purpose was to inflated our credentials for our college applications. Everyone had a title and we rotated regularly, so everyone was either the president, or chairman or etc... . The funniest one was the position of treasurer, since we did not have a budget nor did we ever have money.
A teacher called us on this rotation of duties and we told the truth- "polish the resume." She laughed and laughed. In our defense, we did hold a few meetings; usually to hold new elections.
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