People's Convention Solve Problems in Pittsburgh

I was blessed with an opportunity to go to the People’s Convention in Pittsburgh, PA, which was held July 8-9, 2016.  This was a non-partisan and campaign free event.  It was organized by a diverse group of people and organizations.  Their commitment was to “lift up issues and problems that the Republican National Convention (RNC) will not authentically address and to develop collectively agreed to solutions."  It is referred to as “a People’s Justice and Peace Platform that will achieve just nonviolent, democratic, and sustainable results."  The People’s Convention was held prior to the RNC Convention in Cleveland in 2016.

A non-profit organization, Common Good Ohio, is dedicated to “fight for stronger and healthier communities," and made it possible for me (NEOCH) and other Ohio charities such as Organize! Ohio to attend the People’s Convention.  The campaigns I came across included Fed Up, “supporting the $15 minimum wage efforts in Cleveland, voter contact programs for the renewal of the tax levy for Cleveland Public Schools, and progressive candidates running for elected office in Ohio.

The campaign called Fed Up is in 2 parts: 1) “focused on putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low temporarily, so the vulnerable communities can catch up and 2) to increase the diversity of each Federal Reserve’s region’s Board of Directors.”  This is so important in Ohio because there is a Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland and “we have the opportunity to highlight the economic struggle” directly to the Regional Reserve President.

We left for Pittsburgh on Thursday, July 7th, so we would be able to have breakfast
Friday morning and attend the opening Plenary and Roll Call.  There were a variety of speakers informing us about the struggles and issues that are being addressed at the Convention.  We had lunch, another session to welcome allies and funders, and then prepared to “take it to the streets."  The “Still We Rise” March began at 2:30pm.  As we marched, we sang songs like, “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We Will Win."  We also shouted chants like, “Still We Rise”, “The people united, will never be defeated!"  “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now”!, “Ain’t no power like the power of people, cause the power of people don’t stop!”, and “Whose Streets? Our Streets”!  We had a peaceful march to a few designated areas and downtown Pittsburgh, then back up to the Convention Center. 

After dinner, we had an evening Plenary and there were a number of speakers addressing the March from different areas such as New York and Texas.  We then had a choice of being entertained by a comedian, W. Kamau, who did “a comedic exploration of the current state of America’s racism” or a true story movie about an immigrant mother’s struggle to survive in New York City with her two children.  It was a Spanish film with English subtitles, as there was a very diverse population of participants.  The day ended with a rooftop party and then it was time to prepare for Saturday’s events and we turned in.  By the way, we stayed at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel and the rooms were very nice.

Saturday breakfast started at 8:00am. While everyone had breakfast there was a Break-Out Session which was a gathering of Executive Director's partners.  After breakfast, we had a morning Plenary and “Still We Rise” was recited by the community organization representatives.  When the representatives finished making their presentation, it was time to break for lunch. 

For the rest of the day there were a series of workshops available.  The series of workshops were called:  Fighting for What We Want.  There were 37 workshops to choose from and they were broken up into 7 categories:  1) And Still We Rise-Lifting Up Our Stories In Order To Win.  There were six workshops under this category, 2) We Want Power And Democracy!  There were seven workshops under this category, 3) We Want Freedom!  There were eight workshops under this category, 4) We Want An Economy That Works For All Of Us!  There were four workshops under this category, 5) We Want Our Homes, Our Schools, And Our Neighborhoods.  We Want Opportunity!  There were four workshops under this category, 6) We Want Our Health And Our Planet! There were five workshops under this category, and 7) Breakout Sessions During The Workshops.  There were 3 workshops under this category which included two field trips.

The workshop I choose to attend was very interesting.  It was the name of the workshop that captured my attention.  This was the one entitled End Poverty-A Universal Basic Income for Everyone.  There were two presenters and about 12 people including myself attending this workshop.  We discussed the Alaska once a year payout.  A tax is imposed on oil companies and put into a fund.  The citizens of Alaska would receive a yearly payment of approximately $2,500 a year.  This was done because the oil companies do not own the oil, they own the company.  We also discussed Switzerland’s attempt to put a Universal Income in place.  Switzerland would increase taxes on the wealthy corporations etc. and these taxes would assist to make the funds available for the citizens to receive a monthly benefit of $2,500.  The argument was that this would “replace social safety nets, minimize robust government needs, and this would increase workers’ bargaining powers in terms of employment."  It was placed on the ballot and failed.  If it had passed, Switzerland would have a Universal Basic Income.  The workshop was to get some input to find out if this would be a feasible possibility for the United States.

There was a lot of discussion and at the end of the workshop we were given some reading material and directed to the website if we wanted to pursue any further involvement. 

After the workshop, we had some free time to mingle.  Since I was going to be participating in the March to End Poverty Now in Cleveland on the July 18th, I met with some of the activist there, passed out flyers with information about the march and invited them to march with us for Economic Justice.  Later that evening there was a block party scheduled called, The People’s Block Party.  Although we wanted to stay and attend, the bus was leaving before it began.  We had a nice quiet ride back to Cleveland and a chance to relax and reflect on what we had done and learned.  We also got some really nice gear at the convention.  We got two tee shirts, a water bottle, scarf, backpack, and a wallet that can be worn around the neck.  I feel that I have grown and I am better prepared for the march I will be participating in prior to the RNC.

by Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry. Thanks to Organize Ohio for the photos.