I’ve had over a week now to digest the many great lessons learned at the Center for Popular Democracy’s (CPD) Our Vision, Our Future: People’s Convention held in Detroit, MI from July 25-27th. In the time since coming home, and post watching the Democratic primary debates that also took place in Detroit shortly after the convention, I’ve had some time to reflect on the significance of this convention both personally and politically.
Personally, I feel like I’ve found my tribe. It was such an empowering opportunity to bring so much of what I personally identify with and give it a political platform. Starting with my delegation from Washington, DC led by SPACES in Action. I had joined SPACES a few months back, when I was introduced to the Executive Director, LaDon Love. And I simply fell in love with the mission and vision of this organization. In working together on the Birth to Three Campaign, I also learned the unique value of SPACES, as an affiliate organization of CPD.
As far as I understand, CPD carries out it’s mission of building organizing power to transform the local and state policy landscape through deep, long-term partnerships with leading community-based organizing groups nationwide like SPACES in Action, which is the affiliate organization in Washington, DC. It is from joining SPACES and being invited to join the delegation to the Detroit convention that I really injested the power of their vision and how truly transformative this approach to organizing is.
THE PEOPLE’s CONVENTION
My first impression was of the illustrious venue: The Marriott Hotel at the Renaissance Center owned by General Motors. The Renaissance Center is a connection of 7 skyscrapers and sits in the middle of downtown Detroit. Impressive in structure, I kept getting lost attempting to get from one point to the other. I learned that it was deliberately designed this way to dissuade against protests and other community based action, given the history of resistance due to economic instability in the Motor City. We didn’t have much time for jet lag and hit the ground running with leadership meetings underway. The one that peaked my interest was: Class Privilege & Organizing: The Role of Wealthy People in The Movement.
The Class Privilege workshop unpacked issues of how wealthy people and funding institutions and organizations can successfully support local organizing efforts. Coming from Washington, DC, where we also have such a huge economic divide and are living in a modern-day rendition of the Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities, it was healing to engage in a discussion centered around the need for financial investments in grassroots efforts without the dominance of the investors in the carrying out of the message. This is also critical for me, as an organizer envisioning a way in which caregivers of children and youth with disabilities can create a self-determined vision of a working system of care and disrupt the poverty-pattern that comes with being a primary caregiver.
On day two of the convention, all delegations marched from the Renaissance Center to the Cobo Convention Center. This march on the waterfront was so powerful and reinforcing – we danced, we cried, chanted and built alliances. The image of our march was powerfully captured in post-cap video of the Convention put out by CPD:
Day two ended with a block party and had several artists perform, also seen in clips in the video above. It was transformative to see the arts incorporated in the vision of our future. And to be honest, it got me thinking about ways to rediscover myself as a poet and writer, bringing my own creativity into my own advocacy efforts. And like everything else with this convention, it was intergenerational with elders and young children alike participating in both the audience and performances.
Day three of the convention was the most impactful for me because I spent most of my time in the 5-hour workshop on Education, which is my passion. Yet, the most powerful showing in this workshop was the number of parent advocates that attended, many of them from Spanish-speaking immigrant communities. It was truly powerful to see this convening of advocates bringing our local mission to infuse a national vision for a new paradigm in education reform efforts. And while the workshop was filled with diverse ideas about education, ranging from teachers to parents to organizers, it was parent-dominant, which reinforces what I already know about this movement. And it was also not lost on me that many of the most vocal parents gave testimony to their experiences raising children with disabilities and complex healthcare needs.
We left in the whirlwind that brought us in. And a week later, I am still charged with the love, creativity and power that surrounded all of us in attendance. We were also honored to see some Democratic candidates video-conference into the Convention and share their vision impacting the many delegations of local communities present. And now, back home in Washington, DC, I am re-energized to continue to build on a positive vision of the future for the benefit of the children and the many generations unborn dependent on our collective ability to truly create another world where pain and suffering is no longer status quo.
While it was quite the anti-climax coming back home to DC after a highly charged and energetic convention, it’s soothing to know that I came home with the people I made the deepest connections with: SPACES in Action. I look forward to deepening my connection as a SPACES member, and look forward to learning more about the national platform that CPD offers for our local issues. And vice-versa, I also look forward to sharpening my skills as an organizer and working with SPACES to become fortified allies for all freedom loving, justice seeking people all over these United States. The future is bright!
Blog written by Chioma Oruh, Ph.D. @chiomaoruh, a contributing writer for Mothering Hands Cooperative. Follow her on twitter @ChiBornfree.