There are some times when we need to become our own media. One of those times is now.
The Bronx, the United States, and the World need Bernie. And right now, Bernie needs New York.
New York, let's show the world that New York City is not the center of the universe because of Wall Street, but because of its humanity.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Congressman Bernie Sanders' presidential rally at St. Mary's Park in Mott Haven, the section of the South Bronx where I have lived for the past five years. The rally was a huge success and drew between 18,500-20,000 people - people of all backgrounds - the working class. And today, Bernie came to a second rally in the Bronx, this time at Bronx Community College - another success. The library auditorium was filled with college students and others - real Bronxites and other New Yorkers - listening to this Vermont Senator from Brooklyn who gives us hope.
I was grateful to hear New York State Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda standing up for Bernie at both rallies. Sepulveda says he did not endorse Bernie from the beginning, but wanted to look at the issues first. Once he did, he realized there was no other candidate he could stand with other than Bernie Sanders. This is line with previous meetings I have been in with Assemblyman Sepulveda, where I distinctly remember leaving feeling impressed with how principled he was.
Some major news outlets have been starting to pay attention, giving more airwaves to Bernie Sanders and the issues that he is talking about, rather than the rhetoric and contradictions being spewed by other candidates. Yet there are still a lot of doubtful people, and people who say Hillary is going to win New York, she has all the superdelegates. Well, that's precisely the establishment we are working to deconstruct, that Bernie has been talking about. He walks the walk in his opposition to money in politics, the need to repeal Citizens United, and the need for campaign finance reform. That is the first step to a true democracy. He has been consistent on his messages about the need to hold the banks of Wall Street accountable, invest in living wages ($15/hr) for working class people rather than war, make college education affordable, have a healthcare system for all, accept the human-induced causes of climate change and take responsibility for addressing them, bar for-profit prisons, and address the plight of urban communities across the country. Political actions that demonstrate that he upholds the human dignity of all, especially the most disenfranchised.
Bernie spoke eloquently about religious coexistence - what matters is not if a person is Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, or other - but that there is love. My good friend Jonathan Reid shared a video on my Facebook page the other day of someone giving out Free Hugs at a Bernie Rally and a Trump Rally. It goes without saying, there was a lot more love at the Bernie rally.
Man offers free hugs at Sanders and Trump rallies and gets shockingly different responses Free Hugs Project
Posted by Salon on Thursday, March 31, 2016
Actually, Bernie has received an invitation to speak at the Vatican next week. Though, he is not the first progressive socialist Jew to be invited to the Vatican; last year, the Vatican invited Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
A friend of mine made a flyer comparing Bernie Sanders' statements on climate change, war, and economic inequality to those of Pope Francis, even before the announcement was made about the Vatican's invitation. It is really not hard to figure out why someone like Bernie Sanders would appeal to the Vatican. He speaks up about addressing wealth inequality and other injustices that keep people oppressed - issues that fit squarely within the realm of Catholic Social Teaching. His spiritual convictions - that we are all in this together - are also very much in line with the church's teachings.
Besides the superdelegates, the other significant concern regarding the primaries is all of the support the unions are throwing at Hillary Clinton. Bernie supports unions too - why wouldn't he? He's for the working class. The Working Families Party has already enthusiastically endorsed Bernie Sanders, though unfortunately the votes don't count in the primaries. But the unions are endorsing Hillary. What's even sadder is they are unethically using staff time to support Hillary. A friend of mine who works for a union told me they were going to make him go canvas for Hillary. I told him to just talk about the issues.
Through Bronx Health REACH, I am working with the United Federation of Teachers to bring nutrition education into schools in the Bronx. The UFT is a big help in this regard, certainly they play an important role in society. But one role they should not play is endorsing candidates, especially if those wishes go against their employees. That role is what the Working Families Party is for.
I had a wonderful time at the Bernie rally today. I met real New Yorkers, with incredible stories to tell. I stood online next to a retiree currently serving on a Bronx community board who said of his career working on Wall Street: "If you want to see cocaine, go to Wall Street." He had become addicted to drugs working on Wall Street, not from living the Bronx. I also had a fascinating conversation with the guy sitting next to me during the rally, an actor named James McDaniel, who lives in Harlem, saw the gentrification that happened around the time Bill Clinton moved his office to the Harlem State Office Building, and has been invited to dinners at the White House on numerous occasions. He told me the one time he got to speak to President Obama, he said, "This country doesn't deserve you." I would have to agree with him. It made me sad, actually, to hear Bernie today saying the same thing Obama said during his candidacy, that he needs the American people to work with him. Because the thing is, Obama and Sanders are telling the truth. Things will not change unless we the people are working together with progressive elected officials to create the change we want to see.
This election, the primaries are an opportunity for Americans to vote with their values. The Democratic ticket can go to Bernie or Hillary. It is not about who will beat who later on. We are talking about now. Now is our opportunity to create a revolution, as Tracy Chapman's voice sang out through the loudspeaker at the end of the Bernie rally.
The choice is ours. Will we stand up for our values? We have until April 19th to decide. This is our opportunity to embrace hope and our spiritual convictions and build a world we can be proud of. I hope we will choose it. And for those who are still skeptics, may I ask that you seek to really listen to a few Bernie supporters. They probably have some pretty incredible stories to tell.