COMMUNITY VOICES | Uniting people – building progressive power forum


In Duluth, on  January 11th, 2014 something exciting happened: progressive activists gathered at the Copper Church in Duluth with the goal of working together in mutual respect, honesty and solidarity. The end result was better than our wildest expectations. 

Here is the back story that had not gone public—until now.
Activists in northern Minnesota, affectionately known as the “Iron Range”, decided to get together and organize an event. The format was simple but effective. They contacted as many progressive groups and individuals as possible. Each was invited to have a speaker at the event as well as tables with information for their group or topic for attendees.
Here is the format and speakers
11:00 Welcome/ Overview 
11:10 “Connecting the Dots — What Has Brought Us
Together — and Thinking the Seemingly Impossible:
Full Employment for All. 
Alan Maki, of Uniting People 

11:30 “Achieving Livable Minimum Wage Legislation 
for Minnesota Workers”
Liane Gale of the Minnesota Green Party with —
David Flaherty, a college student, providing 
“A Perspective from the Young Adult World” 
on minimum wage employment.” 

12:00: Break-Out Sessions: Mobilizing More Progressives 
to Join the Minimum Wage Campaign: Visioning,
Goal Setting, Strategizing — Recruiting More People
to Join the Campaign —Building Broad Support for
All Progressive Campaigns

12:30 =========== BREAK ================

12:45 Whole Forum Deliberation 

1:15 “Getting it Passed: Universal Single Payer Health Care 
for Minnesota”
Buddy Robinson of Minnesota Citizens Federation – 
Dr. Jim Hart of Physicians for a National Health Program 

2:15 2014: A Year Of Decision; Centuries of Risk; 
Being Idle No More!
Reyna Crow of Northwoods Wolf Alliance and 
Idle No More 

2:50 ========== SHORT BREAK=============

2:40 How Do We Organize in Minnesota?? 
“ How Do We Push and Achieve Our Broader 
Progressive Agenda”
Michael Cavlan – New Progressive Alliance
Dennis Leahy: “A Heave-Ho to the Electoral Paradigm” 
Nathan Ness: “Effective vs. Ineffective Organizing” 
Virgil Boehland: “Moving to Amend” 
Allen Hancock: “Building a Social Movement” 

4:00+ Closing 

However something else happened that was not well known.
The organizers originally contacted the Paul Wellstone center in Duluth to host the event. They originally gave permission to have it there. Then apparently when the Wellstone center folks looked at the list of speakers they noticed my name there. They stated that if I was allowed to speak that the event could not be held there. Imagine that, little old me.
Unknown to me, the organizers talked amongst themselves and decided to take a stand. They went back to the Duluth Wellstone Center and told them that they were no longer interested in having it there. But beforehand they contacted the Copper Top Church in Duluth and booked their space.
The organizers expected to have maybe 40-50 people show up. Instead about 140 people did. As an amusing ancedote there were a couple of establishment DFL hacks there. At the public participation section one got up and talked very excitedly about the event. He talked of how exciting it was and that “We in the DFL have never seen this kind of excitement and energy with so many people.” he exhorted the people gathered to “come on board with the DFL.” There was polite but minimal clapping. Then I stood in line as I wanted to speak as a former candidate. Which I had felt was not appropriate to cover in my speech on behalf of the New Progressive Alliance. Speaking right before me was some gentleman. He likewise called on the group to “Come join the DFL as we want to hear you, we want to listen to you all.” Four people clapped when he was finished. Then I spoke immediately after him, saying with a big grin, “Well, on the other hand….” Just about the entire group of 140 folks assembled fell about the hall with laughter and thunderous applause.
It was not a good day for establishment political party Yes-men.
Buoyed by that success activists are taking this concept on the road across Minnesota. The group Uniting People will hold a series of workshops and forums informed by  principle of uniting diverse groups and building progressive power for the people of Minnesota. This is classic organizing outside of the current established power structure—-a power structure that has let down or even betrayed many progressives in Minnesota.
The next event is in Minneapolis, Saturday February 15th, from 10 am till 5 pm. It will be free but we will be asking for donations. (Brown bag lunch, with snacks provided). The location will be 4200 Cedar Ave South, Minneapolis. Dinner will be provided afterwards.
Over a dozen organizations (and counting) are involved with speakers and organizing this exciting event. Things are changing in Minnesota and we cordially invite you to attend this event, engage and add your energies to building a 21st century progressive movement.
The organization Uniting People and New Progressive Alliance are now receiving calls and e mails from cities all over Minnesota and we are now planning to repeat this all over the state. So far we are in the early stages of planning forums in Rochester, Mankato, Redwing, St Paul and Bimidgi.
 Come join us. We are on the march.
 Saturday February 15th at 4200 Cedar Ave in Minneapolis. Or in a location nearby in the very near future.