A day at the Take Action MN annual conference
You'll have to forgive I've if I ramble a bit, I'm NOT used to getting up early on a Saturday – but so glad I did! I scooted over to the Take Action Minnesota annual conference. This is the first year they've done six break-outs vs. one large conference, so they had gatherings in Northfield, Grand Rapids, St. Cloud, Duluth, Wilmar and one handy for us Twin Citians at the Wellstone Community Center in St. Paul. I think Paul would've been proud of what happened today :)
The day started with small group meetings and I picked Taking on Corporate Power in Trump's America. It's a topic of interest to me as a firm believer in Conscious Capitalism. (To find out more check out the book "Conscious Capitalism" by Whole Foods CEO and Raj Sisodai – a review of the book is here.)
Anyhoo, the break-out was pretty fascinating, because Stand Up shared how they agitated against Target Corporation for some big wins. Stand Up was running a "ban the box" effort; the concept is that HR doesn't ask about criminal records (no check-box on the application) until/unless the candidate gets to the interview stage. Stand Up held rallies in Target lobbies and other fun stuff and long story short, Target came around. Not only did they "ban the box" as part of their company policy, but they also scored a major legislative win for MN! People had been trying to get ban-the-box legislation passed for years, and the newly-awakened Target stepped in and encouraged the Chamber of Commerce to stay neutral the next time it came up. The Chamber listened to Target, stayed neutral, and legislation finally passed. So, Target didn't exactly start out conscious, but we can do a lot to push a company to become a leader. What a relief, because we all know Walmart is not an option :)
A fascinating moment for me was when someone asked about the preemption bill and where it was in the legislature, and the speaker said something to the effect of "we're not going to focus on that because we have no power in the legislature right now". Wow. This is what I've been feeling. Why call my reps (all democrats)? They have no ability to do anything right now. Where we CAN focus energy is agitating against corporations who are behind the preemption bill: Walmart (of course), and a few others. Then we had a brainstorming session on how to target (so to speak) those corporations, as well as spread awareness of the preemption bill using media.
I had a brief chat with the speaker after, and I asked him if he'd heard of the Conscious Capitalism movement. He seemed open to it (though skeptical), and told me that "even if companies want to do good, they're obligated under the capitalist system to turn a profit" and if I'd had more time I would have told him they've actually found that leading with people over profit to be more profitable – there's a ton of research put out by Conscious Capitalism on profitability. We're all on the edge of some new thinking, and it's tough – old capitalism says "make money, exploit people and the environment" and old activism says "capitalism is evil." Both have to evolve and get out of simplistic thinking. We also have to be aware that we have a ton of power over corporations and they're much more responsive than elected officials.
Then we all met in the gym (where I had a series of disturbing gym flashbacks!) and I got hear..... THIS GUY.
Keith Ellison, the humble rock star of the democratic party right now, would be hard to capture in blog form. But my main take-away was OH MY GOD WE'RE IN SERIOUS TROUBLE and OH MY GOD WE CAN DO THIS. Like, at the same time. So both a shot of fear as he talked about the methodical Republican takeover of this country, and a shot of hope as he talked about our renewed unity. He started with a lot of love for MN ("things get a lot tougher when you head out from here in any direction") and our great progressive tradition from Hubert Humphrey to Wellstone. He moved on to not messing around about taking back the MN state legislature, it's do or die time, and how everyone needs to export Minnesota progressivism – get online, get a podcast, make friends across state lines, write articles (literally why I decided to write this blog post instead of head directly to my post-conference nap). He also talked about how the democrats need to stop focusing on the presidential election and get back to grassroots involvement (check!) and how ultimately people need to recognize that all this hatred out there is designed to break us apart. Our strength, our response, is in our unity, and people caring across issues – men caring about women's rights, everyone fighting racism and homophobia, etc. Last great quote: "The moment you delegate activism to someone else, it's over". I.e., the next time you see someone saying "someone should really do something about ____" remind them that person is them :)
They played a video from the leader of an organization called Demos that's definitely worth a click. I did not know the statistic that government is 90% white at all levels. And a word on diversity, this was definitely one of the most diverse activism group activities I've been to so they're definitely on to something.
My action take-aways from the meeting:
1) Involvement is not optional (not that I thought it was). It's a key time to review our history lessons and the fact that not about the bad people, it's more about good people who do nothing. That's how these things get crazy. Stay in it, steady on.
2) Use your power as consumers: Pressure corporations directly. We have power as consumers. This is not a Take Action MN platform necessarily, but my own belief which was affirmed. I thought about how if every single person at that conference or at the Women's March simply went home and researched what alternative energy options they could start using IMMEDIATELY, how much impact that would have. So much of this is economic (to be specific Putin's involvement is about oil). It should be on all of our agenda's to do everything in our power to undermine the stranglehold of big oil on this country, and believe it or not, it's completely within our power to do so. Yes, I know, shocking but true! In Minnesota, it's actually incredibly simple. Excel energy has already set it up and it takes about 5 minutes. Opt in here. And please spread the word. I'm 100% wind-powered through this opt-in and I haven't noticed an increase in my energy bills. Seriously, it's so easy, it almost feels too easy! Where's the angst and pain as an activist! :) But even though it's easy, do it anyway ;)
3) Keith Ellison is great
4) Afro Deli (who provided lunch) is delicious :)