By What Authority
DEMOCRACY CONVENTION Report
David Cobb, Greg Coleridge, Mary Zepernick
The first ever Democracy Convention was held August 24-28, 2011, in Madison, Wisconsin - home of the event's main organizer, the Liberty Tree Foundation, and the continuing push-back against Governor Scott Walker's war against public workers. The Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy and the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, among the founders of Move to Amend, played an important role.
How to summarize five days of the first ever Democracy Convention, attended by some 1000 people from all over the country, some 200 presenters, at least 100 workshops and half a dozen dynamic plenaries - rounded out by a rousing party?! Many POCLAD subscribers were there, and we invite you to send your comments and experiences.
First, an explanation of the innovative organizing principle: The event was called a Convention because it housed nine conferences, all with their own plenaries and workshops:
Democratic Defense; Racial Equality; Education for Democracy; Media Democracy; Earth Democracy; Local Democracy; Representative Democracy; Constitutional Reform; Wisconsin People's Assembly
Each of these included numerous workshops and some plenaries, interspersed throughout the five days. The logistics were made simple by the Madison Technical College downtown campus, across the street from the Madison Concourse, the city's only union hotel, two blocks from the State House.
The opening ceremony on the evening of August 24 was held in the hotel ballroom, beginning with a spectacular ceremony by the Native American Call for Peace & Dance Company; a welcome by Madison Mayor Soglin; and keynoters: Tom Hayden, a founder of SDS and a voice for ending the wars, saving the environment, and reforming politics through a more participatory democracy; and Cherie Honkala, National Coordinator for the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign and former homeless person currently running for Sheriff in Philadelphia - a position with authority to evict.
A special experience for many of us was a Solidarity Sing-along at noon in the rotunda of the white-domed State Capitol, held daily since March 11, and an outdoor rally with state workers.
Convention plenaries included: Building a Democracy Movement for the USA; Securing Democracy through Constitution Reform; Racial Equality in the Struggle for Democracy; Reform or Revolution: Which Way Forward?
One of the panelists was Margaret Flowers, a physician and single payer advocate, who left this work to organize the October 2011 action in Washington, D.C.
By Saturday evening many convention-goers were ready to party at the University of Wisconsin lakeside pavilion. Emma's Revolution and the local VO 5 rockin' band led the festivities, and I Miss Democracy made an appearance (link).
On Sunday afternoon there was a Move to Amend Strategic Planning session for MTA affiliates and members. The next Democracy Convention is in the wind for sometime in 2013. Don't miss it!
From Greg Coleridge:
The recent Democracy Convention in Madison, WI was incredibly inspiring. It was diverse and committed to expanded diversity - in people and their groups, issues and strategies to create a movement for real justice and peace in our nation. This resulted in 9 separate conferences housed within the overall convention, each with its own organizers, workshops and other sessions. At the same time the overall convention mission was unity - under the framework of "democracy" - in recognition that real justice and peace can only be achieved when people have a greater voice in decisions effecting themselves, their communities and the planet.
POCLAD has worked since its inception to lift up corporate-caused injustices as primarily due to the lack of fundamental self-governance or "democracy." This approach has been different than stopping a particular harm caused by a specific corporation here or there. It was uplifting to see, hear and feel so many people at the Convention affirm what is fast becoming a culturally accepted reality - that corporations are not persons. No longer is this simply a theoretical abstract uttered by a few people on the fringes of activism, but is rapidly becoming more accepted in the minds and rooted in the work of people cutting across ideological and political lines.
These were several signs of real hope for real change.
Thursday, September 15, 7:00pm - OJAI: Evening Public Talk. Matilija Junior High School. 703 El Paseo Road.
Friday, September 16, 7:00pm - WHITTIER: Evening Public Talk. Saint Matthias Church. 7056 Washington Avenue (between Wardman and Philadelphia).
Saturday, September 17, 6:30pm - SANTA MONICA: Evening Public Talk. Santa Monica College. 1900 Pico Boulevard. Lecture Hall, HSS 165
Sunday, September 18, 9:30am-6:00pm - LOS ANGELES: Activist Training. The Peace Center, 8124 West Third Street (between Fairfax and La Cienega). Registration required.
Monday, September 19, 7:00pm - PASADENA: Evening Public Talk. All Saints Episcopal Church, 132 North Euclid Avenue.
Tuesday, September 20, 6:00pm - PALM SPRINGS: Evening Public Talk. Crystal Fantasy and Enlightenment Center, 268 North Palm Canyon Drive.
Wednesday, September 21, 7:00pm - SAN DIEGO: Evening Public Talk. WorldBeat Cultural Center in Balboa Park, 2100 Park Boulevard.
Saturday/Sunday, September 24 and 25, Harvard Law School Conference on a Constitutional Convention .
Monday, September 26, Boston, MA: Evening Public Talk. First UU Church of Boston, 66 Marlboro St. (four blocks from the Arlington stop on the Green Line). For details contact afd@thealliancefordemocracy or 781-894-1179.