At the 2017 People’s Summit, Josh Fox explains why he “left his house” to be a “foot soldier” on the Sanders campaign trail and at Standing Rock
NINA TURNER: Josh Fox, good morning, darling, how you doing? JOSH FOX: Good morning, I’m doing great. So great to be here with you. NINA TURNER: I get to be here with you. We here in Chi-town right now, with the second annual–’cause I hope they’re gone do this for another hundred years–People’s Summit. JOSH FOX: I know. NINA TURNER: How you feeling in this moment? JOSH FOX: Well, you know, yesterday, during the opening ceremonies, you all got up and you were like, interviewing people in the audience. “So what are you here for?” NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: And I said, “I’m here to feel the love.” You know what I mean. ‘Cause you feel it everywhere you walk down these hallways. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: Right? Everybody here is someone who is important, in this political revolution. And it’s a celebration of organizers. NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: Right? And nurses. NINA TURNER: Yes, and–you were telling a story. Will you tell the story about the nurses? JOSH FOX: Well last year when we were at the Democratic National Convention, and they wouldn’t allow you to speak, you know, which was a huge mistake. NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: And there was a press conference, that–we were sort of your back up band. NINA TURNER: Yes, I needed that band. JOSH FOX: Myself and [inaudible 00:02:06], Rosario Dawson, Portia Boulger and– NINA TURNER: Yes. Tara Samples. JOSH FOX: Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover. NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: And we went into the media tent there, and there was mayhem, it was pandemonium, it was, it looked like a thousand cameras. I never seen … NINA TURNER: Yeah. Shane. JOSH FOX: Shane was there. I’ve never seen that many cameras. DANNY GLOVER, at 2016 Democratic National Conference: We know that we need to work diligently and hard on the movement that is around here. This particular convention has been unlike any convention in decades in this country, certainly with the voices here at the table, from all places, we need to know that those voices are heard, including and especially the voice of Nina Turner. JOSH FOX: Then when you came in, there was like a throng of reporters who came around. And what we had to do, I got somehow in the pack where there was a ring of about … NINA TURNER: [inaudible 3:09] JOSH FOX: Fifteen nurses, locked arms, holding the reporters back, like football players. Like rugby players. And I was in there, I was like what are we doing? I’ve never rehearsed this. And they’re yelling at me, Josh, lock it down! What are you doing? NINA TURNER: You slack you! JOSH FOX: You’re slacking off, right. NINA TURNER: The nurses told you you were slacking. JOSH FOX: That’s what happened. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: And I will never forget that ’cause it was like being like in a Godard movie in the 60s, like where you felt like you were transported to this other revolutionary planet. NINA TURNER: It was. JOSH FOX: At the same time as we were clearly losing our country right there. NINA TURNER: Absolutely, we were. JOSH FOX: I mean, when they nominated Hillary Clinton. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: And it was supposed to be this big, triumphant, unity celebration. There’s two things I remember. One, when they did that, they played that song, “Happy?” NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: “I’m so happy”. NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: And all the Bernie delegates all around me on my live stream were balling. NINA TURNER: Wow. Yeah. JOSH FOX: So, this was the ultimate tone-deaf moment. NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: When there’s Bernie delegates on the ground. Young people wearing activist t-shirts, who thought somehow, it was going to be pulled out for Bernie. And they’re all crying … NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: And they’re planning that song, Happy. NINA TURNER: Oblivious. JOSH FOX: Oblivious. Democratic National Conference Excerpt: I’m not happy. I used to like that song. NINA TURNER: Or just telling the story the way they want to tell it, instead of telling the people’s story, right? So, we’re here at the People’s Summit, to tell the people’s story. JOSH FOX: Well what’s interesting then, the next thing that happened, was the whole room cleared out. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: That Democratic Convention Center hall was empty. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: And I looked up, I went up to the California delegation from New York, we’re on the floor, we’re in Hillary in delegation from New York. So we had front row seats right? NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: So, I go up to California and I look back and whole room is empty. And I livestreamed that. And I looked at the livestream, and I said, if Hillary Clinton does not figure out how to get these people back in the room, this is bad news. NINA TURNER: Right. JOSH FOX: And turned around, and that video went viral, and went to 1.4 million views, just from my phone alone. NINA TURNER: You, you prophesied. Are you a seer, or what? JOSH FOX: You know, everybody knew right? You knew. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: That it was about policy. It wasn’t about, it was about the message, not the messenger. NINA TURNER: Right. JOSH FOX: Twelve dollars is not fifteen dollars. NINA TURNER: Come on, say that. JOSH FOX: You know, a ban on fracking is not regulations that open to the door to the oil and gas industry. NINA TURNER: That’s right. JOSH FOX: Not taking money from Dakota Access Pipeline, and the fracking industry, is not the same as taking money. You know, Monsanto is not the same as organic farming. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: You know, raising, health care premiums for seniors, we were there at the platform committee together, you remember those stories where seniors can’t afford their medicine and food at the same time. NINA TURNER: Right. JOSH FOX: So they’re eating cat food. NINA TURNER: Taking marijuana off of Schedule One. You know, which was a fight. JOSH FOX: Yeah. NINA TURNER: And people will probably never believe that we had to fight within the Democratic Party. JOSH FOX: Yeah. NINA TURNER: And we only won that by one vote. JOSH FOX: One vote. NINA TURNER: Because, of the Clinton supporters forgot how they were voting. JOSH FOX: Yes. NINA TURNER: And they tried to take it back, remember? JOSH FOX: Yes I remember. I remember. NINA TURNER: So, as we relive that moment and you’re sharing, so people will get a chance to feel that moment, last year, through our eyes, how do connect what happened in that moment last year, to what is happening for us right now in Chicago at the People’s Summit? JOSH FOX: Well these are those people that walked out of the room. NINA TURNER: These are all those people. JOSH FOX: And that’s the future. The truth is, that’s the future of our progressive life in America. Whether that’s the Democratic Party, we don’t know. Whether that’s something else, we don’t know. But what we do know, is that there’s an enormous creativity and expression and power and enthusiasm once the money gets out of the way. Once the corruption gets out of the way. It’s like when you’re in a gentrified neighborhood, right? NINA TURNER: Uh, huh. JOSH FOX: Like I’m spending a lot of time right now in New Orleans. Rather than in my native New York, which I love. But New York is getting so gentrified. Every other, every street is a Bank of America, or a T.D. or a ATM, or a Starbucks or a McDonald’s. That’s because they bought that neighborhood. But if those people leave, all of a sudden, creativity rushes in. Then you start to see jazz clubs opening up. NINA TURNER: But you know [crosstalk 00:05:29] know that point you just made. JOSH FOX: Galleries. NINA TURNER: You said they bought that neighborhood. JOSH FOX: Right. NINA TURNER: What is the real-life impact of, of that? So people who are native born, I mean, you left New York by choice. But let’s talk a little bit about people who are native born there, who really feel as though they can’t afford to live. JOSH FOX: I haven’t left New York. The only reason I can afford to be there is because I have a space that’s grandfathered in for 17 years with rent control. That’s a control against the capitalist machine. NINA TURNER: So Senator Sanders lived in rent controlled . . . JOSH FOX: Oh yeah. Right. In Brooklyn. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: Same place. NINA TURNER: Yes he did. JOSH FOX: But the truth of the matter is, when those places leave, and when you saw, you know a lot of people; like for example, with Katrina, there was an exodus of that capital. Then you see flooding in–same thing in Detroit–you see flooding in: civic engagement, cultural engagement, creativity. There’s a musician’s village in New Orleans, where every other town is getting ready to run musicians out of town. NINA TURNER: So you think this is deliberate by the system to displace. JOSH FOX: We either it’s deliberate or its devalue is inherent, built into whole way it works. NINA TURNER: Built into our culture. JOSH FOX: And that’s what’s happening here, right? So we’re taking out all those corrosive elements out of our progressive party and you’re seeing this incredible, incredible passion. You’ve got Naomi Kline on the stage, right now, Amy Goodman. NINA TURNER: Amy Goodman. JOSH FOX: Amy Goodman just spoke. NINA TURNER: Danny Glover. JOSH FOX: Danny Glover. NINA TURNER: Doctor, I call her Dr. J. But Dr. Jane Sanders. JOSH FOX: No, amazing. And this is the place for that. So we’re here to express and cross-pollinate ideas and talk to each other and figure out the next direction. We know what the policies are, we just need to figure out how we organize ourselves. NINA TURNER: How we get there. JOSH FOX: Yeah. NINA TURNER: So what about your amazing work? JOSH FOX: Well. NINA TURNER: You know you are on the cutting edge of making sure that the message through story-telling, through documentaries, where people can feel–not just hear, not just see, but feel–why it is important that we care about Mother Earth? JOSH FOX: Well. NINA TURNER: And “Awake” is premiering tonight. JOSH FOX: Yeah, “AWAKE, A Dream From Standing Rock,” that’s my new film. I didn’t think I was gonna have a new film, at this time last year. We had just premiered, “How to Let Go of The World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.” NINA TURNER: Love. JOSH FOX: The operative word there. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: But we, that was a film that took, three years, four years to make. And “Awake” happened like, bam, you know. Because it’s a collaboration project between myself and a lot of the, well, several other great collaborators, from the indigenous world and the non-indigenous world. That was at, they were at Standing Rock. So there’s three directors, myself, and James Spione, who made a great film about NCA whistle blowers and a great documentarian, and Myron Dewey, who is the founder of Digital Smoke Signals, who reported from Standing Rock live for months. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: And Floris White Bull, co-writer, an unbelievable voice and visionary who I had the honor of working with on my segment. We co-wrote that together. NINA TURNER: Why is Standing Rock important? JOSH FOX: Standing Rock, well, if you missed what happened at Standing Rock … NINA TURNER: For people who who did not get a chance. I mean you were actually there. JOSH FOX: Yeah. NINA TURNER: So for people who may never have the opportunity, can you share with them, why? JOSH FOX: Well that’s why we make the film. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: But when you, my first day at Standing Rock. Well, okay, let me just say this. The youth, indigenous youth council. The International Indigenous Youth Council. They had a prophesy to fight the black snake. The black snake is the Dakota Access Pipeline. The oil pipeline that was, programed to run underneath their only water source, the Missouri River. The water source for that Standing Rock nation. And they stood up to fight that pipeline. And what they did, was they ran from North Dakota, which is at the center; geographic center of the North American continent. NINA TURNER: Uh, huh. JOSH FOX: All the way to D.C. EXCERPT: AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock: We run! We run! For our brothers! For our brothers! And our sisters! Obama! They ran there to speak to the President and ask him: Please don’t destroy the last place we have. JOSH FOX: And they captured the fascination of the nation. The got millions of views on AJ Plus, and all those internet outlets and now this. And when they got there, they appealed to President Obama, said, stop the pipeline. Then they ran to New York. NINA TURNER: Wow. JOSH FOX: That’s when I ran into them, Shailene Woodley, our good friend asked me, and Rosario Dawson asked me to come and do a speech in Union Square. NINA TURNER: Sha was arrested down there, wasn’t she? JOSH FOX: She was arrested in North Dakota. But these were guys were four hours late. And people did not leave the rally. They waited. That was how fascinated people were with this cause and how passionate they felt about it. And when the runners showed up, amazing. The energy they had, the chance that they had. These were young people, between the ages like eight and 25. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: Who had run all the way to D.C. and then to New York. And that kicked it off and then at Standing Rock a protest camp was born. And they called themselves “water protectors,” not protestors. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: They said, protesting was a colonel word, we’re not protesting. NINA TURNER: Come on. JOSH FOX: We are protecting an invading army, we’re protecting against an invading army. NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: So then when I got there, which was a week before the election. I was at the casino, where there’s a casino, having breakfast, and I got a report from Jordan Sheraton, he said, shots fired down by the camp. EXCERPT: AWAKE, A Dream From Standing Rock: The images are burned into my mind. The sounds of …. my people, screaming in horror. Our young people shot off the horses with those rubber bullets. It’s something I can’t escape from right now. JOSH FOX: We all jumped in our cars, raced down there, got to the front lines. And what I saw which was in the film, was a line of water protectors in the water, in November. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: In November. Cold, North Dakota, freezing ass water. And they’re up to here, and they’re standing there like this and there’s a line of police behind them of 30 or 40 people and the police. And there’s standing there going, we’re praying for you. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: We’re praying for you. NINA TURNER: And this was in November. JOSH FOX: In November. NINA TURNER: So the Obama administration was still … JOSH FOX: It was six, seven days before the elections. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: November 2nd, I believe. And there standing there saying, we’re praying for you, we’re praying for your children. It’s your water too. We love you and the whole line gets pepper sprayed. The whole line gets maced. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: And people get shot with rubber bullets. And I, and then they came back, again, they’re crying tears of joy. These people were not going to back down. And I felt like I was watching … NINA TURNER: It was so real. JOSH FOX: Salt mine protest in India, where I was watching, you know what was happening with the freedom riders. NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: And I felt like these people are willing to die. And I just broke down in tears. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: I said to myself, the American government has lost all legitimacy today. People have to know what’s up, because everything we’ve ever won, is because of those people. NINA TURNER: Grassroots. JOSH FOX: Yeah. NINA TURNER: It doesn’t have to. So Josh, for people who want to figure out a way to get involved in a movement like that, I mean, what can they, what can they do if there were three things that you could recommend. Whether it’s being a water protector, social justice protector, … JOSH FOX: Right. NINA TURNER: …Income and wealth, and equality protect, I mean what can they do? JOSH FOX: I think that you have to do what you love. NINA TURNER: And is the fight at Standing Rock still. Are we still … JOSH FOX: Well we’re fighting pipelines all across this nation. NINA TURNER: Okay. JOSH FOX: And I want, and that’s what the film does, the film draws attention to all of these pipeline battles that are happening across the United States. NINA TURNER: Okay. JOSH FOX: There’s a huge pipeline battle at the Transpecos Pipeline in Texas. The Sabal Trail Pipeline in Florida. The Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia, the Penneast Pipeline in Pennsylvania. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana. So those battles are happening. NINA TURNER: Okay. JOSH FOX: But what I think is, you got to exercise your own creativity in what you love. This movement needs what you love, you know what I mean? Cause if I had signed up to be an organizer … NINA TURNER: That’s profound. This movement needs what you love. JOSH FOX: Cause otherwise you gonna quit. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: I’m a film maker, you know what I mean, I’m here 10 years later, still making movies. And if I had signed up to be an organizer, I’m like the most disorganized person on the planet. I would have … NINA TURNER: Me too. JOSH FOX: I would have quit, you know what I mean? NINA TURNER: Right. JOSH FOX: So you have to do what you love. But you also got to show up. NINA TURNER: Yeah. JOSH FOX: Like when the protests are happening, when the, when those direct actions are happening. What I like to say about this is, you know you’re on the right track, if you’ve left your house. And you need to be on your feet out there in the streets. NINA TURNER: You need to be on your feet in the streets. JOSH FOX: So it’s that mix of like, 100% sort of self centered involvement, like do I love, what can I give, what is my most profound desire? And then, just be a foot soldier. Just get out there. NINA TURNER: So how can, I mean so, do what you love. We need your creativity. Leave your house. JOSH FOX: Yeah. NINA TURNER: That’s powerful in the 21st Century. That you telling folks, not just to click. JOSH FOX: No. NINA TURNER: To tweet. JOSH FOX: That’s an imaginary world. NINA TURNER: But to physically leave your house. JOSH FOX: Power is in the streets. Always. NINA TURNER: Power is in the streets. JOSH FOX: And, we’re going to have a big fight for our national parks. NINA TURNER: Yes. JOSH FOX: We’re gonna have a big fight for, against fracking. NINA TURNER: Yeah absolutely. JOSH FOX: We’re gonna have big fights against pipeline across this nation. It’s not going to be hard to find the frontline. NINA TURNER: No it’s not. War on drugs, you know, Attorney General Sessions is returning to that. Just voted away Dodd-Frank in the House, this week. You know so there’s so much work that we, the foot soldiers can do. So Josh, how, if somebody wanted to see your film, “AWAKE,” how do they do that? JOSH FOX: We opened it up for the general public to buy early for the first month. And that was all by donations, right? NINA TURNER: Okay. JOSH FOX: A hundred percent of the proceeds of “AWAKE” go to an indigenous media fund. NINA TURNER: Wow. JOSH FOX: And a pipeline fighters fund that we are starting. So that we’re gonna train myself, Myron Dewey, the other film makers–train indigenous youth in, you know, livestreaming and drones and all the things that people need to become that media presence. ‘Cause we didn’t have enough indigenous media, during Standing Rock. NINA TURNER: Right. JOSH FOX: So that was one of the things that as film makers, we felt like we had to do. But right now, we are making the film available only for people to do community screenings. So, if you have like a church, a community center, you know, your own, in your dorm room, whatever. NINA TURNER: Mosque. JOSH FOX: Yeah, mosque, whatever. Mosque, yeah, we want you to show the movie and it’s, it’s like practically free to do that. NINA TURNER: Okay. JOSH FOX: It’s like ten dollars. NINA TURNER: Okay. JOSH FOX: It’s ridiculous. NINA TURNER: Josh Fox, I just want you to know, you are awake, in every way. Thank you so much. And the Real News. You have been here with me, my friend, and I, Josh Fox. Make sure that you go visit, awakethefilm… JOSH FOX: Dot org. NINA TURNER: Dot org. And I hope that all of you are awake too. This is Nina Turner, for the Nina Turner Show on The Real News Network.