At the 2017 People’s Summit, Nina Turner talks to organizers from West Virginia and Ohio about the challenges of living and affecting change in rural America
NINA TURNER: Let’s get down to the real business of taking care of the people. We can’t have a testimony without a test, and we are being tested whether we have courage enough, conviction enough, people power enough to stand up and do what is right for ourselves and generations yet unborn. [crosstalk 00:00:28] You know I was talking to a sister who is from West Virginia, as I interviewed her yesterday and she said to me during that interview that in some parts of West Virginia, our sisters and brothers do not have clean water, they don’t even have access to the Internet. But here we are, in the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth, a nation that can do anything that it puts it’s mind to do, but yet we sit here and there are folks in our country who do not have clean water. It is a sin and a shame and it is immoral, and we will not stand for it With These Hands. We will. We will rise up. Hello Kachina. KACHINA MOONEY: Hi! NINA TURNER: So good to have you on the Nina Turner show, the Real News Network. You are here at the People’s Summit 2017 in Chicago. What brings you to the People’s Summit? KACHINA MOONEY: I’m here today representing the West Virginia Progressive Alliance, which we just started in West Virginia. NINA TURNER: And what motivated you to start this alliance, and what are some of the goals? KACHINA MOONEY: The one thing that we’re lacking in an area that’s so rural like West Virginia is communication. A major part of our state in the southern part, the most Appalachian part of the state, they don’t even have Internet access. NINA TURNER: In the 21st century, you have communities without Internet access? KACHINA MOONEY: Yes, and so that makes it really difficult to communicate across the entire state and create the change that we all are looking for. NINA TURNER: And that’s a necessity these days. That is not a luxury. When this technology first came out, it was considered a luxury, but you see it as a necessity. KACHINA MOONEY: Absolutely. NINA TURNER: Yeah. KACHINA MOONEY: Really the only way to reach people who aren’t able to have Internet is door to door. NINA TURNER: When you have conversations with some of your neighbors, or the people who live in those areas, how are they feeling about the state of things in this country? KACHINA MOONEY: They feel abandoned. They feel that not only are they not represented, but they are being ignored, overlooked. There are major parts of the state, especially the places that don’t have Internet access, that don’t even have clean water. NINA TURNER: Don’t have clean water? Similar to Flint. KACHINA MOONEY: Absolutely. NINA TURNER: Basically, Kachina, what you are identifying is that we have a lot in common, whether you’re in a urban area like Flint or whether you’re named one of the communities in the parts of West Virginia. Name one of the communities. KACHINA MOONEY: Welch. It’s in McDowell County. NINA TURNER: McDowell County, West Virginia. They don’t even have access to clean water in the 21st century. KACHINA MOONEY: Yes. NINA TURNER: What are some of the goals? What do you hope that the alliance is able to achieve? KACHINA MOONEY: We want to create a network of communication between all progressive individuals, groups, organizations, across the entire state. We believe that where each person is located, they know the best as far as what is needed in that area and who to reach out to and who to network to. So we’re building a network of communication and also educational resources for people who’ve never been involved before. So how do you talk to a legislator? How do you help write a bill? Things like that to help create the change in these rural areas. That’s desperately needed. NINA TURNER: When you say that they feel not represented or forgotten, is that based on party affiliation? Is it Democrats and Republicans? Do they even talk about it in those terms? KACHINA MOONEY: Yeah. For 80 years, West Virginia was a blue state, and when all of the jobs and the coal industry basically abandoned these people in the southern part of the state, they knew that it was because of the Democratic representation that they had. That’s why they all switched to Republican and vote against their best interest because they feel like the Democrats weren’t representing them. That’s the kind of narrative that we have to change, and show these people that there are progressives out there fighting for them and that we are wanting them to succeed. NINA TURNER: And that’s part of the work that you’re engaged in. And did I hear you right, did you say for 80 years? KACHINA MOONEY: 80 years. NINA TURNER: West Virginia was blue. KACHINA MOONEY: Blue. NINA TURNER: And over that time, the erosion of the relationship between our sisters and brothers in West Virginia in terms of how the Democratic party represents them or does not represent them, coupled with the erosion of their quality of life has driven them to the Republican Party. Well Kachina, I want to thank you so much for your activism. You are one of the major reasons why the People’s Summit exists, and the West Virginia Progressive Alliance, I know you guys are gonna do great things so thank you for joining us. KACHINA MOONEY: Thank you. NINA TURNER: The fact that the working poor and [inaudible 00:05:48] barely middle class in this country are not asking for more than what they deserve, they are asking for a hand up, not a hand out. We must change the dynamics in this country. We rise and we fall together with these hands, we will rise up. Matthias, welcome to the Nina Turner Show on the Real News Network. M. DETAMORE: Oh, thank you. It’s such an honor to be here with you, Nina. NINA TURNER: I’m honored that you are here, and we are at the People’s Summit. M. DETAMORE: I know, it’s exciting. It’s my first one, I didn’t visit here last year. NINA TURNER: Are you enjoying yourself? M. DETAMORE: Yes, I’m having so good. NINA TURNER: What is it about the People’s Summit? Why did you come this year? M. DETAMORE: Well, I’ve been a lot of organizing post-Bernie. I was a Bernie Sanders delegate and I’m from Dayton, Ohio, what we started there. I started an organization, The Miami Valley Progressive Caucus, which is a nine county group of building rural and urban, kind of bringing Dayton into itself. And this just seemed like the perfect place to kind of help build that, make connections, networking, build the excitement, get ideas for training, facilitating, the whole thing. NINA TURNER: And you said it’s a nine county, and you’re laser-focused and the other people who helped you organize that on bringing urban and rural together. Why is that important to you? M. DETAMORE: Well, I think that one, there’s often been a sharp divide between the city and the country that’s not really there, it’s sort of imagined. NINA TURNER: Okay. M. DETAMORE: And in the process, the folks in the country get dismissed, and they’re sort of set aside, they’re not paid attention to. When folks on the left come in to try to help, it’s that white knight kind of come in and tell them they’re doing it wrong, and this is how you’re gonna do it. And I’m more interested in bringing a conversation together. Sometimes the city, obviously because there’s more people and there’s more money, there’s more resources, so trying to stream those into the rural folk places to help build up their grassroots efforts, but doing it in a way where it’s about mutually equal voices talking to each other. We can’t just go in and be Democrats because there’s a lot of identity politics going on with Democrats or Republicans. It’s actually breaking it down to values and one not getting trapped in using conservative language when we’re trying to argue our point, but developing a language that … NINA TURNER: Can you give me an example? Give us an example. M. DETAMORE: Well, the one that always comes to my mind is we talk about union collective bargaining rights, right? And the euphemism has been properly branded by the Republicans that it’s right to work, right? So when we say “right to work is wrong,” conservatives don’t hear “wrong,” they hear “Right to work” and it just reinforces the right to work. So it’s very Aristotelian. A not A, you still got A there. It’s about rebranding the entire message and coming up with new ways of saying what progressive values are, and doing it in a way that hits people where they’re at, hits them in their heart, hits them where their lives are lived. Cause that’s how we make those connections, listen to people. NINA TURNER: Bringing people together. So you’ve taken from the small picture regional, not small picture, very big, regional to now state-wide, and you are one of the founders of the Ohio Progressive Alliance. M. DETAMORE: Yes. NINA TURNER: What’s that about? M. DETAMORE: Well, so an 88 county strategy, there’s 88 counties in Ohio. NINA TURNER: Mobilize 88. M. DETAMORE: Yes, Mobilize 88, that’s going to be our kick-off event, which you’re gonna be featured at. We’re so excited to have you. NINA TURNER: I’m excited too. M. DETAMORE: This has been an idea of mine for quite a while, and I’ve had a number of conversations with a number of different friends, and Portia and I hooked up, and we just started rolling around ideas. Our friend Diana Kaiser came on, so we’re kind of the three core group, and just figuring out how to organize from a structural standpoint, getting people in each county that can be responsible for bringing the grassroots together and strengthening ourselves through alliance and coalition. So what we’re hoping to do is … In places where all of these progressive indivisible groups, and this, that, and the other have come up, don’t try and wipe them out and say “You need to be us.” Let them have their institutional identity, but bring coalition together, bring alliances. But in those places where there is no grassroots, help them build it. NINA TURNER: Is the goal of the alliance to make sure that you get more progressive candidates elected to fight for progressive causes? What’s the end game? In once sentence, what is the end game of the Ohio Progressive Alliance? And maybe I shouldn’t say end game, but what ultimately does the Ohio Progressive Alliance want to see happen? M. DETAMORE: Well, it states in our mission that we’re trying to get strong voting blocks together and get people involved in the political process. And that means just from regular volunteers to getting people in party precinct captains, and recruiting folks to run for office and getting people to organize to move it past identity politics so that in certain rural counties, we may have to run a Republican to get a Progressive in office. But what’s wrong with resurrecting the Eisenhower Republican? NINA TURNER: Yeah. And it is time out … Sisters and brothers, for us to … We not gonna play the games with the folks. We will make this happen, because if we can send a man to the moon, we can have Medicare for all. If we, a nation that enslaved black folks for 250 years, 100 years of Jim Crow, 50 years of something else, stole the land from our Native American brothers and sisters, if we can abolish slavery, we can have a $15 an hour minimum wage … With these hands. And if this nation, as the symbol of the Statue of Liberty says, bring me your tired masses. But yet we live in a country that is steeped in a type of racism that is insidious, that is in the DNA of America, that we would deny our Hispanic sisters and brothers, our Haitian sisters and brothers, the opportunity to come to this land and make a difference for their families, with these hands, we will rise up. I’m feeling this thing. I just read an article the other day that talked about the prison system in California, and the fact that it costs more money to imprison folks … With that same money we could send folks to Harvard University, with these hands. If we can spend $80 billion a year to house folks in prison, my God, why can’t we have free college and university in the United States of America? With these hands, we will rise up. And we not gonna leave a sister or a brother behind. You know, resistance is really good, but we have to take that resistance to action, because anybody could put the problems out. Anybody could talk about the challenges, but it takes a little more to go deeper and to be able to talk about the collective solutions, the things that will move us to action so that we really get to see and feel the change that is needed to advance our cities, our states, and this nation. If you believe in the mission, subscribe. If you believe in the cause, donate. If you believe in the change that we are pushing here at the Real News Network, we need you to watch and to share the Nina Turner Show.