Bertha Lewis Keynote 4/26 Raw Transcript

Bertha Lewis;

[00:00]Ok how y'all doing?  Now the people that had the fried chicken, no napping, all right, no napping because you're on camera and you will be recorded.  And ah?  So what was I doing between 2007 and 2012? [00:30]I got carted off to the right wing gulag.  My god its cold in the gulag, but that’s all right.  Glen Beck and I had our affair.  That’s why he does the thing that he does and says the things he says about me, he wanted to have a love child.  But I saidvno Glen, [01:00]the demographics are changing.  Well I guess, you know Mitchell was so great, you know, this guy.  The PowerPoint, everything all fancy-smancy, but really on time and really got us to thinking about what’s really real and digging down into the numbers. [01:30]You know?
So my message today is whether we do need to figure out what to call ourselves, the new majority or just, we are the majority instead of minority and I do not accept the fact that we are going to wait until 2015 and then shhhh, all of a [02:00]sudden we will be the majority, we already are.  See I don't believe all the stuff that these people try to tell us, we already are.  Look from city to city and even from region to region and we say well, you know, people of color are already the majority there.  When you start putting that stuff together, that means we got to realize that we are the majority [02:30]already and we need to act like it.  We don't need to wait until we get to critical mass, we are at critical mass.  I mean you can even look in this room, right?  You know that not too long ago this room was decidedly melanin challenged. [03:00]But we got our melanin and all melanin thing on now. 

Let me just give you a brief little thing about the Black Institute and who we are and yes, I did not focus group the name.  People were saying, whoa, don't call it the Black Institute, you know, you want to be more universal.  And I'm like, Black is universal, Okay? Okay? [03:30]and every color in the rainbow. 
I was standing in D.C. in 2009 when the Healthcare debate came up and there was this tiny little group of people walking around with tea bags and talking about "We don't want universal Healthcare, we don't want single payer and the American people [04:00]don't want it and we have a poll."  And I'm like what Americans are you talking about?  Who?  Because people in my hood definitely want universal Healthcare.  So who are you and then it all became, begin to come together for me, and I began to understand and to realize that these were the people that the day after [04:30]the 2008 election, the Right started to organize these people.  We were all partying, feeling good, you know.  Yeah we finally got it, first Black President.  [We're peoples racial]  Whoo.  Everything's going to be all right now.  Wrong! [05:00]Wrong.  The minute you stop organizing, the minute you stop bringing people together, you have lost. 

So what I'm here to say today in all of my different remarks is, regional planners, those of you who are doing research, data collection, and writing fabulous [05:30]things like this.  Listen, the one thing that you better have, is you need an organizing component.  [Remark from crowd]   Absolutely.  Absolutely.  After I did reorganize the former ACORN chapters, and it was, you know, its all good because [we'll send that girl with that said (singing) can you [06:00]makes you stronger, a little longer.]  I can’t remember what it is but you get the point.  Theses bastards tried to kill us and when you are faced with death, things flash before your eyes.  And the things that flash before your eye are what actually really count.  That you cannot be moderate, you do have to be radical [06:30]because they will lie on you and they will attack you no matter how reasonable you believe you are being, understand that.  So for me when I saw these town hall meetings turn into debacles it became clear that they had to remove ACORN from the chess board because you would [07:00]know if the ACORN red shirts had been in on those town hall meetings, they would have been an entirely thing, entirely different.  Also what I realized was that these folks were serious, there was fear of a black planet, that they would do whatever it took, however long it took, to change the dynamic. [07:30]We're here talking about changing demographics, what do you think they're doing?  What do you think they are doing?  Voter ID and voter suppression, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, [08:00]the attack on Healthcare and contraceptive and access to healthcare by poor women.  What do all these things have to do with each other?  Fear of a black planet.  Fear of you all and your regional planning and what kinds of things you are planning.  Maybe we ought to change the terminology to not [08:30]be [social-like really] but social fairness.  Every last one of you in the room today is a threat.  You are a threat to the powers that be.  You need to understand what a danger you are.  Get that in your heads, you are dangerous.  I know, "I'm kind of nice, I got, I have multiple [09:00]degrees, I'm not like those other people, I'm doing research, nothing wrong here, you crazy Bertha, you go and make people afraid."  Well guess what? [09:30]You cannot hide because you are dangerous and that’s how they look at you. 
We don't have progressive elected officials, you think because you elected someone, because they're Latino, or they're Asian, or they're Black, that somehow or another they have a predisposition to social justice? [10:00]  This is why we are in the fix we're in today.  Because we try to say well if we support this one or that one maybe we'll get one or two things because intrinsically we understand they're not progressive, they don't even know how to think progressively. [10:30]  Now any funders in here, don't get your pantyhose in a wad, I'm not trying to foment partisan politics because I know that is forboden for 501c3's, however, issue advocacy is not, and the issue is, what is progressive policy [11:00]and you cannot have progressive policy if you don't have progressive elected officials, you just can't, it won't work.  Folks come into a room, they hear race, they get up and leave, they hear gender, they get up and leave.  When you go to these city halls and you go to the state houses, the reason that we're having so many problems [11:30]today was again the day after Barack Obama was elected, those folks on the right were already at the 2010 elections, already.  You think that because we have the facts and the data that Americas is browning and that there will be people of color in the majority that these folk are sitting back? [12:00]  They are looking back at their counterparts in South Africa.  You think that a [par time] can't come here when everybody is black and brown and in the majority?  You better think again, because the powers that be don't care about your numbers if you don't [12:30]act like numbers are your power. 

It’s an understanding, the demographic change, we got to be a little bit deeper.  I keep saying Black, I keep saying Black and not African American.  Why?  Because you got people like Mitchell, all mixed the hell up. [13:00]This is not your traditional up from the South migrating Negro, this is super Negro.  As regional planners, [13:30] you got to dig down into who these demographics are.  You've got to look at how you are going to effect comprehensive immigration reform.  It has to be part of your plan, because guess what, it isn't just about borders and Latinos [14:00]hopping over fences and having anchor babies.  If we're looking at the economics of this country and regionally, our comprehensive immigration reform, if it'll ever come please God, we need to look at who's coming into this country, African immigrants are the most [14:30]highly educated of all immigrant groups combined. 
There’s a dirty little secret going on in this country about education, where education and immigration cross. The recruitment of international teachers.  These are professionals and they are coming up from the Caribbean, [15:00]Black immigrants from South America as well as Africa, and its a cottage industry of recruiters that not only charge the teachers, but the system.  I don't know if any of you heard about Filipino teachers in New Orleans [15:30]that were practically indentured servants, had their passports taken away, forced to live in trailers, and give part of their earnings back to their recruiters, it was like an international professional coyote.  But here's the other thing, I was, I was over at Howard College and [16:00]talking to a class and one of the students said to me "you know Mrs. Lewis, I know what the left is all about, I know what progressives are all about, I know what we want, but I just can't figure out what the right wants because it just doesn't seem to be clear to me."  And I said well, it right in front of [16:30]your face...privatize everything.  Privatize everything.  The war on public education is raging all around us.  It is predatory education.  We will no longer have public schools in a minute if we don't watch out. [17:00]International teachers are being recruited to populate charter schools.  That is their new thing, be aware of this, be aware. 
If we are talking about geography and people moving around and us being in the majority, in urban settings and [17:30]inter-suburban setting, all of a sudden when the school system is now black and brown it got to be privatized.  It just like gentrification happens after we take away services in neighborhoods and we call it urban renewal but you remove the folks out of [18:00]that system, it is the same thing that is happening in public education, be aware.  You got to be able to put that into your formula.

We have an opportunity right now to move people to the polls based on their own self-interests and issues. [18:30]ACORN at its height accounted for 25% of all voter registration in this country.  One organization.  Well with that dubious distinction, we had a bull’s-eye on our backs that was huge, you see, in a way, why we had to be removed. [19:00]I mean it makes perfect logical sense.

Using this Trayvon Martin moment again in your planning, where was Trayvon Martin shot?  In a gated community that arguably according to whomever [19:30]you want to believe was 50/50 in terms of white vs. people of color.  A gated community.  Again, the rise of these types of developments have proliferated…proliferated.  If we want to look at what kind of housing [20:00]we're having, anytime you have a gated community, that already sets up a certain mentality.  Are you keeping people in or you keeping folks out?  Is there free movement even between the neighbors in this place?  Regional planners, think about the proliferation of gated communities and its not just the rich, [20:30]we convinced moderate, middle income folks that they should be in gated communities too.  This is why we have this whole flight to the suburbs.  Lets have a house and a yard for the dog.

Well I'm a boomer. [21:00]Let me tell you a little secret about boomers.  We get cranky and once we hit a certain age, we revel with it.  Early on in our life we were like, so restricted and all of a sudden the big sexual revolution and we got loose, and then we got too loose [21:30]and had to pull back.  And yeah, we seen far too much, and we actually have seen you know in our short lifetime things change drastically so we get cranky, and we like it because we can finally be cranky and talk about all the things that we see that we don't like and that other people shouldn't like and [22:00]one of the things that we don't like is people not being call what they really are, like you all, dangerous.  There's nothing safe about you.  The fact that revolutions and what you all are doing, it costs money.  Sorry funders in the room but most folks sitting up in here [22:30]are suffering from foundation-itis.  No foundation can tell me that they are suffering, not when the stock market is over 13,000.  There's no such thing.  You bounce back and your investments have bounce back even better and greater than before. [23:00]Think about self-sufficiency.  We are not going to be able to do the things that we want if we don't have self-sufficiency.  We need our own bean pies.  The Nation of Islam don't give a damn about what you think of about them because they got a bean pot.  And we got to think [23:30]about that.  What is our self-sufficient motto?  You cannot keep relying on the kindness of strangers because they have an agenda.  We got to change our minds about how we are going to fund our own revolution and it isn't going to be from government grants or from totally from foundations, it cannot be, because if it is, [24:00]the revolutions certainly will not be televised.

But because there were folks who actually said we are going to tell the truth and shame the devil...bull.  Occupy.  The occupy movement has does more for your regional planning than you all have done for a decade. [24:30]You should give them a hand.  Because no one was talking about inequality before these crazy ass people laid down and said "that’s it, no more, no more."  You got to join up with labor.  Please, please, please.  And god knows [25:00]they can be a pain in the ass.  Lord knows, I know, but you got to go to them because what is happening.  Changing demographics, their rank and file demographics are changing.  Don't let some guy in a suit, who's a business suit, he's a business agent.  They don't even call themselves organizers anymore, they're business agents. [25:30]You say look, I know what your rank and file looks like.  I know who they are, there is no separation between labor and community because their rank and files live on streets which are neighborhoods, which are part of communities, if they would only recognize that, we have to help them.  Wisconsin didn't happen by accident and they need us, they need us, [26:00]they need us.  You don't have to beg, you need to tell them come and invest with us.  There has to be an inside outside strategy here.  Stop the bickering, stop the crumb snatching, please just stop it.  Its my turf, you know, [26:30]some funder tells you, "well we already got one of those."   Why don't you come up with something different, or here’s a dollar, I want all ten of you to share it because we want to maximize.  I mean sometimes you just got to walk away [27:00]and say no, the 10 of us say that is unacceptable, the work is too important and you will respect us and you will recognize us.  I know again that sounds real radical [inaudible] don't tell us to do that but you have too.  You just have to take a different tact.

I said in Detroit and I'm going to say it again, [27:30]I don't care how academic you are, I don't care how researcher in it you are, I don't care.  Every last one of you needs to have a political voter registration, voter turnout door-knocking component.  If you don't have it within your own organization than you better get with someone who does, and they exist. [28:00]You must do this.  Earlier I was in the demographic section and they were saying, "Oh the universities used to have departments just devoted to different ethnicities and they don't have it anymore.”  Well damn, that’s unacceptable.  All we been doing is how we are the new majority, so [28:30]if we're so new, lets get real and start exerting that power right now.  Who are the African Americans?  That’s a whole different class of folks.  Black faces need to be at the table when we talk about immigration reform.  When we talk about immigration reform, we got to talk about changing how we treat professionals.  Theses are our cousins; [29:00]we need them here to fight the battle with us.  So it is disturbing to me when I don't see a real effort to say, yes we're going to use Twitter, yes we're going use Facebook, we're going to go into the cloud.  That was really frightening to me because I had just gotten down with cyberspace then [29:30]they said, "go into the cloud."  I was like, nah.  No more of that forced march thing for me.  I’ve seen too many science fiction movies where none of us are in the future except [inaudible]. 

So the message is this.  If we are the new majority, start acting like it. [30:00]If we are the new majority, let us make sure that electoral politics as well as real on the ground knock on the door face-to-face organizing is part of that.  The Black Institute has three strategies: The head, data, research, polling but it doesn't mean anything if you cant make a claim and bring it down to the heart which is [30:30]leadership turning all that rusty dusty stuff into reality and training people to do it but none of it, it will always be advocacy if you don’t move it on the ground.  You still have to knock on doors.  You ain't getting away from that.  You can have all the videoconference you want. [31:00]And here’s the proof right in your own publication, Black and Latino coalition's Black anti-immigrant laws in Mississippi.  Whenever I’m in Mississippi I try to be inside after dark.  So if they can do it in Mississippi, we can join website to website, strange bedfellows and all kind of coalitions, we have to do it [31:30]for our own survival, you cannot do it alone.  And so, in conclusion, you want to call to action?  You gonna get up off your ass right now.  Stand up, stand up, stand up.  Mic check, Mic check.  We are the majority, and we will rule. [32:00]We are fired up, and tired of all the bullshit, and we wont take it anymore.  We are the majority, not in 2050, we are the majority right now, and we will rule.  Thank you.