Netroots Nation arrives in St. Louis, MO

Netroots Nation, the country’s largest gathering of progressive activists kicked off their annual conference yesterday in St. Louis, MO. Last years event took place in Phoenix, Arizona where it’s central theme was on immigration. This year’s theme of racial justice brought the conference to Missouri where Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed on Aug. 9, 2014 by police officer Darren Wilson in the city of Ferguson. The justice department said there was no evidence to disprove Wilson’s testimony that he feared for his safety and cleared him of any wrong doing on March 4, 2015. Protesters united in Ferguson to show the nation they would not let this injustice pass and demanded their voices be heard.

These incidents have echoed all over the country, unarmed minorities are being killed and harrassed on the street and/or when already in jail, as was the case with Sandra Bland. Bland was found hanging in her Texas cell three days after her arrest. During a failing to signal traffic stop by officer Brian Encinia, his ego got out of hand when she refused to put out her cigarette which is not illegal. He arrested her by saying the 28 year old was being unlawful. Encinia had already had a history of Violating Traffic Stop & Courtesy Protocols. Bland had just moved to Texas to start a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, making the “suicide” reasoning fed to the public suspicious to all that knew her. This doesn’t even cover the most recent incidents with Philando Castile and Alton Sterling that have left so many hurting around the country. The list keeps growing so it’s important not to forget the others and continuing to say their names. 

It was clear at Netroots Nation in Phoenix that many “progressives” at the conference were not in solidarity over the issues that effect minorities around the country. Many panels were and continue to be all white, hence the need to make racial justice the central theme. During a Black Lives Matter movement last year during a presidential candidates’ town-hall meeting, audience members could be seen visibly upset. Whispers of “shut up already” were in earshot of where I was seated. Picking and choosing one social justice cause is far from being progressive.

The most obvious issue with progressive movements and demonstrated by Netroots Nations’ past events is the willingness of organizations to pat themselves on the back for doing a good job when they don’t include a diverse representation of the issues. For instance, it’s not out of the ordinary to enter a panel about women’s rights and only see white faces staring back at you. It’s important to stand up to structural racism on all levels not just wearing a Black Lives Matter button. You can work and prove yourself and still not be promoted to top positions even in organizations that are supposedly for rights that pertain to you and your struggle. Why are the people not representing their own struggles in leadership positions? Jamala Rogers – Author of Fergusion is America – Roots of Rebellion said it best during the Opening Keynote, “If you’re a social justice organization and you’re all white, you’re not a social justice organization.”

So far, the theme and location has been a great choice made by Netroots Nation


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