Thursday, October 11, 2012

Campus Event: Reception and Conversation with Cheri Honkala 2012 Green Party VP Candidate

The event took place last night at Berea College's Appalachian Center. This was a rare opportunity, so I decided to go and learn a thing or two, and I took the family along as well. I can say my daughter was impressed after the event. The following are some notes I took from the event.

  • Ms. Honkala opens her remarks by acknowledging the efforts of community organizers. 
  • She spent the day touring the mountains and hearing stories from the locals. She notes that Dr. Jill Stein, the Presidential Candidate for the Green Party, and her have made it a point to go to places that the two major parties have neglected. 
  • Things we know: poverty, short life spans, mountaintop removals, coal dust, and other environmental issues (and in the case of the mountains and coal, very significant issues here in Kentucky) as well as human issues. We need to act now and remove the blinders so we can have a future. 
  • The theater of the national debates is similar to the theater (spectacle) in the film The Hunger Games. And we are then told to vote for the lesser of two evils. As voters, we should be looking at the facts. 
  • Ms. Honkala's story is the story of a woman who was homeless, a single mother, and the last person who would ever think of running for any political office. She decided that the basic necessities of life are not negotiable.  Her mother taught her it is more important to do what is right. So, 200-plus arrests later for various acts of civil disobedience, she finds herself on the path of running on a Green Party Ticket. First, she was approached to run for sheriff in Philadelphia. She ran on a no foreclosures campaign. She was the first woman to run for his office. Later, stemming from her work with homeless people and the poor, she was asked by Dr. Jill Stein to be her running mate. Honkala's mentors all told her it was her responsibility to run, to give back.
  • Ms. Honkala says she tried hard to be a Democrat. But no one in that party was concerned about what she thought, the concerns of a poor single mother nor the concerns of people losing their homes and suffering. No one wanted to talk about poverty. 
  • Briefly mentioned the work of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.
  • The law of humanity: keep each other alive and take care of each other. 
  • Honkala will be in Danville, KY marching to protest not being included in the National Vice-Presidential Debate. (By the way, as a side note, Danville is only about 40 minutes from Berea. If I was not working the evening shift in reference, I'd be very tempted to go). There is a problem with democracy when third parties, even if they have no mathematical chance of winning the White House, are excluded from any of the national debates and effectively silenced. These voices do need to be a part of the national conversation and debate. In spite of that, the Green Party has worked collecting signatures, and they are now in the ballots of 38 states. 
  • You may want to check out some coverage at Democracy Now! For instance, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson (the presidential candidate of the Justice Party) were featured answering the same debate questions from the presidential debates. They may be doing it again for the vice-presidential debate. The Green Party has used other media, including international media, to get coverage. For instance, Dr. Stein was featured in Al-Jazeera feature on third party candidates. This is also a tactic to force the American mainstream media to cover third party candidates (which, as we know, the American media treat as a joke, a sideshow, or they just don't cover them at all). 
  • The building of an independent party should be a revolutionary act.
After the candidate delivered her remarks, which were very informal, she had time for photos and questions from the audience.

Lisa Rivera talks politics and American history with Ms. Honkala
Our daughter Lisa got to talk to Ms. Honkala, discussing how some of the candidate's ideas connected to lessons she is just learning in her social studies class (they are covering the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans). For her mother and I, experiences like this are a way to supplement her school education, plus, Lisa gets to see a good role model of a strong woman in politics and an activist.

Overall, we had a small but enthusiastic gathering of people from in and out of the college. I did wish a few more of our students would have made it for this is the kind of opportunity you do not get very often.

Caprice and Angel Rivera with Cheri Honkala
Ms. Honkala also talked a bit about issues of access to information and a bit on people using their public libraries. But there is still more to be done to bridge that digital divide. Certainly an issue close to this librarian.

You can learn more about the Green Party and its candidates from the links in this post.


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