The Philadelphia-based grassroots campaign Black Men for Bernie said they will continue their work educating Black men on the social issues affecting their communities, even if Bernie Sanders does not gain the Democratic nomination, at a press conference on June 24.
They also stressed that despite Hilary Clinton being the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, they do not support her or the party, as they are dissatisfied with both major political parties.
Instead of voting Democrat for the general election, organizers called for a new class of political leaders, encouraged voters to abandon the two major political parties, and explore the Green and Independent parties as options.
“I already know what I’m going to get in a Clinton administration and a Democratic convention or a Democratic congressional Black caucus,” said Bruce Carter, Founder of Black Men for Bernie. “They are not going to do anything because they are not forced to do anything. It’s been given to them. It’s laid out. [Clinton] doesn’t have to earn Black votes because [she is] entitled to them.”
“The problem we see, is we are not being included in the process and this is to break that. We are not going to lie down for the Democratic Party,” said Gary Frazier, Black Men for Bernie organizer and Camden community activist.
Responding to Sanders’ recent admission that he would most likely vote for Clinton, Frazier stated that “Bernie can do what he wants to do. [But] real change has to come.”
Frazier added that the momentum the group has gained so far educating voters — Black and white — should not go to waste because Sanders doesn’t win. Instead, he said, it should be used to spark more change.
“How do you turn folks away?” he said. “[And] why would we turn back to something that keeps us in the same condition?”
Frazier used the issue of mass incarceration, which overwhelmingly affects Black families, as an example of an issue that worsens, despite who is in political leadership.
“These guys that come home from the [correctional] institutions — they don’t have anything and you wonder why we have high crime rates,” he argued. “This is about raising the bar about issues that continue to get covered up. Our conditions don’t change.”
Erica Mines, an organizer with the Philadelphia Coalition for R.E.A.L. (Racial, Economic and Legal) Justice, and a protester who interrupted the Bill Clinton speech at the Dorothy Emanuel Recreation Center in April, joined Carter and Frazier at the conference, saying “It’s time for us to divest from the voting process. I do not believe in a two-party political process. I don’t believe in Hilary or her ways, Bernie either. The Republican and Democratic parties are falling apart.”
Then, speaking on R.E.AL.’s planned march with Black Men for Bernie at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), she said, “What we don’t want is the DNC to become whitewashed. We see a new class of white liberals — they are feeling the pressure the economy has placed on them but this has been a part of our lives. We’ve been living this life since we were brought to the country. They need to align themselves with our struggles.”
Carter followed up, saying, “Regardless of what happens in July, it’s a revolution. A revolution doesn’t include conceding where you stand ... I understand pressure but I cannot stop the revolution. I keep meeting people that are saying ‘I’m in’ because they are hurting.”
At the DNC, Frazier said they will host a “de-registration” drive for “anybody who feels the two-party system is not working. We can’t go backwards. We are trying to give folks an option.”
With the “Get N the Game” tour, Carter said they will channel the “revolution” until they start to see tangible results, such as a fall in poverty rates and the lowest level of government getting people who can have a positive effect on people lives.
The group has already visited more than 40 states, with a signature approach of talking to Black men in barbershops about social issues, elected officials and running for office.
Black Men for Bernie will visit 200 cities partnering with local barbershops for the “Get N the Game” tour over the next year, hosting barbecues targeting Black men ages 17-27.
Addressed will be how they can be part of the solutions to the social ills plaguing the respective Black communities. Attendees will be encouraged to register to vote, learn about local candidates and what they stand for, and asked to commit to vote in upcoming elections. They’ll be taught how to hold elected officials accountable, and encouraged to run for local office themselves.
Carter said the cities selected for the tour are the most highly populated, with the highest number of African-American residents.
Black Men for Bernie was founded as a grassroots voter education campaign that supported Sanders, and doubled as a tool to educate Black people on social issues especially impacting their communities.