(Photo by Hanae Mason)
On Thursday, more than 3,500 progressives from across the country traveled to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia to attend the 14th annual meeting of Netroots Nation. According to Arshad Hasan, Netroots Nation board member, this is the largest convening in the organization’s history.
Netroots, a portmanteau of internet and grassroots, began as the “Yearly Kos,” a national meeting of Daily Kos readers and writers in 2006. Renamed in 2007, Netroots represents the vanguard of progressive digital activism and political organizing.
The three-day agenda includes a large selection of trainings, panels, presentations, film screenings, and keynotes that cover the gamut of social and political issues from climate change to racial justice. With provocative titles like “Racism and the Struggle for Digital Rights” and “#ProgressivesToo: Dealing with Sexual Violence in Our Movement,” Thursday’s sessions featured the likes of Councilwoman Helen Gym, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza.
Special Philadelphia-specific sessions will be held throughout the convention and will highlight the legacy of MOVE, the reclamation of the local school board, cash bail and criminal justice reform, and more. Additionally, dozens of parties, receptions, happy hours, and performances take place after-hours throughout the city.
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A few protests and direct actions are also scheduled, and we will be covering a few of those later this week as well.
The culmination of the convention’s programming is Saturday’s town hall with some of the Democratic Presidential candidates, of which Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris will not be in attendance. Even without attending, Sanders’ influence on the left is still felt and evident at Netroots. His 2016 campaign moved the Democratic Party further left and into progressive territory, and on the first day at Netroots, the sense of urgency for the progressive attendees and constituents to be unified in supporting whomever emerged victor of the pool of the 2020 Democratic Presidential hopefuls was clear.
The progressive pact, however, is not a monolith — in its official program book, Netroots Nation claims to have the most diverse group of participants ever, with 76% of selected speakers being people of color; 64% women; and 28% LGBTQ. With so many different perspectives, regions, identities, and priorities to take into consideration, can the movement unite to support a singular candidate or to develop a comprehensive platform? Netroots Nation is banking on it.
In a rousing speech during Thursday evening’s keynote program, Jess Morales Rocketto of the National Domestic Workers Alliance led the audience in a chant of “no están solos” which means “you are not alone.”
At Netroots Nation, it’s just you and 3,500 of your closest friends.-30-
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