Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continued his campaign's tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) at Morehouse College this past Tuesday. The capacity crowd at the Forbes Arena was extremely diverse in terms of race, age and gender, strongly representative of the larger Atlanta community. Many students at nearby HBCUs of the Atlanta University Center consortium were in attendance, including students from Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. There was even a large, vocal group of students hailing from Savannah State University who trekked over 4 hours from the Georgia coast to downtown Atlanta to hear the progressive Senator from Vermont speak on the issues of racial, social and economic justice.
Sen. Sanders' speech, which closely resembled the speeches he's given in other parts of the country, was preceded by a number of high-profile speakers, most notably Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort, former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, and Atlanta-based Rapper/Activist Killer Mike. These Sanders surrogates are proving themselves to be instrumental players in spreading Bernie's message to the African American community, as well as the nation at large.
Michael "Killer Mike" Render, Atlanta rapper/activist and self-proclaimed "social warrior", energized the crowd about the struggles the African American community deals with on a daily basis and the civil rights leaders who have paved the way to overcome them. "If you line up Martin Luther King Jr.'s social policy for the poor, for the downtrodden, for the weak, for the woman, for the gay, for the people of color, for the people in abject poverty throughout this country ... there's only one candidate whose policy lines up."
Tapping into the younger generation's discontent with establishment politician's dubious promises of slow and incremental change, Killer Mike continued, "That's what [Hillary Clinton] is telling you, 'Hold on Black Lives Matter, just wait awhile. Hold on young people in this country, just wait awhile.'" It seems clear that a large portion of the country is sick and tired of waiting for promised change that never seems to arrive on time, let alone match the promiser's rhetoric.
The week following the Iowa Caucuses, Sec. Clinton's campaign not-so-subtly switched tactics in an attempt to shame young women into voting for her after a shocking 6:1 margin among millennial women cast their vote for Sen. Sanders. (I explain why this maneuver was bound to backfire among millennial women voters in an earlier article titled, Hillary Clinton Needs To "Evolve" On Feminism.)
Since then, not coincidently, many young women have been pressured by female family members to vote for Clinton simply because she's a woman. Killer Mike addressed this issue quoting a recent conversation he had with renowned feminist and social activist Jane Elliot, "Jane said, 'Michael, a uterus doesn't qualify you to be President of the United States. You have to have policy that's reflective of social justice.' Paying women a fair wage is social justice. Making sure minorities have jobs is social justice. Ending a bullshit drug war is social justice. Making sure our children can go to college is social justice."
The shaming attempts proved fruitless in New Hampshire after Bernie won an historic 22 point victory (82 percent of women under 30). With South Carolina just weeks away, the next target the foundering Clinton campaign unsurprisingly took aim at was Bernie's civil rights record. With her cadre of political establishment snipers, her campaign tried to insinuate that Bernie Sanders' impeccable history in the civil rights movement was a farce. This is completely in line with the Clinton campaign's MO thus far in the primaries and, although it is utterly false, plays into the mainstream media narrative about Hillary's so-called "firewall" with minority voters. In an impassioned and personal speech, former State Senator Nina Turner denounced the "firewall" assumption, speaking directly to African Americans, "You are nobody's firewall." She then led the crowd in a repeated chorus of "You don't own our vote, you've got to earn our vote!"
Sen. Turner also brought up the Clinton campaign's recent debate talking point that Bernie Sanders is a one-issue candidate. She related an earlier conversation with Killer Mike, "What do you think about [Sen. Sanders] being called a 'one-issue candidate'? and Killer Mike said, 'He is a one-issue candidate and you are the issue, the people of the United Sates of America.'"
Next up, Sen. Vincent Fort, who recently changed his allegiance from his party's establishment choice to Sanders and began his speech with an acknowledgement of that fact. The State Senator then proceeded to explain why he had switched his support. "I didn't know much about [Sen. Sanders] before, but once I learned about his policies ... I knew that he was the right candidate to lead our country forward." Sen. Fort continued, "This year we have a unique and historic opportunity to truly change America."
The crowd erupted as Sen. Fort spoke to the heart of what many people, young and old of all races, are experiencing in Bernie Sanders' grassroots movement for a political revolution: the more people hear Bernie speak, the more people learn about Bernie's vision for America, the more people feel the Bern.
On November 23rd, 2015, Killer Mike sat down with Sen. Sanders in his now famous "Talking Shop" session on YouTube. During his speech Tuesday, he said he told Bernie, "Before I endorse you, I want you to understand what I expect of you. I expect for you to look out for the African American community." Killer Mike's subsequent endorsement unequivocally shows his belief that Sen. Sanders will fulfill that expectation. Whether or not the African American community in Georgia and the rest of the country stands in agreement is yet to be determined as the primary season moves forward. However, one thing is for sure, the Clinton "firewall" is a media myth. African Americans are going to make any presidential candidate earn their votes, exactly as all Americans should.
As the video above shows, Bernie will be departing Atlanta after earning at least one more African American vote.