Last month, July 16 – 18, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Netroots Nation conference, which this year was held here in Phoenix. This is part 2 of 4 of my #NN15 recap. The other three parts of this series are available here:
I took a deep breath as I stepped through the doors of the convention center Friday morning for Day 2 of Netroots Nation. I’d had only a few hours to process the outstanding sessions from Day 1, and already here I was about to embark on a new day of #NN15. Today though, the 2nd floor of the convention center was oddly calm. I soon learned that Netroots Karaoke and bar hopping the night before may have been to blame. Or perhaps everyone was taking the time to prepare themselves for Elizabeth Warren’s upcoming speech. Whatever the case, I was determined to make the most of this conference, which meant not missing a single session if I could help it. I made my way to the first session with just as much enthusiasm as Day 1.
“New Voices, New Visionaries: Toward a Migrant Justice Movement Led from the Queer and Trans* Frontlines” began with a discussion among four panelists and a moderator, each of whom brought a unique and valuable perspective to the conversation. We heard about the Arizona Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (AZ QUIP), and the Arcoiris Liberation Team. We heard the story of Yesenia Palencia, a lesbian woman who fled el Salvador for a better life in the US. Yesenia has been held in detention in Eloy for nearly a year, where she has faced trials not only for her immigration status, but because of her sexual orientation as well. In September 2013 Yesenia even faced sexual assault. If you have the means to do so, please consider donating to Yesenia’s crowdfunding campaign raising money for her bond so that she can be released from detention and reunited with her loved ones.
Following the panel discussion, we split into break out groups based on geographic region. Each group worked together to compile a list of resources in our respective areas that serve the undocumented queer and trans* immigrant populations. From citizenship fairs to healthcare connections, from employment opportunities to legal representation, we racked our brains to list every resource we were aware of. We were then asked to signify which of the listed organizations or initiatives were led by members of the communities they work to serve. This was the first hint of an insight that would be further driven home for me on Day 3, about what representation of people of color, and queer and trans* voices found within leadership roles of organizations can tell you about a movement.
I left the session with a lot to consider, but little time to do so, as it was already time for Elizabeth Warren’s keynote address. Until this point I had never seen her in person, but I’d heard so much about her leadership within the Progressive movement. The convention hall was packed! I’d guess that this was the one point of #NN15 that no attendee would have missed if they had any choice about it.
There’s little I can say about her speech, and it is available in it’s entirety online. It was a lot of ambiguous talking points constructed in way that could have resonated with almost anyone, regardless of their political standing. That was probably the point. If anything, it was made clear to me that a stump speech is not the appropriate forum for elaborating on the finer points of public policy. The masses wanted something to cheer about, and she delivered.
At one point in her speech, I looked over to my friend and asked, “Is she going to announce her candidacy for President?” No such luck. All that said, if you put a few minutes of time into researching Elizabeth Warren, you’ll see just how savvy she is when it comes to a vast array of policy issues, and that she has repeatedly proven herself to be a staunch advocate for the Progressive cause. Perhaps someday she’ll choose to take her leadership to the next level.
The morning session and the keynote by Elizabeth Warren were the highlights of my day, but I’ll briefly touch on one other event. The march and rally against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the unjust immigration policies of this country, and the racist means of enforcement currently in play here in Arizona took place just minutes after Warren’s speech. This was not the first time I’ve marched in opposition to the Sheriff.
What stood out to me most this time around was the conspicuous absence of so many “activists” too afraid even to be photographed at an event calling for prison reform and the end of racist policy enforcement. Personally, I’m more aligned with the “fuck white supremacy” school of thought, and I realized long ago that if the time ever came that I felt uncomfortable marching against Joe Arpaio and what he stands for, that I’d have to truly reconsider what I’m even doing with my life. More on Sheriff Joe in the final installment of my #NN15 recap.