Dr. Fergie Reid honored by Virginia, North Carolina Kossacks

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    Greetings from Asheville!

    DKos Asheville 4/28/15

    DKos Asheville, a Daily Kos Community Group, brought its eighth community meet up to life in late April with a historic appearance of a civil rights icon, Dr Fergie Reid, in Roanoke Virginia.

    As reported by Roanoke’s NBC Station, WSLS10:

    A living legend was honored in Roanoke on Saturday. A special event was held at Hotel Roanoke recognizing William Ferguson Reid. Dr. Reid was the first African-American elected to the Virginia General Assembly in the twentieth century.

    In March of this year, Reid celebrated his 90th birthday. In an effort to continue his long history of expanding voters’ rights, people are taking part in a campaign called “90 for 90.” The goal is to register new voters for the election. People across the state are working to register 90 new voters in each of Virginia’s precincts.

    Please join us below the fold.

    Arrival

    The weather was wet and cold as Kossacks and others from Asheville, Charlotte, Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Roanoke and more met for a fine lunch spread provided by DKos Asheville’s Very Important Chef and dearest friend, Gordon20024. Roanoke is a great little city along the Blue Ridge in southwestern Virginia with fascinating architecture and a lively street scene. It is the commercial and cultural hub of its region and is a Democratic stronghold as well.

    We met and had our lunch under a pavilion at Mill Mountain Park and if it had been more than 46 degrees, not raining and not windy we would have stayed for hours. Alas that wasn’t to be, so after eating and shivering and talking to each other through chattering teeth, we decided to move onto stage two in downtown Roanoke.

    The Program

    We soon all arrived at the beautiful Hotel Roanoke to prepare for our evening session with Dr. William Ferguson “Fergie” Reid and his son (of the same name and profession) to learn as much as we could from his wealth of experience as a ‘civil rights icon’ and his “90 for 90” precinct project we Kossacks plan to implement all over the country to help register new voters and organize from the precinct level on up.

    Once we were all settled in, Fergie Jr found us at the meeting room and then he and I went downstairs and found Fergie Sr talking with an old friend he had served with in The Assembly many, many years ago. When I was introduced, I felt like I was living in a moment of history that transcends time altogether, a moment that embodied struggle, fierce determination and hope. And here I was shaking his hand. We had spoken at length as we were pulling this meet up project together and meeting in person felt like seeing an old friend for the first time. Soon enough The Fergies and I went to the meeting room where we spent over three hours in passionate, inspirational and educational interaction.

    We were treated to Fergie Senior’s historical perspective as a political activist and the first African-American elected to the Virginia General Assembly since Reconstruction, back in 1967. His focus on constant activism to enlist citizens into the political process by virtue of their votes rings as true and necessary today as it was in the struggles of the ’50s and ’60s. Those struggles were never really over with, and continue right up until today in too many places all across this country as forces renew their disenfranchisement efforts yet again to deprive us of the only real ‘say’ we have in the political process.

    Some of the highlights from a compilation of the notes taken during his presentation…

    • There are no ‘accidents’ in politics. In that realm things that adversely effect citizens should not be considered mistakes or accidents, because they always involve collusion among more than one person who fully intends to  accomplish what adversely effects citizens in precisely the ways that come about.

    This means we should not fall prey to the kind of thinking that would absolve the evildoers of their complicity by assuming they meant well and it just happened to turn out to be harmful law or policy. If we do that, we’re just setting ourselves up for the next bad thing that’s going to come out of the political arena. And this applies on all levels of “insider” political activity from local to national.

    • There is much pressure on “outsiders” who manage to get elected to office to buy in to the system at work. But buying in is expensive both monetarily and in terms of conscience for any “outsider” who got there with serious intentions of doing good for the citizens. Worse, it also involves selling out via a tit for tat game that is played by the “insiders.”

    Democrats will never have the money to go dollar for dollar with Republicans. Our people aren’t as rich as they are, and the extremely wealthy (the oligarchs, the 1%, the gigacorps, ALEC, etc.) have bought and paid for entire legislatures all across this country and in Washington. Their game is ‘the’ game. What we have are votes, if we can gather them in enough number. THAT is our greatest strength in the political arena, and it’s something the Republicans are now busily trying to remove from us. This is why we need 90 for 90. Each of us needs to “Take Back” our precincts, especially here in North Carolina where the draconian voter suppression laws passed by our now-Teabagger legislature allow any voter to challenge the eligibility of any other voter at the polls, and they don’t even have to be voters in that particular precinct. That’s some serious trouble on the way.

    • The new ‘expansion’ of what amounts to Poll Taxes in this modern age – ALEC, the Koch Brothers, Art Pope here in NC – has managed to set up the outrageous recent rulings of the SCOTUS to toss the Civil Rights Act and allow unlimited corporate/private monetary control of our political system. The resulting corruption on a grand scale is what has led to the concerted Republican efforts to disenfranchise the people so that the corporations and/or oligarchs can run things in their own interests while stealing the wealth the people’s labor has created.

    • Connecting to people one-on-one in our daily lives in our own communities and surrounding ones is a full-time job that needs to be a practice that comes so naturally to us that we CAN end up having those 90 new voters by the time the next election comes around.

    And through personal contacts as well as by using the communications tools we now have in this modern age, we need to be sources of good information on the candidates for office so that voters new and old know who they’re voting for and why. From dog catcher right on up to POTUS. It’s an everyday job, and the people we are able to reach can indeed make a big difference.

    • Make sure that the people you interact with know what their precinct is and identify that way. They also need to know their state and federal congressional districts, and who their representatives are. And regardless of what party those representatives belong to, they need to be motivated to keep up with their doings and contact them directly whenever an issue that will affect them is to be decided.

    • When you are out there feeling your way with a person to get them registered and educated and motivated, don’t tell them you’re looking for a ‘captain’. Any of your contacts who might be willing to help out in concrete ways will make themselves known to you at some point, just don’t go into it seeking them. Because people have busy lives, and if they’re new at being politically involved, you don’t want to overload them. Best means, Doctor Fergie said, is to tell them you’d like them to be part of the precinct ‘team’. Build the team from the ground up, then select a precinct captain from the team. Then find another precinct that needs help and do it again. The bottom up approach to building power is something Fergie stressed over and over again.

    The take always

    As the clock started approaching 8:00 PM and we moved toward wrapping things up so we could all go eat and relax and carry on with discussions, I asked for a quick take away from everyone in the room. And since it was getting late, I asked for a minute or less from the group of about fifteen. What was I thinking? These are Kossacks! So forty five minutes later we closed the meeting and then spent another fifteen minutes posing for pictures, exchanging contact information and planning for future interaction.

    My favorite take away was from our own MsSpentyouth who offered a story about her grandmother, when as a child she wondered why she had to help dust on Saturdays when tomorrow there was only going to be more dust. In the vein of why we need to start preparing and working for the next election the moment the current election is over: Her grandmother acknowledged that yes, tomorrow there would be more dust. But by golly, dust was not going to win on her watch. What a great analogy!

    Dust is not going to win on my watch. A simple statement, a worthy goal.

    Dinner

    After we closed the doors, several of us traveled the wet but pleasant streets of downtown Roanoke looking for food. I was amazed at the vibrant nature of the place with bars and restaurants packed and many featured live music. It felt a lot like Asheville. As regular readers know, we had planned on doing a street performing/voter registration action event downtown if time and weather allowed. Neither did.

    But we did find a charming Indian restaurant that six of us enjoyed. The talk about the day’s program and politics never took a breather. We were all too pumped up to talk about anything else. And a huge thank you to DocDawg for treating us to that wonderful meal and engaging in great talk. It is so great to make new friends. See you in Asheville on September 26th Doc!

    Breakfast

    In the morning, many of us had a great breakfast with The Fergies around two big tables and much like what happened at our January meet up and Bloggers Conference, the breakfast part of the event was as valuable, if not more, than anything else. The conversation was incredibly lively and deep and I had the opportunity to spend a good ten minutes with Fergie Sr one on one in an effort to dig deeper into a variety of subjects I wanted clarification on, especially his architecture for building power at the precinct level.

    What I am finding with this two day approach is that the breakfast gives attendees who spent much of the night blogging, or writing or just digesting what they had experienced during the previous day, an opportunity to cement that knowledge and reinforce their purpose. Plus it’s just a really nice way to end an event and send everyone off on a full stomach, a full heart and an activated brain.

    I would like to close with a big shout out to Freeda Cathcart and Chris LaGrant. Freeda is a local Democratic activist and has been a candidate three times for different offices. We talked a lot during the program about the shocking numbers of open seats on many levels of government that are just tossed away. There simply isn’t a Democratic alternative. Freeda is the kind of Democrat that says, “Not so fast there buddy”. She lost her last race by just a handful of votes and we all encouraged her to run again. She is such an inspiration, has amazing energy and vision and is currently working hard on the new push for The Equal Rights Ammendment.

    Chris is the Campaign Manager for Virginia State Senate candidate Mike Hamlar. As this Roanoke meet up project began to develop more, Archie, Fergie Jr and I started to reach out to a wide variety of progressive candidates, hoping to create the opportunity for a candidate forum alongside our program. It was Earthday, the weather was miserable and there were other events, so we didn’t get the candidate turnout we had hoped for. But we did get Chris and others from Mike’s campaign to spend the afternoon and evening with us. Thank you Mike Hamlar for honoring Dr Reid, we appreciate that very much. And thank you Chris for adding so much to the discussion. You are the future my friend, well done. And Kossacks, please stop by Mike’s campaign website and contribute if you can.

    Gordon20024

    The biggest thanks of all of course goes to Archie, our dear friend and benefactor. His generosity in money and time and commitment has been like nothing I’ve ever seen really. We are so blessed to have him as such a wonderful example of what it means to be part of the Daily Kos family. We love you Archie!