With midterm elections approaching, Athens political organizations are preparing for pivotal elections for positions across the spectrum, including a new organization, Our Revolution Athens Area Progressives, which held its first meeting Saturday, Aug. 18.
Our Revolution, a national political movement arising from the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, has a newly active local chapter in Our Revolution Athens Area Progressives.
Finding its origins two years ago as a part of commissioner Mariah Parker’s and activist Tommy Valentine’s commission campaigns, Our Revolution’s local chapter officially broke off from the campaigns this June to continue on as a political force in elections to come.
Our Revolution’s first meeting saw members of the organization meet with officers to discuss plans for the upcoming campaign season and what would become the ideals and aspirations of the organization.
Hosted at co-founder and District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker’s home, some 12 members met in the living room over bagels and conversation before the meeting kicked off.
The meeting was led by the local chapter’s currently elected officers, Communications Director Chris Xavier, Democratic Party Coordinator Caroline Cook and Membership Coordinator Kyky Knight.
The agenda for the day was largely oriented around upcoming events and the formation of a regular calendar for the organization’s general monthly activities. Meetings will be held every second Saturday and a potluck every third Sunday, along with voter registration drives and canvassing for Stacey Abrams throughout the months leading up to elections.
Beyond these events, an equal half of the meeting was spent discussing what Our Revolution wants to do in the future beyond midterms and what principles will define them.
“Our Revolution is kind of a mish-mash of everyone,” Xavier said. “A lot of the issues we talk about like cash bail reform, the decriminalization of weed and housing and stuff like that, these are the kind of issues that a lot of people get together and they’re not even necessarily partisan, they’re just things that need to be fixed.”
Members brought up topics such as housing ordinances to protect low income residents, Black Lives Matter, a $15 minimum wage, expansion of union rights, decriminalization of marijuana and several other progressive talking points as issues to be addressed by future advocacy.
Some of these issues potentially could become part of a list of nonnegotiable stances for candidates the organization might support, questioning whether or not “any blue will do. ”
To support canvassing efforts, Our Revolution plans to train members to speak competently and in-depth on the issues. Members expressed hopes that this training could extend to progressive candidates once Our Revolution becomes more established.
“I think the Democratic Party is something necessary that we have to play ball with,” Cook said. “[But] we don’t want to go out and organize for someone who might just be Republican wearing blue … I think we need to have a backbone as someone to the left of the Democratic Party.”
Cook furthered this by saying that in some of the areas around Athens where Our Revolution desires to work, such as her home in Barrow County, traditional Democrats may be the only nonconservative political group in town.
In Athens at least, the Democratic party has already proven open to collaboration with Our Revolution, with recently elected Gabriel Shippy, Athens-Clarke County Democratic Party’s community engagement chair, in attendance as a member.
“I think it’s great that we have crossover between [Our Revolution and ACCDP],” Shippy said. “I look forward to seeing us working together for the election and what’s to come.”
The meeting adjourned after a little over an hour of discussion. Though the organization is just getting started, its members and leaders plan on continuing to build the structure for the road ahead.
“This is really a time for real change. We as a country have been stuck in this wrestling between Democrat and Republican, but at the end of the day there are people who are hungry,” Xavier said. “Our Revolution is about real change right now.”