Bart Everson here. My column usually appears over at Mid-City Messenger, but today I’ve got a special Uptown Alert.
A lot of people complain about money in politics, but few do anything about it.
Move to Amend is a coalition of people who are aiming to do something about it. And their national director is coming to New Orleans.
Move to Amend is a national campaign to abolish corporate constitutional rights and eliminate big money from elections. In conjunction with the Green Party of New Orleans, Move to Amend will host a community forum on “Challenging Corporate Rule and Creating Democracy” with guest speaker Kaitlin Sopoci-Balknap. It’s part of a “Barnstorming Speaking Tour” across the Gulf Coast, will be at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 2903 Jefferson Avenue, from 6:30-8:30 pm on Sunday, February 4. (details)
Here’s the good news: the forum is free and open to the public.
Here’s the not-so-good news: it’s up against the biggest television event of the year (probably) — the Super Bowl.
But hey, the Saints won’t be playing, so what do we care? Leave the millionaires in spandex to play their games. They won’t miss your viewership. But you won’t want to miss this event.
Y’all remember that little court case called Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission? Back in 2010 the Supreme Court made a controversial ruling that opened the door for corporations and wealthy individuals to exercise much greater influence in our elections.
On Sunday, Sopoci-Belknap will help local residents understand the history behind that decision, which goes back more than a century. Participants will also learn how they can work to abolish “Corporate Personhood” and establish a government of, by, and for the people to work for justice, peace, and environmental sustainability.
Corporations are people too — not!
“Corporate Personhood” commonly refers to court-created precedent that gives corporations constitutional rights. Those rights were originally intended solely for human beings. And this is no mere legalistic hair-splitting. In fact, as Sopoci-Belknap puts it: “The Supreme Court ruled that a corporation was a ‘legal person’ with 14th Amendment protections before they granted full personhood to African-Americans, immigrants, natives, or women.”
Move to Amend locates itself in the tradition of historic social movements that took on fundamental power relationships. In the United States, this history runs through Revolutionaries, Abolitionists, Suffragists, Trade Unionists, and Civil Rights activists, and continues today with Black Lives Matter and resistance campaigns.
Nationally, the Unitarian Universalist Association has endorsed Move to Amend, so it seemed fitting to find a venue at First UU. Sunday’s event is proudly co-sponsored by the Green Party of New Orleans, of which I am a member. The Green Party also campaigns against injustice, violence and destruction of the natural world. We see Move to Amend as part of a long-term strategy to foster an inclusive, diverse and genuinely participatory movement for grassroots democracy.
More than many places in America, here in New Orleans we’ve felt the pain that results when democracy is undermined, weakened and subverted by corporate interests. Personally, I am excited to help bring Move to Amend to our city.
(Of course, I can’t take too much credit as I’m really just a middleman. A shout goes out to Lynne Serpe, known to many as the indefatigable force behind Compost Now, the award-winning program that collects your kitchen scraps at local public libraries. She was quite busy composting, but she made the connection, got all relevant parties talking, and now here we are.)
Sunday’s program will focus on how we in the New Orleans area can contribute to this growing national movement. We aim to affirm that only human beings have constitutional rights and that money can be regulated in elections and is not defined constitutionally as free speech. Sopoci-Balknap will discuss actions that have taken place in hundreds of communities across the nation in support of the federal We the People Amendment (House Joint Resolution 48) as part of a larger movement of needed fundamental reforms toward true democracy.
If you can’t make the event Sunday, go online to learn more at www.MoveToAmend.org. Over 444,000 people have signed the online petition supporting a constitutional amendment.
Bart Everson is a writer, a photographer, a baker of bread, a husband, a father and a resident of Mid-City. He is a founding member of the Green Party of Louisiana, past president of Friends of Lafitte Greenway, and a participant in New Orleans Lamplight Circle. More at BartEverson.com.