By Bryan Pfeifer
In a tremendous display of unity and solidarity, participants from across North America joined the People’s Power Summit June 11-12 in Maribel, Wisconsin.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. We do not have time for despair. There’s no place for self pity. There’s no need to stay silent. And there is no room for fear. We speak. We write. We sing and we do language. And that is how we move forward to heal where we are in the current climate,” said Summit Cultural Arts Chair Bernadette B.J. Lark in a promotional video prior to the event.
“Those words were spoken by another beautiful artist Ms. Toni Morrison. She said: “‘I know the world is bruised and bleeding and though it is important not to ignore the pain, it’s also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge even with wisdom, like art.'” So as an Artivist, I’m excited to come share what it is that we’ve been preparing. We’re so thankful that the community there in Wisconsin have opened their arms to welcome us in. And, there is no stopping us now. A better way to say it: Ain’t no stopping us now!. We are on the move. I love you all. I’m so excited I want to see you there.”
Those attending the Summit came from seven states, from over 35 towns, villages and cities and from over 15 counties in Wisconsin. Every sector of the working class, many political tendencies and numerous mass organizations were represented at the Summit. These included leaders and members of the Family Farm Defenders, the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Black Lives Matter, Veterans For Peace, unions, disability rights, women, faith-based, the unemployed, legal aid, migrant, environmental, youth/student and LGBTQ organizations. Members of three Indigenous Nations – the Menominee, the Oneida and the Chickasaw – presented. A delegation of a dozen traveled from Virginia to participate. Presenters also traveled to the Summit from Denver, Detroit, Boston, New Jersey and New York City. (A full schedule, videos, photos and more here: peoplespowersummit.org)
Completely independent politically and organizationally, the Summit was organized in about three months by the volunteer labor and other resources of poor and working people. Goals included: Consolidate progressive networks and individuals to enable more effective organizing; to develop working class infrastructure to build our people’s power in rural, semi-rural and urban areas.
Held on a farmer’s space in Maribel just south of Green Bay, the over 200 participants remarked on the accomplishment of having the Summit in a state such as Wisconsin which has become a right-wing model nationally but which has a rich progressive history of people’s struggles. From set up to take down, the Summit was infused with a progressive people’s culture, program and organization. All work before, during and after the Summit was done by volunteers including food production and serving, sound and much more. Participants of all ages, orientations and backgrounds appreciated the opportunities to develop relationships and learn about a variety of people’s struggles currently taking place. Many participants agreed that the Summit is a general model for the coming period and could take a variety of forms such as people’s or worker’s assemblies.
Summit participants agreed to convene again June 27 for an MLK Day Manitowoc organizing meeting to discuss a 2022 MLK Day rally and march in Manitowoc, WI.