NetrootsNation 2016 Wraps Up

Reminder to everyone that this year and every year, Netroots Nation offers all of the keynote addresses and various workshops, via lifestream and video, for progressives who are unable to attend.

I was lucky enough to be here all week, starting with the pre-conference NetrootsConnect LGBT.

St. Louis is a troubled city trying to do better in a purple state. It struck me as a very southern city, in pace and overripe hospitality, but with a clearly liberal bent. All of the conference hotels were unionized.

Here are some highlights with lots of links to full session videos.


Thursday’s opening plenary was revolutionary, a true sea change for Netroots Nation. Since last year’s conversation shifting action by Black Lives Matter which disrupted a candidates plenary, Netroots executives have heard and learned from people of color how important their voice is and how helpful to progressive causes their voices can be. This Week In Blackness was at the helm and featured local and national organizers from Ferguson and around the country who are working to resist, empower, and build the movement against America’s system of policing. It was the perfect setting (and time) to school a largely white and entitled audience needing to hear that their commitment to black liberation can’t be turned on and off. It’s a matter of life and death: it must be on all the time.

“You all are worried about living in Trump’s world, well I have been living in Trump’s world.”
Tef Poe, hip hop artist and co-leader of Hands Up United

You can watch a video of the plenary, “Climate Justice Strategies: Exploring the Intersections of Climate Change,” a panel that included with NextGen Climate’s Tom Steyer, the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program’s Jacqui Patterson, Green for All’s Michelle Romero and Environmental Action’s Anthony Rogers-Wright.

Saturday morning’s keynote with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Pamela Merritt, Laura JimenezAimee Thorne-Thompson and Lizz Winstead focused on the state of abortion access and reproductive justice. They spoke about their work, what’s at stake, and how to move from celebrating compromise as victory to winning.

A high point was during the first afternoon session on Saturday when workshops were disrupted to call on all NN16 participants to walk with local Hands Up United and Black Lives Matter activists for a die-in at the Old Courthouse—where the Dred Scott case was heard. After that, we marched again and shut down I-64 for 15 minutes.

Lizz Winstead is a beloved humorist and Daily Show writer. Her organization, Lady Parts Justice, is definitely one you should $upport. She and LPJ were part of each day’s events and succeeded clearly in putting their organization on everyone’s radar. “LPJ is a cabal of comics and writers exposing creeps hellbent on destroying access to birth control and abortion.” They support clinics, keep them open with benefit shows, and volunteer at these clinics as they travel from city to city.

You can watch yesterday’s closing plenary, anchored by Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN5) who gave a rousing speech, calling for action and unity. The session also included Equality Florida‘s Carlos Guillermo Smith, who gave us everything we needed to know about the Orlando shootings and its aftermath. Smith is currently favored to win his election to Florida’s state house. I was lucky enough to have dinner with him last night, thanks to a few friends. This young man is someone to watch.

At the end of this closing we heard from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who announced via video message that during her earliest days in office she intends to push for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, and promised to bring law enforcement and communities together to develop national guidelines on the use of force and committing to target $1 billion in her first budget to take on implicit bias. A bunch of Bernie supporters stood with their backs to the monitor but she was otherwise cheered enthusiastically.

A good time was had by all. As usual, we learned a lot. It’s a good time to register for NetrootsNation 2017 in Atlanta; registration just opened at about 50% of what it will be next spring. You can see a lot through live streaming and videos but being there is worth saving for. Also, as usual, the Dan Massey Transleadership Scholarship Fund will be offering free registrations for deserving local (Atlanta) student activists of color.

By the way, all of my DC Statehood friends were thrilled to see what made it on the credential badges of all 3000 attendees this year.




Alison Gardner