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People's Summit teaches Oklahomans to place people over profit

Deon Osborne / Red Dirt Report
Crowds cheer in anticipation of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders' arrival at the People's Summit.
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CHICAGO -- Members of a Norman nonprofit attended the People's Summit in Chicago, IL from June 9-11 to learn new skills and actions to take back to communities in Oklahoma.

As the videographer for Earth Rebirth, an environmental nonprofit focused on empowering communities to take control of their food, energy and water resources, I had the incredible opportunity to experience a progressive gathering of woke activists and politicians known as the People's Summit.

Actor Danny Glover (bottom left) claps as speakers discuss progressive action. (Deon Osborne / Red Dirt Report) 

Organized by the National Nurses Union and the newly constructed Sanders Institute (led by Jane Sanders), this second annual event hosted workshops focused on empowering progressive solutions to the issues facing our country.

It also served delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and boasted powerful speakers from CNN commentator Van Jones to environmental activist Bill McKibben and even Jane Sanders' husband: 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders--all for the price of just $45 per ticket.

National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro (left) Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner (center) and Sanders Institute founder Jane Sanders (right) pose for a picture at the People's Summit. (Deon Osborne / Red Dirt Report) 

The main focuses of the event were how to address the issues of health care, economic inequality, public education, racial justice and the widespread political dissatisfaction with Republicans and establishment Democrats.

Let's be real. Oklahoma is no stranger to these issues.  With a nearly billion dollar budget deficit due to tax breaks to the OIl and Gas Industry and failed Republican leadership, almost 20% of our school districts have gone to 4 day school weeks.

The majority of Oklahomans live in poverty with enormous debt. We've had high profile police shootings of unarmed and mentally ill minorities, and a nearly nonexistant democratic party that largely chooses to appeal to republican-lite principles in the hopes of compromise rather than fight for truly transformative and progressive solutions.

Documented in a 2015 book by Les Leopold of the Labor Institute, Runaway Inequality reveals that while productivity has steadily risen in America, the wages of Americans have steadily gone down when adjusting for inflation, resulting in a "trickle up" effect of wealth being diverted from the working class to the top 1% of Americans. In other words, my generation is working harder for less.

Runaway Inequality by Les Leopold of the Labor Institute. (Deon Osborne / Red Dirt Report) 

Moreover, while most Americans, Republican and Democrat, assume that the ratio [in compensation]between a factory worker and the CEO is between 7 to 1 and 12 to 1, the reality is that for every dollar a working class man or woman earns, the CEO earns  on average $829. Never in our history has this disparity in wealth been more severe.

Meghan Bradley - Earth Rebirth Spokesperson/ 2017 OU Graduate

"I learned that the issues that everyone cares about within the progressive/liberal movement all intersect. We're not single issue people. You can have your own issue that you care strongly about but you have to take in all the other issues because once you realize they all intersect, i feel like that's when you can enact concrete change."

Andrew Sartain - Earth Rebirth founder, president/ Norman Environmental Control Advisory Board (ECAB) ranking member

"There's so many people around the state and the country working on these solutions that one of the biggest priorities needs to be networking and consolidating. Even in this state, we have so many different groups wanting to do something but everybody is isolated and scattered. We're long overdue to make an impact on renewable energy in Norman. We have a progessive city council and the ability to push renewable energy that can set a standard for the entire state because of how the country is getting behind it right now.  It's not really a question of whether we can but whether we will.

Deon Osborne - Earth Rebirth Video Director/Oklahoma Democratic Party Precinct Officer

"I learned the most about the need to break down labels. It's the politicians who've used their rhetoric to divide us to make us feel that we don't want the same thing.  Whether you're progessive or conservative, liberal or centrist, appealing to what we all need and what we all want is a way we can connect our different ideas into shared values and a shared vision a shared path forward."

Chad Sartain  - Earth Rebirth Lead Garden Consultant/ Research and Development Director

"The biggest thing I learned was probably the intricate details of what the progressive/liberal movement feels plagues the democratic party. I had a conversation with a woman who is a fireman's union leader in Indiana. She said talk to your neighbors about knowing more about the political process. Knowing more about what plagues the democratic party. Knowing more about what progressives all across the countries see as the problems. And getting away from having what I see as my major issues and seeing it as our country's major issues."

Ryan Sauber - Earth Rebirth Garden Consultant/ 2017 OU Graduate

"Complaining and giving in to despair about the current state of affairs only helps the negative perpetrators win. It takes direct action, open dialogue and alrge scale organizing on the local, state and federal levels. It also takes honest and indepth journalism to disseminate factual information. This "post truth" society that the alt right is trying to usher in needs to stop. Love and truth always win over hate and lies."

Media Watchdog The Young Turks go live from the People's Summit (Deon Osborne / Red Dirt Report) 

We need a tax on Wall Street and more regulation to avoid a repeat of 2008, where millions of americans lost their jobs, including my dad who's entire company was laid off. If we have to pay a tax on a stick of gum, wall street investors should have to pay a tax on the thousands of daily financial transactions they make per day.

We also need better training for our police officers dealing with mental illness and domestic violence calls. Not just in Norman, OKC and Tulsa. But in Lawton. In rural towns and counties. We need a budget that works for the teachers and working class taxpayers from factory workers to pipeline installers. Not just the Oil and Gas executives.

We need justice and investment in Native American, Black, Latino, and rural communities.

But most of all we need radical hope. The kind of hope that broke the chains of slavery, destroyed Nazism and Fascism, that led us to the moon, that elected a Black man as president, and that kept me from committing suicide as a closeted bisexual Christian.

We need to come together right now and demand a healthy planet not just for our grandchildren but for centuries to come.

We need to tell our legislatures that we're here. We're not going anywhere.

I'd like to play my part by organizing and consolidating the various groups in Oklahoma working for progressive change into a single source.

I call it: Oklahoma Progressive Energy Network (OPEN). If you belong to a group, whether it's on social media or at a physical location, please email me the name of your group, a contact person, and a short description to

Political Activist Van Jones speaks on his time visiting republicans and coal miners in counties that Trump won. ( Deon Osborne / Red Dirt Report) 

I'll finish my rant with a quote by New York Daily News Journalist Shaun King who said it best:

"Listen, if you ever wondered what you would do if you were alive in the Civil Rights Movement, now is the time to find out. Now. Right now."

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About the Author

Deon Osborne

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Deon Osborne moved to Lawton, OK at the age of 11. He...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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