Harry Hanbury has a story that any videographer or blogger would love. He created a video of Congresswoman Donna Edwards taking steps to amend the Constitution to restore our democracy following assault by the Supreme Court. A woman you’ve never heard of named Jessica Sharp saw the video and decided to take action herself. She had never organized a rally or even attended many, but she put together an event at the state capitol of Maryland that inspired every interested activist group and state legislator to join in. Jessica has sparked a movement in Maryland that is inspiring others around the country. So, Harry made a new video, about Jessica:
While the tea party movement and the coffee party movement are impressively mean and nice, respectively, the movement to restore human rights to human beings and dethrone the corporate rulers of our land is, in this collection of new movements led by new heroines, uniquely substantive. It has a goal and concrete steps needed to reach it.
Of course, this means that we won’t be able to claim success simply by holding rallies or getting on TV or becoming a factor in an election cycle. To succeed we will actually have to change the country. But we can do so one step at a time, and the tools we need have been made available at Free Speech for People.
Also posted there are all of Harry’s videos, including the one Jessica watched. Here’s how Harry tells the story of what’s developed in Maryland:
On January 21st, Jessica was driving home from work with her two-year-old daughter, Samantha, in the back seat, when she turned on NPR and heard that the Supreme Court had just swept away longstanding precedents barring corporate spending in our elections.
Right about then, Jessica drove past a family farm where she often bought vegetables and wondered how it would fare in the years ahead, as big companies like Monsanto and ADM pour more money into campaigns. If Exxon, or Halliburton, or Goldman Sachs found some member of Congress, or state rep, or judge, to be a thorn in their side, couldn’t they just pour money into attack ads to defeat them? Jessica looked back at her daughter in the car seat and worried that she would grow up in an America where corporations have more and more power, real people less and less.
By the time she reached home, she was fighting back tears. She spent the evening surfing the web, looking for anything she could find about the Supreme Court decision. In the wee hours, she discovered the site for FreeSpeechforPeople.org, and watched the video (produced by yours truly) that launched the campaign. It featured two politicians from her own state of Maryland: Jamie Raskin, a state senator and constitutional law professor at American University, and Congresswoman Donna Edwards, who, along with Congressman John Conyers, has co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizen’s United decision.
In nearly twenty years of making video, I’ve rarely been so touched as when Jessica told me, "Your video really honestly is what gave me so much hope. When I heard about the ruling, I didn’t think there was anything that could be done about it. Then I saw the video, and I contacted Senator Raskin and Congresswoman Edwards, and asked if they wanted help with a rally."
Jessica had never organized a political rally. She’d never even been to many rallies. But on February 22nd, she found herself holding an umbrella in one hand and a microphone in the other in front of the Maryland State House. Despite the freezing rain, a hundred people had shown up – including three television news crews and four state lawmakers—and the rally won the support of nearly two dozen public-interest groups.
It was the first event in what promises to be a powerful new movement that could dramatically change our political landscape in the months and years ahead. Polls show that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all strongly opposed the Supreme Court’s decision. Now there’s a message they can all get behind: Free speech is for people, not corporations.
The past year’s battles over health care, financial reform, and climate change should dispel any doubts about the power of corporate money in Washington. But many Americans, like Jessica, remember that all of the big changes in our history — from winning the eight-hour day and women’s right to vote to abolishing slavery — have come from regular folks who got organized and overcame the entrenched interests of their day. By giving corporations the power to buy our politicians, the Supreme Court may have unintentionally sparked a grassroots wildfire that will turn our corporatocracy into a true democracy.
I already work on this stuff all day and am newly inspired. Please share this with your friends, and if it doesn’t inspire them, check them for a pulse.