Tobita Chow delivered the following speech to the “From Resistance to Power” session at the People’s Summit, a gathering of more than four thousand progressive activists in Chicago over the weekend of June 9-11, 2017.
We live in a time of crisis. Billionaires and white nationalists have gone from lobbying the White House to living in the White House.
This is an old story. Time and time again, the One Percent have tried to divide us by race and nationality, to get us to point the finger at one another, in order to consolidate their own power.
But we have found the enemy, and it is not each other. It is corporate power and the billionaire class, which sow division between us and profits off the suffering of our communities. Together we will defeat them and take power.
At the People’s Summit, we have heard about the many ways our movement is fighting back – we are seeing millions of people stand up and speak out.
We know militant direct action is crucial to our movement. Black Lives Matter showed us that. Standing Rock showed us that. Here in Illinois, we shut down the Chicago Board of Trade building and occupied the State Capitol building, and I’ll tell you this: Every successful movement in history has broken the rules with militant direct action.
We are fighting for governing power. It is not enough for us to lobby the government, not enough to appeal to the government, not enough to protest the government – we need to control the government.
We are building a new movement politics where we are taking public office and exercising power over our own lives.
We are building a long-term agenda that puts people and planet first, an agenda for racial justice, democratic control of capital, global sustainability and real democracy.
We are also committed to putting racial justice at the center of every fight. Because capitalism has always gone hand in hand with structural racism. We need to stop treating economic inequality and structural racism as separate issues.
At People’s Action, we are running candidates on a movement slate, candidates who are our people and who campaign on a bold platform developed by the movement, candidates who then use their position in office to build movement organizations.
We’re doing this here in Chicago with Reclaim Chicago, in Aurora, Colo., with Colorado People’s Action, all across Iowa with Iowa CCI (Citizens For Community Improvement) Action, all across Maryland with Progressive Maryland, and all the way from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula with Michigan People’s Campaign.
In People’s Action and throughout the movement all across the country we are moving from protest to power.
I grew up as the only Asian kid in my grade in a small mostly white town. In that context I learned to be small. To shrink. But this movement inspires me to be big. I am a movement leader. And it is time for us – individually and as a movement – to get big, to take power and transform this country and this world.
We need power. We want power. We deserve power.