This summer's (June 9-11) People's Summit in Chicago offered a wide variety of presentations and was attended by 4,000 activists. Most attendees had movement experience but the topic presentations were rigorous. Aside from Bernie Sanders, for me two of the most impressive speakers were Naomi Klein and Nina Turner. They all were great and the Sanders Institute did a fantastic job.
The dialog from other attendees was often deep, such as a discussion I had on race and related problems in the workplace with another attendee. It was like a master class on discrimination, leaving me feeling solidarity but still needing to study people more. The summit also introduced me to the National Nurses United, as they offered high-quality political education. I thought they were only in California, only to discover they are in Washington, DC too. They represent nurses at the Washington Hospital Center where I had once walked a picket line for them.
Some of the topics prepared left candidates for election campaigns and another was on how to use technology in the election process. If your local has not already mastered these techniques, then these classes are a must.
If you are considering going to the Peoples Summit in 2018 there are several things to do to get ready. Browsing their website would be a good start There is a good chance that an organization you work with will be there and you will make more friends from around the US. The Sanders Institute is a major organizer of this event. When considering lodging you might find that the Summit has rented rooms at a local university. Sadly this years announcement of that possibility came only a few weeks before the summit. Unfortunately one university used was in what some attendees considered a dangerous neighborhood. If you have one or two thousand dollars to spend, staying at a hotel next to the McCormick Center works. Staying in a hotel near the O'Hare airport will only cost hundreds, but it takes an hour by subway to get to the McCormick Center. If you fly to Chicago do remember that the earlier you get your ticket the cheaper they are.
The McCormick Center is one of the very large convention centers. We used a large exhibit hall that might have been bigger than 800 feet by 1200 feet. The meeting rooms were in four levels in two or three areas. Exhibit Hall B had an area for breakfast, a tech area, the major presentation space, space for 50 allied groups, a break site, and a registration area. Â To get to see Bernie speak, I almost walked a mile. It was a quarter of a mile from Exhibit Hall B to the auditorium, a quarter mile to the end of the queue, and another quarter mile back to the auditorium. It was great -- I lost two pounds!
The exhibit hall also had presentations from 50 groups including DSA, Our Revolution, and many others. I was able to link up with several groups that are allies. Sadly I only found out about the DSA breakout meeting just as it was ending. It would have been great to meet people from other chapters that are growing so fast. Many have joined inspired by Trump's election, while other got involved during Bernie's campaign.
Two of the women I met were Bernie national Democratic convention delegates. One was so turned off by the snobbishness of corporate Democratic delegates that she helped create a tendency calling for Bernie to create a "Peoples Party." The other spent her time at the Democratic Convention with her fellow Berniecrats and was far more ready to work another Democratic convention when we get another Berniecrat-like candidate. Corporate Democrats are a disappointment considering that if they had done as much for labor (passing legislation facilitating organizing) as labor has done for the Democrats we would have never been close to having a Trump.
The major benefit I got from the Peoples Summit was to identify potential political allies that I can follow up on in the Washington, DC area. It will be a challenge to cooperate with and unite our various groups to get the victory we wish for.