Progressives spring plot
"We're not ashamed to stand up and call ourselves liberals," said one participant at the Progressive Network's Feb. 8 press conference in Columbia. "We're here to provide the leadership that our elected officials have forfeited."
Representatives from progressive groups across the state united to serve lawmakers notice that there is a new force to be reckoned with. "We represent the majority of people who feel left out of the political process," said Sharon Robles of Charleston's Voters Organized for informed Choices. "Environmentalists, women, minorities, gays and those who believe in true democracy can be a real force in South Carolina. We're here to organize and direct that force."
The Network, still under construction, announced that its first project will be to work on an aggressive and creative campaign to bring the Confederate flag down off the State House.
"It makes all the difference that this organization has thousands of white people calling for taking the flag down," said Jerome Smalls, who leads of a black activist group in Charleston, People United to Live and Let Live. "The flag shouldn't be a black issue, it should be a human issue."
The Network is holding a statewide organizing conference April 13 and 14 at Penn Center in Beaufort. "This conference will give progressives from around the state the opportunity to brainstorm and strategize about how to be more of an influence on the quality of life in South Carolina," said Katrina Nylund, the ACLU Network representative.
"The Network needs to increase people's skill levels and enhance their resources," Nylund said, "but the most important outcome of the conference will be building a sense of identity and purpose. Above all, we're going to have a good time."
The conference will begin on Saturday at 1 p.m. (Registration begins at 11; lunch will not be served). After the afternoon strategy and small-group sessions, participants will come together to identify issues for discussion. Arguments will take place during an oyster roast and that evening. Entertainment will follow.
The Sunday morning session begins at 10 and will include reports from the small groups. They will present suggestions for Network projects. This session will conclude with a work plan.
Penn Center was founded as a school for freed blacks after the Civil War. Since then, it has been a gathering spot for progressives in South Carolina. Martin Luther King used the Center for organizing meetings.
The cost of the conference is still being negotiated, but organizers plan to keep fees nominal. Scholarships and travel expenses will be available.
For information or to register, call the South Carolina Progressive Network at 254-1803 in Columbia or 1-800-849-1803 statewide.
Network bumper stickers with the message, "ERACISM!", are available for $2 each, which includes postage. Call or send a check to: The Natural Guard, 18 Bluff Rd., Columbia SC 29201.