Not all Medicaid expansion plans are created equal. Know the facts.

1When the legislature returns in January, expect a new round of debate over Medicaid expansion. Do not be fooled by a plan that would take those federal funds and privatize them.

“They’re allowing states (Arkansas was the first) to take the billion-plus dollars and privatize it,” explains SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey.

“They put it into a cabinet agency – in South Carolina Nikki Haley appoints the head of the Health and Human Services – and they would then subsidize insurance for poor people by buying them an insurance policy with a private company like Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

It’s a really bad idea. It’s a bad idea financially. It’s a bad idea from a medical standpoint. It’s just actually obscene making that type of money off of our tax dollars by ripping off poor people, privatizing poverty.”

Marking 50 years of the Voting Rights Act

presser

On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the SC Progressive Network held a press conference to mark the occasion and to talk about the work undone. Speakers included Brett Bursey, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, and Jesse Jackson.

In his remarks, Rev. Jackson announced Rainbow/PUSH’s plan to hold a conference Aug. 28 in Columbia to further voting rights, among other issues. The Network has agreed to collaborate.

Rep. Cobb-Hunter took the Black Caucus and the Democratic Party to task for blowing a chance last legislative session to map a meaningful redistricting plan.

SC LGBT pioneer Harriet Hancock discovers she’s kin to another pioneer, Modjeska Monteith Simkins

Harriet_Modjeskabooklet

Columbia natives Harriet Hancock and Modjeska Monteith Simkins share more than a passion for civil rights. They share a family tree rooted in the same Midlands soil.

Harriet discovered the connection after reading about Modjeska’s family history in the SC Progressive Network’s booklet Modjeska Monteith Simkins: A South Carolina Revolutionary.

“She was an activist. I’m an activist,” she said. “It’s all about civil rights, no matter whether it’s about race or sexual orientation or transgender issues. It’s all the same. What a great thing it is that we come from the same bloodline.”

Listen to her remarkable story.

Don’t sanitize history; learn from it

628x471

The monument to racist Gov. “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman on the State House grounds.

Since the Confederate flag has come down, there is some public sentiment that the state now must remove monuments erected to racist state leaders. The SC Progressive Network does not subscribe to that idea. Network Director Brett Bursey issued this statement:

“The tragedy in Charleston is a teachable moment, and a chance to talk honestly about the racist nature of our heritage. Removing monuments to white supremacists like Calhoun, Hampton, Simms or Tillman will not change the past, nor will it help future generations understand and change the institutionalized racism they inherit.

White supremacy is deeply woven into our history. It was, in fact, at the core of the state and nation’s founding. We support telling the truth about our former ‘heroes’ with additional plaques that explain their role in using race and class oppression to retain wealth and power.

If Ben Tillman is erased from our present history, we will not fully understand why and how our state ranks so consistently low on quality of life charts.”

The Network is in the process of creating a walking tour of the State House grounds, a people’s guide to its monuments. The project will launch this fall.

Brett Bursey began his life-long career as a progressive activist in 1968 as the SC State Traveler for the Southern Student Organizing Committee. He founded the Grass Roots Organizing Workshop (GROW) in 1975. GROW organized the SC Progressive Network in 1995.

Ignorance is strength

1024px-Antoon_Claeissens_-_Mars_Vanquishing_Ignorance_-_WGA04955

Mars Vanquishing Ignorance

Daniel Deweese
New Legacy Project

In today’s liberal-permissive (western) societies, we are relatively free, (formal freedom-to use the old Marxist jargon) you can buy this or that ,if you have money. You can travel here or there (again if you have money), you are (after the Supreme Court’s recent decision) free to marry whom ever you want. You are relatively free from danger, if you are white. You are relatively free to say what you want as long as you are not a whistle blower.

During the week of liberal victories (which should be celebrated); the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the subsidies provided by the ACA and marriage equality, one must not forget a more ominous victory was won for global capital; the TPP. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will not only displace thousands of workers but will also subvert the sovereignty of the nation-state. That is to say, multinational corporations will be able to hold tribunals in order sue a nation-state if a law (in the form of environmental regulations, worker’s rights, and so on) obstructs the objective, that is the profits of the aforementioned corporations. It should also be noted that the entire process has been shrouded in secrecy, those governing the process refusing to release the specifics of the deal.

The irony of this situation is that the same “liberal” administration pushing for certain freedoms (LGBT rights, access to health care and what appears to be anti-racists policies) also served as the impetus for secret trade agreements such as the TPP and the mega-secret TISA (Trade In Services Agreement). Again, we can do what we want to a certain extent but we are prohibited from deciding the very economic coordinates that determine the framework of our network of choices. Freedom must be more.

One must examine how ideology dissimulates antagonisms. For instance with Dylann Roof, we are not simply dealing with the distorted psychology of an individual, we are contending with ideology. In his manifesto, he claimed; “They are ruining our country and raping our women.” Of course, there are antagonisms in our society (poverty, violence etc.), however, it is through ideology that the antagonisms produced by the system itself are displaced onto a race of people (a’la the Jews in Hitler’s Germany and blacks in the white supremacist south). This ideological frame work accounts for the asymmetry and antagonisms experienced in a society and thus providing a precarious consistency in the symbolic order.

We should not miss the crucial point here; Zizek’s (2008) notions of subjective and objective violence can lend some elucidation here, the subjective (singular) violence of a distorted individual should not dissimulate the objective violence of the state, as it so often does. Haley’s call for the confederate flag to come down (only after being pressured by the people), and her cries for unity must not conceal the violence of the state directed towards minorities and the poor; in the form of the refusal of the Medicaid expansion, the death of Walter Scott and an entire history of lynching and police killings (Denmark Vesey, Orangeburg Massacre, etc.)

 

The dominant hegemonic ideology often utilizes individual acts of subjective violence to distort, conceal and disguise its own violence. It is appropriate to recall here Orwell’s; “Ignorance is Strength.” The psychoanalytic concept of displacement is useful in clarifying this statement. One’s own aggressive tendencies are projected onto an other thereby maintaining a psychical homeostasis (strength) while at the same time repressing, that is, keeping the subject ignorant of the source of this conflict, which always returns in the guise of different symptoms.

Furthermore, one must be careful with the calls for “unity” and “coming together” after the Charleston massacre, for many conservative commentators (and liberals) this “coming together” is another way of stating; “Lets not talk about systemic racism.” I.e: police brutality, the overwhelming incarceration of black males, voter suppression and poverty in the black community.

Of course the flag should come down, but as many have observed; will this serve as an impetus for any type of sustainable movement that addresses the aforementioned acts of objective violence that constitute the very ground of existence for so many people? Irrespective of the liberal-optimism and conservative reactionary responses, no one can say for sure. One of the first steps towards liberation is to question the dominant ideology presented to us. It is the only way that we can clear the obfuscation and monopolization of reality. In order to combat the strength of those in power, we must first defeat ignorance.

A look back at three weeks that changed South Carolina

emanuel

The racially motivated tragedy in Charleston’s Emanuel Church ignited a renewed resolve to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s State House grounds, something the SC Progressive Network committed to 20 years ago at its founding conference. At a rally organized just days after the murders, Network Director Brett Bursey addressed the crowd of nearly two thousand, asking the assembled to become part of a social movement.

As lawmakers in special session deliberated the fate of the flag in the SC State House, citizens gathered outside in the blistering heat to demand action. The handful of Confederate supporters there got an earful.

On July 4, hundreds gathered to rally for the third time to demand lawmakers remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. Kevin Gray spoke for the SC Progressive Network.

Four decades after burning Confederate flag, Network Director Brett Bursey says the struggle continues

Days after the Charleston murders, Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman interviewed Brett Bursey outside the Hope Emanuel Church.

“In Charleston, South Carolina, we speak with Brett Bursey, director of the South Carolina Progressive Network, who calls himself the oldest living Confederate prisoner of war. He says he is still out on bond after he burned the Confederate flag in 1969. Bursey knew Rev. Clementa Pinckney and says, “I feel a responsibility to Clementa to take advantage of the sacrifice he made to challenge the hypocrisy and bigotry” of Governor Nikki Haley and Republican lawmakers who backed voter ID legislation and blocked the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in the state.”

badbrett

See video and full transcript here.

“We have grieved. Now we must get back to work.”

Message from SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey:

After one of the most painful weeks in our state’s Jim Crow history, the SC Progressive Network is stepping away from the microphone and media circus to refocus our energy on the long-term struggle ahead. We have grieved. Now we must get back to work.

We are committed to insuring that the struggle for equality and democracy continues beyond the funerals and the flag controversy.

6Kevin Alexander Gray speaks on behalf of the Progressive Network at the State House on June 23.

It appears that the flag will be coming down before the end of the current special session. The state Senate convenes at 10am July 6, and will take up the bill to move the flag off the grounds as it awaits House action on the budget. The House goes into session at 1pm July 6, and will take up vetoes and the budget while awaiting the Senate bill to remove the flag.

Our allies in the legislature have counted the votes and believe there is the necessary two-third to move the flag.

That said, a continued citizen presence and insistence on removing the flag will facilitate getting the job done promptly. But be mindful that grandstanding on the flag’s removal, especially by national figures, isn’t helpful. In the interest of using the occasion to fend off the fundamentalists and bring more rational thought to our legislature, we need to recognize that conservative legislators like Senators Tom Davis and Paul Thurmond are voting to bring the flag down.

Then we work on getting them – and others in power – to address the larger, more insidious problem of systemic racism in South Carolina.

On July 4, there will be a “Unity and Healing” gathering at the State House that is being billed as a family event with music and speakers starting at 4:30pm.

The Network will have a table and be talking to those in attendance about the work yet to be done, and inviting them to get involved in the revolution of social values to which we remain committed.

Network members who want to help spread the message should come by the Network’s tent and pick up some invitations to distribute to crowd.

Questions? Call our office at 803-808-3384.

SC citizens on Confederate flag: Take it down!

4

In the wake of the tragedy at Emanuel Church in Charleston, nearly 2,000 South Carolina citizens gathered at the SC State House to demand that lawmakers remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds.

The loss of nine people – murdered in their house of worship – has broken our hearts but strengthened our resolve to do what is right and decent.

It is way past time to retire the flag to its rightful place in a museum. If not now, when?

2

See more images from the June 20th rally in our photo album.

Remembering Sen. Clementa Pinckney

clem

Sen. Clementa Pinckney testifies at a legislative committee hearing on the SC Progressive Network’s bill calling for clean elections.

Brett Bursey
SC Progressive Network Director

I first met Clementa Pinckney when he was elected to represent Lowcountry counties in 1997. He was 24 years old and powerfully earnest in a humble way. I knew the name, having grown up in Beaufort with white Pinckneys who were ever-mindful of their famous namesake’s role in establishing this state and nation. A standing joke in Beaufort was “the Rutledges speak to the Pinckenys and the Pinckneys speak only to God.”

Clementa smiled at my mention of the white side of his family, noting that they got the money and land, but are no closer to God than his side of the family.

Most of his friends called him Clem. But I loved the name his mother Theopia gave him, and always used it. I had several occasions to spend time with his wife Jennifer and their two daughters. The girls are precious, precocious and polite reflections of their father. They will always miss him, but will always remember, too, the president of the United States eulogizing him, as well as the outpouring of grief and love across our state.

clem1

Sen. Pinckney speaks at a clean elections press conference at the State House.

Clementa was an active member of the SC Progressive Network, and championed legislation we promoted. His sponsorship and articulate defense of our clean elections bill to reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics was captured on an SCETV clip here.

Clementa’s calm nature in spite of his demanding schedule was humbling. While he was a legislator, pastoring a church on the coast and being a great dad back home in Ridgeland, he found time to get a masters degree in Public Administration from USC, then take classes at the Lutheran Seminary.

When he was transferred from a small AME church in Beaufort County to one in Charleston, he didn’t mention that he was the new pastor of the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church. The church, one of the oldest black congregations in the nation, has a history that reflects the violence of our state’s racist heritage. Denmark Vesey, was one of the founders of the church in 1818 and the leader of a Charleston slave rebellion in 1822. Vesey and 34 others were hung for their role in the rebellion in which no white people were injured. The church was burned during the Vesey trial, and in 1834 the state outlawed all black churches.

A great new leader has been taken from us by an old and insidious enemy. Let it serve to remind us of the long road we’re traveling for racial justice, and deepen our resolve to stay the course.

clem4

Pinckney speaks to members of the SC Progressive Network at Penn Center.