longtime human rights activist and 2016 vice-presidential nominee for the Green Party.
The Green Party nominated human rights activist Ajamu Baraka to be Dr. Jill Stein’s vice-presidential running mate during the party’s convention in Houston, Texas, over the weekend. Baraka is the founding executive director of the US Human Rights Network and coordinator of the U.S.-based Black Left Unity Network’s Committee on International Affairs. He has served on the boards of Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Africa Action. These are excerpts of Baraka speaking in his acceptance speech and at a news conference during the party convention.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. This is "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency. I’m Amy Goodman. Today we’re looking at the weekend’s Green Party convention in Houston, where Dr. Jill Stein accepted the party’s presidential nomination. Her running mate is Ajamu Baraka, the founding executive director of the US Human Rights Network. He spoke on Saturday in Houston.
AJAMU BARAKA: Brothers and sisters, friends, we are at a critical moment—as Jill says, a transformational moment. We have tremendous opportunities before us. The American people are longing for a change. They are ready to do something different. And we have to be the vehicle for that difference.
You know, there are difficult conditions that the people face. You know, they tell us that there has been a recovery and things are all right from the crisis. But you know what? There are millions of people, people who we work with, who haven’t experienced any kind of recovery. There are millions of people who still don’t have a place to lay their head at night. There’s a reason why the fastest-growing population of homeless people are black women with children. There are millions of people who would like to have a job where they can live a decent life, but they don’t have it. And if they have a job, that basically they are making starvation wages; they’re working two and three different jobs just to make ends meet. But they tell us things are better.
We have a situation where, as a consequence of austerity, across this country, in communities where we live and work, they’re closing down schools. People live in communities where they can’t go to the store, because there’s no store. So you have like 48 million people who are living in situations where they are going to bed every night hungry. We have a situation where, basically, even with so-called Obamacare, we have millions still without healthcare.
These are difficult conditions, difficult conditions. And people are wondering why. Why do we have to—why do we have to accept this kind of situation? And so, when the two parties attempt to try to herd people based on fear, we find that today there are millions of people who are prepared to do something different, who are prepared to go another way. And we are going to be there to provide that opportunity for a new day and another way.
My brothers and sisters, I have lived my entire life committed to the notion of independent politics, building alternative power. I understood that, basically, we had some real possibilities in advancing that struggle for political independence using the electoral process. And that’s where Dr. Stein and the Green Party comes in, for me, personally, because you all get it. Dr. Stein understands that you can’t transform a—you can’t transform a system without struggle, that you have to organize the people, that the electoral process is in fact a process by how we build power. And for me, that is what is attractive to this process and was the basis for me accepting when Dr. Stein called and said, "Ajamu, are you ready to join me?" And I said, "Dr. Stein, I thought about it, I know where you’re coming from, and you can count me in. I’m with you."
It is that commitment to building popular power, it is that commitment to the people, it is that understanding that we have to build a multinational movement here in this country based on the needs and the aspirations of working people, that I joined this effort. It is that commitment, that I stand here proudly and say to all of you it is my honor to accept the nomination for the vice presidency of the United States from the Green Party.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Green Party vice-presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka speaking in Houston Saturday at the Green Party convention. He’s founding executive director of the US Human Rights Network, coordinator of the U.S.-based Black Left Unity Network’s Committee on International Affairs. He has served on the boards of Amnesty International USA and the Center for Constitutional Rights, as well as Africa Action. On Saturday, he also spoke about police brutality at a news conference during the convention.
AJAMU BARAKA: Black males are always suspicious, even when we have the right uniform on. And as Dr. Stein said, this is something that we have to address here in this country, and we really intend to. You know, one of the things that really is still—is outrageous to me is that one of the reasons why police forces appear to operate with impunity is that there doesn’t appear to be a consequence for these kinds of actions. Not only do we have someone being detained for 35 minutes, which is an assault on your dignity, we’re having—we have people who are being murdered now almost every week, it appears. But yet, we have an administration that is supposed to be responsible for protecting the rights of all citizens, and they have a Civil Rights Division, and they have the power to intervene and to conduct investigations and to prosecute, and out of all of the examples we know of, all of these shootings of unarmed black men—and women now—we have one indictment, over all of these years. That’s outrageous.
While at the same time, what many people don’t know is that in Baltimore and in Ferguson, the young, primarily black, poor folks who involved in—were involved in acts of resistance, they ended up feeling the full weight of the federal government. The federal government intervened into the state and brought indictments against a number of protesters in both Ferguson and in Baltimore. We have people in Baltimore right now who are now serving draconian time now—eight years, 12 years—for things that, in the past, would have been maybe a misdemeanor or probation, because they were prosecuted directly by the federal government. So, you know, when you see these—this kind of imbalance, you know, would we be surprised that the police forces would be emboldened, knowing that basically they can almost do anything without any kind of repercussions? That’s got to be reversed.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Green Party vice-presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka speaking at the Green Party convention in Houston on Saturday.