Next Four Years Conference Energizes Progressive Ranks with Resistance Agenda

people at Next Four Years conference

Voting for change turned from a national habit to demand progress into a perilous four year gamble on the morning of November 9. The most hardened optimist amongst us felt an immediate surge of confusion, fear and dismay as a chronically belligerent Presidential candidate became the new President-elect. 

As Trump appointed his xenophobic, misogynistic and war happy staff and advisors, conference registrations grew rapidly. An array of local activists working on issues ranging from climate justice, to racial justice, economic justice, to foreign policy justice joined in.   The Next Four Years conference was held at Simmons College on December 3, sponsored by Massachusetts Peace Action, American Friends Service Committee, and Progressive Democrats of America, and cosponsored by 60 social action groups.

The keynote speaker, Bob Wing, social and racial justice organizer, opened the event by defining a three point common agenda for the next four years—dump Trump in 2020, defend our communities and advance the progressive community. This was broadly the flavor of the entire event.  View video of Bob’s talk and an expanded version of his presentation slides and references.

L to R: Keith Harvey, Elena Letona, Emily Kirkland, Mike Connolly, Joseph Gerson, Paul Robeson Ford. Gulshan Singh photo
L to R: Keith Harvey, Elena Letona, Emily Kirkland, Mike Connolly, Joseph Gerson, Paul Robeson Ford. Gulshan Singh photo

The speakers on the issues panel included:

  • Mike Connolly, State Representative-Elect, spoke on electoral and democracy organizing
  • Rev. Paul Robeson Ford, Union Baptist Church, Cambridge gave a rousing talk on racial and social justice
  • Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee spoke about need for a peaceful foreign policy and to move the money home to life affirming human needs
  • Emily Kirkland of 350 Massachusetts gave a heartfelt talk on climate justice
  • Elena Letona of Neighbor to Neighbor spoke about the urgency of creating a new language that defines the new ‘We’ that is distinct from the political identities that are hurting us today.

Several standing ovations followed these important calls to action. View video of the Issues Panel.

The Movement Intersections panel was another riveting session that opened with proud millennial Jared Hicks, of Our Revolution Massachusetts, who talked about the need to sustain and grow the energy captured by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Rev. Mariama White-Hammond of the Massachusetts Moral Revival spoke about reimagining radical love as prioritizing the needs of the marginalized, and DiDi Delgado, poet and organizer of Black Lives Matter Cambridge, brought back the focus on a self definition of humanity versus naming Trump as the problem.  View video of the Movement Intersections panel.

The biggest need of grassroots organizations and individuals alike was to share, reflect and ask some very essential questions around reaching out to the diverse participants. The workshops arranged to address this issues included those around peace and justice, democracy, climate justice, nonviolence, fair trade, immigration, Islamophobia and countering Trumpism. The sessions were intense and the countless emotions participants came to define at the event were touched upon at various levels.  One workshop, presented by Sue Donaldson on climate justice, was recorded.

SkyBridge at Next Four Years conference
SkyBridge at Next Four Years conference. Gulshan Singh photo

SkyBridge, a diverse band and project that has an eclectic, global music style reflecting our collective concerns for social justice, diversity, equality and world peace, opened the sessions. Their slogan is “We look different, we ALL smile the same.”  View video of their performances!

The discussion and gravitas was unrelenting, even during lunch and refreshment periods. Given the initial response, the cosponsoring groups have called an organizing meeting on January 12th, 2017, in Boston or Cambridge. People’s movement and solidarity to resist the Trump regime have come together in a very definitive and strong way.

But as Gerson pointed out, “This is the fun part.” Practical action to defeat the reactionary Trump agenda remains to be organized. The hope is to harness this initial energy into continuous big and small wins through sustained efforts by MAPA and its allied organizations.

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