Turning Skills Into Action


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Ever a production of iheartradio added everybody. Welcome back to the incredibly aptly named show. Worst year ever. My Name's Katie. Stole My name is Robert Evans. In my allergies are exploding horribly. I apologize with that. That's okay apology accepted today. We are joined by a very special guest Michelle Manas who is a community organizer and the CO founder of Bernese Coffee Shop. Hi Michelle Hi. Thanks for having me. Thank you so much for being here. Michelle and I actually met right before the reality of Corona virus really hit here in La like riding those transitioning days. I'd say we were. We were both at the very last. I'm assuming it was the last bar the class that you took. It was the last one that I took. And we kind of connected in the bathroom and struck up a conversation. She started telling me all about the amazing or saying that she was already doing to provide resources to people here in Los Angeles who might need them during the corona virus. You start by telling us a little bit about the projects you've been working on over the last few weeks In kind of how you got them started. Yeah thanks. Katie. Is Pretty interesting when the way we met because I think there was several women standing around in the locker rooms lamenting the virus. And you mentioned your political podcast in my ears. Perked UP AND I. I don't do a lot of that talking or like socializing those kinds of faces. Kinda keep to myself But when you started talking about your podcast I came very interested because something that that I think is really important that that I think we're always working on his. How do we amplify the things that are happening in our communities when the mainstream media won't cover it and it's really important to get the word out about some of the ways it's communities coming together to take care of each other and to provide resources and infrastructure beyond what the governments are able to do right now and so a couple of projects? I've been working on a main focus right now is called project mask. La Or Project Mask Los Angeles On Social Media and the purpose of that project is we signed up several dozen. Volunteers soloists and Many of them are costume designers. Many of them are amateur. Sodas and we have been coordinating the project so that we can do batches of masks to the most at risk members of our community so so far. We've been providing masks to frontline volunteers into a essential workers to assisted living facilities and shelters and places like that around the community. We're working with a couple of city council members so far they're helping the point us in the right direction regarding like who really needs these masks than and quickly and it's been really wonderful to be able to participate in helping to keep each other safe One of the other things that I'm working on right now's urban partners. Los Angeles which is an organization that has been providing food bank over in Korea town for the food. Bank has gone on for over twenty years and a couple of my good friends are on the board of that organization and they were quickly trying to make sure that they could scale fast enough to layer in all of the safety and sanitary needs to continue the Food Bank for the members of the community. That already rely on it and In the time since the corona virus outbreak has started the community reliance on food bank has doubled and so continue to grow as people continue to be out of work so that one is really important as well and we'll Leah all of for listeners in our after civilization so that everyone can check out all those wonderful things. Michelle is working on. I'm so blown away by that. You know one of the things that struck me when we we first met was not only that you were organizing to to to fill a need but you were anticipating a need and forming a plan to help before the full reality of all of it really hit and I just found that incredibly impressive how An e and the project mask La Hadn't you didn't even mention that to me yet. You just pulled all of this together. Incredibly rapidly. How many people are you working with on that project specifically and and how did you specifically get all of these people together store well so originally? It was the idea of a friend of mine who is a professional costume designer. But she and she's a incredibly progressive politically minded and She volunteered for years but She didn't have the capacity to organize it so she came to me and said listen. I'm connected to all these people who so in these communities. I'd like to find a way to organize them or to give them a place to to make these mass. She had her finger on the pulse of the the need for masks kind of like happened with us in La at the same time as everybody had the same idea around the country like groups of mask making people popped up right and so Started with Google form and when we realized how many people were willing to sell for a project like this. We had to get organized very quickly. The team now is about twelve people like the court organizing team. We have A full delivery team. We have a full laundry team with about dozen a dozen people on each of those teams spread throughout the city and we have protocols for each of the for the cleanliness for each of the teams and a coordinator for each of those sort of buckets of work. We also have an amazing graphic designer has been doing all the great graphics that you see on the social media and doing like the stickers that were putting on the bags and things like that and so and just a couple of really amazing folks who stepped up to one to organize this and make sure that it was effective and You know there's this movement in Los Angeles is full of talented people after give out to Who has really become like my co organizer on this project Her name is a Straw and she is our lead sewer or lead slowest and also our nurse consultant. She recently Pastor nursing exam and she's been really carrying the weight of the research and the contact for the slowest volunteers regarding what material works. And what doesn't how to go about creating masks in a sanitary way how to keep your workspace clean. So many of those things that we've been able to implement have come from her experience on the medical side so It's a really wonderful and active and talented team and like I said in addition to a couple of dozen Sewing volunteers we have about ten driving volunteers and I think fourteen laundry volunteers all sort of you know what I've come to terms with the flight patterns throughout the. I'm like I'm not a math person but we have an amazing delivery coordinator who's really been taking on like how to get things from A to B and it's been pretty beautiful so far. What's The workflow lake? You're talking about the the laundry services and everything like that so like you have people making masks and then you have a pickup to take it to be laundered to make sure that it's disinfected and all of that yes So basically and that's part of it's it's a large logistical operation. My role is the logistics coordinator. I don't so I do driving But I don't have laundry at home and that's one of our requirements. Is that all the laundry? Volunteers have washer dryer in their home. In order to prevent any additional risk of contamination and and so the the slowest make requests for materials and we have people donating materials So we get them. Whatever they need within our capacity they produce you know a bulk of masks maybe ten or maybe fifty or maybe a hundred or two hundred. We send our driver's going get them and they go to a laundry volunteer and they are laundered and then from the laundry volunteer at at the laundry. Volunteers a location. The masks are put into their own individual Sandwich Baggie with an information card about you know shirts wash and things like that and how to wash the mask before using it each or after using it each time. All the masks. Go to a hub. We have to distribution hubs. One is Bernie's coffee shop in mid city. And one is the food not bombs collective in Silverlake and the hub will count them and log them and then batch them into correct amounts for the drivers to pick up and take them to their end user. This is all incredibly well-thought-out. I'm I'm very right. Fulling this thing together but it's been so amazing to watch it come together real. I'm sure there's a lot of learning on the fly as you're going doing this the organizer. You just sort of redeploy. Your skills for whatever's needed at the time you know and like the delivery coordinator is amazing. Because he's an uber driver for part of his profession for his income and so he has an idea of what what's convenient. What makes sense with the city layout looks like what drivers go through and then again like all of us having to layer in these safety unsanitary practices to protect each other and recipients of the masks? Well it's clear that this is not your first time. Doing community organizing. It was clear from our very first conversation. And then when actually at a chance to talk with you before we recorded? I was truly blown away by all of the incredible work. That you've you've done over the years and I would love for you to take some time in describe some of those experiences in the other things that you've worked on sure well Kind of where to start You know I was always what I would call progressive. I don't necessarily identify as liberal anymore. Mom I do identify as like a leftist Progressive Socialist Democratic Socialist A Big Bernie supporter. I have been since two thousand eight when I first learned about a time representative sanders and You know he was saying the things that that no one else was saying that I was thinking in my friends were thinking and and no one was saying it on any public airwaves from any important pulpit so it was very You know it was very important to me to continue to follow him. And when he announced in two thousand were teen that If no other progressive candidate stepped up to run for President. He would run and so you know when he announced that he was running in Twenty fifteen. I found some people and I'm lucky to live in a city like Los Angeles where there are more of us than there are some resources And there are beautiful community here and several of us just wanted to find an office where we could volunteer for Bernie Phone banking canvas saying This was Kinda before this was right before text was really big and so we there was about half a dozen of us. It's time we formed a group called Team Bernie L. A. And we found out later that we had the first full time all volunteer office for Bernie Sanders in the state of California and that was in south. La The Lamar Park neighborhood and then from there about two two to three weeks. Before the primary in California in two thousand sixteen we launched Bernie's coffee shop and that location set record numbers per phone bankers in canvassers. At the end of the two thousand sixteen campaign Senator Sanders gave a shout-out to our district. And the the numbers we had done there and so it was pretty amazing Whole Story Behind. Bernie's coffee shop too but I think it was Senator Sanders. I'll always be able to say you know. Thank you Bernie for awakening the fulltime activists in mean because I always had passions for organizing people to to help each other and to build community. But I didn't have those words yet and I didn't have the tools yet and when when when Bernie's campaign brought us all together we learned from each other and I'm very grateful for that. Yeah I've got more questions for you regarding Bernie but I I wanna can you give us a little bit of history of brains coffee shop because it's actually kind of a cool story. It's a local Los Angeles landmark. That had been closed down for a while correct. Yeah so it's the old coffee shop on Wilshire and Fairfax many people who were longtime Angelenos. Remember when it was a diner in a restaurant And the owners of that space you know. It needs to much work to turn it back into a functioning restaurant right now. There are plumbing issues that would have to be dealt with and things like that but you know the family that owns the lot of our big Bernie supporters and it was originally going to be a media stunt In back in twenty sixteen. We've we brought together a team of like filmmakers and artists and organizers and builders and things like that and it was going to be. You Know Janis Historic Janis. Coffee Shop One night only as Bernie's coffee shop and we did this big gorgeous. Unveiling and a whole bunch of media showed up Francis Fisher a cut the ribbon with the big. You know scissors and things and those of us who were organizers. Kind of went to the to the owners of the landlord instead. What about keeping this thing and and inviting people to come volunteer here and they were with it so so. That's exactly what we did and again you know and I'll send you some pictures you know afterwards but these very large inside and there's two main counters kind of an L. shape and the long counter was was filled with canvassing packets. And then like food and snacks for the volunteers. All the booze were filled with foam bankers the whole day the all week long and then on the short side of the counter we did merchandise peop- of brought US boxes of Bernie's books t shirts anything we could think of. You know we had the campaign at the time. Bring US packs of bumper stickers. Anything we can do to bring in a few bucks so we could feed the volunteers so we could keep the lights on so we can keep volunteering for Bernie and it's really beautiful as you said. The building is a historical cultural landmark in Los Angeles. So we don't do any major changes to the structure of the building besides keeping it up and so there's an interesting side story if you've seen the mural the you know it's an old fifties diner with the picture and there's a is a gorgeous. Gi Style Mural on the Fairfax side of the building that after two years or so somebody in the neighborhood started to complain and we got a notice we were going to have to take the mural down and we rallied the troops we sent letters we created a slide. Show we asked for a hearing about forty people in from the community showed up to that hearing about with Historical Cultural Society here in La and they we had a slide show about political art and the art history of the space and being right there in museum row and being a neighbor to lack Ma and the Petersen Automotive Museum. And that's the beautiful thing that came out of that was that rather than makers take the mural down they actually declared the mural its own historical I love that. Wow that's a lot of happy tears that day on we. We had looped in the artist now based in Arizona and we were like they're trying to make us take your mural down like can help us and he was so happy. We were all so happy. That's a great story implied. I'm Robert Evans In this really is the worst year ever since we're all trapped inside fearing a pandemic depression anxiety Relationship Issues. These are all on the rise right now and thankfully. Better help us here too. Well help Their an online therapy company. They let you connect with a counselor and a safe private online environment. You can video chat. You can talk to the phone and you can exchange unlimited text messages. These people are here to help you. You just fill out a questionnaire to help. Assess your needs and you'll get matched with a counselor in less than twenty four hours. This is a truly affordable option. And Right now. Our listeners are going to get ten percent off their first month with the Discount Code W Y E for worst year ever so when I get started today. Good a better. Help Dot com slash W. y. e. That's better help dot com slash W. Y. E. Now you can get professional help whenever you want it wherever you are talk to a therapist online and get help today get a credit card. That gives you what you need now. A low interest rate on everyday purchases and a place to transfer high interest rate balances. The ten fed gold contactless card is our lowest interest rate credit card. You can even earn a one hundred dollars statement credit new. Spend fifteen hundred dollars in the first ninety days. Join Penn fat and together we can help you keep more of what's yours. Visit Penta Dot org slash gold card to receive any advertise product. You must become a member of pen. Fat Insured by. Ncua over this nice moment down just a little bit. I think it gives us a slight tangent from our organizing talk. I think a lot of progressives were delta kind of a blow last week when when Bernie officially suspended his campaign and we've seen a lot of conversations you know debates about whether or not Bernie supporters will be voting for Joe Biden You know people have very reasonable fears about that or or qualms with Joe Biden and I. It's something that we are all going to have to spend the next several months figuring out for ourselves and think we're all a little bit curious How you're feeling right now. What you're thinking about all of that. Yeah I mean this. This particular burn supporter will not be voting for Joe Biden Yam. I'm well aware and just as horrified as everyone else about the problems with trump in the administration that we have However you know I I I don't. I don't need to tell any credentials but I did do. My undergrad and my masters in political science and global politics and I am horrified as well by the steady march to the right For the United States that has been occurring pretty much since the Reagan years. I do want to ask what we're still on the subject of like you know. Joseph robinet Biden. Do you think your calculus would be any different if you lived in a swing state somewhere aware that like literally kind of 'cause 'cause 'cause I'm in this point of I'm not gonNa vote for Biden either but I live in a state where the state's GonNa go for Biden right so I'm not. I'm not on an electoral since worried and I. I'm curious as to whether or not that's entered into your calculus at all me. It doesn't and I don't envy the position of people who think like I do like we do Who are in swing states. I mean my my own mother. You know is huge Bernie supporter and is very proud of the work. That we do. She's in New Jersey and feels the need to participate in defeating trump. Which I don't have any lame or ill will towards anybody feels that way. I totally get it and understand for me. It's not just about Bernie Our our eyes are open now to the complacency and the corruption of the establishment within the Democratic Party the this sort of jaded bitterness with which they operate. Many of our friends here in In at the local level attempt to participate in the Democratic Party at the local and state level and are consistently shut down. It's a very toxic environment to attempt to participate in local party politics as a you know as a progressive And what we've been saying about Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders for a long time is that. He is is really pretty down the middle politically on the global political spectrum. However as I was saying you know. This country has been marching to the right for several decades. And it's it's it's the sort of right off a cliff phenomenon. We are now in in a corporatist fascist sort of scenario and I personally my ideals bigger and beyond Bernie Sanders. Don't allow me to participate in endorsing that. Sort of Political structure. I think we need to overhaul and I don't I don't identify myself as like Bernie or bust. I don't think that it doesn't have to be like a a dichotomy like thought but I do think we need to think extremely critically about the situation in which we find ourselves because you know Joe Biden and and Donald Trump are far more similar to each other than than Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are right and so a lot of people feel that the the shaming of Okay Bernie supporters. It's time to fall in line. A lot of us are not Democrats and don't own vote to anybody in the Party and we came out and attempted to get involved and Bernie Sanders asked us to be Democrats for a little while to to to participate in the power structures that exists in attempt to bring that power back to the people and the the DNC in the establishment within the Democratic Party rather than than being in awe of Bernie's ability to bring young people into the party and to bring a diverse coalition into their party. They attempted to stop it. At every turn and ultimately they seem to have succeeded in this moment and the message that we received was loud and clear. You are not wanted. Yeah I mean I don't I don't disagree with any of your calculus there and I in fact feel the same way but I also like I have to. I think that I probably would wind up swallowing a lot of things in order to do what I could to get trump out because while he biden have a lot similar like I. The the person that I live with right now is a is a Chinese national and just the changes in her life and the lives of a lot of friends of mine who are immigrants as a result of all of this like there are things that wouldn't be as much of a problem as they are right now. If Biden were an office and I guess that's kind of like I feel two ways about it because I agree with you like the Democratic Party. If it weren't if the Republican Party didn't exist. The Democratic Party would be the most despicable organization in the United States. But yeah but at the same point there is a difference the two of them. Yeah there there is. I think perhaps the I don't Wanna I don't WanNa get a sort of caught up in. Who's worse kind of questions? I think that the the issue of being asked to vote for the lesser of two Okay for instance right. Part of my work has included being a founding member of the metoo movement here in Los Angeles Right. I'm not talking about big METOO. I'm not talking about times up. I'm talking about you. Know the the grassroots movement of women survivors to believe women and survivors here in Los Angeles and We did our first big march with several thousand people in. I think November of two thousand seventeen and in addition to that. I've done also a lot of work with and for and alongside immigrants and immigrant communities direct action Video and written content around the kids in cages. Things like that Working with a native groups that are not only You know horrified by the situation of people crossing the border. But also continuing to suffer under the continued colonization of of the current day right and so I- Nobody can speak for an entire community. There's differences about opinions about Biden trump and Bernie within immigrant communities. There's differences in the metoo movement. But I'll tell you that that my friends that I'm connected to that are still actively organizing metoo They will not be endorsing Joe Biden and I think we know why you know And the biggest fear that I have right now is that Last name is for getting me Tara. Tara Reid is that the Democrats will attempt to vilify Tara Reid and if we start to see that happen that is just absolutely unforgivable So you know an image in the immigrant communities you also have to understand that people were calling Obama the deportable in chief for years before president trump was even a possibility obama the more people than Bush you know. Eight years of Obama was worse for in many ways for our immigrant communities than eight years of Bush With the possible exception of you know the vilifying of Muslims after nine eleven. But you know what we're talking about two parties that in in their own way right and you could argue one potentially more dangerous because they attempt to attempt to make it look like they're being your friend you know they attempt to look good on the social issues but Nancy. Pelosi is up there. You know what is she doing? Her Golf Clap. And she's ripping up trump's speech. But you know the very same week. She's approving his military budget. We don't perform it. Yeah exactly so. I'm just not interested in that and I know some people will say we will. How do we protect the people that are suffering under this administration currently in these horrific ways? I think we take to the streets. I think we we flood into the we fled into the party structures in the power structures and take them over what you guys are doing here with independent progressive media all these things matter But voting for someone who is more of the same and you know holds many of the ideological Problems that the current president is. I just can't you know I can't be a party to that. It's tough. I've said this several times on this show just the realization. I mean I. It's not a realization. I've known this. But this cycle has certainly underscored it that we are vastly different parties. Trying to get one person nominated vastly different political affiliations. Here and yes. We align ourselves with the democratic establishment in order to try to progress this agenda you know the philosophy and it's it's continually disappointing. I feel bolstered and this might be mean being naive. This might be being. I'm someone that's that tends to view towards hopeful because that's my serve my coping mechanism with life I'm I'm I'm proud of us. I'm proud of the gains that have been made. I'm I'm I'm disappointed by what's happening right now. And I'm also Invigorated by how how many people I see now that align with me And I think that we are further ahead than we've ever been. I find myself veering between two things. Which is that like. I grew up a very conservative and I watched as these things like the fringe beliefs. That like when I was a kid my parents will be no one really agrees with these people. These people aren't normal conservatives like they don't have any power or anything and they never will and I watched them very methodically very carefully take over the Republican Party and they did it by compromising. They did it. By voting with people who were twenty thirty percent on board with them and then either marginalizing. Those people are pushing them further because those folks were power hungry and I watched it get to the point where now my parents are endorsing. All of the views that when I was younger they said were were not representative of normal conservative. So I I am not a person I have very. I would say very very far. Left political beliefs Much more so than than Mr Sanders even But I I have watched a radical political party takeover. A mainstream political party so. I don't believe it's impossible at the same time. I also recognize like where the hour is like because of how how much progress. The far right has made in taking over the Republican Party. We don't have twenty-five years right right there. For a variety of reasons. We have twenty five dollars. Yeah maybe we bought ourselves a bit of time with Corona virus. Yeah that's one of the upshots of it. I guess but I I so I'm not I'm not someone I don't reject electoralism out of hand but also I don't know like taking to. The streets is all well and good but I have seen one of the things that's been really frustrating to me is how Even a lot of like the progressive left his kind of thrown anti-fascists street activists under the bus Because of the way you know how it and I don't know I guess maybe the mask issue has been sort of one. Thanks to the corona virus. Do People Aren't GonNa Complain About that. So much in the future your forward thinking the big task is how do we? I mean really the question that we're all asking dancing around I think is. How do we get a general strike going? Because that's that's what's necessary like the hour is late enough that we need to. We need to get enough of America on board a simple list of demands. That would take sizable chunks. Like the big issues facing us That we can have some breathing space to figure out the rest and I. I guess you're better at organizing than I am for damn sure you have a lot more experience with this. What do you how do we? How do we St- you think we start doing that? How do we save the world? Please answer questions. Yeah they say that. Luck is a combination of persistence in timing. And I'm a pretty firm believer in that that you know. We get opportunities in cycles right if we had attempted to throw a march about surviving sexual violence without the media moment. That had happened. You know it wouldn't have had four thousand people and it wouldn't have had international media covering it right. We had a moment where we looked at each other. You know we're all sitting around at Bernie's coffee shop and we looked at each other and said well. We have an opportunity to make a splash on this issue. Right now if we move quickly you know and so it's it's really about when when is when of the people going to be ready so I know one one thing that you guys were they talked to Katie about off. Line was Working with The rent issue and reclaim our homes and the tenants unions and the fact that you folks have been covering those issues I think it's an amazing moment for reclaim our homes. Which is you know families. Basically a house Lewis Families announced families moving into vacant houses that are on public property right. They're owned by CAL. Trans and they've been sitting in some cases for decades empty. The single family homes in you know nice average or above average neighborhoods that are sitting boarded up because they're owned by CAL Trans and they're not being used and so what we have now is support for the idea that people should not have to be on the street right so you can get public support for something like a housing occupation in a moment like this where the corona virus is a top of. Everyone's mind and people are not supposed to be outside and yet we're allowing families to live on the streets and so it's a big difference in in the narrative because of because there's a larger public narrative happening. I think that organizing were things like a rent strike and a and a loan strike could get us to a general strike. But here's the issue with a general strike. The biggest impact of general strike is people not going to work which most people are already not doing so part of what we could do in. This moment is capitalized on the idea of well. Hey maybe it really is those grunt workers that Howard the damn economy. That are the engine. Because when people can't go to their minimum wage jobs in broadscale the whole damn thing is shutting down globally right. I saw a mean floating around. That said You know people tell mother. Earth can possibly shut down global capitalism. We can't possibly close down the economy to deal with climate change and mother earth goes. Here's a virus practice. I know I that was one of the first things I was thinking in. All of this is like wow. We've shown that we actually can mobilize on a great big scale and we can see rapid results from that. We can see the earth start to regrow a little bit of a sudden. You have people talking about universal basic income purcell healthcare. You know people talking about again like masses of people sleeping outside and sleeping in the streets and we have the we were talking about it in a way that really affects us all right because no matter how wealthy you are it still is. GonNa mess you up when you go to get gas and you can't touch that that gas or you want to get your coffee and your coffee shop is close down you know and really starting to force us to consider the role that we have in our interconnectedness and why it sense to be able to. Canada implemented monthly. You be I almost immediately. Many other are doing the same. South Korea is leading the way in identifying cases and and and Issuing the the social distancing type measures to keep people from spreading this thing and they're listening in if the people are listening because in many other places around the world You know the leadership of the countries and the formation of the governance is all about the interconnectedness the people whereas in America. We've really built a pride on. This sort of Libertarian. Sort of every man for himself. I'm I'm not concerned with my neighbor. Has what they need as long as I have what I need. And you know you've asked about what to do about what to do about the facts that we have to deal with reality how it is right and we have to deal with the fact that we have this monster in the White House and we could continue to go in the wrong direction. If we're not very careful in this moment and I agree but I I start to take the perspective and when I take my by my humanity hat off right and I let myself get out of the anger for a second and I sort of put my political scientists hat on and I go. We'll we'll look at this grand experiment right. The the great American experiment has lasted. Perhaps three hundred years before you know seems to have peaked and the bottom you know in my opinion during the FDR ears numb and the bottom has fallen out from it. And you know. I'M NOT GONNA. I don't advocate any which way I'm not. I'm not married to any any path right now. I think that regardless of what happens we have a responsibility to help and save as many people as we can and we have a responsibility to each other first and foremost because those in power are so incredibly disconnected from what we're going through that you know. I I do support one of the biggest things that that Bernie Sanders gave us was the will and the drive and the understanding of the importance of running for office so as much as you know I may leave that that top of the ticket blank Come November You know absolutely devoting all the way down the ballot for all the progressives that I can find that are attempting to take this power structure back for the people because it does involve getting involved in your community running for your local seats. Everything from Dogcatcher. You Know School Board. All the way on up and really advocating within those spaces for progressive policies. And that's what I was talking about when I said it's a bit of exposing yourself to some toxicity because you know within these establishment spaces. There's a lot of gas lighting telling progressives if these policies are possible and we need to be realistic and then we look around the world and go were the ones that are being unrealistic. Here you know. Yeah and I've been speaking of gas lighting. Did you see Barack Obama's endorsement video? Today and Hodge Lemon is anders in it. I didn't read about it. I perhaps we'll have the stomach for it later. I have avoided it so far. Boy howdy read about how by Obama. I voted for Obama twice. And then out that he. He came into office he was. We were bombing two countries and when he left office we're bombing seven countries. He had he had an opportunity to lift up Bernie Sanders and continue towards progressivism. And you know He. He made his decision. He made it clear in my mind. And I feel completely duped by the Obama years. Oh I thought you were going to say that's a three hundred percent improvement so like yeah look at look at where we? Everyone been bullied here host of stuff. They don't want you to know in ridiculous history as a podcast. 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Maybe I should run the company. I would keep the jingle like a good neighbor state. Farm is there but I would change the tune like a good neighbor. State farm is there. That was better right on working with reclaim our homes. I wanted to talk to a little bit about. I guess you'd say like a legalism which has been really pushed out of kind of mainstream left-wing politics for a while and I think reclaiming our homes is the first time I've I've seen something that is widely popular in seems to be getting some some traction on a larger scale that is based around. Sometimes we have to break the law to do the right thing and I i. I've seen like the Republican Party. Already got bored breaking the law to make their things happen a while ago and I think that This idea that like okay. We'll if there's homes here that are owned by the government. Maybe we just open them up. I see that as one of the more this understanding that There's not actually any value in just being polite and waiting your turn and holding off on doing something necessary because it'll make people angrier violate the law. And I'm I'm curious as to. I don't know whether or not you're even thinking about it in that sense or or or what. But that's that's something that has occurred to me in this and I think something that has a lot of potential for future necessary movements as we encounter food shortages and medical shortages in the like. Yeah Yeah and I just want to clarify. I'm not organizing with reclaim our homes. I've I've been volunteering with them and supporting them. Yeah my friend and mentor is good friends. With one of the lead organizers with reclaim our home so I'm I'm you know grateful to be able to be to be able to tap in and really find ways to help like we've delivered groceries to the families. were organizing to get them some of the equipment they need and what what's really happening though. The hard work is is. The volunteers are taking shifts to help guard the community because there's backlash from residents from detractors from police So you know it's a it's a very very You know sensitive situation and regarding your question about thinking about it in terms of legalities I mean. Listen I'm a I'm a socialist. I'm not an anarchist. I'm I'm only. I'm only really the type of person that wants to see a just society so I believe in a strong society that is built as a collective. I believe that we are all in this together and believe in following the rules when the rules are to benefit the most or the all right but unfortunately we don't live in a society where the rules are set up to benefit most or. They're all we live in a society where the rules are set to benefit the status quo and the elite. I mean just this. You Know Corona virus response rate now is is just resulting in another massive transfer of wealth to the top to Wall Street right while a parcel. A little twelve hundred dollars for us like that doesn't even cover half of people's Renton Los Angeles you know. And they WANNA dangle that in front of us as a one time thing while we're hearing the headlines about other countries that are getting a monthly you be I during this and things like that and they're leaving it up to individual companies an individual industries to determine how they're gonNA handle things or individual cities in the governors are looking at the federal government. Like is it really all on the? Uh Us you know and and listen to this president speak and and much as I hate the Democrats. Nobody wants to hear you blame the Democrats right now. People want answers. Frankly you know they find a reason every ten years or so to to to do it. Massive transfer of wealth and last time in two thousand eight crisis. You know they've robbed People's pensions and 401K's right by illegal Legal insurance scams right and they were able to basically bet against the American people and the homeowners of this country and transferred that wealth than via the insurance policies that they had purchased on things like the mortgage backed securities. So we all know that that happened and here. We find ourselves again in a in a crisis situation where they've created a pathway to transfer wealth to the very wealthy already. So when when you look at it like that and you look at it that you know again again again you find Decisions made in favor of industry and quote unquote the economy rather than the health and wellbeing of the people. I mean I use Amazon and I'm going to get you know I'm GonNa get lambasted for saying that But but I do and not a lot from time to time but you know the this is something it should it should exist but it should be nationalized. It should not be benefit one or or very few people and the workers should not have to put up with the conditions that Amazon is currently imposing upon them but when a company like Amazon or facebook is so deeply integrated into our society that it is too big to fail than it should belong to the damn people. That's my opinion on things like that so we are making moves towards a society. It looks something like a just society. Then then take those homes. That are sitting vacant when you have an housed families not just in general but now in the middle of a pandemic when people are literally being told by police to go inside and some people have no place to go. It's horrific that they didn't already open the doors to those homes and many others as well. We have been talking for forty five minutes about all the incredible stuff he's been working on and we've barely scratched the surface of your past mentioned telling me you know it's incredible it's wonderful you mentioned me too and your work with that and reclaim our homes You know you also have been did stuff with standing rock. You're at standing rock You work with California for Progress. I think for me. What so inspiring about all of this and this conversation is yes. This is the status of our government and our society right now and yes. We may not be able to support the politicians that we offered but there are things that we can do ourselves to organize to to come together to fight back against all of this stuff to do. Actual tangible work that that affects people's lives immediately. And and and this is incredible for us to have continue to talk to you because it demystify it a little bit. I mean you. You are an event planner. Am I right? That's your back Lance event planning uh-huh and and nobody's doing events anymore right current freelance writing. Oh where where events happening right now. There's something that's going on. I was for my income for me. Personally you know about half. My income came from freelance events. In half for my freelance writing and so I'm down to just the writing so I'm trying to expand on that Lino. This is a good time to write. Your masterpiece is told not that things aren't stressful. A friend of mine. Who FOR YEARS? We're GONNA write a book. He kind of said that to me the other day. But I think it's just so inspiring to me that okay so you've got this skill set. You are an event planner into writer. Yes but you know you you bring that to your work and do community organizing and you know an an earlier. You're talking about everything that you've done for for the masks here in La you've got people seamstresses. You've got an uber driver coordinating the delivery. You know it's it's it's people using what they have to do something tangible and that's what I really wanted to hammer home with his episode also to to say that we all have that power within our reach. If there's something that we can do so you know after the two thousand sixteen campaign came to an end and team. Bernie. La as it existed voted to disband. I voted against that but I was number and so a couple of us are still wanted to work together. Kind of looked at each other. And we're like what we wanted to do. And a friend of ours had created California for Progress logo the website. He set up the Social Media Infrastructure. And he was like. Do you guys want this. Created this you know and we kinda just looked at each other and said you guys WanNa be California for progress. Sure let's be California for progress and you know it's A. It's a beautiful thing that we were able to do. Because it's such an innocuous name it can. It can do anything right. It can support the me too movement. It could support immigrants. It can support Bernie can do whatever it wants to do. And it's pretty clear in the name like what it is Really the point of saying that is that once. We showed up to volunteer together right and we kind of went through the ringer for a few months. Together we were in the trenches together with Bernie campaign and it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to but we've wanted to continue to make a difference I mean even with Bernie's coffee shop once the campaign was over. The coffee shop became more of a community center based in the issues. Right and I can talk more about how we've utilized the coffee shop in the interim between the campaigns but the key of it is is once you find it a little niche where you enjoy volunteering and you meet other like minded people who also enjoy volunteering. Then it's just a little hop skip to get together and say let's create a project of our own. Let's start an initiative. What do we like to do? Do we want to gather signatures? Do WE WANNA knock on doors duly want to create media content? Do we want to put marches in the streets in creative events and we do media awareness like you can decide with your with your group of friends. Basically that share these the Asia the same or similar views as you are willing to volunteer their time. So all of us organizers and it seems like you know. We're out here like doing these. These big lake Sometimes it seems like untouchable. I know like when I look up to people like you know Molina Abdullah of black lives matter you know I think. Wow like this person. Who's been doing this for decades really understands what we're dealing with here. You known is fighting for the most marginalized or or my mentor. Carlos keen who has been working on housing issues since the foreclosure crisis and has really anchored himself in that sort of that struggle of how to lift up the people who are suffering the most under these systems when we entered into the burning movement. We did it for To try to make burning president right but we came out of it going holy cow. There's a lot of work to do. I mean as a as a community organizer or as a as an activist really. You can run yourself. Ragged and many people do. Many people have to hit the wall before they've reorganized themselves to say. Okay I need to have boundaries with this work is you can work twenty four hours a day seven days a week and and still feel like you're not doing enough and so part of what it would it really is is finding a niche. You know finding a type of work that you really like to do is food bank stuff and in helping or and the house. Is it doing that work within the Democratic Party and showing up to your local county and city and State Party and and being a progressive voice in that space and running for office or being on the board or something like that that strikes? Your fancy do it. I'm I'm also we haven't even talked about my. I work with KPFK. Yeah I'm currently the chair of the board at our local PACIFICA station. Kpfk in Los Angeles. And that's because you know strong. Strong functional productive independent media is extremely important to me and so when a friend of mine who was on the board said. A couple of US would like to ask you if you'd consider running for the board I found a new way to be able to interact with my passion for getting US off of our addiction to mainstream media rate and so in my opinion even like our Rachel Maddow's are participating in the completing the and the march to the right right by not calling out The issues with the Democrats are with the establishment right and trump gives us a great big evil boogeyman that we can point to all day long and he will continue to give that content. You know but it means that when when we're wall-to-wall and how bad trump is were missing a lot of gather pork and bangs your overlooking all the other stuff that's going on. That was already a problem and was already broken in our system people to find a space to volunteer talk to people make connections and plan your next steps. You know if you haven't yet a couple of people willing to sit with you to talk it through then you you. Have you know a way to to make something happen in your community? Also if you don't have an idea you can look and say what is it that I do. You'd mentioned on our call before a accountants yet totally math organization to support and if that skill money person and they are you in for between so if you're one of those people and help them wearing a graph I would. I would go so far to say that. Some of the people that like the activist community in the United States needs most are like accountants in people who know how to run organizations and Organiz. Yeah like that that that is definitely like how to set up your lawyers implications you know just not like that or if you're trying to operate within the party you know within the Democratic Party people who get the party they understand the bylaws they understand the structure of the clubs and the layers of governance. I mean just people who are wonky. They perhaps don't feel like there's a space all the time like graphic designers the one of the ways that we've been able to really send some of our projects viral or even international with mainstream media is by having you know top. Notch professional graphics. That are branding our movements right and I and I've been criticized by some in the Movement for my sort of marketing thinking about this. But I think branding what we do is really important like project mask. La is a brand new thing just popped up out of nowhere. We start asking for money right off the bat. How do people know how to trust it you? The first thing they wanNA know is who's organizing this. Well if if they don't know who Michelle. Manas is because they don't know other work that I've done than how are. How did they not give this thing? I'm endorsing Muddy Right. So part of it is like being able to say like yeah. We are organized. We are professional. We have done this before. And you know we're we're all volunteer and we're bringing are very professional skills many times you know and so you know. I have a friend who Her thing is is social media and she's so brilliant at it and if you can get her on a project and you can get it a focus or eight and she has the time in the capacity then your whole operation levels up because she knows exactly how to reach the people that you need to reach to execute your your your vision you know so people who bring those kinds of just showing up to a meeting and getting involved in conversations first step is showing up and the next step. Is You know putting yourself out there a little bit talk to someone be willing to go have that cup of coffee even if you're tired and you just want to go home and you're like okay. I went to the meeting. I did the thing I said I was going to do. Go get the Extra Cup of coffee and have a conversation with someone who thinks that you are interesting or someone that you think is interesting because relationships get bill. That's how you build trust in community and that's when you bring each other onto these kinds of projects and say hey you know what I was talking to someone the other day and that conversation we had two weeks ago popped into my mind. I really want to bring you in on this little things like that. How We build community and we build these teams for these projects. Michelle thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us your soul eloquence and have such a wide range of experiences. I think this is really fascinating Can you tell our listeners where they can find you online or plug the projects that you're working on websites or anything like that? Yeah sure I'm not really on twitter but you can find me on facebook and Instagram My Name Is Michelle. Manas and my instagram is MS leader Mitch. M. S. L. A. D. Y. M. I C. H. And my heart. My my heart is always GONNA be with. Bernie's coffee shop Bernie's coffee shop volunteer office on facebook and at Bernie's coffee shop all one word on Instagram And as you mentioned you know California for Progress and currently a project mask L. A. And you know I'm happy to come back and visit with you all again and talk more about the history of what we've been doing or what we're going to be coming next so you know because we have to figure out what we're doing about this damn convention if it's going to happen. Yeah I'm sure there's GonNa be lots of opportunities to chat in the near future and you know I got some great war stories when the two thousand Sixteen Convention for when the time comes great. Oh Yeah we can I just want to say I. It's so incredible to me that this started as a conversation between you and Katie in a restroom and I feel confident that nothing. This positive has ever resulted from a conversation in a men's restroom. I do feel like that objectively on a historic level. I it was faked. That brought us together may actually have been the last day of our method at. I think it was because I remember the same day. I said to the the girl at the front desk. I'M GONNA keep coming as long as you guys are here. Thank you for being here and it was that night that we got the email so I was there. What he said that we all got a little bit emotional and film. Otieno about not being able to go to barb at a community You know I rely on scene people in sharing that energy. I hadn't realized that I mean I knew it before this happened but now I realized just how much I rely on it. Yeah and you know for me I you know I moved to California in two thousand eight I. I married the guy that I was dating at the time. We bought a CONDO. We got a divorce papers Like just I. I became fulltime activists and I went to Grad School. The only dam constant in my whole life has been that freaking bar method that I don't. I've been going like over ten years and I don't know what to do with. I hate running. I hate it so what do I do? You know But you know this is turning into an ad for bar method normal. I mean far class. You you know you're bark last. Yeah rethink the ways that we're going about our lives. I was talking to some other day. That said you know I think that in the United States and the Western world is GonNa cut become more like some of the Asian countries. Where wearing a mask is pretty common. You know even in normal times because people have lived through you know viral pandemic. It'd be very interesting to see where we land on the other side of some of this. Well I'm looking forward to talking to you when we get there. I hope we keep checking in and thank you for having me. I really appreciate it and again like let me stress and I am so incredibly supportive of independent media. Thank you for having a people powered for for coming on the show. Michelle worst year. 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