metroGRnews interviewed Ajamu Baraka one-on-one at GRCC this past Wednesday. Check out his comments on John Oliver, the war on drugs, the spoiler argument, and Green Party strategy for gaining momentum, plus highlights from his speech.
Grand Rapids, MI – Green Party Vice-Presidential Candidate, Ajamu Baraka spoke before a small crowd at the GRCC Applied Technology Center (ATC), Wednesday evening with an emphasis on what it means to build democracy.
According to his website, Baraka is an internationally recognized leader of the emerging human rights movement in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of efforts to apply the international human rights framework to social justice advocacy in the U.S. for more than 25 years. He is a veteran grassroots organizer whose roots are in the Black Liberation Movement and anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity struggles. He is currently an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and a writer for Counterpunch.
As to why he accepted Stein’s request to be her running mate, Baraka said, “I knew that there was going to be a new political space for third-party candidates and I know I have the positions to advance a progressive agenda and positively influence the process.”
In his presentation, Baraka called for increased transparency, real debates and working toward a more fair election process.
According to Baraka, the Republicans in Michigan are ranked at 50th in transparency. Baraka placed blame on Republicans for the problems Michigan residents are facing. “They destroyed public schools, poisoned Flint, they don’t fix the roads… and they have an oil company lobbyist in charge of environmental quality.”
Real Debates on the Issues
Commenting on the substance of the presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Baraka said, “People are concerned about the direction. Their experiences aren’t getting any kind of attention.” He said that people do not want to see childish bickering in the debates.
Issues Baraka spoke about included working for climate justice, overturning Citizens United v. FEC., and guaranteed incomes, jobs, and housing as a human right.
On childcare and healthcare, Baraka said, “Stay at home parents are not respected or rewarded. We want Medicare for all. Every human being has right to preventive health care and in holistic way.”
Baraka said, “We need to decriminalize drugs, in particular, marijuana. We need to approach issues of addiction as a public health issue that it is. We should have reforms and health services for people caught up in incarceration and this should be a part of the rehabilitation.”
Earlier this week, John Oliver lambasted Stein’s position on student loan debt relief for using the term “quantitative easing” in her description. Stein has issued a rebuttal to John Oliver’s criticism. Baraka said that Stein was making a comparison between the Wall Street bailout and students burdened by huge student loan debt. Baraka said, “If the feds can bail out Wall Street, why can’t they bail out people from their student loans?”
A Fair System
The Green Party gained recognition from the Federal Election Commission as a national political party in 2001, but the Green Party is not on the ballot in all 50 states.
Ballot access laws vary by state, requiring a candidate or party to a variety of complex, state-specific filing requirements and deadlines. According to Ballotpedia, as of April 16, the Green party appears on the ballot in 21 states. Michigan is one of the states where the Green Party will appear on the ballot.
Michigan Student Power Network Volunteer, Sudhansu Banskota of Allendale said, “Everyone is upset with the national candidate choices.” “We are working to make sure this doesn’t happen in the next election and we want people to know they do not have to think like they have to vote for the lesser of two evils.”
Baraka acknowledged that Bernie Sanders made a historical run building a base for radical politics. Baraka said, “If he had responded to Jill Stein, we could have won this year.”
Following Baraka’s presentation, monitors in the ATC showed the Presidential debate between Clinton and Trump on CNN. Throughout the debate, the monitors were switched to DemocracyNow! where Green Party Presidential Candidate, Jill Stein gave her own responses and rebuttals in real-time to the questions and comments made during the debate.
Program Director at WPRR and talk radio show host, Darren Gibson said, “The two-party system is not doing the job of representing the people anymore.”
Baraka said, “We have the power as people to ‘make change’ as a result of a protracted struggle.” Baraka said that his aim in coming to speak in Grand Rapids is, “to galvanize our supporters to be reminded we have three more weeks of struggle to generate momentum to hit five-percent.”
Increasing support at the ballot box is an important strategy for the Green Party to improve their chances in future elections. With 5% of the vote, the party will gain ballot access in all 50 states and qualify for public funding, resulting in, “literally millions of dollars so that we can more effectively compete in 2020,” said Baraka.
If people say that Green Party candidates have a spoiler effect on the election of Democrats, Baraka replied, ” [Then] you don’t understand democracy. You don’t understand power. A vote for X is a vote for X, and you have a right to have a choice.”
Jill Stein will be speaking in Michigan on October 28 in the afternoon at the Redford Theatre in Detroit, and in the evening at the Bowen Field House at Eastern Michigan University. Note: Dr. Stein’s events were cancelled due to illness.
Editor’s Note: Alex Allen contributed to this article.
Updated November 6, 2016.