NH Progressive Summit 2013 Recap

I'm happy we were able to go to the NH Progressive Summit this year and feel it was a valuable experience and an enjoyable day all around. Everything was very clearly marked when we got to New England College and the registration table was well staffed and they prepared our group quickly and efficiently. The materials given to us in our packets were concise, informative, and provided a good framework for understanding how the event would unfold, when each session was occurring, and where we were expected to be at any given time.

We didn't get to the summit early enough to socialize much with fellow progressives, but did get there in time to sample the continental breakfast and find a good place to sit in the Great Room, where the summit would begin and the keynote speaker would open for those of us assembled. The keynote speaker was Michael McCord and he was supposed to "... entertain NH Progressive Summit attendees with stories of his days covering the Tea Party movement in New Hampshire and nationally." Though he was entertaining, his main focus was promoting his forthcoming political satire, "The Execution Channel: A Political Fable". It sounds like a fun, easy read from his descriptions and pieces he shared with us during his address. At least two of us at our table want to read it after hearing about the book. Not much else I can say about the keynote.

The first workshop I attended was Immigration Reform and Opportunities for Advocacy. This by far was the best workshop I attended. This is a topic I feel is extremely important. The facilitators were enthusiastic and passionate and had many, many stories to relay that helped to put a face on immigration reform and how it is an issue that involves all of us. The the information they had available and the communication they provided directly to attendees could have filled a whole day with advocacy training and workshops on immigration reform. The presenters were Eva Castillo – Immigrant Rights Advocate, Maggie Fogarty – Economic Justice Advocate AFSC, Ana Ford – Member of NH Coalition for CIR, and Nancy Pape – Head of UCC Immigration Workgroup. They all deserve a great deal for praise for their efforts at the summit. Though I didn't get to attend it, the America Votes & The 2012 Campaign workshop, which was held at the same time as the Immigration Reform and Opportunities for Advocacy workshop, seemed to generate a lot of talk.

Next, I attended the mini-workshop Blue Hampshire-Engaging with Social Media Tools. This was a part of the day where you had the chance to shuffle around to several mini workshops or stay in a place if you liked what was going on. I wasn't expecting to learn very much about social media usage; I'm already pretty adept in that arena, but I did hope that I would get a sense of where progressives are with regard to social media and where we are going. I kind of got what I hoped for in a round about way. Mike Hoefer of Blue Hampshire conducted this free form mini-workshop. He asked questions of participants and tried to show them, very quickly, how to do something or what tool might be best for that end. He had a rocky start; he was under a lot of pressure to perform these tasks with little setup and held up pretty well to those demands. Those who wandered in who were not tech savvy, remained lost, as I would expect, but some intermediate users found the information he provided very useful. William Tucker of Miscellany Blue was there as well as some other notable online faces and their discussion among themselves as people filtered in and out, was the true gem of this workshop. Because of their interactions I stayed in this mini-worshop for all three slots. Never underestimate the power of people with defined voices and opinions to captivate a writer.

Lunch, was lunch. A good vegetarian sandwich option was available and the salad provided was fresh. You can't ask for much more from a summit that only charges a $25 registration fee. The real treat of lunch was the Panel Discussion/Debate on Expanded Gambling. All who know me know that social justice is very important to me and exploitation of human beings creates as many social injustices as any other cause. Gambling is human and locality exploitation by a corporation. Plain and simple. Temporary work for union workers, contractors, and construction employees. Low wage, dead-end, no benefit jobs for those associated with a casinos physical location. Better paying Administration and Financial jobs for the corporate entity, controlling the casino, outside NH. Promises of revenue and fees that many times don't pan out or are not offset by the negative effects a casino has on surrounding territory. Senator Marth Fuller Clark and Lew Feldstein brilliantly outlined why expanded gambling is not the correct revenue and job creation option to pursue in NH. If I had not already known these facts, they are what I would have taken from the discussion. Proponents for Expanded Gambling were on hand as well, but I'm not going to regurgitate the rhetoric from that side. I also don't wish to use this forum to severely reprimand them for working to dis-empower our people and undermine long term human dignity for possible short term gain; that is better left for a dedicated post.

After lunch I attended Engaging Diverse Communities. Noel Sagna and Lynn Clowes were the facilitators and when they spoke you could see just how much this issue means to them. Both were well prepared and are community advocates, so they knew the best ways to ask questions, draw people out, get discussion going, and conduct a few activities. We talked quite a bit about each of our own experiences with power and privilege-a very interesting discussion. We didn't quite get to the part where we were supposed to be building effective anti-oppression coalitions, but in the very short time span we had, I think that was an overly ambitious expectation. This workshop could have been an all day affair. Two other sessions generated a lot of buzz, and if I could I would have attended them all. They were The NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and ALEC Exposed NH: How Corporations Are Writing State Laws.

The last workshop I attended was Where the LGBTQ Community Stands and What Lies Ahead. I didn't know what to expect going into this one. The first part was conducted by Mo Baxley from NH Freedom to Marry. Mo covered the where our community stands for the "LGBQ" part of our community and did an admirable job doing so. With that being said I'm not sure that I learned too many new things, but we are talking about one of the communities I most strongly identify with and therefore keep track of vigorously.  My own site isn't called Out Left for nothing. The great surprise for this session was getting to meet Jamie Capach of Transgender NH. It is rare to get an opportunity to hear from the "TQ" part of the LGBTQ community, especially at an event not focused on "TQ" advocacy.  Jamie handled the "TQ" portion and outlined where we are and where we need to go to make headway in the fight for Transgender and Questioning individuals. If you haven't bookmarked, followed on Twitter, and liked them on Facebook, you should. There wasn't much time to get feedback about the other workshops during this time slot, but Women, Work, and Wages and Framing the Progressive Narrative sounded very good.

In closing, I'll say that I thought the summit was well worth the $25 registration fee. The event was varied, well pulled together, and well executed. I feel like a gained many things from attending. If nothing else it was delight to be surrounded by others who care deeply about social justice, the environment, and building a plan for a sustainable future, full of accountability and transparency, and  free of oppression.

I'll try to post photos from the event as I can on the NH Progressive Dems Facebook page.