The Whole Damn System

(NOTE: I gave this speech at the 11/7 Rally for Nanci Armstrong-Temple, who was arrested by Berkeley Police while supporting a disabled elderly woman at a homeless encampment. You can read more about that here. I have been volunteering as her Communication Director for her campaign for Berkeley City Council. Nanci and I met during the 96 Hours MLK Weekend. I am not a Berkeley voter, but I am so grateful for Nanci’s powerful witness and her clear vision about the humanity of every human being.)

On behalf of the Nanci for Berkeley campaign, I want to thank you for coming this morning. We are grateful for the support and encouragement you’ve provided throughout her campaign and especially now.

We’re here because Nanci Armstrong-Temple’s commitment to justice infuses her life. It is her understanding that government exists to serve the needs of the people and not the other way around. That’s why, when her neighbors and friends, including members Berkeley Progressive Alliance, urged her to stand for City Council, she said yes.

Nanci is running for City Council so that the people’s voice can be heard where decisions are made that will affect their health, their safety, their well-being. From the beginning, Nanci has pledged to represent ALL the people in her district,
– not just the ones who have a roof over their heads,
– not just the ones who bring development money to the table,
– not just the ones who provide the right backdrop for photo ops for brochures inviting corporations to make their home in Berkeley.

This is why Nanci was on the corner of Adeline and Fairview on Friday morning at 5AM. She responded to the cries of Berkeley voters who lived on that corner. She responded to the cries of neighbors there, some of whom are sick, some whom are disabled, all of whom have been denied the basic human right of shelter and dignity. She went to provide support and comfort and to stand as a witness that until the City demonstrates care and concern for the most marginalized in the community, the well-being of EVERY resident in Berkeley is at risk.

Throughout her campaign, Nanci has made a commitment to her neighbors to stand with them against the injustice that permeates low income communities and communities of color in Berkeley. She has stood against injustice that has been fostered by those who have learned to use power as a weapon to silence any voice that would speak about the pain of their reality, that denies the inherent dignity of human life, that seeks to erase the existence of the very community members that power is meant to protect.

Marching side by side with Nanci and other APTP activists, I have learned to chant: “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.” Walking with her in this campaign, I see with new eyes that unless the voice of the people is truly heard, those who have gone to the bank by perpetuating the system, the ones who grease the cogs of the development machine with the lifeblood of the community, will continue to work the system and the system will continue to work the residents of Berkeley just as it was intended to.

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