Moni’s Netroots Nation 2018 Diary

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This was my fourth Netroots Nation event, and the third consecutive one I have attended. 

One of the things I was doing besides the eventual three panels and two radio interviews while I was in New Orleans was a daily recap about my NN18 experience for the Houston based OutSmart magazine. 

There’s a lot going on at a conference like this, and I wanted you to see them as you can see through my eyes as a participant with some movement gravitas

So here are the NN 18 recaps I wrote while I was here in NOLA

The Pre Conference – August 1 

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I  awoke to a sunny New Orleans day basically ready to handle my business and check out some of the pre conference events taking place here at Netroots Nation 2018.

But first, Moni was getting and destroying those beignets.  The Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel is our official #NN18 hotel.  The best part is that particular hotel is connected to the Riverwalk Mall and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where the #NN18 panels and keynotes will take place.

Image may contain: foodOne of the things I like to do is get a feel for the convention venue and know exactly where the rooms are located for my panels.  The Cafe Du Monde in the Riverwalk opened at 8:30 AM, and the plan was to stop, get my six beignets to go (they come in sets of three), and keep stepping all the way to the EMCC.   The journey through the Riverwalk also allowed me to burn off the calories from those beignets.

My next task after I arrived at the cavernous EMCC was to find out what room the LGBT pre conference event was taking place in since it started at 8:30 AM.

Image result for ernest morial convention centerI eventually discovered that the pre conference events, like all the panels, would be taking place on the second floor of the EMCC.  After another few minutes of walking, riding up escalators to that floor, and passing the Emily’s List sponsored Women’s Caucus, I finally arrived at the already in progress LGBT one.

My arrival was a surprise to my LGBT Media homies and homettes facilitating this event, Zack Ford, Liz Owen, Dana Rudolph, Daniel Villareal and Mike Rogers. They all gave me big hugs before they returned back to conducting their daylong event that started at the same time I was purchasing those beignets and ended at 5:00 PM.

After talking to Sunnivie Brydum and a few other attendees of the LGBT pre conference event during the break, I left at noon to handle some other pressing off campus business with the BiNet crew at their Airbnb in the French Quarter.
I also needed to move out of my 19th floor room to a suite a few doors away on the same floor for the rest of the conference.  

The 19th floor room I was already in wasn’t bad. It had a view of the Mississippi River and I loved watching the paddle boats, barges and ships cruise by as I was writing.  The suite I’m now in has a much better view of downtown New Orleans and the Mississippi River bridges to the Westbank where I once lived.

After hanging out at the BiNet Airbnb for a few hours to work on our Friday presentation, we headed back to the EMCC at 4:30 PM to pick up our #NN18 programs and badges.  

I also found out while I was hanging out in the Quarter with my BiNet fam that I now have a 9:00 AM panel to participate in..   I received a call from the Trans United Fund Operations Manager Daye Pope that our TUF Executive Director Hayden Mora had a family emergency in New York that required his immediate attention.  She asked if I could cover for him in the reproductive justice panel he was scheduled to be on..

The MomsRising panel I’m scheduled to participate in on Thursday was taking place at 10:30 AM, so I agreed to do it.  That means I won’t be staying up late tonight. I’ll have to get up a little earlier to make that happen.

We entered the Hall B part of the EMCC that will serve as the Netroots Nation Town Square, AKA the vendor area. . I noticed that Radio Row was being set up on that side of the building we were entering as well.

Egberto Willies and the KPFT-FM crew were setting up, and after talking to him for a few minutes to coordinate a radio interview for his show during the afternoon, I headed to the registration desk to pick up my #NN18 badge.  

After talking to a few longtime friends, we headed back to the hotel via the Riverwalk route so I could get busy writing about and recapping what happened on the #NN18 pre conference day
Well, must get my beauty sleep on this end of I-10.  Have a long first day of Netroots Nation 2018 ahead of me in the morning.     


Day 1-August 2

The first full day of the 2018 edition of Netroots Nation was a full one for me.  It started with back to back panels before lunchtime, followed by two radio interviews.  

The first panel I was a participant in started at 9:00 AM and was entitled Igniting The Lit in Litmus Test: How Leading With Repro Justice Helps Us Win

It was a discussion moderated by Heidi Sieck with my fellow panelists Alison Dreith and Atima Omara.  It was focused on the how and why Democrats and progressives need to become more literate on reproductive justice issues and no be shy about it. because they are a winning one for our side.  

This is an issue I haven’t explored as much, so I was in active listening mode for the first 15 minutes of it.  But once I started to feel comfortable around the topic, I had no problem pointing out how transgender people fit into the reproductive justice framework.

Then I headed across the hall to the 10:30 panel I was scheduled to do with Moms Rising entitled Keep Marching 2018: Connect Locally, Build Power and Win..

Image may contain: Monica Roberts, Almas Sayeed, Monifa Bandele and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, people smiling

Our panel moderator was MomsRising CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, who I have known since the 2016 Netroots event in St Louis when she interviewed me in the semifinals of the Pundit Cup competition I won.

It was a reunion of sorts with her, myself, and my fellow panelists Almas Sayeed and Monifa Bandele.  I was also happy to see my Texas activist homettes Fran Watson and Sissi Yado in the room as we talked about how critical this election happening in 96 days is, and how local action can bring about positive change and wins for our side.

We went over the scheduled 11:45 AM end time of the panel by 10 minutes, but it was lunchtime so that was okay.   I then headed downstairs to the Town Square part of the EMCC to check out Radio Row and look for Egberto and do the interview I’d promised him.   

While I was there I ran into Michaelangelo Signorile, who I hadn’t seen since the 2012 NN event in Providence.  He was busy at that moment interviewing VA Delegate Danica Roem, who when she was done, I talked to for a few minutes before heading a few spots down Radio Row to do my interview on Kristin’s show.    Alicia Garza of BLM showed up when I finished, and we chatted for a few minutes before I settled into my KPFT-FM interview with Egberto for his Politics Done Right show

Sunnivie spotted me, introduced me to her boss at Free Speech TV, and set up an interview for Saturday.   

After lunch back in the Riverwalk, headed back to the EMCC and tried to figure out what panels I wanted to watch, but  didn’t see anything that appealed to me on the conference matrix, so I just wandered the NN Town Square to talk to old and new friends.   Was also stopped more than a few times by people who had either attended the pre conference event or the panels and liked what I had to say.   

No automatic alt text available.It was also a bittersweet first NN 18 day because of the death that morning of a longtime friend of Netroots Nation and the progressive political world in Joel Silberman. He’s the media trainer extraordinaire for Democratic candidates, and II met him when I did the GLAAD POC Media training in New York back in 2012.   

We also found out at the afternoon plenary session that this NOLA Netroots Nation event is the best attended one ever.  Detroit used to hold the record, and New Orleans will probably add to it before the event ends on August 4 because people are still arriving.

And if they ever bring Netroots Nation to Houston, we’ll probably shatter NOLA’s record   

But back to the story.   New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was just one of the speakers firing up the crowd along with Texan Gina Ortiz Jones  before I called it a day and headed back to the hotel to chill and do some writing.

Ready to see what August 3 brings.  

Day 2- August 3

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NN18 Day 2 was one in which I did not have a scheduled panel until 4:15 PM. That meant I got the opportunity to sit back and actually enjoy a few presentations from the audience.

One of those presentations was a 9 AM one featuring four elected Black women legislators entitled Black Women Teach : Perspectives from Black Women Legislators.   It featured Reps Park Cannon and Renitta Shannon from Georgia, Rep Leslie Herod from Colorado, and Rep Emilia Sykes of Ohio.

They not only talked about some of the issues they were passionate about and why,  they also discussed some of the challenges of being Black female legislators.

I then moved on to watch the LGBTQ Women Out To Win panel moderated by our Houston homegirl and my former mayor Annise Parker. It featured Rep. Leslie Herod in her second consecutive one of the day, Del. Danica Roem of Virginia, and Sen. Pat Spearman of Nevada.

This discussion was similar to the Black female legislative one I’d just attended, but also focused on the challenges and advantages of running as a LGBTQ person    It also mic dropped the amazing stat that an out LGBTQ candidate is 67% more likely to win a race because they are seen as more authentic in the eyes of the voting public.

Sen Spearamn also shared lessons from her recent unsuccessful campaign for a congressional seat.   

And yes peeps, after the panel I got a chance to chat with Rep. Herod, who I have known for several years, Delegate Roem and Sen. Spearman.

At lunch we were treated to the keynote speech that Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was supposed to have delivered Thursday but couldn’t because of bad weather in the DC area that delayed his NOLA arrival

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There was also the show tunes singing in the NN18 Town Square in memory of Joel Silberman, who will be missed by his Netroots Nation family and all  who loved and admired him in progressive political circles.

I also bumped into my friend and Daily Kos writer Denise Oliver-Velez, Ambalika Williams and other old and new friends as I wandered the cavernous Morial Convention Center halls

Other NN18 attendees stopped me in the halls of the EMCC and even the Riverwalk to tell me how much they enjoyed what I had to say on the Thursday panels I participated in the day before.

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4:15 PM arrived quickly, and that meant it was time to do my final panel for NN18.  It was entitled Don’t Fear The Black Activist: How To Communicate Without Anti-Blackness and was moderated by Faith Cheltenham and Ashton Woods.  

The panel discussed anti-Black attitudes within progressive organizing spaces,  why eradication of anti-Black attitudes needs to become a priority in the progressive movement if we are to be successful, and how we can get busy doing that.

I also had fun watching the younglings at an after party sponsored by Democracy For America  until they chased up out at 7 PM.

Aslo got to enjoy dinner with several friends at Drago’s, a NOLA seafood place well known for its charbroiled oysters (yes, they were delicious).

Have one more full day of Netroots Nation 2018 before we have to say goodbye to NOLA and focus on the 94 days of a midterm election that will determine whether we still have a democracy after November 6

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Those of us gathered here in New Orleans are determined to do our part to make sure that we do

Day 3-+August 4  

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The final day of Netroots Nation in NOLA.   Even though there were a few panels that piqued my interest as I perused the Saturday schedule matrix, I decided to focus on hitting the caucuses.

One of the panels I was interested in was the Disaster Capitalism: New Orleans and Puerto Rico in Dialogue one featuring San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

We would also find out on this final NN18 day where and when Netroots Nation 2019 would take place.   That will be in Philadelphia July 11-13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The LGBTQ Caucus, The LGBTQ POC Caucus  and Black Women Caucuses wee definitely must attend for me.   They were well attended, ranging from 20-30 people in each one of them hem

The highlight for me on this day was the Black Women’s one.  I got to finally meet one of my sheroes in Melissa Harris-Perry, and discover o my delight she was a fan and avid reader of TransGriot.   We had a chance to talk politics and a few other subjects during and after the caucus.

There was also another caucus that organically popped up organized by NN18 African American attendees entitled the BlackA** Caucus.

In that caucus discussions were held about the problematic scheduling of panels oriented toward discussing issues affecting our community against each other, microaggressive and anti-Black behavior encountered during the event, NN18 touting the fact 67% of the presenters were people of color, but we weren’t being paid for our intellectual labor among other issues.

The issue was also discussed in the caucus of being your authentic Black self in a convention space that is overwhelmingly white.  

Those Black A** caucus conversations led to the planning of a takeover of the NN18 stage during the closing plenary that was executed later that evening.   Demands were articulated from the plenary stage in the EMCC Great Hall that Black attendees want to see implemented in time for NN19 and beyond.

What were those demands?    Hiring of Black Netroots Nation staff, inclusion of Black members on the NN board and oversight of a team of Black activists over Netroots programming submitted by Black people to ensure they aren’t scheduled against each other  

Time and their actions will tell if the Netroots Nation Board of Directors was listening.    

The bottom line is that if you want to win, Black progressives MUST be at the table.  Black progressives are the key to consistently winning against conservatives, and you ignore African American voices at your electoral and movement peril .   

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Black women are the base of the Democratic Party, and will be the voting bloc that powers the expected blue wave happening in 93 days

Netroots Nation 2018 is now one for the history books, and the hosting torch has been passed to Philadelphia.   Will be interesting to see when NN19 opens what the country’s political landscape looks like when it takes place.  

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