By Lauren Poteat, NNPA Washington Correspondent
Celebrating individuals who displayed great “courage under fire,” in spite of unfavorable circumstances, the 81st Greater Washington Urban League Anniversary recently honored Symone Sanders, a CNN Political Commentator and the former National Press Secretary for Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, for her unyielding contributions toward political justice.
Awarded with the auspicious “Impact Leader Award,” an honor that recognizes individuals committed to public service in spite of tremendous personal risk, Sanders spoke candidly during the fireside chat at the 46th Annual Whitney M. Young Memorial Gala.
“If you ask me why this moment is so important, it’s because our democracy is slowly being eroded,” Sanders said. “The house is on fire and people are still looking for their keys. Things are literally happening now, that would take generations to fix.”
“This is the time where we need to be intentional,” she continued. “When it’s all said and done, where will we fall on the spectrum and will we be able to say that the work that we did, moved the needle positively?”
Laser-focused on ballot initiatives and the very crucial upcoming 2020 presidential elections, Sanders went on to discuss the importance of becoming politically and socially active while emphasizing the power and need for voting.
“I am encouraged about the national conversation that is happening around voting, but oftentimes when we talk about voting, we are talking about Voter ID laws and that is not specifically voter suppression,” Sanders stated. “I don’t think folks understand that in 2017, more than 40 states moved forward over 100 pieces of legislation, to curb access to the ballots… these are systemic things that are happening.”
“That is how you lock people out of access for all practical purposes,” she continued. “So when we talk about things like voting, fair and affordable housing, economics and entrepreneurship, make sure that you are also going to your city council meetings and being involved in organizations like the Urban League, who are laser-focused on these issues — so that when people talk about legislation and when they ask for your input, you aren’t one of those people who gave none.”
Being a woman of color and heavily involved in politics, Sanders recounted her own frustrations of growing up and being unable to relate to most of the images she saw on television, especially when it came to politics. She concluded the event with a challenge to millennials to be more bold, more active and more consistent, in order to be the change that they want to see.
“I think it’s great that 50 years after Shirley Chisolm, we have women, Black women, actually running for president. This is the most diverse field of candidates ever. [However], If we’re being honest with ourselves, some of us aren’t doing the work and if a few us did just a little more, some of us wouldn’t have to do so much and that’s the challenge,” Sanders said.
“So I ask you, what is your radical activist revolutionary moment?” Sanders continued. “How are you using and activating your everyday space to create change? Do you do work in your own community? Folks are very complacent in this moment. Regardless of how you feel about the president, when this moment is over, we cannot act like it did not happen.”