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  • DNC Delegate Tanya Watkins: Black Lives Matter, Workers' Lives Matter
    Updated On: Jul 27, 2016

    By Doug Cunningham

    DNC delegates are passionate about many issues they see as vital to America’s future. And they want Democrats to be stronger on those issues. Tanya Watkins, a delegate from Chicago, was wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt when I asked about what she’s looking for from Hillary Clinton:

    [Tanya Watkins]: “We see a tremendous amount of violence as well as police violence, which is an issue that I have not heard lifted up in Hillary’s campaign about how she plans to address it. It was difficult for her to even acknowledge it. And I want her and her husband who is speaking here tonight to know that this is going to continue to be an issue that she will address if she is to become President. We are not going away. This is not only a movement, it is a demand. We're gonna continue to make those demands until we see some actual results and some real reform of the criminal justice system.”

    [Doug Cunningham]: “Has she said anything about this issue?

    [Tanya Watkins]: “Nothing substantial. There have been some sound-bites, but there's been no real conversation. 'This needs to end.' Yeah, we know that. What are you going to do? What policies will you put in place? How are you holding police officers who murder people of color unjustly...how would you hold them them accountable? What is it that you plan to do?”

    [Doug Cunningham]: “When I saw that viral video of Philando, this is no lie, it brought me to real tears.”

    [Tanya Watkins]: “I think a lot of people had that reaction.”

    [Doug Cunningham]: “It was so awful.”

    [Tanya Watkins]: “You do not leave your house thinking 'this is the day that I'm going to die,' especially if you're a law-abiding citizen who is doing everything that they're supposed to be doing. He worked at a school for Christ sakes. I don't think he ever anticipated...and that's the problem. Men of color always have to anticipate something like this...and no one should have to live with that kind of fear that, even if they do the right thing, they will be stereotyped, and they will be treated with violence and harm, and that's not okay.”

    [Doug Cunningham]: “He was a union member, too, and our focus is labor unions, so we want to see issues about labor and workers and union rights really lifted up, Politicians like Hillary Clinton too often talk the talk, but when it comes right down to it, they don't really walk enough of the walk.”

    [Tanya Watkins]: “Because there's nothing in it for her. Working people, people in unions, are busy taking care of families, they're busy trying to make living wages, and they are not able to donate handsomely to campaigns, but what we have is people power and we have shown by the fact...I think Bernie had thirteen million votes...that people power can move some things. And, okay, she is elected, thirteen million people will be coming to see her and call on her, have expectations of her. So, we want to see the ability for us to have a voice without having to have money. So labor people are workin’ people, so they traditionally side with other working folks. The Democratic Party has not seen any value in folks like that and that needs to change.

    We have been working very closely, ironically, with the Fight for Fifteen. I've even worked with SEIU. I love them, but I know that people in their union are still trying to fight to make living wages. They have to fight their candidate and that's bull--that's crap. [laughter] I got a little passionate there, but I checked myself!”

    [Doug Cunningham]: “It seems to me like the Democratic Party establishment has not caught up to where the people really are. When it comes to Black Lives Matter, or it comes to the political revolution of Bernie Sanders, or when it comes to labor people and the Fight for Fifteen, they don't seem like they have caught up to us yet.”

    [Tanya Watkins]: “They have not, and they don't have to. And that is the problem with this machine that we have allowed, and it's almost a monster. This election has a little different. People have said that it hasn't been fair. But the political machine is built for large corporations to win. And what's really important is that we begin to impact that machine in its entirety. Bernie did an amazing thing by coming out and running for a top spot and waking people up to the possibility. But we really have to focus on down-ballot elections and keep this movement going so that that machine no longer exists. So that the Democratic Party has to actually, authentically answer to people and real people have an opportunity to have a voice and to hold public office and to make substantial change in democracy, like it was intended to be.?

    [Doug Cunningham]: “Will you vote for Hillary just to keep Trump out?”

    [Tanya Watkins]: “Everyone is asking that question. It's not a question that I'm answering right now. I am not an any-candidate-or-bust person. I am listening to the message. And I ain't under no circumstances ever voting for Donald Trump, but I think t hat it is important to continue a conversation with the Democratic Party, with the Hillary camp and hold them accountable. And I'm going to do that, and ask those tough questions up until the time that I walk into that polling place and cast my vote. 'I want to work with you, how can we work together?' And, until that happens, I'm not had, and I refuse to be had. But we definitely need a dialogue, and hopefully they'll be open to talking because I am more than open to listening.”


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