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Beyond “Stronger Together”

Ohio’s Mobilize88 Leadership Summit Seeks to Unite Rural & Urban Communities

Artwork created by Mike Ramsey.

On July 21-23, Mobilize88, an Ohio leadership conference, will kick off at the Deer Creek Lodge in Mount Sterling. The date of the conference is significant, as it marks the one-year anniversary of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The leadership conference has the ambitious goal of launching an 88-county strategy, hence the name Mobilize88. The theme of the event is unity, particularly uniting urban and rural communities that connect the 88 counties of Ohio.

Finding Common Ground

On the surface, it doesn’t seem like that difficult a task to accomplish. However, looking at an electoral map, it’s notable that most cities swing toward the Democrats and most rural areas swing toward the Republicans. How do we bring together the whole community? Mobilize88 has been pitched as a starting point to bridge the gap. Progressive policies are popular. For example, in November of last year, I outlined the fact that a proposed increase in the minimum wage outperformed votes for the Democrat’s presidential nominee in every state where it was on the ballot by a margin of between 7–15%. If we could see national gains of 7–15% with policy-driven candidates, much of the electoral map would change.

Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator, tells the Progressive Army that she is really excited to be invited to Mobilize88, and that she feels that the goal of pulling together rural and urban communities is extremely pertinent in today’s political landscape. Whether in the city or out in the rural community, Ms. Turner says that what people want in life is “universal.” When looking at the big picture, people both in cities and in rural communities want “the best for their kids, and to live with dignity.”

Most importantly, Ms. Turner hopes this event, whose origins she believes “lie in a spark created by Senator Bernie Sanders,” continues to build “proactive engagement that leads to policy change as well as progressive elected officials.” Furthermore, Ms. Turner describes the Mobilize88 event’s goal of bridging the political divide between rural and urban communities as reminiscent of when Jesse Jackson came to Ohio in the early 1990s. Mr. Jackson described a condition that both city dwellers and those in rural communities could relate to: poverty. A large population on both parts of the divide share what Jackson calls “economic common ground” and he used this commonality to create a bipartisan “urban rural agenda.”

We Don’t Have to Wait for the Grasstops

Personally, what I’ve found most compelling about Mobilize88 are its organizers. They didn’t wait for a figurehead/leader to come along with an idea and tag along; they are creating the future. Portia Boulger, Mathias Detamore, and Diana Cook-Kiser are making it happen. As Mr. Detamore describes it, “It is a now-or-never corner we find ourselves in and we chose ‘now,’ instead of ‘never.’”

For Portia Boulger, it’s grassroots that got her here and it’s grassroots that will get us to where we want to go. She has been an activist and organizer for over fifty years. Of particular importance and relevance to the theme of Mobilize88 is conversation and messaging. Ms. Boulger believes one of the first steps to connecting rural and urban communities is “learning how to have effective conversations with people from all political affiliations.”

As for Mathias Detamore, he tells me he has “been thinking about how to build an 88-county strategy since the [2016 presidential] election.” On a smaller scale, Mr. Detamore helped create a regional organization called the Miami Valley Progressive Caucus in Southwest Ohio. Thinking bigger than Dayton’s urban core, they developed a plan to encompass the surrounding rural areas into their charter. Mr Detamore explains:

There are, of course, more people and resources available in urban areas, but we’ve been working to find a way to mobilize those resources to support the development of progressive rural organizing without making the mistakes of telling rural folks ‘they don’t understand’ their problems. We value the democratic process and believe that rural folks are not merely a demographic to handle, but have a valid voice to bring to the table.

Rounding out the group of organizers is Diana Cook-Kiser. Her efforts and involvement during the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign “forged an unbreakable bond and common desire that will never dissolve” and it is through this “Bernie family” that she met a “kindred spirit” in Mr. Detamore and became involved with Mobilize88. Ms. Cook-Kiser lives in a rural community and told me about her community’s frustration:

Unfortunately rural areas are often left out of political discussions. Actually, we get left out of the conversation most of the time in a variety of ways: we pay more for groceries, gas, and phone service… We drive a couple of hours for many appointments and procedures and pay more with less choices. And, this past election, rural areas, full of frustration and anger, elected President Trump.

Anoa Changa was also able to catch up with the organizers of Mobilize88 on a recent episode recent episode of The Way With Anoa.

Mobilize88 is a grassroots model other states should be following.


Our  First  Step:  
Mobilize  88  Summit- July 21-23, 2017
Deer  Creek  Park,   Mt. Sterling, OH

Below follows the description of the Mobilize88 schedule, as provided by Portia Boulger, Mathias Detamore, and Diana Cook-Kiser:

The Summit begins on Friday, July 21, 2017, with a reception rally featuring Ohio progressive candidates. Friday night features Ohio progressive candidates.

Saturday includes learning sessions:

  • Dan Saks teaches effective messaging training for progressives to speak to conservatives.
  • Anoa Changa and Stacey Hopkins discuss bridging urban and rural communities.
  • Akron City Council Member Tara Mosley-Samples and Ohio State Senator Nina Turner teach potential candidates the ins and outs of running for office.

Saturday evening includes a Progressive Gala and Volunteer Appreciation Awards featuring guest speaker, Tara Mosley-Samples, and keynote speaker, Nina Turner.

Sunday includes strategy sessions:

  • The first rolls out an 88-county structure, vision, and overall strategy concentrating on recruiting county leadership.
  • The second focuses on brainstorming and developing local strategies in the six OPA state regions.

The entire summit will be live-streamed. We are encouraging Ohioans to organize watch parties across the state and country for our big rallies on Friday and Saturday night.

You do have to be an Ohio resident to attend, but we are encouraging everyone around the country to watch our live-stream learning and strategy sessions and organize watch parties for our Friday and Saturday night rallies. It’s going to be an exciting event that not only excites our call to action but will actively work to put boots on the ground.

Stacey Hopkins, a facilitator leading ‘Orginize 101 – Mobilizing the Progressive Revolution,’ sums up the vision of the leadership summit as follows:

There is no divide between urban and rural communities, there are only different degrees of oppression. My hope is that by providing training and connecting the dots, we’ll be able to harness our collective power that the artificial barrier of a divide provides a suppressive cover for. If we can organize, strategize and mobilize progressive power in Ohio, it may provide a template to be used nationally. I’m confident we have the elements to make that happen.

How Can You Help?

Mobilize88 has their venue, trainers, and presenters in place. What they really need at this point is donations because they are trying to break down economic barriers so that the best and most talented activists, organizers, and potential candidates in Ohio can attend regardless of their financial situation.   

To donate, please visit: http://ohioprogressivealliance.com/donate.html.

The Progressive Army thanks Mike Ramsey for creating the artwork for this article. To view these panels, as well as the rest of his portfolio, please visit his website.

Written by Andre Roberge

Father, Husband. Went to school for philosophy (university of WA) and now I work for a train company -- Interests include Labor Law, TILA, Unions, Paid Family Leave, Healthcare, Philosophy of Science, Fantasy Football and Open Government-- Fanboy of The Take Down with Nick Nowlin and The Way with Anoa. Follow Andre on Twitter @SubvertingPower.

Andre Roberge is a Researcher and Writer for Progressive Army.

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  1. Found your site because one of you “army” just shot up a baseball practice. I’m not donating chit. YOU own this mess.

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