The Road to Harrisburg: Behind the Scenes of an Event That Almost Didn’t Happen

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I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to just pull the plug on the October 19, 2019, event in Harrisburg, PA. It was called “Green New Deal – Our Path to Progress,” but I will always think of it as “Harrisburg.”

From one day to the next, I’d go from feeling really positive about producing a successful event to “we’d better stop this now.” Tasks were taking much too long to complete and there wasn’t enough time to finish anything, much less enough hands and brains to pull everything together.  Did I mention that I’m organizing it from 2,368 miles away?

A point did come, though, when there was no turning back. There were lots of conversations, lots of phone messages left, lots of details left hanging, and a final confirmation of speakers left us without some – yet I felt confident. The message was paramount.

Nah, I’m not going to blather on about every little detail, but with two dynamic, powerful individuals like Steve Grumbine and Fadhel Kaboub presenting the message, I knew as long as I paid attention to those pesky details, Harrisburg would be a winner. Then, the Rev. Delman Coates sent us a video to present during the event since he couldn’t be with us. Despite all the setbacks, small victories like this made me say, “We’ve got this!”

All through the Harrisburg process, there were Lon, Stephanie, Kerri, Caleb, Joy, and Kathy sharing the message of this event. Mindy was on target, as she always is, with graphics that were more often than not, needing changes. Yet, I’ve got to be perfectly honest and tell you that if Steve didn’t remind me on more than one occasion that this was my project, acting on his behalf, you would have seen a Harrisburg towel being thrown in.

For me it was all about the message – a message that I think about all the time: austerity is murder. People don’t have to live this way. There are solutions. Get your priorities out of your ear and demand what is deserved and needed. And we even have people to tell you how to pay for all of this! 

We’ve got to share the message that the Green New Deal is, indeed, Our Path to Progress. We can’t be quitters. We’ve got to seize every opportunity that presents itself or else what are we here for?

This article isn’t about what was said that day. You can see that for yourself in the videos on our YouTube channel. You can start here.   

This article is about everything we do, every project we undertake or reject. Don’t give up because it’s easier to do than following through. Listen to — and hear — the words that those you work and collaborate with are saying. Know the difference between those who say yes but mean “I would like to help but can’t and don’t want to say no.” This is a tricky one to know at the beginning of a project when you are working with folks you don’t know. Yet, I have to say, having been around the block more than a few times, you develop a sixth sense about the difference between words and intentions. I was fortunate with the Harrisburg project to recognize this difference from the “git-go.”

So, I arrive in Harrisburg to more rain than I see in a year in Boulder City, NV, but I get a message from Tim, who I have never met, and he’s waiting to meet me! Then Steve calls! We all meet at a restaurant, and I get a message from Joy! We’re off to meet her and a group of activists for an action at the state capitol.

The first person I met was P.K., one of the speakers Joy recruited for the event. We talked briefly, and I saw that P.K. puts her money where her mouth is, and she knows how to shoot video.

We walked a couple of blocks to the capitol building to confront the governor, got wet, made our presence known and some folks got arrested. Then on Friday, October 18, I also had the chance to speak, on behalf of Real Progressives, on the capitol steps during a weekly climate action.

Joy and I spent a good amount of time visiting the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, meeting Lon who I had been talking with for a number of weeks, arranging for a restaurant to deliver lunch on Saturday, buying supplies and attempting to keep in touch virtually with my Real Progressive folks. During this time, I was staying with Joy and Frank, and Joy’s dog, Duchess, who came to think of me as her grandmother.

Harrisburg began for our team at 7 a.m. on Saturday. One thing that stands out clearly for me is our need to have live stream teams in place wherever and whenever we decide to live stream. We need to train volunteers and make sure we can deliver a quality product. Recording is always an option instead of live streaming.

I know it will sound crazy, but when Rob walked into the church, I already knew he was going to walk through the door. I guess, that’s what happens when you talk to someone over the phone so often. Fadhel and Allen arrived early, and I was introducing everyone to everyone else and making a point to greet everyone as they walked through the door.

The event began about 30 minutes later than planned, but for me — and I’m sure for everyone in the audience — it was more than worth the wait. You can judge for yourself by experiencing the entire event on our YouTube channel at this link. 

I don’t want to ruin your viewing experience in any way, but until you see Steve and Fadhel in front of you, in action, “you ain’t seen nothing” quite like it. And that, dear readers, is all I’m saying.

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