On August 5th, Abdul El-Sayed was joined by Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner, Linda Sarsour and a few special guests at rallies in Detroit and Ypsilanti. With a dear friend and my dad, we attended the Ypsilanti one, which was outdoors at a Marriott Hotel. It was truly one of the most energizing, enchanting experiences I’ve ever witnessed.
The event kicked off with a man with a wooden box drum getting everyone to chant “Feel the Bern; be cool with Abdul!” It was a great way to tide us over in the hot sun. When things kicked into gear, it was nothing but inspirational moment after inspirational moment.
The first speaker was Abdullah Hammoud, a Dearborn native and a first term Michigan state representative from the 14th district. He told the crowd that we don’t need to just change our policies, but the rot in the politics as well. That when backdoor deals are being made, the people of Michigan (and the rest of the country) aren’t the ones sitting at the table agreeing to the nefarious misdeeds of politicians and lobbyists. He ended by saying we need to band together to keep this grassroots movement going, so not only Dr. Abdul El-Sayed gets elected, but so this progressive fervor will spread across the country.
Heather Bruegel and Holly Bird were the next two speakers. Both are Native American water and environmental activists, and they spoke about their ancestors’ history in the Michigan, and about the fact that it’s because of them that we even have a home in Michigan. Then we got the kicker: Only two candidates had approached them about how they can help the indigenous communities in Michigan. One was Dana Nessel, the candidate for Attorney General. The other was, of course, our man Abdul. Which got my blood boiling. Not because of anything Abdul did, of course, but because once again, the indigenous communities in this country are marginalized. The land that was stolen from them is being raped and destroyed, and people still like to act that we gave them some sort of reparations with reservations and casinos when the fact is that Native Americans, who were the victims of mass genocide, are still second class citizens in this country, with a large percentage living in poverty. But they said that Abdul is the best candidate for governor because of who he cares about, where his priorities lie, and how he will help. They also gave a shout out to Bernie, because Bernie was the only potential presidential candidate who came to them about what he could do to help the indigenous people in Michigan and the rest of the country.
This is not an indigenous fight, this is a fight for all of us. -Heather Bruegel
Little Miss Flint, or Mari Copeny, was one of the surprise guests. She became an activist at the age of nine, and has been kicking butt in the process. She said she met with a lot of politicians and knows who the good ones are. Bernie Sanders? A good one. Abdul? Good one. “That guy in the White House” as she referred to him, not so much. Nor is Rick Snyder, or “Tricky Ricky” as she called him.
A lot of people call me “Little Miss Flint”, but I’m not so little anymore! -Mari Copeny
Nina Turner, former Ohio state senator and founder of Our Revolution, gave one of the most powerful speeches of the day. Perhaps even in American history. In the VIP area, there was nary a dry eye when she finished speaking. She started off with saying we need to stop letting corporations purchase our elections and return the power to the people when it comes to who we elect as our politicians. That Abdul understands that when he wins, he knows the power doesn’t belong to him, but to the people. That the system is rigged politically, socially, economically, and we need to work together to unrig the system. She called out the politicians that get that taste of power and become corrupted by special interest groups and lobbyists as soon as they’re elected into office.
Nina then took us back a couple centuries and brought up Harriet Tubman. She talked about this movement being about transcendence. Harriet Tubman fought for her freedom, and once she escaped she still went back and saved her people. She wanted to know who we’re willing to go back to save because it simply isn’t good enough to be comfortable. In fact, you need to get used to being uncomfortable because you’re going to have to fight, and fight hard against the status quo. Harriet Tubman was willing to be uncomfortable, to risk her life by being a spy for the Union Army when there were “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters of her out there. All so she could save her people. And if she was willing to do that, what about us here in the 21st century? What are we willing to do to fight for our brothers and sisters, no matter their religion, skin color, sexual orientation or immigration status? What are we willing to put on the line for the greater good, for justice, for our fellow man? She closed the speech with a Harriet Tubman quote: If you hear the dogs barking, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there is shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop if you want a taste of freedom. Keep going. The speech gave me goosebumps and I had to keep wiping my eyes from the tears streaming down my face.
Titles are good, but purpose is better. -Nina Turner
Abdullah Mahmoud needed a second to catch his breath after Nina’s speech because of how moving it was, and then introduced Linda Sarsour, co-chair of the Women’s March and longtime political activist. Linda said she likes to go to places where people say change is “impossible” so she can change that notion. She quoted the late, great Muhammad Ali: Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men and women who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration, it’s a dare. She mentioned that when she was a surrogate for Bernie, people said that she was politically naive and idealistic, not knowing how things worked. That when they were pushing for free public college, single payer, the fight for $15, people said that was “radical”, but now every corporate Dem is acting like they were behind these proposals the whole time. She said she wants to decide where her tax dollars go, and she prefers that they go to giving everyone healthcare than killing brown people on the other side of the world.
Linda also said “radical” was a word used quite frequently to describe her, but what’s so radical about believing that everyone has the right to healthcare, or that every child, regardless of their socioeconomic status or skin color, deserves a good public education without going into massive amounts of debt? Or that we should have a $15 minimum wage that is adjusted with inflation, so people aren’t slaving away at multiple minimum wage jobs just to get by? Or living in one of the richest and most powerful nations, and wanting everyone to have access to clean water? And what, exactly, is radical about believing that black people should be able to walk around in their communities without the fear of being shot down by the police? But if that’s what radical means, she said she’s happy to be part of The Radical Club™.
She said she rarely attaches her name to politicians, but when it does happen, it means a lot because that politician is the real deal and gives a damn about their constituents and country. She’s done it twice: for Bernie, and now for Abdul. She ended things by saying how when she was working for Bernie, people said “he won’t win Michigan, look at the polls!” And what happened? He won Michigan. This election is not predetermined before people even go to the polls, as some like to pretend. And that when we send Abdul to the governor’s mansion, Michigan won’t just have the best governor in the country, but it will send shockwaves through the nation that progressive politics are feasible, and that we’ll be sending messages to white supremacists too. That there’s more love for your neighbor than hate, and that they’re going to lose this evil battle.
When they tell you you’re “idealistic”, and they start telling you that you need to be more “practical”, more “pragmatic”, more “realistic”, do you know what they mean? They’re trying to measure your worthiness.- Linda Sarsour
Next to the podium was the man of the hour: Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. I’ve seen him speak multiple times on television, watched him in debates, but seeing him in person is a different thing entirely. He poked fun at the landline polls that said Gretchen would win, and how some are already acting as though she’s the nominee. He wants to build a Michigan that dignifies every single one of us. He has visited 125 cities thus far, and whenever he gets down about what’s going on in the news, he thinks about all of the wonderful people he’s met throughout the state. Abdul said the people of Michigan are good people, and if those who aren’t as kind can get past the hate and nonsense, they will be able to give people the dignity they deserve. He took to task Nestle for getting water from our Great Lakes for pennies on the dollar when the people of Flint still don’t have clean water. He also pushed Michicare because Medicaid expansion was not enough: there are still over 600k Michiganders without health insurance. That in the state that grew the automotive industry, people cannot afford car insurance. That in a state that helped build the middle class, unions have become toothless, difficult to form, and workers have been betrayed by Michigan becoming a Right to Work state. He said that he is an “accidental politician”. He joked that if his dad knew he’d end up running for office, he’d have stayed back in Egypt. But he became a doctor so he could heal, saw the rot in the way the government was run, and how these bad politics are what are making people sick in the first place.
He touted his credentials, like rebuilding the public health department in Detroit after the city went bankrupt and Tricky Ricky put in an emergency management team. The program he started to get free glasses for kid in Detroit because if they can’t see the blackboard, they’re not going to learn. How he went through and inspected city schools, and saw dead mice that had been left there for days, mold growing everywhere, and kids having to wear gloves in class because the boilers didn’t work. He tested the schools for lead and found there were levels higher than in Flint. In six months, he created a protocol for schools to be safe that is now a model used throughout the nation. Abdul said we are done waiting for Flint to have clean water, for those 600k who don’t have health insurance, and for people to been seen as “less than” because of where they were born. People like his father, who despite his name being Mohamed, can be just as American as anyone else. And that he wanted everyone to live a life of dignity and equality, no matter the color of their skin, who they love, what their religion is, or their socioeconomic status.
As I grew up, in my public school, I learned about a government “for the people and by the people”. Not “for corporations and by corporations”. -Abdul El-Sayed
Bernie was the final speaker of the afternoon, and the attendees went crazy for him. When people started shouting “Bernie! Bernie!” he told them to stop, because this was about Abdul, not him. Bernie also said this is more than just about Abdul, but about transforming our entire political system and defeating the demagogues; to make sure the government represents all of the people and not just the 1%. He condemned Trump for trying to divide us based on the color of our skin and our religion, and wanted to press the fact that our vision of the country is not Donald Trump’s vision. He also took Linda Sarsour’s track and poked fun at the Michigan polls that claim that Abdul is behind, because the same polls said he was behind by double digits right before the primary, and he won the primary in Michigan, just like Abdul will win this primary. He thanked everyone who voted for him in 2016, since he won 21 states, and he said that his victory in those states helped put the progressive agenda on the table, and like Sarsour said, his “radical” ideas are now mainstream ones. He also had one heck of a time taking a hit at Jeff Bezos, whose wealth increases by millions every day, while employees of his are paid so low that they often have to go on government assistance. So we need to stop subsidizing these billionaires, and they need to pay their workers a living wage.
In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, we should not be having the highest rate of childhood poverty out of any major country. -Bernie Sanders
A couple final words: this was the most exciting event I’ve been to in a long time. And for those who say that lefist ideas are just for straight white young men, here is a crowd photo. There were people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and ethnicities at this rally. Leftist politics are inclusive, not just for straight white men. Take it from the lesbian leftist that wrote this piece.