Black Voters Circle Statement on Movement for a People's Party (MPP)

We are the former members of the Black Voters Circle, or the Black Voters for a People’s Party, an outreach circle within the Movement for a People’s Party (MPP). We are writing the following statement in solidarity, to present our unified experience as members of this organization who were either removed or ultimately alienated into resignation.

Introduction

Because our current political options and leadership are failing to meet people’s needs, many looked to MPP as a viable alternative. MPP advertised itself to be a transparent, horizontal organization committed to a regenerative culture. Our group formed with the intention of ensuring that issues important to Black people were represented within MPP and its platform.

We met regularly to discuss our goals and plans, as well as to implement a strategy for outreach to like-minded organizations. It was after discovering that the National Coordinator’s Circle (CC) was more interested in the latter of those efforts that our members began to question the organization.

The following events that transpired during our membership quickly revealed MPP had:

  • Made decisions with little transparency, communication or accountability
  • Shifted from a self-organizing, horizontal structure to a hierarchical, undemocratic structure
  • Resisted feedback and criticism while being hostile to anything perceived as dissent
  • Offered no clear foundation or infrastructure to support mass organizing, coalition-building, or any of the above stated values

To address these concerns, MPP volunteers had crafted a petition, which the majority of our active circle members signed. Some of our members who support this statement had not signed the petition and only volunteered with MPP for a short time period prior to removal. As Black MPP volunteers who were removed without due process, we are presenting this statement as a unified body.

We stand in solidarity with each other against the egregious treatment of Black volunteers by the National Coordinator's Circle of the Movement for a People’s Party.

The following statement will provide details on this group’s background, the toxic and racist environment in the Slack, as well as the sudden suspension and removal of our members without notice or due process.

Background

The Black Voters Circle is a Political Outreach circle in MPP. We came together because of our shared interests in advocating for and crafting policy that improves the lives of Black people. We had hoped to influence the MPP platform, specifically its subpar position on racial justice and racial equity.

We had hoped that MPP would be the new major party that would lead and make racial justice and racial equity policy a core part of their platform and party, unlike the Democrats and Republicans. As time went on and we dived deeper into our goals and policy issues that were important to us, we were repeatedly redirected by MPP leadership and told that our circle was for “outreach,” meaning our mandate was to get as many Black people into MPP as possible—as opposed to crafting something to offer Black voters that would demonstrate that MPP took racial justice and racial equity seriously.

This culminated when MPP’s Political Outreach coordinators, Nick Brana and Tiffany Anning, told us to reach out to P. Diddy's Our Black Party. They wanted to sit in on the meetings and see what the common overlaps were. This did not sit right at all with many members in our group.

Our group is much more bold in terms of progressive goals and vision than what Our Black Party was offering. We found it particularly uncomfortable that a white woman (Tiffany) and a white-presenting Latino (Nick) would, in essence, be sitting in a corner like chaperones if we were to reach out to this group.

Simultaneous to these events, we learned that other volunteers, affinity groups, hub coordinators, and regional coordinators were experiencing similar concerns with how MPP was operating internally. We learned these issues were longstanding, widespread, and serious enough that a group of volunteers had decided to collaborate on a petition to the CC to try and clearly define the issues volunteers were experiencing in the realm of organization, efficacy, transparency, authenticity, and accountability from leadership.

The petition outlined these structural issues and included proposed solutions to remedy them. The expectation was that some of these line items were so critical (e.g. no bylaws, no process for elections) that leadership would have no problem addressing them once it was presented.

That was incorrect. When presented with this petition, which had nearly 100 signatures in November, the CC became defensive, dismissive, and antagonistic. This prolonged stonewalling led to the eventual resignation of the Black Voters Circle coordinator and a few of the circle’s members.

Toxic Working Environment

Despite the issues outlined above, many members of the Black Voters Circle decided to stay and work with MPP to fulfill what we thought was a shared vision. The toxicity within the MPP Slack workspace escalated over time and CC members seemed to turn a blind eye to racism and microaggressions.

On a number of occasions, MPP leadership also showed itself to be hostile to criticism from its volunteer base.

When MPP announced the Advisory Council on social media, it drew criticism because members were not previously informed of its existence or function. These critical comments were removed, which drew further ire.

A few days later, Carol Ehrle, the Media & Messaging Working Group coordinator, posted an ultimatum on the Slack’s announcement channel, stating that if anyone does not “like the direction or leadership of MPP, [they] can leave” (See Figure 1).

Figure 1

Carol Ehrle-MI

A few days ago, Dr. Cornel West, one of the most renowned intellectuals and moral compasses of our time, joined the Advisory Council along with political comedian and influencer, Jimmy Dore. Both are longtime supporters of MPP, going back to our Draft Bernie days in early 2017. Cornel West was our keynote speaker at our hugely successful Convergence Conference in September 2017, and Jimmy was the (very serious) moderator. Together they have amplified oru voice and are the reason that thousands joined MPP. We are deeply grateful for their friendship and support. More people will be joining our Advisory Council -- which the Coordinators Circle and the Steering Committee before that have been working on to help take MPP to the next level as a major new party. Political allies and media relationships are built up over years, not weeks, not months. They give us exposure and political capital that in turn help us bring in new volunteers, members and supporters. Most of you here in Slack, along with these public figures, have helped bring us to this point where we are launching our party, the People's Party, in which you, the people, will have a voice. A party that will always be corporate-free and billionaire-free.

There is a big realignment going on now in the progressive movement. This movement, MPP, is with Cornel West. This movement is with Jimmy Dore. This movement is with #ForceTheVote. This movement is with the workers, the unrepresented, the underrepresented, the disenfranchised. This movement is with all the hard working volunteers who come into this Slack every day and are confronted with negativity. The negativity and continuing spread of untruths and insults will no longer be allowed to infect this space, our Workspace. If you don't like the direction or leadership of MPP, you can leave. The choice is yours.

There was no apology, clarification, or self-critique offered after the issuing of this statement, nor after its removal, even though it garnered a significant amount of backlash from the volunteer base. This situation escalated the toxic dynamic where member criticisms were censored and/or met with hostility.

One of the more offensive exchanges occurred on December 22, 2020. Thomas Royko, another member of the CC, belittled a Black Voters Circle member in response to a comment, which was not directed at her. He specifically used the angry Black woman trope, stating that she “may become outraged” if asked to use threads on the Slack (Figures 2.1 - 2.4).

Figure 2.1

[Volunteer 1]

Use threads please? :sweat smile emoji:

Thomas Royko (Toledo, OH)

Careful, [Volunteer 2] may become outraged you politely asked people to use threads :grimacing emoji:

Figure 2.2

[Volunteer 1]

I agree w/ [Volunteer 3], [Volunteer 4], and [Volunteer 2]. I just want to point out that another coordinator “reacted” to Thomas’ comment w/ :footprints emoji: early on and did not publicly call out his behavior at that time. I see that as complicity and a microaggression, and that is unacceptable. Something needs to change, so that all leadership can substantially accommodate Black volunteers’ concerns without belittling or microaggression, and actions speak louder than words.

I co-sign [Volunteer 4]’s suggestions.

[Regional Coordinator 1]

I am here to talk if you want? DM.

[Volunteer 1]

Why didn’t you call Thomas out at the time?

[Regional Coordinator 1]

What am I calling out people for? If I have any concern...I have no issue voicing it. I/We operate towards resolution.

[Volunteer 1]

Did you agree with his comment then?

[Regional Coordinator 1]

Is that what you are concerned about that every person must agree with you on every issue?

[Regional Coordinator 1]

What I am concerned about is… Working on the items we can agree on. Laser focusing on those efforts and changing lives.

[Volunteer 1]

If Thomas had to apologize for perpetuating a negative atmosphere, you should too. What you did was a microaggression. That’s all I have to say.

Figure 2.3

[Volunteer 5]

Regarding the comments removed from my post yesterday.

I want everyone in this thread to know my post was involved in a game of telephone here on Slack. When I saw what was happening I removed my comments. I responded to [Volunteer 12] who knows me well enough to understand my comment without distorting it to fit his own narrative. You should know  [Volunteer 2] created a drama based on her own rhetoric, not mine. If you applauded her and agreed with her you were misled about the premise she based her remarks on. This Slack is not MPP. I feel abused when I enter this Slack and barely can get out a complete thought before I am attacked, primarily by [Volunteer 2]. Watch. She will present her screenshots and try to create another stir. I’m not playing. There is important work to do.

[Volunteer 3]

[Volunteer 5], I didn’t tag you for a reason, you are not CC. I tagged all of the CC because I am seeking a resolution to my concern. Your feelings about [Volunteer 2]’s responses and actions are irrelevant. @Thomas Royko (Toledo, OH) who is a national circle member and a white man chose to belittle a black woman in response to something that literally was not directed to her, did not involve her and did not need to involve her. You’re jumping in to defend this behavior is not only unacceptable, it is further not requested. I had nothing to do with the back and forth and do not even know what you are talking about. As a black woman, I find too often that white people, specifically men in positions of power, are way too comfortable making fun of people of color. We are not less than any of you. Period.

You should feel free to go back to your “important work” because if you don’t see benefit in the leadership of MPP ensuring that black women reading statements directed at other black women are not offensive, that is most certainly not my issue.

[Volunteer 3]

@Nick Brana - VA @Phil-Regional Coordinator @Thomas Royko (Toledo, OH) @Carol Ehrle-MI @Todd - Regional Coordinator @Michelle Ramirez, Regional Coordinator @Tiffany Anning - MA [Regional Coordinator 1] I need to know immediately what the process is to manage this. I am deeply disturbed by Thomas’ post and need to understand how to complain and actually be heard. As I am not being additionally spoken down to by white women who are not in CC. I am seeking appropriate next steps.

Figure 2.4

Thomas Royko (Toledo, OH)

[Volunteer 2], through discussion with other volunteers, who helped me reflect and understand the harm that my comment had done to you. I wish to apologize. My comment was both rude and unprofessional, it was snide, and furthered negative stereotypes. It perpetuated a negative atmosphere around volunteer’s being able to voice their grievances and be heard. [Volunteer 3], I apologize for further degrading the stature of this venue, and undermining the seriousness that all grievances be received in.

This is an example of white men in power being too comfortable disparaging Black people. After receiving criticism and counsel from another member of the Black Voters Circle for his unprovoked comment, Thomas ultimately apologized. As a result of the CC’s pernicious behavior, the petition received over 220 signatures as of January 10, 2021. When a former member of the petitioners group shared false information about that group’s intentions, MPP leadership believed and endorsed the accusation. This event led to a response from the petitioners group, posted by a Black Voters Circle member the next day. Chaos then ensued in the MPP Slack continuing through the night of January 12th. Pertinent discussions included racism and cissexism from members allowed to remain in the workspace for a time (Figures 3.1 - 3.4, 4, 5.1 - 5.4).
Figure 3.1

[Volunteer 6]

To be clear we are talking about [ex-volunteer]. Someone who the CC knows very well. You’re sitting here saying that you are trying to defend those who want to reform mpp but then are complaining that one of the biggest agitators against mpp was banned.

[Volunteer 7]

[Volunteer 8], I would say that my concerns are worse than yours, seeing how in leftist circles, the labeling of someone as a fash is essentially a license or a call to physically and violent [sic] assault that person. You and plenty of others have violated the “community” on the Discord, yet you all, being part of the faction that does not want separation of the RW and TWF, contrary to your claims that the two are inherently separate, did not even face so much as a public reprimand from the RW mods, much less banning.

Figure 3.2

[Volunteer 7]

[Volunteer 6], from what I knew about [ex-volunteer], when I gave him the petition, he was for reforming the MPP Having gotten to know him more, I can now say his intentions go far beyond just reforming the MPP.

[Volunteer 8]

[Volunteer 7] you would say that and I would disagree. You will not be physically assaulted over discord. That’s ridiculous.

You will not minimize the discussion of racism. That will never happen.

Your claims are otherwise unfounded.

[Volunteer 6]

[Volunteer 7] he had made those videos trashing mpp before you gave him the petition link. He didn’t even sign the petition before he came in. We had to reach out to the cc to let them know [ex-volunteer] was involved to do damage control because his presence was detrimental to the negotiations. I’m just saying that there was ample reason to kick him from the server.

Figure 3.3

[Volunteer 7]

[Volunteer 6], if RW would kick out [ex-volunteer] for being a detriment to the negotiations, why does RW allow those who are members, voting members, of the TWF to not only remain in the server to vote in the RW decisions?

[Volunteer 7]

[Volunteer 8], of course I won’t be assaulted over the internet, but if I am doxxed, then what is said about me on the internet, such as the lie that I am a crypto-fash, will endanger me physically.

You will not minimize the witch hunt, cancel culture of the left that rises to the level of physical violence against those who are too inconvenient towards the synthetic left, who are funded and supported by the certain liberal sections of capital, of the ruling class, to infiltrate the left and to mislead it.

[Volunteer 6]

[Volunteer 7] because there are those from the remain with mpp camp who wanted to be involved with both. There was a full split and some didn’t feel like it was fair to those who wanted to remain with mpp to be shut out.

[Volunteer 8]

The fact that you think leftist infighting is comparable to racism is laughable. [Volunteer 7]

Not interested in this hapless debate

Figure 3.4

[Volunteer 2] (not pictured)

[Quoting Volunteer 7] “I also deny your claim that the CC is on board with the RW, in wishing not to air this stuff publicly, because I’ve been contacted and thanked by members of the CC for doing exactly what I did yesterday, revealing the troubling happenings going on within the RW group.”

Wow. Just. Wow.

[Volunteer 6]

Literally no one who was in a “leadership” position is voting on mpp issues. If you took the time to watch the two months of videos you’d know that.

[Volunteer 7]

[Volunteer 8], calling someone a crypto-fash isn’t just “leftist infighting”. It’s tantamount to incitement. I’m not comparing mere leftist infighting to racism. I’m comparing inciting violence to racism.

[Volunteer 7]

[Volunteer 6], why should anyone who isn’t part of MPP, who doesn’t, think the MPP can be reformed, or who has a vote in the TWF, a group that was started and mostly populated and controlled by people who want to cut all ties with and abandon the MPP and who think reform is impossible within the MPP, have a vote within the RW, a group that is dedicated to reforming the MPP?

Figure 4

[Volunteer 7]

So you deny certain black people the agency to allow certain non-black or white people the permission to use the nword in friendly manner and setting? No such thing as the nword pass?

Figure 5.1

[Volunteer 9] (not pictured)

...

As to the kind of Rap, to which I object, I hear perpetual ander and self-undoing and very little in the way of harmony and I can understand why, but I would be no fried to black folds to support the self-enabling of their undoing, as a people, especially, where divisiveness is concerned because this is everyone’s doing. In this we are truly united, until we’re not.

[Volunteer 4], [Volunteer 8] You may prefer to register me as some grumpy white geezer shouting, turn it down or get off my lawn! That would be an oversimplification, to say the least, as I have no lawn. I stand on brickwork trying to coax a bird from a cage… Fly.

Rather, I would suggest you, instead, try to get onboard with the building of a common understanding of meaning that is human first, race second (if at all). That would be a basis for solidarity, here, there and everywhere.

[Volunteer 8]

You’re out of your lane and out of your depth. there is no place in the time-space continuum where:

  1. your opinion on the n word as a white man would matter
  2. you would be able to freely say the n word as a white man to black women, 
  3. you would be able to garner meaningful sympathy as a white man reprimanded for saying the n word to black women, or
  4. anyone is going to read that novel
Figure 5.2

[Volunteer 8] (continued)

[Regenerative Culture Coordinator 1], [Regenerative Culture Coordinator 2]

This man is using this space to specifically target and harass black women. This can’t continue.

[Volunteer 9]

Who are you [Volunteer 8]? What is your name? How come I never once seen your face live in real time? Not in national calls, Not in video chats, Not ever? Who are you really? You have an interpretation and can make allegations, but it would appear only from the dark and hidden place of anonymity.

[Volunteer 10]

[Volunteer 9] - I said I would not respond here, but I guess I have to. 

You need to stop. Your previous post is out of line.

No person’s free speech trumps another person’s safety, especially in a place that is meant to be safe. If someone tells you that you crossed a line, it’s on you to apologize - but no person is required to accept an

Figure 5.3

[Unknown]

… live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

[Volunteer 1]

[Volunteer 9], you need to stop, calm down, and reflect on what was said. Why would you need to know a volunteer’s last name or face for any reason? That’s really weird.

[Volunteer 10]

[Volunteer 9] - I am not discussing the past. I am discussing the comments you are making here and now.

You are crossing the line. And continue to rehash information regardless of what or how anyone responds to you. And in doing that, you are making extremely inappropriate comments. 

It’s not okay, and it cannot continue. Stop.

[Volunteer 9]

No I don’t [Volunteer 1]... I should rephrase because I don’t care who that [sic] are; only that they choose to come at me from anonymity.

[Volunteer 9]

There is also Black and non-binary “privilege” being being [sic] propagated and advocated here and clear bias. Advocacy by those in a common group(s) to coordinate in defining me by a narrow interpretation. [Volunteer 11]

Figure 5.4

[Volunteer 3]

[Volunteer 9] I have seen [Volunteer 8]’s face, many, many times. Even if I had not, it does not make your behavior appropriate.

I really wish you would listen to me and stop attempting to defend yourself in this manner. I have said this to you before. Being thoughtless about race in a way that causes you to speak to and about people in a way that solidifies that you do not understand the harm and affect [sic] of your words is distressing.
Multiple people are asking you to stop. With each attempt to defend yourself you are making it worse because you do not believe the truth that is at the root of your problem. You do not see race as a core issue because you are not hindered by your race. It is a privilege that those you keep calling out do not enjoy.

Please, please stop. This is so painful. It’s so harmful. The one thing, it absolutely is not, is helpful. Please. Stop.

One of the Black Voters Circle members requested that leadership address these posts, but they did not respond (Figure 6).

Figure 6

[Volunteer 4]

[Quoting Volunteer 6]You’re sitting here saying that you are trying to defend those who want to reform mpp but then are complaining that one of the biggest agitators against mpp was banned.”

Jan 13th

[Volunteer 4]

Hi Phil, [Volunteer 9]’s at it again. How much does MPP allow?

[Quoting Volunteer 9]

“[Volunteer 6], The three Black women were not in video only audio, I said it once in the context of a criticism of its usage. So this movement died on that hill.. Blacks can call people that word. White people can not say it in any context whatsoever. That is segregationist in my views. I was not raised to believe that term should ever apply to any people. So they make it cool without telling “not cool for you, white person, only cool for us.” It’s conflicting and promoting of conflict.”

Feb 5th

[Volunteer 4]

Hi Phil, why is it that when I do a search for [Volunteer 7], his profile pops up? I thought you said he was gone, which made me think he was purged. Is he just inactive? Pls clarify asap, thx.

The Purge

On Wednesday January 13th, several volunteers were purged from MPP’s Slack channels without warning. A significant portion of these volunteers included over half of the active Black Voters Circle members. The ousted Black women and non-binary people associated with the Black Voters Circle were outspoken about the toxic, discriminatory environment that MPP had maintained and did little to alleviate. Yet some members who had been making discriminatory remarks were not removed and one was even praised by leadership.

After the expulsion, the CC attempted to make contact with only a few of our members to explain the reasoning behind their actions and possible readmittance. The CC accused them of being associated with the petitioners group and siphoning volunteers away from MPP to begin a new group. They were also accused of being Democratic infiltrators and shepherding volunteers into the Democratic Party. However, some of the Black Voters Circle members did not sign the petition, but were still ousted just for questioning authority.

Lessons Learned

As we are in the middle of Black History Month, it is critical to understand how these incidents and events serve as lessons in regards to the experiences that Black people struggle with on a daily basis.

The incidents caused and maintained by the CC and some MPP volunteers exemplifies tokenism, a recurring reality for Black people perpetuated by non-Black individuals. Tokenism is a practice in which an individual or institution makes a hollow, symbolic effort to achieve a certain goal, particularly by recruiting a few marginalized individuals to present an appearance of equality and diversity.

Progressives agree on virtually all universal policies such as Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and student debt cancellation. Yet a significant number of non-Black progressives tend to not only ignore the plights and struggles plaguing the Black community, but also dismiss effective policies aimed at remedying them. Once their goal is achieved, they have no incentive to work with, advocate for, or help us.

This is the very case with MPP, particularly its leadership.

We approached the CC to discuss goals and policy issues meaningful to us. However, they repeatedly dismissed us by stating that the purpose of our circle was to do outreach—as opposed to crafting policies that would positively impact the Black community. This dismissal suggests that MPP leadership cares more about their brand as a diverse and inclusive organization than helping Black people.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. actually condemns tokenism in his book, Why We Can’t Wait, describing it as a fraudulent way to produce fictitious pride in the absence of real power and influence. He further argues that tokenism serves to restrict dissent and protest. When espousing the practice of tokenism, little to no progress is made to advance the interests of marginalized communities, especially the Black community.

We will not support any movement that exercises tokenism. We encourage Black members of all organizations to never minimize their experience or compromise their needs in order to appear more cooperative with non-Black peers.

Conclusion

As our nation faces a time of extreme struggle, division and inequity, we cannot sit silently while the CC denies the experiences of their volunteers. Under MPP’s leadership, racism and toxicity was allowed to fester in their workspace. Their paranoia led them to falsely believe that volunteers who criticized them or questioned their leadership were infiltrators sowing seeds of dissent. As a result, they purged volunteers, including Black Voters Circle members, without due process.

Without the valuable insights and contributions from these volunteers, MPP cannot be a voice in the movement to uplift Black people. They will simply suffer the same fate as the organizations characterizing the fragmented left, unable to capture the support of those who needed them the most.

Additionally, and most importantly, MPP’s failure to foster a culture of equity, trust, transparency, and accountability will prevent them from even potentially appealing to the Black community.

MPP’s tendency is to perpetuate harmful and exploitative patterns of lip-service and tokenism in service of expansion and growth. Without employing radical inclusivity and emphatically amplifying Black voices, MPP will not have the leadership, culture, or infrastructure to be the “People’s Party” it professes to be.

Contact Members of the Black Voters Circle

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