Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Light on #nn15 Town Hall Incident

What struck me initially as a righteous cause still holds that view in my mind.

But with alternative perspective set forth by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, the complexity of the situation begins to unfold.

Then today, Phoenix New Times journalist Ray Stern reported that Tia Oso, the protester who got up on stage with Martin O'Malley and the moderator to hold forth for about 15 minutes, has previously been convicted of felony embezzlement.
Anshantia "Tia" Oso, one of the protesters who interrupted a Town Hall event with presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders on Saturday, writes in a high-profile column today that she was the "right person" to lead the halting of the program.
Oso touts her many activist qualifications in the column, but she left one thing off her bio: her 2009 conviction for embezzling thousands of dollars from a nonprofit Valley arts organization.
To Oso's credit, she has worked hard to pay back the embezzled funds, after which her conviction was changed to a misdemeanor. I respect and admire her for that.

However, by taking the microphone and expounding for so long, she also disrespected the only presidential candidate who has impeccable credentials in advocating for civil rights, disrespected the audience, AND disrespected the organizers of the Netroots Nation Conference.

In the heat of the moment on Saturday morning, and since, I've been inclined to give the protesters slack for their reckless zeal. That is, because the cause is so acutely urgent. But do we even know if any official organizers of the #BlackLivesMatter movement even had any idea that the protest was going to take place?

If the movement is going to be at all cohesive and fruitful, it will require effective leadership. If that leadership doesn't figure out how to recognize when they are being heard, like Tia Oso and the several dozen fellow protesters failed to do, it will end up fanning the flames of racism, not causing them to be doused and our society healed.

On a tangent, my main interest since beginning this blog in 2010 has been independent redistricting. One of the main instigators of opposition to the work of the Independent Redistricting Commission has been another convicted felon, Wes Harris. Because of the perspective Harris advocates from, I take issue with just about everything he pushes. But I have to give him credit for owning up to his crime and not getting defensive about it when I first asked him.

My point is this. Tia Oso has a voice and a right to speak up about the entrenched racism in America. She has a right to demand change. I hope she persists until she succeeds. But she will not succeed if she thinks she can just gloss over, by ignoring it, her crime even though it may be attributed to the poor judgment of her youth. She must incorporate the personal history in her overall narrative, at least when it comes to political involvement and advocacy.

And she must learn from the most effective Black leader of the last hundred years. Martin Luther King Jr. knew when it was time to listen.
The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood. -Martin Luther King Jr.
and this one is particularly poignant in light of the adverse ramifications of Ms. Oso's impromptu action.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. -Martin Luther King Jr.
Isn't Hillary the inevitable nominee? Ms. Oso, how much change do you think the corporate candidate will make?

Yeah, white liberals may share responsibility for racism not having been eliminated from our society. Many of the white liberals at the convention on Saturday assigned blame to O'Malley and Sanders for how the incident played out. Because neither had responsibility for control of the conference or the town hall, I think it's a bogus claim.

I don't retract anything I wrote Sunday about the fact that each of the candidates could have handled the situation better. But they were not responsible for how it started or how it played out.

BOTH either immediately listened or indicated they were prepared to listen. The protesters WERE HEARD.

The primary ramification of the reckless enthusiasm was to give corporate media and Hillary Clinton a golden opportunity to try to quash the ONLY candidate who has a track record of fighting for exactly the kind of change the protesters say they want to make happen.

And Hillary took the ball right off that tee and served up a doozy of a blast on her opponents by saying, in essence, "see these guys don't love you, but I do!"

Face it, Hillary is THE corporate Democrat in this race. Tia Oso, please don't continue trying to undermine Bernie Sanders. He is the ONLY candidate who will address your stated concerns full on.

IF the only thing you're looking for is personal recognition, I won't support you.

In your op-ed published today on, you state,
Feeling dissatisfied with Netroots' framing of black issues and the narrow focus of its immigration-themed activities, I worked with Phoenix-based organizers to create #BlackRoots, a space to focus on black perspectives and connect national organizers with local black community members.
Okay, you're dissatisfied with Netroots Nation. Take it out on and take it up with them. But they heard you too. #NN16 will be in St. Louis, as close as they can get to Ferguson, MO.

You also said,
My action, along with those of my sisters and brothers in the Movement for Black Lives, was not done to call attention to myself, but to all black people fighting to live free.
Yet, your op-ed said more about you than about your cause. You didn't just interrupt Netroots Nation. Despite claiming (again, in the op-ed)...
Our courageous and bold efforts are being applauded for changing the conversation and creating a space for a more honest and direct discourse. persistently and repeatedly interrupted both candidates.  Do you even know what it takes to hold a conversation?
1.informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy
You would be correct to suppose that you can't have a conversation with somebody if you can't get them to listen to you. My observation is that you succeeded in getting that far.

Did you listen to see if your targets heard you? From where I sat (surrounded by the protesters) in the town hall, nobody in your group seemed to be looking for any such clues or cues.

The definition above includes the word "colloquy," which is a dialogue. What took place was not a dialogue, not a colloquy. Both the chants and your speech while on the stage rather gave off a very strong impression of soliloquy.
1. an utterance or discourse by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is disregardful of or oblivious to any hearers present (often used as a device in drama to disclose a character's innermost thoughts): Hamlet's soliloquy begins with “To be or not to be.”
2. the act of talking while or as if alone. 
Please don't fool yourself into thinking what you did came anywhere close to a conversation. It wasn't a dialogue. It was a monologue.

Audiences generally tolerate comedic monologues very well.  Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Conan O'Brian and Jimmy Kimmel all demonstrated highly effective skill at delivering monologues. Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert have obviously used that skill for effective political communication. Take a lesson from them if you want to try to change America by way of monologue.

But if you want to have a conversation with power players, once you've gotten their attention, you'll have to demonstrate the capacity to listen just as well as you want them to listen to you.

IF you're serious about changing society, join me in fighting to put Bernie Sanders in office as the next President of the United States.


As to critics complaining about Sanders' appearing "noticeably irritated," I want to state unequivocally that I want a fierce president capable of bending Congress and world leaders to his will. I'm not the least bit offended or put off by Sanders politely stating that if the protesters didn't want him there, that was fine.

Bernie Sanders in 2015 (2016) is NOT Howard Dean in 2004. I'm not going to remain silent while corporate media and its chosen candidate try to burn Bernie at the stake as if he were Joan of Arc (or Howard Dean).

Yes, Oso's cause is righteous. The ONLY candidate up to the challenge to address that cause and make the change is Bernie Sanders.


  1. very well said, thank you

  2. Holy hell. So do you think that Ms. Oso should preface every statement she makes by saying "I am a convicted felon"? Or maybe wear a sign? At what point do you figure it was her responsibility to disclose her completely unrelated past?

    This piece is just as trashy as the predictably trashy New Times piece. You can disagree with the action that took place at Netroots all you want -- but to drag someone's past indiscretions into it and then to use them to discredit her makes you no better than the tabloid media.

    I don't even know what to do with the "know when to listen" comment. How patronizing...both to the legacy of Dr. King and to Ms. Oso and her colleagues.

    Your tone and condescension in this article is repugnant, and that is a shame -- because I have respected your work in the past.

  3. Regarding whether the BlackLivesMatter organizers knew that this was going to happen -- why don't you ask them? Maybe run this piece by them as well and see how much of respect they have for you afterwards.

  4. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    That's not how it works. However, it's up to her, not you or I to decide how she should address it. But if she doesn't, then every time she tries something like this, it will get minimized and disparaged. If she intends to be an effective advocate, she will have to figure out how to incorporate her personal history into her narrative.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Perhaps it was patronizing to Oso, but certainly not to Dr. King.

  5. I did not like the Phoenix New Times outing of Ms Oso. She made a mistake, she performed her consequence. That said, you know my feeling on the disruption. The moderator was unable to contain the disruption. It gave right wing groups malicious fodder about progressives, and although the protest was aimed at NN15 O'Malley and Sanders were collateral damage, and they took the brunt of the criticism, rather than NN15.

  6. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 1:12 PM

    I'm not looking for validation. But thanks.

  7. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 1:18 PM

    Indeed, it may be easy to view the New Times story as a cheap shot. However, that kind of thing will not repeat next time Oso makes news IF Oso incorporates it into her personal narrative.

  8. White liberals love to pick and choose MLK's quotes when it suits them. Being a white liberal myself I suppose I could play along:

    "For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values."

    Do you think that Dr. King just sat and listened to Lyndon like a good disciple, most of the time?

    It is not for you or me to determine when is the right time for a black activist to act. I heard that b.s. enough during the fight for marriage equality and it didn't sit well with me then. It doesn't sit with me now.

  9. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    I appreciate your perspective. But really, it's not for you to tell me what I may or may not do.

    OTOH, since this is my blog, I'd like you to recognize that it's my blog and that you realize the limits of considerate behavior on my blog.

  10. Oh my! I'm sorry -- I didn't realize that disagreement was inconsiderate. I wish i'd known that when I was a reporter.

    Cheers to you!

  11. I did read both your pieces, actually and I think I was able to take them in -- even with my little lady brain.

    What confuses me is that on one hand you want us to believe that they were less effective because they were rowdy -- but on the other you want them to understand that they WERE HEARD (your caps not mine).

    They were indeed heard. They were heard around the nation and they have been featured in Time and the Washington Post for bringing their message to the forefront of a conversation that until they showed up had been absent from the event. Because of their action, Bernie and O'Malley have both begun to talk about #blacklivesmatter more -- and Hilary has tried in her own special way.

    But -- as I mentioned before -- my issue is not that you think they could have approached the matter differently. My issue is that in doing so you come across as a giant, condescending prick who wants to throw dictionary definitions at people and talk down to them like they are five years old.

    I don't know Ms. Oso but I suspect that she is sharp enough to get it without your paternalistic snark.

  12. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 2:02 PM

    Your comment about "little lady brain" is nothing more than projecting onto me YOUR views. You did NOT get that from anything I wrote.

    I understand you see me as a prick. Again, I'm not seeking validation. But if you think I'm in the same category as a genuine prick (Trump), I question whether you got my point.

    I don't see you asking for clarification. But I also don't see you saying anything that reflects that you understand the points I made.

    If all you can do is call me names, perhaps you're not interested in a productive discussion.

  13. The irony here of course is that you are the one refusing to engage in a conversation. You're more interested in repeating your original points than expanding upon them or addressing why you feel more qualified to determine when someone is being heard and when they are not. And you're too fixated on feeling insulted to address valid counterpoints to your argument.

    I will leave you to it -- but as I mentioned before I had come to expect better based on your previous writings.

  14. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    Again, please be assured, I'm not concerned whether you validate me or not.

  15. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 2:52 PM

    Another point of clarification. As it appears you and I have never met, I will suggest that you are not qualified to make any valid statement about my feelings, especially whether, "you feel more qualified to..." and whether I'm feeling insulted. It's been a fun exchange... but it's also been long enough. Cheers.

  16. Yeah. Ultimately your opinion on this matter is neither authoritative nor important enough to me to continue this conversation for much longer. But I will say this, as I believe your comments thus far to be incredibly disrespectful to the women behind BlackLivesMatter.

    This has nothing to do with whether you wish to be validated or not (though -- despite your protestations you do seem awfully sensitive). You invited this critique when you wrote:

    "But do we even know if any official organizers of the #BlackLivesMatter movement even had any idea that the protest was going to take place?"

    Are you not aware that BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors was present at this action? That she was a key participant? Or maybe you were expecting the "official organizers" to be men? Even had she not been present, do you think Tia Oso
    somehow lacks authority in her position? Upon what authority could you possibly claim to make that assumption?

    Below, you write:

    "Ms. Oso, in her op-ed yesterday on specifically claimed to be intending to change the CONVERSATION.

    I clarified for her, and for any other reader who read the post trying to understand my message, what a conversation is."

    Do you even hear yourself? You feel compelled to clarify for this woman who has been engaged in community work for quite some time and who just launched a national conversation on race in the progressive movement, the definition of the word "conversation?"

    If that is the case, sir, then I think you are the one who needs to learn how to listen. I do not speak for this movement, but I would wager to guess that these prominent leaders are not in need of any clarifications from whitesplaining critics such as yourself.

    Get over yourself. I certainly have.

  17. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    Apparently, you haven't gotten over me.

    My point, when I said (repeatedly) that I'm not interested in your validation, was that I don't care whether you criticize me or not. It just doesn't matter.

    You've been heard here more than your lack of manners warrants.

    I also don't care that you call me names. Of course, if you intended to get me to take YOU seriously, you probably would not want to call me names. But that's okay.

    Take care of yourself. Be well.

  18. It is widely reported (or supposed) that Soros is behind this. He reportedly gave over 30 MIL to BLM. And Hillary (His pet project) was noticeably absent. Hmm. Also, I wonder of NR being behind this (or a faction of them). Elon James White, Media man for NR sure seems like he could be. So did the Mod. I think they knew it would happen and was planned. Just my opinion. I wish someone would investigate!

  19. What does NR stand for?

  20. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 8:06 PM

    My guess would be NetRoots (Nation).

  21. Arizona EagletarianJuly 22, 2015 at 8:14 PM

    That is outside of the scope of what I wanted this blog post to be about. I can't say it's implausible, but my intent was and is NOT to be divisive or to undermine #nn16.

    The bottom line for me is that the protesters were heard but either refused or otherwise failed to recognize that fact.

    Bernie has been addressing the protesters' concerns ever since Saturday morning.