Seanniece Bamiro (left) explains how membership in a Prince George's County co-op with Progressive Maryland would help to hire a full-time community organizer. Alexiss Kurtz holds the paper that outlines some of the responsibilities and goals. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Seanniece Bamiro (left) explains how membership in a Prince George's County co-op with Progressive Maryland would help to hire a full-time community organizer. Alexiss Kurtz holds the paper that outlines some of the responsibilities and goals. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Progressive Maryland has a message for statewide and local candidates in this year’s primary election who seek endorsements: come correct or go without our support.

The grass-roots organization plans to aggressively push its movement into Prince George’s County, especially after Montgomery County officials approved a $15 an hour minimum wage.

The group held a political empowerment session Saturday, Jan. 6 at Greater Beulah Baptist Church in Capitol Heights, where more than two dozen people heard the nonprofit’s pitch about why a progressive movement must happen in 2018.

Although the Silver Spring-based group has a Prince George’s chapter, it says it needs more members.

“I come here today to motivate you,” said Alexiss Kurtz, Progressive Maryland’s movement politics director. “I know we are in a scary time … with [President Donald] Trump in the office, but I don’t want you to lose hope. We need to get our strategy together to take back power, but to take that power we need to have a movement.”

Seanniece Bamiro, who will lead the group in establishing a co-op in the county, plans to focus largely on criminal-justice reform, but said the movement needs money to expand on other priorities in the county.

The idea: have 250 resident pledge at least $20 per month to hire a full-time community organizer to organize efforts in Prince George’s to push for an all-elected school board, campaign-finance reform and other initiatives chosen by the residents.

Kurtz said the cost to hire this person could range between $40,000 to $50,000.

The fundraising pattern follows a similar campaign from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) where supporters donated an average of $27 during his 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Although Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton, it forced the Democratic Party to pay attention on more progressive topics.

Kurtz briefly explained several differences between traditional and “movement” politics.

For example, a PowerPoint presentation listed how current candidates avoid talking about race or “public control of anything.” The progressive model seeks candidates who “engage voters on issues of race and public control of capital.”

It also noted most candidates are white, male and wealthy. A progressive format would incorporate candidates who reflect the community: women, people of color, LGBTQ and those in the working class.

“Our current status quo is a hot mess,” Kurtz said. “When everyone contributes, everyone is involved.”

That’s why Wessita McKinley of Clinton attended.

“This is supposed to be the most affluent Black county in the country, but we got second-class health care, a second-class educational system [and] second-class services,” said McKinley, who runs a nonprofit organization called Sistas United Inc. out of Greater Beulah church. “Don’t get in office just to serve with your frat brothers, or you go to a certain church, or in some little clique. We need to put people in seats who are for everyday people and hold their behinds accountable.”

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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