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All Day, All Week, Occupy All Streets: George Martinez’s Response to Jay-Z

All Day, All Week, Occupy All Streets: George Martinez’s Response to Jay-Z

[NEW YORK, NY] George Martinez grabbed national headlines when he became the first Occupier to qualify as a major party primary candidate for the United States House of Representatives, but few know that the fledgling politician also has a seasoned career as a celebrated hip-hop emcee in New York City’s grassroots political hip-hop scene.

Last week when Jay-Z was interviewed for a cover feature in the New York Times Style Magazine he indicted Occupy Wall Street as a directionless cloud of ideas. Local press was buzzing with how Occupy would respond, would they ignore it?, would they protest?, would Jay even care if they did? Hip-Hop media mogul Russell Simmons quickly seized this opportunity to open up a dialogue with Jay-Z surrounding money in politics. Simmon’s political director, Michael Skolnik quickly followed suit with his own thoughtful response, but in order to fully capture Occupy’s & Hip-Hop’s response to Jay-Z’s uninformed comments it would be best to have the response come from an Occupy Hip-Hop artist.

The following is George Martinez’s letter to Jay-Z & Russell Simmons…

First, I want to thank Jay Z for his recent public statements regarding the Occupy movement. I respect his honesty and I welcome this exchange as an end to the “Government For Sale” syndrome corrupting our democratic processes.

Second, I want to thank Russell Simmons for his response to Jay in an attempt to educate and build solidarity. His response was a thorough and thoughtful summation of the macro issues that Occupy has raised over the last year. In particular, Russell helped to illustrate the connections between “the corrosive influence of money in politics and elections” and repressive policies like stop and frisk.

Jay, I would prefer to build with you instead of slam you, and I know that you are already supporting a number issues that make up the cloud of “Occupy,” like… ending the war on drugs, supporting job creation and supporting the president on marriage equality. And let’s also be clear, I know progressives don’t want to plunk tens of thousands of dollars per plate on campaign fundraisers when they know that the money could be going to directly helping people and directly investing in the community. But because some have highjacked our democracy through Super PACs that spend limitless amounts of corporate cash in politics, hope and opportunity get stifled. This process has driven our country towards the brink of economic ruin.

In response to this process a coalition of activists, artists and various segments of the community have taken on the challenge of getting money out of politics and putting the people back in charge of their democracy. To get the money out …and put the voters in!

Our public and political institutions should not be allowed to operate under the same rules the govern regular commercial industries, since our constitution and our republic exist only through a social contract bound by the consent of its’ people. Thus “we the people” vest trust in our public institutions and must raise up when that trust is violated, or when special interests join to undermine the integrity of our public institutions, politicians and their elections. Imagine Jay, some people believe that corporations are people like you and me. They believe that these corporations have the same rights as people. Then, with a Supreme Court decision called, Citizens United v. F.E.C, the “Super PAC” was born allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections because of their individual rights to “free speech” just like you and me. I hope you would agree, that this is wrong. In fact, President Obama, has also said he supports exploring a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the “Citizens United” decision.

For me, “Occupy” can be easily understood from a Hip Hop perspective.

With Hip Hop we bum rushed school yards and sidewalks and transformed them into dance arenas for breakers. We didn’t ask James Brown or anyone if we could sample their records. We “borrowed” electricity from lamp posts to power our amps. We painted subway cars and inspired a global phenomenon that is literally saving lives around the world through the convergence of 5 elements: Dj, Rap, Aerosol Graffiti, B-boy, and Knowledge.

What happened in Zuccotti Park was similar to the spirit of Hip Hop; in that an unauthorized assembly of like-minded and creative people, created a space for community building and organizing to directly address local community concerns. More importantly, “Occupy” took on the overarching barrier to addressing these concerns due to the corrupting power corporate money has on our democratic processes and institutions. Through this organic coalition, a framework was created to mobilize around the reality that “another world Is possible.” By creating this framework, a model was built that embraced a diverse set of strategies to encourage everyday people to find where they could fit into the movement to work towards the overarching goal of reclaiming our democracy and building opportunity.

At the beginning of my involvement with OWS, I also observed that there was a “cloud of issues,” however, I quickly recognized many of them as issues that I and others in the Hip Hop community had been vocalizing and organizing around for years. Through keeping an open mind and participating in the democratic and community-building processes, I learned from others and was able to build support to identify specific strategies and actions to focus the movement on addressing issues that impact my immediate community. This included focusing on strategies to challenge the power of money and its’ corrupting influence on our democracy. We did this by building a grassroots movement and providing tools to empower the hood through a “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY), direct democracy engine that would facilitate community deliberation of important issues, implementation of community solutions and community resource management. Additionally, we inspired people to “Occupy” local political office. My personal “direct action” involved running for Congress by building a “Block by Block, and City by City” electoral direct action movement called Bum Rush The Vote (BRTV). The premise of BRTV is simple, build a people’s machine that can compete against the power of the corporate control over our democracy.

Five months into the Occupy movement, I declared my candidacy, for New York’s newly redrawn 7th Congressional District. This included my home neighborhoods Red Hook and Sunset Park and your home neighborhood of Marcy Houses. Throughout the course of my campaign, I met with thousands of people on their neighborhood blocks, highlighting their stories in order to move the dialogue beyond the macro analysis of the issues to the real-time effects on our neighborhoods. One issue in particular, that Russell also highlighted, involves the relationship between money and the prison industrial complex which has particularly harsh repercussions in the hood. Studies document that there is a dollar for dollar relationship between dollars cut from public education and increased investment in the prison industrial complex. Furthermore, in New York, your home neighborhood of Marcy Houses falls in the police district with one of the highest rates of youth “stops and frisks,” all while local schools and youth programs are either failing or are being shut down.

This is our opportunity to “HEAL” once again. To hold those accountable who have corrupted the political system with corporate interests. The end result includes the reality that communities we come from are further disempowered, underserved and deliberately targeted by the prison industrial complex to the point that there is a dollar for dollar correlation in cuts to education and investment in prisons. KRS ONE, said it so eloquently in his lyrics to HEAL Yourself, “…black and white ain’t the real fight, that’s the only thing the media hypes, the real fight is these major corporations, holding back on real education…

This is why I occupied, this why we are the 99%, and this is why we need the 100% who want to reclaim our democracy and our communities. I believe that the space of transformational hopefulness that is at the core of “Occupy” is available to everyone, and that we all have a part to play in finding solutions. I have committed my non-profit organization, the Global Block Foundation, to developing and distributing Bum Rush The Vote as our official political literacy initiative. I invite you to join us, or, in the spirit of “Occupy,” get in where you fit in. Working Together, Block by Block and City by City, Another World is Possible.

All Day, All Week, Occupy All Streets!

George Martinez, is the first OWS organizer to qualify as a major party primary candidate for the US House of Representatives and creator of Bum Rush The Vote. He and his wife are the creators of the #OWS Hip Hop Anthem: Occupation Freedom He is an artist/ activist who believes in the power of Hip Hop culture as a force for positive world change and serves as a Hip Hop Ambassador with the US Dept of State. He is a former Democratic District Leader of the 51st Assembly District in Brooklyn, a professor of Political Science at Pace University and the Founder of the Global Block Foundation. He has appeared on MSNBC, HuffPost Live, Telemundo, TEDx and was the subject of a cover story in the Village Voice. Follow George on twitter at @hongeomartinez Follow Bum Rush The Vote on Twitter at @bumrushthevote

Endorsement Vote Shows Occupier Congressional Candidate George Martinez Neck & Neck With Incumbent Nydia Velazquez

Endorsement Vote Shows Occupier Congressional Candidate George Martinez Neck & Neck With Incumbent Nydia Velazquez

[NEW YORK, NY] Occupy Wall Street activist George Martinez’s campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives may have initially been labeled a quixotic effort by the press but it is quickly proving to be otherwise. In an endorsement vote tally released on June 19th by Democracy for New York City (the New York chapter of Howard Dean’s Democracy for America) George Martinez trailed incumbent Nydia Velazquez by a mere 8 points at 40% while Erik Martin Dilan and Daniel O’Connor each pulled less than 5% of the group’s endorsement votes. Specifically, Nydia Velazquez 48%, Erik Dilan 4%, George Martinez 40%, Daniel O’Connor 4%, source DFNY*

Block by Block
Martinez’s Occupy-inspired grassroots campaign model, appropriately named Bum Rush The Vote is breaking new ground with grassroots, socially-viral campaigning. Building a foundation for what Martinez calls a “direct democracy engine” his campaign will be bringing the “People’s Assembly” platform (a localized, organic deliberative body, that helps to build consensus for work priorities, and manage and administer community resources) to formerly disempowered sections of the 7th district. Moreover, as a celebrated hip-hop artist, Martinez hopes to deliver these tools of consensus with a fun hip-hop backdrop as he and his group Global Block tour the 7th district while they shoot the music video for their upcoming release “Block by Block & City by City.” The schedule of the video shoots are as follows…

JUNE 23rd
Red Hook Houses: Mill St. & Hicks St., Brooklyn, NY ( 11:00AM – 12:30PM)
Gowanus Houses: Hoyt St. & Baltic St., Brooklyn, NY (1:30PM – 3:00PM)
Wykoff Garden Houses: Warren St. & Nevins Street Brooklyn, NY (3:30PM – 5:00PM)

JUNE 24th
Marcy Houses: Park Ave. & Marcy Ave, Brooklyn, NY (11:00AM- 12:30PM)
Boriquen Plaza: Boerum St & Humboldt St, Brooklyn, NY (1:30PM – 3:00PM)
Baruch Houses: Delancy & Columbia St., New York, NY (3:30PM – 5:00PM)

Impossible to Ignore
Only a few weeks after their initial press-push the Bum Rush the Vote campaign has become impossible to ignore. With a wordpress blog, a few excited volunteers and an initial budget of less than $500 dollars Martinez canvassed for signatures and earned a place on the ballot, was able to defeat a ballot challenge in court and proceed to the CD-7 primaries. Despite eschewing any large campaign donations Martinez’s grassroots groundswell of energetic supporters lead to profiles in dozens of media outlets including New York Magazine, The Hill, Telemundo 47, and the front cover feature for the June 13th-19, 2012 issue of The Village Voice.

village voice cover

This wildfire of press attention, coupled with the release of DFNY’s endorsement vote results forced New York City’s primary local cable news provider NY1 to reverse their initial decision to exclude Martinez from their televised broadcast of the 7th District Congressional debates. Martinez will now be joining the debates, scheduled for 4pm today at NY1’s Chelsea Market studio.

“The resources are available in our communities to take back our government from the crooked and the ineffectual.” say’s Martinez, “It is time to take the power back from the people who think that political office is theirs to trade back and forth, and who sell their legislation to the highest bidder. This is a Bum Rush, we are running up to the halls of power, and we cannot be ignored!”

To read our previous advisories related to George Martinez CLICK HERE.

To request a fact sheet, high resolution photos, or to arrange an interview with George Martinez or a representative of his campaign please contact Deputy Campaign Manager Cecily McMillan at cecilymcmillan@gmail.com or via phone at at (404) 468-1034. For more information on Bum Rush the Vote visit http://BumRushTheVote.net

NY1 Excludes Occupier Congressional Candidate George Martinez From Debate

NY1 Excludes Occupier Congressional Candidate George Martinez From Debate

[UPDATE] This morning, Michael Nitzky of NY1 announced the postponement of the debate due to the untimely passing of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s mother. We send our deepest condolences to the Velazquez family. We hope that the postponement provides the time for the management of NY1 to reconsider its position and include Mr. Martinez as a candidate in all future debates, because he was put on the ballot by the people of the 7th District.

Out of respect for the Velazquez family Bum Rush The Vote & their supporters in the Occupy Wall Street movement have canceled their action scheduled for 4:30pm today at NY1’s Chelsea Market Studio and encourage all supporters to join them at 7pm tonight for a rally with speakers and performances at the Yippie Museum Cafe, 9 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012.

Yesterday, the Bum Rush the Vote campaign came up against another roadblock in their grassroots experiment of participatory democracy as NY1’s Inside City Hall barred Hon. George Martinez from participation in a debate of the 7th Congressional District.

“Our longstanding policy at NY1 when we’ve held debates is to give seats to candidates who we consider to be viable…who are on the ballot…[and] getting donations from voters in the district and spending the money on basic campaign expenses,” said Bob Hardt, Political Director at NY1, which is owned by Time Warner Cable company.

While Mr. Martinez has indeed been approved by the Board of Elections, and submitted all required Federal Elections Committee (FEC) paperwork, he was not required until recently to submit an FEC financial disclosure form because his campaign had succeeded in getting nearly 3,000 signatures and his place on the ballot without spending the minimum disclosure amount of $5,000. To us, this represents a victory for people-powered, grassroots politics, not a lack of “viability”!

Over the course of the day yesterday, hundreds of people spoke out in support of Mr. Martinez and against the censorship that NY1 would impose by barring a candidate from a debate because of the amount of money his campaign has/hasn’t raised. The group had planned a rally and press conference at NY1’s Chelsea Market studio this afternoon, with allies from OWS.

This morning, Michael Nitzky of NY1 announced the postponement of the debate due to the untimely passing of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s mother. We send our deepest condolences to the Velazquez family. We hope that the postponement provides the time for the management of NY1 to reconsider its position and include Mr. Martinez as a candidate in all future debates, because he was put on the ballot by the people of the 7th District.

Out of respect for the Velazquez family Bum Rush The Vote & their supporters in the Occupy Wall Street movement have cancelled their action scheduled for 4:30pm today at NY1’s Chelsea Market Studio and encourage all supporters to join them at 7pm tonight for a rally with speakers and performances at the Yippie Museum Cafe, 9 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012.

The following is our previous advisory announcing yesterday’s action.

[NEW YORK, NY] A scheduled debate on NY1’s Inside City Hall tonight between 3 of the candidates from the 7th Congressional district has intentionally excluded the race’s 4th candidate, long-time community activist and occupier candidate George Martinez. In response to this blatant attack on the free speech rights of a congressional candidate, Bum Rush The Vote will hold a protest action and press conference outside of NY1’s Chelsea Market studio (75 Ninth Avenue) at 4:30pm today, June 11.

When reached by email for comment on the exclusion of Mr. Martinez from the debate roster, NY1 Senior Political Producer Michael Nitzsky responded, “Every candidate who has been invited to appear in our debates has filed with the FEC and shown that they have fundraised and spent money as a candidate. Your campaign has not done so.”

Yet, current FEC records – which can be viewed here: http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/can_detail/H0NY12159/ – show that Mr. Martinez has indeed filed with the FEC, although he was not required, until recently, to file a financial disclosure form because his campaign earnings/spending did not exceed $5,000. This decision to not raise significant outside funding for his campaign was a central tenet of Bum Rush The Vote, which aims to create a new template for participation in politics without large sums of money.

“Nearly 3,000 people from the community have signed petitions to have Mr. Martinez on the ballot, and we haven’t raised enough money to be considered for this debate?” said Jelani ‘Smash’ Mashariki of Occupy The Hood.

Bum Rush the Vote is demanding that Mr. Martinez be allowed to participate with his fellow candidates in tonight’s debate. They will gather with Mr. Martinez outside of the studio at 4:30p.m., along with members of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy The Hood, and allied groups to demand equal treatment for all balloted candidates.

The Bum Rush premise is simple: Controlling politics without money is power, people power. Our goal is to create an open-source, crowd-sourced DIY campaign.  All of the resources we need to accomplish this goal are available to us due to the fantastic technology that we now have access to.  We started this campaign with no money, and are using our resources in a very efficient and frugal manner.

WHAT: Protest Action & Press Conference
WHERE: NY1’s Chelsea Market studio (75 Ninth Avenue) 
WHEN: Monday, June 11th, 4:30pm (TODAY)

About George Martinez
George Martinez is an adjunct professor of political science at Pace University, a celebrated hip-hop emcee and founder of The Global Block Foundation. George is an active member of the End Corporatism Affinity Group of Occupy Wall Street and a primary organizer of Occupy Bed Stuy, Occupy Sunset Park and an active member of Occupy The Hood (a group whose nation-wide organizing with low income communities continues to be some of the most effective and celebrated work within the Occupy movement.) Outside of his Occupy resume George was the former District Leader (51st AD) and former Assistant Director for the NYS Attorney General. He is currently a member of U.S. Cultural Envoy to Latin America and Asia and a member of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. You can follow George on Twitter at @hongeomartinez

To request a fact sheet, high resolution photos, or to arrange an interview with George Martinez or a representative of his campaign please contact Deputy Campaign Manager Cecily McMillan at cecilymcmillan@gmail.com or via phone at at (404) 468-1034. For more information on Bum Rush the Vote visit http://BumRushTheVote.net
Occupy Wall Street Activist George Martinez to Run for NYC’s 7th Congressional District

Occupy Wall Street Activist George Martinez to Run for NYC’s 7th Congressional District

[NEW YORK, NY] George Martinez, a Brooklyn native, hip-hop artist and seasoned Occupy Wall Street activist has announced his candidacy for Brooklyn’s 7th Congressional District. In a clear statement honoring Occupy Wall Street’s non-partisan process, an autonomous parallel movement calling itself “Bum Rush The Vote” has announced it’s intentions to grab political seats using the same grassroots guerrilla campaigning strategies that quickly catapulted the Occupy message from New York’s financial district onto the international stage. George Martinez is the first of several Occupier candidates pursuing public office under the “Bum Rush The Vote” campaign banner. In the June 26 Democratic primary he will be challenging Nydia Velazquez whose tenure as a New York representative has spanned two decades.

A New Campaigning Model
The Occupy Wall Street camps inspired a global movement of decentralized local assemblies in which people shared stories, resources, and skill sets. As the encampments were met with eviction from authorities the tents and books were scattered but the inertia of the camp’s affinity groups remained. As if one were to whack a hornet nest, the hive was damaged but the collective was sent out into the world with a renewed zeal to challenge systemic injustice. These “Post-Camp” Occupy groups restructured themselves around shared skills or specific issues, and the remainder were a wide spectrum of affinities with varied politics and tactics ranging from groups of advocates on the street who embraced property destruction to parallel movements like Bum Rush The Vote who set their sights on occupying public office as a direct action. Following the organizing template of Zuccotti Park, Bum Rush The Vote relies on a crowd-sourced method of campaigning by pooling the resources of graphic designers, photographers, experts in viral social media campaigns, artist relations, and street teams of D.I.Y. campaigners to move their message to contstituents. Moreover, Bum Rush The Vote is a creativity-driven campaign aimed at spending time with constituents and implements this through staging cultural community events such as pop up concerts, neighborhood clean-ups, anti-stop-and-frisk actions, and guerilla gardening efforts in regions within the 7th district most plagued by inadequate access to healthy food. “How do we do it? Our resources come directly from our people” say’s Martinez’s Deputy Campaign Manager Cecily McMillan, “George’s campaign team is made up of volunteers …Occupy volunteers! Canvassers have petitioned for over 3000 signatures, while we’ve had individuals and small businesses donate space and resources for meetings and fundraisers.”

Money Out / Voters In
George Martinez and Bum Rush The Vote are hoping to create a new model of campaigning that eschews large donations while placing importance on the power of individual constituents. Following Occupy Wall Street’s radically inclusive model of directly democratic organizing, Bum Rush The Vote aims to empower individual constituents while disempowering the role of money in politics. To do so they are leading by strict fiscal example, “We were told that it takes an average of 1.2 million dollars to run for congress,” says George Martinez “much of this comes from corporate backers. However, with less than $5,000, we made it on the primary ballot and even won a ballot challenge.” Bum Rush The Vote seeks to set an example through their campaigning model that you do not need money from corporate backers or special interests to win a race. “The resources are available in our communities to take back our government from the crooked and the ineffectual.” say’s Martinez, “It is time to take the power back from the people who think that political office is theirs to trade back and forth, and who sell their legislation to the highest bidder. This is a Bum Rush, we are running up to the halls of power, and we cannot be ignored!”

 
About George Martinez

George Martinez is an adjunct professor of political science at Pace University, a celebrated hip-hop emcee and founder of The Global Block Foundation. George is an active member of the End Corporatism Affinity Group of Occupy Wall Street and a primary organizer of Occupy Bed Stuy, Occupy Sunset Park and an active member of Occupy The Hood (a group whose nation-wide organizing with low income communities continues to be some of the most effective and celebrated work within the Occupy movement.) Outside of his Occupy resume George was the former District Leader (51st AD) and former Assistant Director for the NYS Attorney General. He is currently a member of U.S. Cultural Envoy to Latin America and Asia and a member of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. You can follow George on Twitter at @hongeomartinez

To request a fact sheet, high resolution photos, or to arrange an interview with George Martinez or a representative of his campaign please contact Deputy Campaign Manager Cecily McMillan at cecilymcmillan@gmail.com or via phone at at (404) 468-1034. For more information on Bum Rush the Vote visit http://BumRushTheVote.net