By Marcus Lavergne
Last Wednesday, the Reno Justice Coalition held a panel discussion in the Joe Crowley Student Union’s 220-seat theater. A small but alert audience that included students, members from different organizations, and individuals who live and work in the area listened intently and eventually joined the discussion during a Q&A session.
Progressive organizations from around the area were in attendance, and panel guests included Aurrelio “AJ” Buhay of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Katy Chandler-Isacksen of EvolveReno and John Hadder, the executive director for the Great Basin Resource Watch.
Panel members discussed a number of topics, from minimum wage raises to community organizing, but one major theme stood out during the People Planet First discussion — the importance of unity and compromise.
Hadder mentioned the idea of cross-pollination between neighbors and communities, which means bringing power back to the people and making economic systems collective and community-driven. Chandler went on to say that a connection has to be made between people on more personal levels.
“We actually have to love our neighbors,” Chandler-Isacksen said. “We live in a world where it’s easier to be good. If we challenge and support everyone, everyone can soar.”
Escenthio “Thio” Marigny Jr. is the president of the RJC and an organizer for PLAN. He said the panel was an opportunity to hear different organizers speak about their work and effective problem solving.
“We want to be fighting these issues on multiple fronts,” Marigny said. “We have to take them on from multiple angles. We wanted to bring that type of analysis to the table with the panel.”
Marigny said that the panel was organized for the sake of students at the University of Nevada, Reno. Students who came to the event got to see and hear proactive voices in the area, and he hoped they would see it as an opportunity to get involved as well.
“Well, [students] can get active, right,” Marigny said. “There are means and ways to get engaged for the long haul. We usually think that the only times we get engaged in politics in meaningful ways is through these conversations, but that’s not true, it should be an ongoing thing.”
For panel guest, Buhay, southern Nevada’s low-wage worker organizer for PLAN, beginning by improving life for the people is the first step to solving some of the issues mentioned.
Buhay’s job involves helping people who barely make enough money to support themselves and their families. For him, raising the minimum wage is imperative to improving living conditions.
“My simple demand is for these corporations to take the cut,” Buhay said. “As a consumer we have to hold these corporations responsible for not only making sure their products are good, but also treating their workers well.”
Buhay said that people have to think of themselves as more than consumers. When they realize their importance to corporations as members of the community those businesses will pay more attention to the needs of their workers.
“We want to have businesses that actually support the community,” Buhay said. “It’s not just about them seeing us as a source of income, but actually helping out in the community.”
The panelists each focused on support within communities to get things done. One of Hadder’s final statements involved altering the way people look at money, and the way they look at each other.
“Power can be organization,” Hadder said. “Power can be people.”
The RJC panelists discussed plenty of viable solutions to the issues they see in the world surrounding them, but left the audience to answer one burning question: What kind of life would you like to be living?
Marcus Lavergne can be reached at mlavergne@ sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @mlavergne21.