A Reality Tour: Jill Stein, Green Party Presidential Nominee, Tours the Streets of Kensington
Dr. Jill Stein, presidential candidate for the Green Party, visited one of Kensington’s more infamous corners on Sunday, July 24.
Stein spoke with activists and community members under the Somerset El stop before walking a block in one of the Philadelphia neighborhoods most affected by endemic poverty, unemployment and the drug trade.
The Green Party’s candidate was lead on a walking tour by Cheri Honkala of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC).
“We wanted to invite our presidential candidates on a reality tour,” Honkala said. “We wanted to talk a little about Kensington. We have three different stops that we’re going to.”
While Stein spoke at the Somerset El stop, an older man in a black polo exchanged cash and a handshake with a young man in a grey t-shirt before they went separate ways.
“We’re calling for a Green New Deal,” Stein said. “We have a crisis of racism and a crisis of economy.”
A key part of Stein’s platform is to provide jobs and stimulate growth in marginalized communities.
“This crisis is the elephant in the room in our economy, our culture, our world,” Stein said. “This is a crisis of racism, of economic violence, of violence in our housing which is being gentrified out from under us.”
Stein, if elected, said that she will ensure employment through public works progress, in the spirit of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.
“We’re here to say enough is enough. We can’t go on like this,” she said. “We have a crisis in our housing system. We have more empty houses than we do homeless people.”
“A Green New Deal creates jobs that we need and puts money in the hands of the community,” Stein said. “We need to ring back small businesses and community co-ops and nonprofit organizations.”
“Creating those jobs, which we need on an emergency basis is exactly what we need to revive our economy across the board including and especially in the communities of color from which those jobs have been extracted, historically,” she said.
During her walk through Kensington, Stein spoke with potential voters. Bernard Gur spoke with Stein at the corner of East Somerset and Boudinot Streets. Gur said he was struck by Stein’s discussion of oppression abroad.
Gur asked Stein what she would do relieve pressure on over-policed communities. Stein explained her plan to include communities in police review boards and to demilitarize the police. She briefly touched on her plans to combat unemployment and homelessness.
“She listened to me. I don’t know that anything will happen soon,” Gur said. “But I’m glad I talked to her. Her ideas are different and I like what I heard.”
Gur was unsure if he would vote for Stein.
Dante Jones stopped under the El to listen to Stein. Jones, a volunteer at Prevention Point and a Kensington resident, admitted that he had never heard of Stein before.
“I’m a Democrat and I plan to vote,” Jones said. “I’m not excited about Hillary. I don’t know how much worse Trump would be for a community like this.”
Jones said he’s lucky that the block he lives on is mostly warehouses and active businesses.
“Nobody sells dope on my corner. But I know it could be different if I lived a few blocks over. It’s out of control in some places,” he said. “When I think about it, though, Hillary nor Trump are going to change anything about this.”
Jones said he’d have to see what else Stein stood for, but that he’d be happy to see her on the ballot.
Frustration with Democrats and Republicans was a common theme among both the residents of Kensington and the activists who organized the brief tour.
“The people’s only solution for hope is to get behind a candidate that has enough vision and grassroots connection so that all of us can live,” said Connie Burton, an activist from Florida visiting Philadelphia during the DNC. “All of us have the right to live.”
Stein took the opportunity to set herself apart from the two party system that defines American ‘politics as usual.’
“We have a crisis in health care where one-in-three Americans may have an insurance policy, but cannot afford the care,” she said. “We are spending $3 trillion a year on a sick care system, not a health care system.”
Stein advocates for a single-payer system that will guarantee health care to all Americans. To pay for her plans, Stein calls for a radical reduction in military spending.
“54 percent of our discretionary dollars are spent on the military, but it’s not making us safer,” she said.
“We have a military budget with a few footnotes around it. We have this disastrous militarism abroad and we essentially have a police and poverty state at home,” Stein said. “A police state of necessity because we have this state of poverty in which people cannot survive and live day to day.”
“These are solvable problems,” said Stein. “How do we solve them? By reinventing our democracy. By refusing to have our democracy intimidated out from under us. By saying that we the people are in charge.”