Green Party vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka spoke at VCU’s Harris Hall auditorium last Monday, one day before the scheduled VP debate at Longwood University.
Baraka’s visit was an impromptu decision by the campaign to counter excitement surrounding the next day’s debate, from which he was excluded from participating in. Baraka spoke for 30 minutes before taking questions from the audience.
“One of the reasons we are here in Richmond is the debate about an hour away tomorrow — a debate I will not be attending because the Green Party has been excluded from that process,” Baraka said.
Exclusion from the debate was a significant portion of Baraka’s speech; his running mate, Jill Stein, has also been barred from participation in the presidential debate.
Candidates must have a 15 percent popularity rating from an average of five national polls to participate in the Commission on Presidential Debates’ televised debates. Stein and Baraka had 2 percent of the vote, according to Sep. 28 – Oct. 2 poll by CNN.
“What we have in this country that they call democracy is something that we’ve got to look at critically,” Baraka said. “We have to seriously question why we have a commission on presidential debates that has the power to determine who the American people are exposed to.”
“One of the reasons we are here in Richmond is the debate about an hour away tomorrow — a debate I will not be attending because the Green Party has been excluded from that process,”
Green Party Vice Presidential Nominee
Baraka argued for an overhaul of the debate process and requested that his supporters demand change.
“We are excluded from the popular process in this country,” Baraka said. “It’s difficult when you are unable to penetrate the corporate media in order to bring your message to the American people. We need demands from the people.”
Baraka’s speech also focused on voters’ mindsets. He urged the electorate not to base their decision on opposition, but to rather stand behind whichever candidate they believe in personally.
“The American people have been sufficiently fear-mongered into believing that it is more important to vote against something than for something,” Baraka said. “They want to vote against fear and the threat of neo-fascism as opposed to for their own principles and the future.”
Baraka has a long history of human rights activism. From 2004 to 2011, he served as the founding executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network, which consists of over 300 national organizations.
Baraka has also served on the boards of several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Africa Action. This is his first political campaign.
Erin Walter, president of VCU’s student Green Party organization, the Young Greens, said she and other organizers were relieved the event went well on such short notice.
“(The campaign) contacted us on Wednesday, and I’m honestly surprised it came together like it did,” Walter said. “VCU was really excited to have somebody so big come here so they were very supportive.”
Baraka expressed appreciation for the Young Greens and VCU for providing him with a forum to reach the community in light of his exclusion from the vice presidential debate the next day.
“We asked them to do something very difficult, to pull something together for us just a few days ago, and we are very appreciative,” Baraka said.
Walter said she and other organizers were ecstatic after Baraka’s speech.
“The process was relatively painless and it was amazing to hear him speak,” Walter said. “I’m still a little star-struck.”
Zach is a junior pursuing a dual degree in print journalism and English. A proud Norfolk-ian, he enjoys long walks on the beach, English literature of the romantic period and anything pertaining to Harry Potter or baseball. Zach an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan who can usually be found working at the Student Media Center or running along the James.