FLINT, Michigan— David Clements and Rick Bodette have fostered a friendship almost as long as their 64 years in Flint. Together they worked service jobs at McDonald’s on Miller Road before working for General Motors for 33 years and have consistently shared the same politics— politics that have led them to spend their Saturday afternoon together, awaiting words from Democratic candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.
“We’re not communists,” they laughed. Senator Sanders’ views on universal healthcare and prospects of the Green New Deal were aspects of his campaign that attracted them and grew Clements and Bodette into avid supporters.
They arrived at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, almost five hours before the growing line that would crowd the outside entrance of Ballenger Field House at Mott Community College. News dropped the night before that after Detroit and Dearborn, Flint was the next stop for democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ town hall on racial and economic justice, and they wanted to be the first in line.
Doors opened around 5:45 p.m. and security would guide supporters into the gym with rallying anthems like “Give the People What They Want” by the O’Jays, “Takin’ it to the Streets” by the Doobie Brothers, and “Revolution” by Flogging Molly playing in the background.
A stage was raised to feature panelists Nayyirah Shariff, director of Flint Rising; former U.S. Senator Don Riegle; Jennifer Epps-Addison, the president of think tank Center for Popular Democracy; family medicine physician, Dr. Victoria Duley based in Novi, MI; Brandon Snyder, director of Detroit Action; and Harvard professor and activist Cornel West.
“We have to transform this country and fundamentally reorient our priorities and the only way we do this is through an unprecedented grassroots movement. We are a movement, not just a political campaign.”
Each panelist, in a Q&A format with Sanders, spoke to issues key to Sanders’ platform including but not limited to universal healthcare, women's rights, eradication of student debt, legalization of marijuana, and the prison-industrial complex.
Two rows from the front of stage sat resident and organizer with Flint Rising, Gina Luster alongside her daughter, two nieces, and younger cousin. Luster ran for Flint county commissioner last year and finds it important to advocate for civil liberties like voting.
“I love politics and I think it’s important especially with the times that our youth understands how politics really works, and I think its best not to just tell them but to get them involved, that way they can make their own decisions.”
Despite not having voted in 2016’s presidential election due to feeling politically disenfranchised, Luster saw Bernie Sanders’ town hall as an opportunity to bring young people to the heart of political engagement, especially since her niece Eeshyia King,17, will be of legal voting age by November 3, 2020.
“This is going to be my first time actually getting involved in an election, where my opinion will actually be counted. So, I’m excited about that,” said King.
In his continued effort to persuade Michigan voters, Bernie Sanders and his team carried on their stop in Michigan to Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids the following day, Sunday, March 8.
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