This is the first of a series of profiles of local progressive organizations in Philadelphia.
On the evening of December 14th, Neighborhood Networks hosted a standing room only Resistance Organizing Event in Northwest Philadelphia. Over 200 people participated in a jam-packed agenda, with presentations by leading activists and newly elected state representative, Chris Rabb, and the energy in the room was palpable. As the meeting closed, activists new and old signed up for grassroots initiatives, and filled a large hat as it made its way around the room.
I met with Stan Shapiro, of Neighborhood Networks, for coffee to talk about the group’s purpose and goals moving ahead. He has been involved with the group since its emergence shortly after the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush. Their objective is to advance a progressive agenda through a neighborhood-based political infrastructure. “We want to encourage people to engage with their close neighbors, and to discuss and organize around political change,” he told me.
Shapiro described the traditional Democratic party as an “issue-free zone,” focused on “advancing the leadership of the elite, and occasionally winning elections.” So, he elaborated, “we need to challenge the performance of the Democrats locally, and to act as an organizational vehicle to combat the right. We need to take on the existential threat of the Republicans to democracy.” Neighborhood Networks, he said, aspires to “make it more viable for progressives to run and win.” He told me that the group worked hard for the elections of state Representative Chris Rabb and state Senator Art Haywood in 2016.
The organization also takes on specific campaigns, and is currently working on “Turning the Suburbs Blue” (an effort focused on electoral districts near Philadelphia); backing Keith Ellison for DNC chair ; creating a Philadelphia public bank; dismantling the School Reform Commission; and pressuring SEPTA to refrain from using fracked natural gas.
Looking ahead, Neighborhood Networks is discussing a possible merger with Reclaim Philadelphia, founded by Sanders campaign staffers. BC4C plans to talk with Lev Hirschhorn, of Reclaim, later this week. Stay tuned!