By Joe Coscarelli, June 28, 2012
George Martinez, the “hip-hop diplomat” and Occupy Wall Street protester running in Brooklyn’s new 7th congressional district, got crushed last night as 20-year House veteran Nydia Velazquez coasted to victory. Only City Councilman Erik Dilan even got close, collecting 31 percent of the vote to Velazquez’s 58 in the Democratic primary. But despite earning just 752 votes — less than 3 percent — Martinez is proud of his brief campaign. “Relative to the current reality of the political system, I was not entirely surprised,” he told Daily Intel today. “We raised less than one percent of what the winner had and got 3 percent of the vote in about two months. That’s something spectacular.”
Martinez had higher hopes, or at least a politician’s spin and spirit, when he told us earlier this month, “We are absolutely in this to win this.” But at the time, he also insisted, “The real framework is that we’re building a do-it-yourself democracy model, crowd-funded, the best we can.” That model will continue, Martinez said, under the Bum Rush the Vote banner with the candidacy of his close friend Jelani Mashariki, who will run for the victorious Hakeem Jeffries’s vacant State Assembly spot.
“My candidacy reflected a larger call for direct electoral action in the first place, so I’m not at all disappointed,” Martinez stressed today. “It’s hard to analyze this particular type of candidacy from a normal political kind of lens.” Whereas that would make it look like complete failure, Martinez prefers for “most folks [to] recognize that getting involved in the process is our right and we should continue to celebrate that.” That way, despite other struggles, the Occupy spirit might live on a little bit longer.
By Brenton Lengel on June 23, 2012
I’m standing outside the Yippie Café at 9 Bleecker Street in New York’s East Village. The man across from me is wearing a suit. His head is shaved, and he has the infectious smile of a ten-year-old. He is the Honorable George Martinez. George is an Occupier, the President of the Global Block Foundation, and a candidate for New York’s seventh congressional district. Presently, he’s taking a break outside the café, having just given a rousing speech in support of the venue.
When I ask him how he first became interested in activism, George, still riding high from his speech, eagerly responds:
“In the eighties, Ronald Reagan was on television talking about ‘welfare queens’ and welfare moms, and my mom was my queen and she was on welfare. So they were basically dissing my mom, and I thought that I’d like to make them eat those words, so that inspired me to pay attention to the world of politics, the world of law, and to grow a community of empowerment for people like me and like my mom. People who were always being talked about by those in power, but were never part of the conversation.”
I ask how this has translated into his political career and current association with the Occupy Movement. Martinez takes a drag from a cigarette and his eyes sparkle with excitement.
“Obras más que palabras,” he tells me. “Works more than words. I started out being very vocal in churches, but it is service projects I’ve always gravitated towards. It’s extremely important for me to see communal empowerment as something that we can deliver, and not just talk about. The point of the Global Block Foundation is that we can change the world, block by block, and city by city.”
This statement could easily be a running theme of the Martinez campaign, if not Martinez himself; George’s production company, The Global Block Collective, is a fusion of grassroots activism, underground hip hop, and electoral politics. Moreover, Martinez informs me that he sees all three as platforms for direct action to be employed in order to bring about positive change in our communities. The Martinez campaign seeks to utilize hip hop in conjunction with electoral politics as part of Occupy Wall Street’s diversity of tactics, in order to build a “People’s Machine” in which communities worldwide can work collectively to elect politicians into office without the huge sums of corporate money currently required by our two-party system.
“There’s a difference between petitioning our government for a redress of grievances—essentially begging for help from people who aren’t from where we’re from and don’t get our interest—and straight-up replacing them. The problem is, how do you go about replacing them in such a way that you don’t have the same problem of failed leadership that we’re experiencing now, in twenty years’ time? How do you keep people honest and keep them engaged in the community they represent? The ones who are eating the corporate money are always moving further and further away from the real needs of the community they’re supposed to represent. When the biggest democrats and progressives also have Goldman Sachs as their number one campaign contributor, and also vote for bailouts, and also vote for things like H.R. 347, then we have an obligation to take them out of office. But it’s the way in which we do it that matters. Building an open-source, do-it-yourself model that brings the power of issue-literacy and direct action to bear against the corporate machine as part of a grassroots movement is what we’re all about.”
It’s this message of bottom-up grassroots community empowerment which found synergy with the Occupy Wall Street movement: “We showed up at the park during the second week of the occupation,” Martinez informs me. “Our elders, people we respected from our communities who have been socially active since the sixties and seventies, went down to Zuccotti during the first week and gave what was happening there their seal of approval. By the beginning of the third week, I got a chance to speak at the GA, and two days later my wife and I wrote, produced, shot, and edited a music video from the OWS media table called Occupation Freedom. The rest is history, and we’ve never looked back.”
Since then George has brought his considerable experience to support the Occupy movement:
“I’m the first hip hop artist to be elected to public office, the second official Hip Hop Ambassador employed by the State Department, and the first to operate in the western hemisphere. Hip hop first started off in low-income gang communities, with gang members trying to solve problems and conflicts in non-violent ways utilizing the talent of the young people that they had available to them in the communities. The Godfather of Hip Hop, Afrika Bambaataa, the former member of the Black Spades, called a truce between the gangs and started an organization called Zulu Nation. It was literally people getting together for block parties, occupying space, taking over school yards, stealing electricity from lampposts to power their turntables, and taking other people’s music and making our own. So it literally was creating something from nothing, and creating hopefulness where it seemed like there wasn’t any. That is the power of hip hop, that is what hip hop represented, and I take that same narrative, that same exact power around the world, and like Afrika Bambaataa, I bring the power of our culture and our art to bear on growing peaceful alternatives for young people in my city and around the world.”
Once again—obras más que palabras—since his involvement with Occupy, Hon. George Martinez has created a second music video bringing together activists from Occupy Wall Street and Occupy the Hood, and started Bum Rush the Vote, an organization which utilizes guerilla marketing in order to empower communities to put politicians into power without the need for corporate fundraising.
Recently, this machine was tested when Martinez was refused participation in a televised congressional debate by NY1, on the grounds that he, despite having over three times the required signatures to get on the ballot, hadn’t raised or spent enough money on his campaign to be considered a “real candidate” by the network. Literally overnight, more than 100 activists prepared to descend on the NY1 studio in Chelsea Markets to protest this action. The debate was later rescheduled for unrelated reasons, and George was included in the follow-up debate where he was able to catch his corporate-funded rival Nydia Velazquez in a bald-faced lie.
As our conversation draws to an end, I cannot help but feel inspired and uplifted both by Martinez himself and by his association with Occupy Wall Street. I can honestly say that the Honorable George Martinez is one of the most exciting politicians I have ever encountered in my life, in a sea of disingenuous, corporate-funded, lesser-of-two-evils, talking heads, he strikes me as a man of deep proletarian integrity. His manner is natural, and he displays both a calm maturity and issue literacy that few can match, while as a speaker, he brings the power and intensity of the best in underground hip hop. As I make my exit onto Bowery, I am overcome with the feeling that I have just conversed with a man who could, in all likelihood, verbally bodycheck Barack Obama, and if we’re very, very lucky, maybe one day we’ll get to see it.
If you’re interested in finding out more information about George Martinez or Bum Rush the Vote you can follow him on twitter @BumRushTheVote, you can donate to his political campaign, and of course if you’re in New York’s Seventh District you can vote for him in the upcoming democratic primary, it’s in just a few days (6/26/12) and polls show him to be neck and neck with Velazquez.
Most of all though, George wants you to get involved, if not with him in particular, then with him as part of a movement which bum rushes city, state, and local government races this years, next year. George informs me that it is his hope that within 2 years we can bum rush the house of representatives with over 100 local candidates, while keeping in mind the Diversity of Tactics: “electoral politics is only one of the many weapons at the people’s disposal” he tells me “so bring your ideas because we have a great diversity of people who are going to find solidarity through the occupy message of taking back power that’s already ours, block by block, and city by city.”
By Stephen Reader, Friday, June 22, 2012
Candidates for the Democratic nomination in New York’s 7th congressional district appeared on the Brian Lehrer Show Friday morning, where they tried to lay out their platforms while addressing allegations that party politics are muddying the race.
By Courtney Gross on June 22, 2012
By Alan Krawitz on June 21, 2012
In a letter sent to new constituents in the newly drawn 7th Congressional district, Rep. Nydia Velazquez wrote that she is sometimes referred to as “La Luchadora,” Spanish for “The Fighter.”
That label may prove more than fitting as Velazquez seeks re-election to the congressional seat she has held since 1992, which as the result of the 2010 Census has undergone redistricting.
Many political insiders say this could be the veteran congresswoman’s toughest fight yet, as she goes up against three challengers in the upcoming Democratic primary on June 26.
Term-limited Brooklyn Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, political newcomer Dan O’Connor and Occupy Wall Street/hip-hop activist George Martinez are all vying to oust Velazquez from the new 7th District, which is now 20 percent Chinese and includes parts of Chinatown, the East Village and the Lower East Side in addition to areas in Brooklyn such as Williamsburg and Sunset Park and Woodhaven in Queens.
According to his campaign manager, Cecily McMillan, George Martinez has been part of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement since the second week of its encampment, and he wrote and performed the OWS’ hip-hop anthem during the third week.
McMillan writes that Martinez was a primary organizer of Occupy Sunset Park and Occupy Bed-Stuy, as well as “Occupy the ’Hood” in New York City and nationwide.
Martinez is currently involved in the End Corporate Personhood Affinity Group. In the world outside the Occupy movement, Martinez was the former district leader for the 51st Assembly District and former assistant director for the New York State attorney general.
He is currently a U.S. Cultural Ambassador to Latin America and Asia, a member of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and an adjunct professor of political science at Pace University in Manhattan.
Martinez’ main focus is an “election with a new direction”—to hear Martinez articulate his platform, it is basically to get the money out of the process and the people in.
“We want to empower people to solve their own problems,” Martinez said.
His OWS-style, hip-hop campaign is the prototype of a community-based, direct action style he has named “Bum Rush the Vote.” The Bum Rush premise is predicated upon controlling politics without money, which is what he calls “people power.”
Martinez said OWS has exposed some of the ways that corporations have used money to influence elections. “People don’t trust public officials anymore,” Martinez said.
“We were told that it takes an average of $1.2 million dollars to run for Congress, much of which comes from corporate backers,” Martinez said. “However, with less than $5,000, we made it on to the primary ballot and even won a ballot challenge!”
“Velazquez was in office for 20 years and she didn’t author one piece of legislation that really affected people in their neighborhoods,” Martinez added.
Martinez said his campaign team is truly grass-roots, made up of volunteers. “Canvassers contributed countless hours petitioning for over 3,000 signatures. We’ve had campaign, media, photography, graphic design and web design consultants donate their time and skills. We’ve had individuals and small businesses donate space and resources for meetings and fundraisers, etc.”
Calling the OWS movement the canary in the coal mine, Martinez said he wants to fix Washington, D.C., and “move the agenda forward.”
By Natasha Lennard, Monday, June 18
George Martinez is a crier. The self-identifying Occupy activist running for Congress choked up, he recalls, when he first attended a general assembly at Zuccotti Park last fall; he “broke down and cried,” he says, in a hotel room in the Middle East as he watched livestream footage of NYPD officers beating protesters during the encampment eviction last November. He held back tears again just speaking to the Village Voice’s Nick Pinto about “people who are hurting and struggling” and wanting to do something about it.
And earlier this week, when Martinez took to the small stage in New York’s Yippie! Café to address supporters of his campaign for New York’s 7th Congressional District seat, he gave a speech with the relentless cadence of a well-crafted rap – the angry crescendos seemed almost designed to bring him close to tears.
Understandably, a lot of people, like the Voice’s Pinto, are wondering, “Is this guy for real?” It seems a reasonable question to ask about a politician campaigning on platitudes like “people power”; especially a guy like Martinez, the Brooklyn-born-and-raised 38-year-old, emanating charisma in a sharp beige suit with an “Occupy!” pin on his lapel.
“It’s part of a diversity of tactics; this is my direct action,” said Martinez of his congressional campaign, the first run by Occupy participants in New York to get on the ballot. His comments like this, echoing the terms of anarchist organizing that shaped Occupy, would be unintelligible to many establishment politicians. His use of terms like “direct action” and “diversity of tactics” in the context of an electoral campaign also make little sense to many long-term Occupy participants, for whom “direct action” quite literally means that which isn’t mediated by electoral, representative politics.
By Nick Pinto, Monday, June 18 2012
As the Voice describes in this week’s cover story, George Martinez is running for congress in New York’s 7th District, and he’s doing so as an Occupy Wall Street-affiliated candidate.
But before he was running for office, and before he first set foot in Zuccotti Park, Martinez was a rapper.
As a high-schooler obsessively recording tracks in his bedroom, as a college kid whose crew was mentioned as an “Unsigned Hype” by The Source, as the founder of two hip-hop-related non-profits and as a “Hip-Hop Ambassador” engaged in cultural diplomacy with the State Department, Martinez has been in some version of the rap game from way back.
Thursday, June 13, 2012
The Occupy Wall Street supporter is running for Congress as a Democrat — and since he’s sworn off corporate donations to his campaign — he knows he’ll have to work harder.
Martinez’ positions reflect his Occupy affiliation — with his calls for a moratorium on home foreclosures — no new wars — food security and healthcare for all — and student loan forgiveness.
He’s an experienced organizer who’s helped create two non-profits — as well as working with the state Attorney General’s office and as a cultural envoy in Latin America for the US State Department.
With the estimated cost of an average Congressional campaign running at about one and a half million dollars — Martinez is the first to acknowledge the many challenges that face him.
By Joe Coscarelli, June 12, 2012
George Martinez, the “hip-hop diplomat” running as an Occupy candidate in the 7th Congressional District, is making a point of avoiding corporate donations in favor of grassroots support. But as the Village Voicereports today, the atypical underdog campaign is already hitting the system’s roadblocks: Because small races don’t warrant polling, NY1 uses campaign donations and spending to decide which candidates get asked to its debate. Martinez didn’t make the cut, but he’s not giving up yet.
“Several candidates who are on the ballot in several of the races have filed with the Federal Election Commission but shown no evidence of any campaign activity and have not been invited to participate in our debates,” NY1 said in response to Martinez’s supporters. “Can you provide any evidence that George Martinez has been running an actual campaign by getting donations from voters in the district and spending the money on basic campaign expenses? If so, we’d reconsider our decision.”
Martinez told us last week that he’s running an “actual” campaign by canvasing his neighborhood daily, claiming to have made the ballot for the June 26 primary. “The real framework is that we’re building a do-it-yourself democracy model, crowd-funded, the best we can,” he explained. “It’s volunteers and small donors across the board — we are not taking any corporate money. Like in [Zuccotti Park], we’re asking people to bring their individual talents to create this tapestry.”
The Village Voice: NY1 Freezes Congressional Candidate George Martinez Out of Debate, May Reconsider
By Nick Pinto on June 12, 2012
Supporters of George Martinez, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in New York’s 7th Congressional District, are pressuring NY1 to reverse its decision not to invite Martinez to the station’s political debate, accusing the station of a bias that privileges well-connected fundraisers over grass-roots candidates.
June 12, 2012
George Martinez is frustrated. The so-called Hip-Hop Diplomat’s effort to keep his Occupy candidacy for New York’s Seventh Congressional District at the grassroots level is backfiring. NY1 is hosting a debate for which the participants are determined, not by poll numbers, but by campaign donations and spending and, as a result, Martinez’s rejection of corporate donors has left him without enough funds to qualify for the debate. In hopes of swaying the local news network to reconsider, the Martinez campaign issued a statement noting that while his candidacy is approved by the Federal Election Commission and the Board of Elections, “he was not required until recently to submit an FEC financial disclosure form because his campaign had succeeded in getting nearly 3,000 signatures and his place on the ballot without spending the minimum disclosure amount of $5,000.” So perhaps NY1 will have a change of heart and Martinez’s Zuccotti Park comrades will be able to watch him debate on one of their friend’s TVs.
With Occupy Wall Street’s once ubiquitous physical presence decimated, the movement’s attempts to start anew have sputtered. “Burned out, out of money, out of ideas,”lamented Adbusters this week. A Harvard social scientist blamed “ a failure to engage in tactical innovation,” noting, “Eight months in, the Tea Party were beginning to impact primary elections, and by the second year were having a tremendous impact.” But while OWS has generally shunned electoral politics, considering the system flush with corporate cash and beyond repair for now, Brooklyn’s George Martinez, a cultural ambassador for the State Department, former district leader, and self-described “hip-hop diplomat,” is giving it a real go, running under the Occupy banner for a seat in Congress. He promised Daily Intel: “We are absolutely in this to win this.”
Occupy Congress: Activist runs for New York seat
An Occupy Wall Street activist has secured a place on the New York Congressional ballot.
George Martinez, an adjunct professor of politics at Pace University and a hip-hop artist, will face Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez in a June 26 primary.
Martinez is taking the campaign seriously and is not trying merely to make a statement with his candidacy, his campaign manager told The Hill.
“We are attempting to win,” Cecily McMillan said.
McMillan said another long-term goal of the campaign is to change campaigning methods and show that campaigns can be run without soliciting large amounts of money from potential donors.
“It’s an experiment — we are going to see how far we can get,” she said.
[NEW YORK, NY] George Martinez, a Brooklyn native, hip-hop artist and seasoned Occupy Wall Street activist has announced his candidacy for Brooklyn’s 7th Congressional District. In a clear statement honoring Occupy Wall Street’s non-partisan process, an autonomous parallel movement calling itself “Bum Rush The Vote” has announced it’s intentions to grab political seats using the same grassroots guerrilla campaigning strategies that quickly catapulted the Occupy message from New York’s financial district onto the international stage. George Martinez is the first of several Occupier candidates pursuing public office under the “Bum Rush The Vote” campaign banner. In the June 26 Democratic primary he will be challenging Nydia Velazquez whose tenure as a New York representative has spanned two decades.
A hip-hop artist who claims to be the first Occupy Wall Street activist to secure a place on a Congressional ballot will challenge Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) in the June 26 Democratic primary.
George Martinez, who can be seen in full hip-hop flow in a YouTube video backing the Occupy movement, is not just a gadfly candidate, however.
An adjunct professor of politics at Pace University, he is also a cultural ambassador for the State Department.
Whereas a handful of other Occupy activists have either tried and failed to make the ballot (Nathan Kleinman in Pennsylvania’s 13th district), or will run on third-party tickets (Colin Beavan, who will run as the Green Party candidate in New York’s 8th district), Martinez collected enough signatures to get on the Democratic Party primary ballot.
Cecily McMillan, another Occupy activist who serves as Martinez’s deputy campaign manager, said the intention is to make a serious attempt to oust Velazquez.
“We are attempting to win,” she emphasized to The Hill.
Challenging Rep. Nydia Velazquez in the Democratic primary for the redrawn 7th Congressional District in New York City, George Martinez claims to be the “only Occupy activist on a primary ballot.” Regardless of whether the Pace University adjunct professor can back up that claim, Martinez is challenging Velazquez (and her other primary opponents, including City Councilman Erik Martin Dilan) with some of the elan of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Last week, Martinez released a music video, “Occupy 2.0 All Streets, Bum Rush the Vote,” shot during Occupy Wall Street’s May Day marches and featuring the candidate rapping on subways and during the street demonstrations. Martinez told DNAinfo that he refuses corporate support, though it might be a little unlikely that he would get much. Relying on individual donations from the general public, the Martinez campaign has raised less than $6,000.
Getting money out of politics has emerged as one of the core objectives of the occupy movement, but for former Brooklyn Democratic District Leader, U.S. Hip Hop Ambassador and OWS Activist, George Martinez, “controlling politics without money is power, People Power.”
If you follow DWT with any regularity, you’ve come to know a little about Occupy Wall Street activist George Martinez from two videos we’ve looked at, one from Monday– of him campaigning with the help of actor Penn Badgley– and one from a month ago when we first urged him to run for Congress. Well New York State redistricting is done, George’s home is in the 7th district– and he’s running in the Democratic primary for a seat currently held by a longtime goes-along-to-get-along non-leader, Nydia Velazquez. I asked George to write up a brief introduction of himself and explain why he decided to run. If you like what you here, please join me in supporting him here on our ActBlue page.
I’m visiting NYC and a friend asked me if I was planning on going down to Zucotti Park. I hadn’t even thought of it; I guess I hadn’t realized that there was still an occupation of the Park going on. I did think of getting in touch with George Martinez, one of the Occupy activists who is running for a congressional seat currently held by Democrat Nydia Velázquez. Velázquez isn’t a Blue Dog or a New Dem and she has no outstanding ethics charges against her. I had hoped George would run against scandal-prone corrupt New Dem Joseph Crowley, but when the new district boundaries came down, he was in Velázquez’ district and her lack of leadership and her longstanding role as a cog in the Democratic machine was enough of an impetus for Martinez.
A well-known Occupy Wall Street activist, hip-hop artist and former district leader has decided to take the plunge back into New York’s electoral politics — by jumping into the suddenly crowded race to take on Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez.