Citizenship in action at the corner of Culver and Parsells

Citizenship in action at the corner of Culver and Parsells
bernie hq

Monroe County for Bernie Sanders Office at 1137 Culver Road. 3/31/16 [Photo: Van King]

bug jar

Hillary Bialecki outside the Bug Jar after the St. Patrick’s Day parade march, Monroe Avenue, 3/12/16

After watching East beat Waterloo in baseball down the road, it was time for an overdue visit to the local Bernie Sanders campaign headquarters at 1137 Culver near Parsells.  We had been with the campaign at a downtown rally, a parade and at the Bug Jar witnessing some bellicose Trump supporters.


Ravi with Janet Nemetz and Van King. Van took the picture outside. 3/31/16

Filled with volunteers, phone banks and a raft of Bernie goodies, the headquarters was evidence just how far the campaign has come since the summer.  In June, I had met Kevin Sweeny, a campaign communications liaison, at a festival in the Martin Luther King Park as he and others were registering voters.

As Kevin described a proliferation of house meetings where the curious and the committed gathered to talk issues, I felt the beginning of a movement.  And the first large scale event at the German House in October drew a big crowd from all demographics.

mary lupien

Mary Lupien, a Sanders delegate. Ask Mary if the United States could elect a democratic socialism, she’ll tell you we already have: FDR four times. With FDR dime at the 2/27/16 downtown rally.

At headquarters, I was greeted by Ravi Mangla and Shirley Thompson (Shirley, along with Kevin, are featured in today’s D & C). Ravi, Shirley and other volunteers were making calls, cutting flyers, handing out yards signs and signing people up for emails lists.  In my short time, several drop-ins came by just to get more information, having seen the large Bernie wood carved sign in their neighborhood or just hearing about the headquarters by word of mouth.


Jaime Morrill at the 2/27/16 downtown rally. Jaime is active in Women for Sanders.

The vibe was upbeat and inviting.  Feeling a little patriotic surge, to me this is America at its best: its citizens freely associating to share ideas and viewpoints — and to cast their voices into the ballot box come November.

Having myself never built a headquarters from scratch, Ravi explained how this civic hub came to be:

not so queer

Ready for the drive to the Convention in Philadelphia: bumper sticker, Bernie pillow and some reading material. And tee shirt and buttons. [Photo: Ravi Mangla] 3/31/16

Any civic movement is a labor of love. Over the past month our volunteers have worked tirelessly to transform a former Pizza Hut into a local hub for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Few of us involved in the campaign have a background in politics (most, for better or worse, were English majors), which means we’ve had to learn on the fly, pool our knowledge and resources. Desks and chairs were donated by a law office. Our cash register was left behind by the previous tenant. The sign out front was repurposed by a local woodworker, carved to resemble the Bernie logo.


Ravi Mangla (from his website)

One of the greatest challenges has been staffing the office. While we have hundreds of volunteers, most have full-time jobs and family commitments. We decided to keep the office open until nine each night (much later than your typical political office), to make it accessible to as many visitors as possible, but finding volunteers willing to take on a three-hour shift has been more difficult than we anticipated. Nothing about this campaign is ordinary. The same holds true of our office. We consider it acommunity space, a venue where people of all kind can come to discuss critical issues affecting our neighborhood, nation, and planet.


RIT and Brockport students, Ryan and Alexandra at the St. Patrick’s Day parade next to the Strong Museum parking lot. All the data they read says don’t count out the Burning Man. 3/12/16

Yesterday we held a lecture on structural racism. Some attendees remained for an hour after the event to continue the conversation. Today we have a workshop on video storytelling for politically-minded filmmakers. We don’t turn anyone away. Everyone is welcome in our office, and welcome to stay as long as they like.

That’s citizenship in action at the corner of Culver and Parsells.

On seeing my first Trump supporters outside the Bug Jar

Would America elect a democratic socialist? We already have. Think FDR


About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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