Hillarymania may have already staked its claim in Brooklyn Heights, but Bernie Fever has been something of a slow burner across the borough. A couple of upcoming fundraising events are evidence that Bernie supporters are now igniting on-the-ground efforts in Bushwick and beyond, tapping into what Jon Fuhrer, organizer of the Bushwick Berners, describes as the “young white hipsterish” demographic. Fuhrer explained fundraising events like his aren’t just for “keeping things fresh and fun for that group of people” — they also aim to “get people excited so they actually want to go into the community and help organize.”
On Sunday, September 27, Shea Stadium will host a Bushwick Berners fundraising event, Weekend at Bernie’s, featuring a slew of mainstay local and local-ish bands including Guerrilla Toss, Mannequin Pussy, Nine of Swords, and Nonsense. All proceeds collected from the $8 tickets, screen-printed Bernie t-shirts, and other schwag will go directly to the 2016 campaign.
According to Fuhrer, the major goal of the Bushwick Berners is to reach people who might not know about Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency. While the U.S. Senator from Vermont was born in Flatbush and has long impressed some residents who recognize that he “speaks Brooklyn,” the campaign still has a long way to go if Bernie’s going to have a chance at winning all of North Brooklyn.
“Our focus right now is that we’re trying to get out of the echo chamber of the younger, progressive set and really try and get into the community more and hammer this message out,” Fuhrer said. “Ultimately we believe the most effective way for Bernie to win is to actually talk to communities that don’t know about him yet, and right now we’re trying to get out there to black and Latino voters.”
Fuhrer explained that events like the one coming up at Shea Stadium then are less about affirming in-the-bag voters and more about recruiting volunteers to “actually come out with us into the community and let people know about Bernie.” The Berners have plans to host similar events on a monthly basis.
While the Berners are making efforts to appeal to a more diverse set of voters in their on-the-ground outreach efforts, the organization itself doesn’t necessarily reflect that same diversity. “I would say the coalition is a mix of men and women, mostly younger, with some people who are coming to organize from different communities,” Fuhrer explained. “We have people who grew up here in Bushwick, we have people coming from New Jersey and Connecticut. Latinos for Bernie has been helping us with a lot of the outreach as well — they come from places like Sunset Park.”
But Fuhrer, who claims he’s been a Bernie supporter since he was 16 years old and is now volunteering for his second Sanders campaign, says the organizers are getting the word out there about issues that might appeal to young white voters as well as black and Latino voters. “The messages that have been resonating most are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding social security — especially for seniors, because when we go into the community we’re talking to older voters as well.”
Armand Aviram also volunteers for the Bernie Sanders campaign and spends much of his time canvasing at Washington Square Park. While he may not head an organization of his own, Aviram has also put together a fundraising event. Berning Up Brooklyn will be held at the Paper Box on Thursday, Oct. 8.
The Berner’s event might qualify as a little more DIY, but if your answer to “Which Pop Star are You?” is “Taylor Swift,” then you should probably check out Aviram’s event instead. The lineup consists of musicians such as Elise Testone. “She came in sixth place on American Idol on Season 11,” Aviram explained.
Instead of performing their own material, artists will be covering famous protest songs such as John Lennon’s “Power to the People,” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.” Apparently Lenny Kravitz also has a “political song,” that will be featured at the event, but it remains to be seen if the performer at this event will be moved to dong flashing a la the muse.
Attendees won’t just be getting a hefty dose of covers at this benefit, which is also donating all of its proceeds to the 2016 campaign — free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream will be available as well (only the first hundred or so lactose-tolerant early birds will get the ice cold worm). Aviram also took the time to tap into the Bushwick arts community to contribute “Bernie-inspired art.”
“I went through this Bushwick arts directory and found hundreds of artists,” he explained. “I didn’t know if I was going to get any responses but I got tons, about 40 to 50 responses, but I had to narrow it down to 30.”
The artwork is divided up into themes loosely based on issues Bernie’s incorporated into his campaign message. “Some of the themes are ending warfare, peace, another one is healthcare, taking care of our people, another one is racism, equality for all,” Aviram explained. But the centerpiece of the mini-exhibition is a portrait of Bernie drawn by Aviram’s mother. The work, he said, was the inspiration for the visual arts part of the benefit.
“She sent me a sketch, a portrait of Bernie and I thought it was incredible, I encouraged her to finish it,” he said. “We’ve actually sent it to the official campaign and they’ve seen it and love it.”