Andrea L. Kirby Speech, Sept. 20

I am Andrea Kirby and I stand proudly as the Candidate of the Working-Class Party for the 9th Congressional District.

I am a wife and mother of two young adults, 16 and 20. I was born and raised in Queens, New York, to a single mother, her only child. I have lived in Michigan for almost 22 years, working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for most of those years. At BCBSM, I have been active, held different roles in the union, but I was always fighting along with other workers to protect workers’ rights and promote political awareness.

I stood with my mother as she battled and succumbed to cancer. I stood with her as she had to fight for health insurance and unnecessary amounts of paperwork needed to keep public assistance. On her doctor’s visits, I looked around the waiting rooms, and I saw that I was not the only one. Many of us have to take care for family members at the same time trying to maintain a steady income. Tackling the stress of trying to balance work, family and keeping yourself sane every day while the banks and the corporations steal money right from under us.

When I became a mother, my children became my priority. I wanted to give them the best that I could in order to give them the best start to their adult lives. I wanted to make sure that they were able to contribute to society. 

That is what my grandparents strived for when they left the sharecropping field of North Carolina.  That is what my mother wanted. They didn’t want their struggles to the same struggle of their children and grandchildren.

But as the kids started to get older, we looked more in the daycare and schools, what we found was an educational system that pushes our children through and allows children to graduate ill equipped for the future. Schools that every year get their funding cut and we lose some type of activities out of the curriculum, home economics, physical education, music and a host of other afterschool activities that are no longer offered.  Those that are to go beyond high school are racking up so much debt that it takes almost a lifetime of work to pay it all back.

This is really around the time I started to take a step back to understand the BIGGER PICTURE of my struggles. Now this picture looks different from the angle you are looking at it or the experiences of the person looking at it but there are somethings that are very clear. The working class are the majority, the ones that produce the goods and provide the services, but also the ones that are last to benefit from the wealth created. We were essential before Covid-19 came along, yet we were still begging for a living wage and clean drinking water. Begging not to be shot down in the street while walking home from the store with our hoods on.

We have been looking to Washington and our political leaders to change our conditions. To enact a law to make it make it all better but the truth is, no matter what they write up in Washington, it will means nothing when it doesn’t speak to the true needs of the majority, the Working Class. Our needs are being played back and forth like a tennis ball from one side of the aisle to the other. Between Democrats and Republicans. The same two-party system that has squashed the voice of the working class for hundreds of years. Our lives are not a game to be played with.

Let me give you a quick example.

Blacks were finally recognized by this government by law as human and given the right to vote in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation, yet it had to be addressed again in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868. Then again with the 15th Amendment of the Constitution in 1870. But these amendments didn’t stop the injustices and brutality suffered by millions for the right to vote. This issue had to yet again be addressed in the legislature with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which once again states that Blacks had the right to vote. But changes came when there was an organization and action of the people. Not because there was a law that made it so.

But I digress.

The past is behind us, but we have to know it and understand it in order not to repeat it. Because so much of the history we are taught is school were either down right lies or didn’t go far enough.

So here we are in 2020. Living in an environment that many of us never could image living in. Something we see in the movies. But it’s not. We are living during an epidemic that has killed almost 1 million people worldwide to date. This virus has turned all of our lives on upside down.

We have been in the battle with this virus for over 6 months and workers have been thrust into combat mode. We are called on to stand on the front lines, to be called on as LIFE SAVERS. Now we know that doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police and emergency techs are trained for emergency, lifesaving situations, But not like this, without equipment and the knowledge of what they were dealing with. And others, such as bus drivers, factory workers, office workers, grocery store workers and other “essential workers” were never trained for combat situations.  And what is happening to the people who are essential to us, our families? The youth and elderly are left home during this pandemic, yet are subjected to exposure every day when those of us essential workers return home.

This pandemic has let the cat out of the bag on all the social issues that have plagued the capitalist system that we live in, such as the health and economic disparities for black workers, the disregard for the health of migrants who produce the food eaten in this country, the lack of health care workers and supplies, lack of teachers in the education system, we could go on. Above all, the exploitation of those of us who do the work – the majority of the population. The wealth we produce goes to a tiny capitalist class.

During this pandemic, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his net worth grow to 202 billion. Now we all know he wasn’t a poor man prior to the pandemic, when he had an estimated net worth in January of 86 billion dollars. But he got richer at the same time the workers at Amazon were protesting over the working condition. There is something wrong with that.

There are lessons to be taken from this crisis, and the first is that the workers were the ones who stepped up to the plate to care for one another, not Washington or Lansing. The hospital staff, the bus drivers, grocery store workers, etc. stepped up to make sure our communities were taken care of. People taking care of people, not politicians pretending to do something for our communities. We can also be the ones to make things work for us.

I am running for Congress because I realize that someone from the people needs to speak for the people. I understand that putting one person in office will not make the change happen – each and every one of us needs to take an active part in fighting to get the changes we need. Only when the forces of the working class are pulled together, will we see the change that everyone says they want. Your vote for Working Class Party candidates will show the world that we want something different. But your actions will be what makes the Working Class Party a success.

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