Agatha Bacelar speaks at Universal Basic Income March
Full speech: video and transcript
Thank you everyone. Boa tarde. Bienvenidos.
My name is Agatha Bacelar and I’m running for U.S. Congress here in San Francisco. For most of my adult life I’ve been working on documentary storytelling and political advocacy. My understanding of the issues that challenge us today comes from getting proximate. From spending time with the people for whom justice is most urgently needed: the incarcerated, the undocumented, the unbanked. I’ve spent time with indigenous peoples, those experiencing homelessness and with teachers and students in under resourced classrooms.
One of the things I’ve learned from my work and telling people’s stories is that poverty is not an anomaly. It’s something that’s felt by the majority of people and it’s often invisible. We stigmatize being poor, so people do everything they can to hide it. It’s often a mom and her kid. You’d walk past them on the street and not realize anything was wrong or that they were living out of their car.
Poverty in the end isn’t that much about money or the lack of money. Poverty is really about social power. Who gets their needs met and who doesn’t. Who is deemed important and who isn’t. Which communities are catered to and which aren’t. I’m a supporter of UBI because I believe everyone is intrinsically valued just for being alive. You should have dignity and a basic standard of living, and we shouldn’t put qualifications on who deserves their basic needs to be met. The people closest to a problem are often the ones most capable of solving it. So let’s give people the resources they need and trust that they’ll spend it in the best way.
Alleviating poverty is important because poverty takes over all aspects of our lives. People who have their needs met can concentrate and succeed better in school; are healthier both mentally and physically; are less likely to fall prey to gang violence and the illegal economy; and less likely to vote for Trump. They can move beyond survival mode and contribute — like running for office themselves. In
1776, John Adams wrote that the legislature should be in miniature “an exact portrait of the people at large — it should think, feel, reason and act like them.” Today the lived experience of our political representatives does not match the lived experience of everyday people. Fewer than 5 percent of representatives in Congress cite blue-collar or service jobs in their biographies. When working-class candidates run, we do just as well as candidates from other backgrounds. But we’re less likely to take the initial leap of running a campaign because of the risk of taking time off from paid work is often too high. UBI helps us make our democracy more reflective of the people. That’s one of the biggest goals of my campaign.
So UBI is a solution for way more than poverty. It’s about dignity and building a society where everyone contributes equally because everyone can contribute.
Today you are contributing by showing the world that UBI is important. As we march today, remember you are continuing in the legacy of Dr. King, who was not only fighting for a guaranteed income before he was assassinated, but also taught us how to organize and demand economic justice. As you march today, I want you to channel the culture of protest politics that has been rooted in the Bay Area. Remember the LGBTQ movement, the Black Panthers, and how beat poetry, free love, and the Vietnam War protests were all started here.
I want you to remember how:
The MeToo movement and the women’s march made many of us recognize things we’ve allowed that are no longer acceptable.
March for Our Lives called bullshit on gun violence.
Undocumented and unafraid activists are demanding their status as Americans be recognized.
Students all around the world are taking to the streets and striking for climate action.
Together let’s retell our story. Let’s capture people’s imagination and get them excited again. As a country, we have never realized our best ideas. We never truly integrated schools, we never truly gave access to the ballot box. And we’ve yet to implement a Universal Basic Income to become an egalitarian society. Our best selves are still within reach. The power is within us collectively. Let’s march and make the politically impossible, possible!