CBS News is reporting, in an interview with her, that Green Party presumptive presidential nominee Jill Stein has announced her choice for the party’s vice presidential candidate, to be approved at this week’s convention in Baltimore. Cheri Honkala is the Stein campaign’s choice, a poor people’s advocate based in Philadelphia and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.
There was some speculation that actress and comedian Roseanne Barr, who is also running for the Green Party’s presidential nomination, would be the vice presidential candidate. However, Stein has opted instead for Honkala, saying in an announcement, “Compelled by her own experience as a homeless, single mom, Honkala has spent nearly three decades working directly alongside the poor to build the movement to end poverty, and has organized tens of thousands of people to take action via marches, demonstrations and tent cities.”
Honkala herself stated, “It’s immoral that children are hungry and homeless in the richest country in the world. It’s time for the 99% to stand united to serve our collective human needs instead of selfish, corporate greed. The Green Party is the only one standing up to Wall Street, and Jill Stein’s Green New Deal is the best plan for saving this sinking ship. I’m honored to fight beside her.”
For the time being, Honkala is also coordinating ballot access efforts for the Green Party of Pennsylvania, which is in the process of working to collect over 40,000 signatures by the end of July. Honkala joined the Green Party in 2011, when she ran for Sheriff of Philadelphia on a platform of turning the Sheriff’s office from the department that evicts people to a social service working to “keep families in their homes,” as well as establishing community land trusts so that people living near vacant and abandoned properties can control them. Honkala ran for Sheriff after labor organizer Hugh Giordano reinvigorated the Green Party of Philadelphia with his strong run for state representative in 2010. The campaign proposal of addressing blight and vacant lots is part of a Philadelphia-wide political effort to address vacant land in the city in recent years. Honkala is also consistently involved in efforts to prevent individual families from losing their homes to foreclosure and other work ensuring the basic survival of some of the most economically oppressed in Philadelphia. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign also operates around the United States, and is part of various international poor peoples’ movements.
As mentioned earlier, Honkala has been an activist of one form or another, whether simply to ensure the survival of herself and her son in the Minnesota winter when she was homeless or organizing protests at the Republican National Convention in 2000, for decades. Several documentaries have been made about her or her efforts, including “Poverty Outlaw,” and she was featured in the book The Myth of the Welfare Queen. Honkala has been named one of the 100 most powerful people in the region by Philadelphia magazine, as well as being named “Person of the Year” once by Philadelphia Weekly. Her son Mark Webber is an actor, director, and playwright who used his celebrity to help her campaign for Sheriff. In that campaign, Cheri campaigned and organized in Philadelphia, as well as travelling the country to encourage progressives to leave the Democratic Party and encourage Greens to approach politics in a way that is more inclusive of and relevant to poor people.
[Disclosure: I was involved in Cheri Honkala's campaign for Sheriff on many levels and this summer I have been part of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, working on a farm they are organizing in the neighborhood where Honkala lives. I am also a member of the Green Party of PA, was active in Hugh Giordano's campaign, and have been collecting signatures to get the Stein campaign on the ballot there.]