We are building an institution of progressive popular education focused on the central place people learn today – the internet.
We believe that over the last few decades, the right has skillfully built a massive infrastructure of persuasion targeted at lower-information, less-political audiences, overtime converting huge swaths of non-ideological Americans into reliable conservatives. Meanwhile, progressives are sorely lacking an effective counter to the right’s powerful propaganda network, as well as our own institutions that can reach and persuade the uninitiated – not just preaching to the choir.
With short, high-quality, educational videos that explains politics, economics, and history from a progressive perspective in a way that is digestible and appealing for the lay person, we strive to fight the right’s online propaganda machine on its own turf while spreading progressive ideas to new audiences.
Jabari currently represents Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in the New York State Senate. He is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and is the first openly gay person of color elected to the New York State Legislature. A native Brooklynite and former Brooklyn public school teacher, Jabari took office in 2021.
Veena is a professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Her research focuses on the intersections of precarious work, technology, and law. Prior to joining the faculty at Hastings, Veena was a public interest attorney and represented workers and Muslim Americans in civil rights cases. Veena lives in San Francisco, California.
Hicham is the founder and CEO of Enigma, an open data technology company. Prior to Enigma, he worked on sustainable finance and alternative energy projects in Africa. Hicham lives in Los Angeles, California.
Nina is a national progressive leader and educator. She served as a Cleveland City Council Member from 2006 to 2008, then as an Ohio State Senator from 2008 to 2014, and was the co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign. Previously, she was an assistant professor of history at her alma mater Cuyahoga Community College. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Gravel Institute was founded in 2020 to carry on the life’s work of Mike Gravel (1930-2021), a two-term U.S. Senator (D-AK), author and prominent advocate for peace and democracy.
Born to a working class French-Canadian family in Massachusetts, Mike didn’t speak English until the age of seven and grew up humbly during the Great Depression. He served in the Army, leaving as a First Lieutenant, before attending Columbia University, funding his tuition by working as a taxi driver and a bartender.
In 1956, Mike moved to pre-statehood Alaska to start a political career. He worked as a brakeman on the Alaska Railroad, and then as a real estate agent in Anchorage. In 1963, he was elected to Alaska’s House of Representatives, and soon became its Speaker. As a state legislator, Mike authored the law creating the state’s regional high school system – thus allowing Alaska Natives to attend schools closer to where they lived – and was a leading proponent of settling Alaska Natives’ land claims. In 1968, just twelve years after moving to Alaska, he was elected to the U.S. Senate after an innovative campaign.
In the Senate, Mike distinguished himself for his advocacy for Alaskan development, his strong criticism of nuclear weapons testing, and his fierce opposition to the Vietnam War. He was also an early advocate of normalizing relations with China, sponsored one of the first bills proposing a guaranteed minimum income, and worked to make amends for America’s colonial legacy during the drafting of a new Panama Canal treaty. He played a major role in ending America’s military draft, and in 1971 cemented his place in American history by reading the Pentagon Papers – top-secret documents revealing the true nature of America’s war in Vietnam and how the U.S. government systematically lied to the American people in order to prosecute the war – into the Congressional Record, ensuring that they could be freely published. It has been called one of the greatest acts of courage by a sitting politician in American history.
Increasingly dissatisfied with life in the Senate, Mike was not reelected in 1980 and shifted his focus to other ventures. In addition to continuously campaigning against American militarism, he also became a prominent advocate for direct democracy – feeling that, drawing from his first-hand experience in Washington, the problems and dysfunction of the American republic were ultimately due to a deficit of democracy, not an excess of it – and wrote several books outlining his views, including Citizen Power, The Kingmakers with Columbia professor David Eisenbach, and his last book, The Failure of Representative Government.
In 2008 and then in 2020, Mike reemerged on the political scene to run for president in the Democratic primaries to draw attention to vital issues neglected by the regular political and media class. He showed that he was still far ahead of his time in both campaigns, staking out courageous, prescient, and often lonely stances on issues ranging from foreign policy, to LGBTQ+ equality, to economic and social justice, to democracy and political reforms. Initially dismissed by the insiders, he galvanized progressive activists nationwide and helped change the policy debate, and saw much of the rest of the party eventually caught up with his positions.
After the 2020 campaign, Mike founded the Gravel Institute with his young campaign staff to carry on his life’s work. He passed away peacefully in 2021, at age 91.
Through it all, Mike remained the same thing he always was: a critic of elites, a devoted champion of common people.
Lieutenant Mike Gravel, U.S. Army
Mike as a NYC cab driver
Sen. Gravel reading the Pentagon Papers (Plain Dealer Photograph Collection)
Mike on the 2008 presidential debate stage (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Mike graduating Columbia
Mike visiting Alaskan Native children
Sen. Gravel as a candidate for VP nomination at DNC ’72 (United Press International)