Martin Bemberg / Courtesy photo
A longtime Fayetteville musician and socialist activist will challenge a two-time incumbent for a seat on the City Council this year.
Martin Bemberg, 30, is seeking the Ward 2, Position 1 seat currently held by Mark Kinion, who filed for a third term in the Nov. 6 election. Raymond Burks also filed as a candidate for the position.
As a lifelong resident of Ward 2, Bemberg graduated from Fayetteville High School and has senior standing at the University of Arkansas. He said he is on an extended sabbatical from his studies toward majors in Spanish and German.
Bemberg announced plans to run for election in 2012, but dropped out of the race about a month later. It was the second time Bemberg decided not to pursue previously announced plans for a council bid. In 2010, he told the Flyer he would run, but backed off those plans before the filing period began.
As a musician fronted the longtime Fayetteville band Memphis Pencils, and has since played in several local acts including High Lonesome, Young Haircut and Luxemborg Trio. He also performs solo gigs and regularly appears at Pesto Cafe in Fayetteville.
Bemberg is an organizing committee member of an unofficial local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. He attends Unitarian Universalist church, and said the principles of the liberal religion guide his democratic socialist beliefs.
He said he wants to see radical democracy become a part of civic life in Fayetteville.
“Socialists have a sixth sense for injustice,” he said, adding that Fayetteville is not the “progressive paradise” some people claim it to be.
If elected, he said he’d support measures to address food insecurity, job creation, wage increases and public transit.
Filing for muncipal candidates ended on Aug. 17.
Profile: Martin Bemberg
Position sought: Ward 2, Position 1
Residency: Lifelong Fayetteville and Ward 2 resident
Employment: In-home caregiver
Education: Senior standing at the University of Arkansas (Spanish and German double major)
What made you decide to seek election to the council? Is it something you’ve been considering for a while?
The Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism guide my radical democratic socialist beliefs and praxis.
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
And I am running as a radical Unitarian Universalist democratic socialist because the working people of Ward 2 want, and need, a left-wing alternative, embodied in these principles. I’m running because I want to see radical democracy become a part of civic life. What do I mean by radical democracy? I mean when we face the horrors of capitalism, of white supremacy, of patriarchy, we have recourse beyond voting in November. Socialists have a sixth sense for injustice, and so when I hear people talking about Fayetteville being a progressive paradise, for example, I have to ask: for whom? I’m very privileged as a white man who grew up in a household where books were cool, in the Historic District as the result of generational wealth, and so yeah, things are pretty much great — but for whom? Not for my food-insecure comrades, not for the disenfranchised who can’t find, get, or keep a job because they don’t have reliable transport because they can’t afford a car because they can’t find, get, or keep a job. And so I say, You should have what I have. That’s why I’m running.
And to smash the patriarchy. And to abolish police and prisons, ensure everyone enjoys at least a basic standard of living, and mobilize the electorate through class consciousness for the social revolution of which Rosa dreamt.
Is there anything in particular that drove you to reside in Ward 2? How would you describe that part of town?
I was born in Ward 2, in February of 1988, at the old Washington Regional (now UAMS), at the intersection of North and College. So, my parents having sex, I reckon is what drove me to reside where I do and I have all my life. But I stayed, which I think is what you’re really getting at, because rent was cheap — cheap enough for me to forego staying alone in my family home in the Historic District for free. There’s a reason rent is skyrocketing now. You can walk anywhere from Clunk Alley. Location is access. Equity is about access. Anyone downtown has easy access to food, medicine, books, shiny-happy people holding hands, music, queer spaces, and delightful, stimulating conversation — assuming she has money, health insurance, and doesn’t just want to ball up and cry and sleep and watch Netflix as soon as she gets home from work because capitalism and patriarchal violence are making her clinically ill.
And again I say: She should have what I have. This is also known as socialism.
Are there any recent council decisions you agree or disagree with?
When certain dolts at the Housing Authority decide to, in essence, send back federal grant money back to Housing and Urban Development — boy, that’ll show LBJ and convince people government can’t effectively provide public service…it seems like council members could do more than just advise these reactionary twerps to, like, please not. You know, I don’t really know what I’m talking about.