Empowering Change: Minnesota Premieres “It’s Basic” Documentary, Fanning the Flames of the Guaranteed Income Movement

By Joseph-Charles Peeples-Hampton

Staff Writer | The Metro Scoop Student Newspaper | August 7, 2023

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Wellstone Center was ablaze with excitement on Wednesday, July 19th, as the highly anticipated Minnesota premiere of “It’s Basic” took center stage. Filmmaker Marc Levin’s powerful documentary shed light on the transformative impact of the guaranteed income movement on communities nationwide. Hosted by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, the event gathered fervent community members ready to ignite change through a guaranteed income.

“It’s Basic” artfully weaved together real-life narratives of individuals participating in diverse guaranteed-income pilot programs across the country. The film deeply resonated with the audience, vividly illustrating how the additional income proved a lifeline for those facing economic hardships, with a particular focus on women and parents. The documentary showcased the potential of the guaranteed income campaign to empower, uplift, and revitalize communities nationwide.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter delivers pre-screening remarks during the “It’s Basic” documentary premiere. (Photo courtesy of Mayor Melvin Carter’s office)

Mayor Carter, a tireless champion of the movement, addressed the captivated audience with unwavering resolve. He recounted the origins of St. Paul’s People’s Prosperity Guaranteed Income Pilot, which, nearly three years ago, extended a helping hand to 150 families, providing them with $500 a month for 18 months. The pilot aimed to break barriers, offering residents resources to chart their path to financial prosperity.

The star-studded event featured Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, California, whose visionary ideas ignited the spark of universal basic income (UBI) or guaranteed income for Mayor Carter. The enduring partnership between the two leaders has led to the rapid expansion of the guaranteed income movement, with support from over 100 cities nationwide, including St. Paul, Minneapolis, Richfield, and Brooklyn Center in Minnesota, through Mayors for a Guaranteed Income and Counties for a Guaranteed Income.

The documentary screening highlighted the resounding success of St. Paul’s guaranteed income pilot. Insights from the pilot’s findings revealed that over half of the funds were judiciously utilized for necessities like food, household goods, and hygiene products. The participants, a diverse tapestry of backgrounds, showed women as the backbone of the program’s success, proving guaranteed income isn’t just about money; it’s about hope and opportunity.

The screening also unveiled Springboard for the Arts’ remarkable expansion of its guaranteed-income program, now reaching both St. Paul and rural Minnesotans. The program’s commitment to supporting 50 artists from St. Paul and 25 artists from Otter Tail County demonstrated its resolve to be a catalyst for artistic growth and economic empowerment.

The documentary’s success energized the guaranteed income movement, attracting attention from state legislatures. State Rep. Athena Hollins, a driving force behind the Universal Basic Income bill, passionately shared her journey and vision during the event. Her conviction in the necessity of guaranteed income programs for Minnesotans grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, as she witnessed how every dollar spent made a world of difference to families and businesses in need.

Mayor Carter seized the moment to dispel misconceptions surrounding guaranteed income, emphasizing data gathered by his office. The findings defied stereotypes, disproving the notion that those benefiting from these programs are irresponsible with the extra income. The evidence supported a profound truth: guaranteed income nurtures responsibility and strengthens communities.

As the credits rolled on “It’s Basic,” the audience was left inspired and invigorated. The documentary’s compelling message served as a rallying cry for transformative change, urging individuals, communities, and legislatures to embrace the boundless potential of guaranteed income. As the flames of hope continued to burn bright on the night of the screening, it became clear that this movement is not just a passing spark but a wildfire with hopes of blazing a trail of empowerment and equity across Minnesota and beyond.