I had the priviledge of attending the first Afro-Socialist training in New York this weekend. Co-sponsored by DSA and the Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung (Foundation) New York office, the two- day workshop consisted of presentations from past and present activists on subjects such as the history of people of color in the socialist movement, how to organize and build coalitions with people of color, and best practices for individual outreach.
Attendees consisted of DSA members from all over the country, including California, Texas, Massachusetts, Georgia and New York. The energy was amazing, the facilitators were engaging, and I left feeling empowered by the tools and information provided.
I look forward to implementing the strategies I learned in my work with MADSA to improve our service and partnership with people of color. - Erin Parks
(Erin Parks is top row, third from right. DSA National Director Maria Svart is front row, seated, second from right, )
Former State Senator Vincent Fort, MADSA's endorsed candidate for Mayor of Atlanta, did not win his bid to become the most progressive mayor in our city's history, despite great volunteer canvassing, phone banking and light projections by many of our members. He greeted a crowd of supporters Tuesday evening with a short speech geared to the long term: "We have created a movement, a coalition, that will continue."
His message the next day read in part: ". . .Last night’s results aren’t a negative reflection on progressive principles, or on how hard we fought for them. In fact, I couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished. Despite being outspent by candidates with corporate backing, we ran a tough, issues-oriented campaign that garnered support from citizens in Atlanta and around the country. Together, we defined what this election would be about. We forced other candidates to address issues that, prior to my candidacy, were nothing more than pesky topics worthy of avoidance. We changed the conversation. . . I look forward to being actively engaged in the fight going forward. This isn’t the last you’ve heard from Vincent Fort, and I trust it isn’t the last the status quo has heard from you." (Emphasis in the original)
Meanwhile, across the country, DSA members and DSA-endorsed candidates racked up historic wins as part of the "wave" in which voters rejected the Trump/Republican agenda in favor of diverse newcomers who ran on platforms geared to the issues affecting ordinary people. Fifteen of the 25 DSA members who ran won, including an amazing win in Virginia where Lee Carter replaced the state legislature's majority whip. This brings the number of DSA members who are elected officials to 25. See the complete list here. (Correction: Mike Pappas, who defeated a 24-year machine Democrat incumbent to win a judgeship in Pittsburgh, is missing from the list. Read about his historic win here.)
And, of course, the rightwing media has freaked out. Newsweek has an interesting review of their reaction to our wins, including a good quote from one of our NYC comrades, here.
I'll close with part of MADSA leader Daniel Hanley's Facebook comment, which, after citing the low voter turnout and gross disparity of resources among the candidates, ended on a call to future action:
"No justice or democracy in our institutions, but Keisha won't stop us. Trump won't stop us. We're gonna keep on keepin' on, in the ATL human rights tradition, and exercise our democracy whenever we can find it IN. THE. STREETS. We'll take action through demand-oriented campaigns for criminal justice reform, workers' rights, environmental justice, universal healthcare, education, and housing. We'll advance our agenda for democracy and socialism the same way we always have. We'll build even stronger community bonds, organizations, and multi-racial working-class coalitions that endure beyond election cycles, and so by 2021 no fleet of Keisha-branded luxury buses can threaten us. Like [community activist] Tanya said: Victory is ours!"
Photo: Reid Freeman Jenkins
We met Oct. 28 at the CWA hall in Grant Park (thanks, Local 3204) to connect with chapter events and local activism we support.
Richard Hunsinger (above, left) and Aaron Thorpe (above, second from left) of the Housing Justice League reported on the Beltline for All campaign. The demands include affordable housing and "development without displacement" for neighborhoods affected by Beltline construction (Grant Park, Ormewood Park, Adair park, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh and Peoplestown), and a voice for the long-time residents of those areas. See www.housingjusticeleague.org or the Housing Justice League's Facebook page and Twitter (@HJLatl) Photo: Reid Freeman Jenkins
MADSA member and Ga. Tech student activist Matthew Wolfsen, with Naiki Kaffezakis and Allyn Wardlow - Tech trans community leaders and Progressive Student Alliance activists - updated us on the cases of seven people arrested for alleged actions during a protest in front of the campus police station following a vigil for Scout Schultz. Schultz was murdered by campus police in September; for background, scroll down to our 9/17 post. Five of those arrested - after the event and on mostly trumped-up charges - are people of color; four are trans people; one is aTech student, three are Ga. State students (friends of Scout's) and one is not a student. Tech student Cat has been barred from campus, so unable to go to her job, dorm room or classes. She and others were charged with arson (setting fire to a police car) despite being arrested before it began. The GBI is investigating Scout's murder.
Nate Knauf reported on the successful launch of a Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter at Tech. We hope to send activists from their group and others to the national YDSA winter conference in February.
MADSA and Justice for All leader Marshall Rancifer (left) described the urgent need for more support for the growing number of homeless people on our streets and some of the reasons why they are unsheltered, including barriers to working while living at some shelters. Blankets, sleeping bags and coats are especially needed, and can be dropped off at the (member-owned) Joystick Gamebar (427 Edgewood Ave.) and Georgia Beer Garden (420 Edgewood Ave.) during business hours. Scroll down to the 10/23 post on our recent fundraiser for this cause at the Beer Garden. Photo: Reid Freeman Jenkins
Finally, Tim Franzen from the campaign to elect MADSA-endorsed candidate Vincent Fort Atlanta's most progressive mayor ever, inspired us to phonebank and take canvassing assignments. To phonebank with comrades (and refreshments): Join us at 7 pm, Wed. 11/1, at 334 Brookes Ave. in Candler Park. See MADSA on Facebook and Twitter for other Fort for Mayor campaign events.
The so-called "white lives matter" rally in Tennessee is over, the nazis have been run out of town. Murfreesboro (second half) was actually pretty anticlimactic -- the fascists saw that they were massively outnumbered & fled.
The DSA contingent had no arrests, no injuries -- a very successful counter-protest. Very proud of our comrades, thanks to everyone who showed up to confront white supremacy. - Brad Lathem, chair, Northeast Georgia DSA (a branch of MADSA)
Photo: Brad Lathem (bottom row, second from left) and MADSA member Chad Floyd (bottom row, left) among comrades from Birmingham DSA, Northern Alabama DSA, Middle TN DSA, Charlottesville DSA and other chapters.
Supporting Sen. Vincent Fort for Mayor, we proudly made up about half of Fort's contingent in the Atlanta Pride parade Oct. 15. Some of our signs displayed issues we share with Sen. Fort, and we flew the red DSA flag. Photo at right: Reid Freeman Jenkins.
At the front of the contingent was a group of Ga. Tech students with a banner protesting the arrest of students from Tech and other schools for their actions following a vigil for the murdered Tech student activist Scout Schultz (above, left; photo: Matt Wolfsen). For background, scroll down to entry for Sept. 17. Below: Fort for Mayor, photo: Reid Freeman Jenkins.
Despite a threat of heavy rain, our Oct. 8 Socialist Dialogue drew a receptive crowd for a wide-ranging panel discussion of electoral politics and the significance of former State Senator Vincent Fort’s MADSA-endorsed campaign for mayor (more phone bankers, canvassers and donors needed!).
Stephen Day (right), chair of the Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections, argued that in Georgia the white racial voting bloc has been the primary driver of electoral politics, but that the bloc is itself split between evangelicals and others. He indicated that there are strong possibilities for progressive candidates to wage targeted, “stealth” campaigns on the local level, mobilizing key Democratic constituencies - in particular African-American women - in order to flip municipal and county offices. He urged DSA members to engage with the Democratic Party, particularly those members who are more set on social democracy than democratic socialism per se.
Minnie Ruffin (left), MADSA member and veteran voting rights activist who has worked with the Coalition for the People’s Agenda, ran down a long list of vote suppression and restriction methods ranging from gerrymandering to purging voting rolls on spurious grounds - such as a voter’s failure to return an inconspicuous card they receive in the mail asking them to confirm their status. Ruffin said all these methods are being used in Georgia. She checks her own voter status weekly and found recently that her polling place had been changed, though she had received no notice of the change. She recommended watching the Supreme Court’s hearing (58 mins.) on gerrymandering: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/16-1161 (click on Gill v. Whitford at left).
“We need a man we can trust, and we can trust Senator Fort” said Ga. State U. law professor Tanya Washington (left), who both sang and spoke at a Sept. 30 rally for Atlanta mayoral candidate former State Sen. Vincent Fort, which featured Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT, below). Fort was the highest-ranking local politician to endorse Sanders’ presidential race, and Sanders returned the favor. To add even more star power to the event, the progressive and very popular Atlanta rapper Killer Mike introduced Fort.
MADSA has endorsed Fort’s candidacy, many of the event volunteers were members, and we handed out over 1,000 buttons. (Left: Anat Fintzi and Scott Douglas help sign in rally attendees as a near-capacity crowd of 2,453 filled St. Phillip A.M.E. church in East Lake. Photos: Reid Freeman Jenkins.
Lorraine Fontana (left, at podium) urged the DeKalb County Commission at their 9/26 meeting to remove the monument to the white supremacist Confederacy from the Decatur Courthouse Square. Judy Conder of Artemis Productions sent this video of the event https://youtu.be/cQllFj9bQ9M and a report:
"Young (compared to me), smart, well informed activists from Hate Free Decatur, NAACP Beacon Hill, Dekalb NAACP, and ATL NAACP (many of whom are attorneys and historians) are working their way through the hierarchy of clueless local Georgia politicians in an effort to remove the Confederate monument from the Decatur square. Since the city of Decatur has the highest concentration of attorneys in the state of GA, this coalition has been able to organize a group of pro-bono attorneys who are willing to defend the city and/or county against any litigation. The white supremacy law that prohibits the removal of Confederate monuments has never been tested/litigated. They believe that Dekalb county, the second most affluent African-American county in the country, is the place to do it.
According to Mawuli Davis, president of the NAACP, Beacon Hill branch: 'The people are prepared to stand up and defend what we believe our right is if the attorney general’s office for the state of Georgia seeks to impose their will and say that we do not have the right to self-determination in this city and county to remove this monument to white supremacy.' ”
Later that day, Erin Parks (right), one of our new MADSA officers, warned participants at a Change Walmart rally on the Morehouse College campus that every dollar spent at Walmart, whose owners are strong Trump supporters, helps enable people like Education Secretary Betty DeVos to siphon funds away from public education and other necessary programs. Parks is a graduate of Spelman, Morehouse's sister college. The "Trump and Walmart Make America Worse" campaign stop in Atlanta was co-sponsored by Atlanta Jobs With Justice.
Barbara Joye (left) spoke in Woodruff Park at a Georgia Alliance for Social Justice rally to protect the Affordable Care Act, reminding listeners that even though three Republican votes seem to have killed the right wing's latest attack on ACA, the struggle for universal health care has just begun. ACA (which needs improvement anyway) will continue to be attacked, and we need to work toward Medicare for All.
Photos by Reid Freeman Jenkins
Congratulations to the new officers elected at our Sept. 16 membership meeting! They are: Chair - Adam Cardo (in photo); Membership Secretary - Michael Lavender; Recording Secretary - Jeb Boone; Treasurer - Seth Ellingson; At-large (3) - Anat Fintzi, Erin Parks, Eric Robertson. Please give them all your support as they lead us during the next 12 months. (See "Minutes" above for more about the meeting.) Photo: Reid Freeman Jenkins.