Our bi-monthly Socialist Dialogue Dec. 3 focused on the shortcomings of what passes for a healthcare system in the U.S. and one alternative: Medicare for All (single-payer) which was declared a top priority for DSA at our national convention.
Speaker Rita Valenti (left) is a registered nurse; a long-time healthcare justice activist in organizations including Healthcare-Now! Georgia, National Nurses United, and Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP); and a former member of the Georgia General Assembly. MADSA's Stephen Friedrich moderated, and invited interested members to a Dec. 9 national DSA conference call to launch our Medicare for All campaign (contact Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org).
Right: Dr. Henry Kahn, MADSA member and PNHP leader, was among many attendees who participated in the "dialogue" portion of the program.
Photos: Reid Freeman Jenkins
Some MADSA members helped Food Not Bombs and member Marshall Rancifer of the Justice for All Coalition feed the growing number of homeless people in Atlanta Nov. 26 in spite of the City of Atlanta's efforts to sweep this urgent need and those people under the rug to make the city more corporate-friendly.
Atlanta Food Not Bombs has been sharing free food with anyone who is hungry for over a decade. "We believe that food is a human right, and that no authority should be able to prevent anyone from eating," their website statement explains. "Georgia State University Police has begun a campaign of harassment aimed at anyone who tries to share food with people [downtown]. They claim that giving away food is illegal without a food service establishment license from the City. The cops’ legal claims are confusing, contradictory, and ultimately false. What it comes down to is that they don’t want homeless people in the park, they want them to go somewhere else.
"But when they’re forced out of the park, the homeless won’t be going into a shelter, since the City finally won their years-long fight to shut down Atlanta’s largest shelter. And they certainly won’t be going into housing, in a city where gentrification and speculation has created what many are calling an affordable housing crisis. Developers, university administrators, and city planners do not care that there’s nowhere for poor people to go. As far as they are concerned, the homeless are a nuisance to be dealt with the same as rats and pigeons.
"The cops have already charged one of our volunteers with this supposed crime, but we will not stop. If the government makes sharing illegal, then we have no choice but to be criminals. Not just because our conscience requires it, but because helping each other is the only way we will all survive."
To find the next opportunity to feed homeless people in a public park, see the Teardown Community's Facebook page.
MADSA has been supporting the Georgia Beer Garden and the Justice for All Coalition to collect supplies for unsheltered people at our social event at the Garden (420 Edgewood Ave.) on the third Friday of each month (scroll down to Oct. 23 story). We continue to urge our members and friends to support this emergency effort. Anat Fintzi reported "When we spoke with Marshall after [the Nov. 26 feeding], he said they would do another event (HIV testing) on Wednesday or Thursday and the supplies that he most requested for donations in the near future are: socks, canned goods (esp tomatoes), dried beans, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, sanitary products. All supplies can be dropped off at the Georgia Beer Garden."
Photo by Anat Fintzi (L to R): Robin, Earthworm, Josh and Scott in Hurt Park, Nov. 26.
“While there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” -- Eugene Victor Debs
At the 2017 Douglass-Debs Dinner Nov. 18, we packed the Loft at Castleberry Hill with a beautiful celebration of our campaigns for democracy, socialism, and human rights. (Right: The Communication Workers of America's table.) This was MADSA's 11th annual fundraiser where we recognize and celebrate the work of progressive leaders in the Metro Atlanta community.
This year's honorees:
Brother Mawuli Davis (left), founding partner of the Davis Bozeman Law Firm, received an award for his continued work as a true people's lawyer across so many struggles.
Brother khalid kamau, councilman for the new City of Renaissance (aka South Fulton) received an award for his community justice work and help leading the new city just south of Atlanta to a better, more progressive, future. (Above: Khalid with award presenter and MADSA officer, Teamster Local 728's Eric Robertson.)
Sister Lani Amina Ledisi accepted the MADSA Creative Activism Award for Southerners on New Ground (SONG) and their Black Mamas Bailout Project.
Thanks to Chair Adam Cardo; outgoing Chair Milton Tambor (right) who organized this event for the its first 10 years; keynote speaker Sarah Jaffe (left); all the awardees; the Douglass-Debs Organizing Committee; singer Payton Scott; graphic designers Emma Latham and Barbara Segal; our labor movement supporters; and all members and attendees, for the inspiration we need to continue these difficult struggles into 2018 and beyond. - Daniel Hanley and Lorraine Fontana.Read more
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).