The defeat of the Ryan/Trump plan to replace the Affordable Care Act - itself a compromise measure based on Republican Governor Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health insurance program - with something much worse gives progressives a chance to renew our decades-long call for a "single payer" system, also known as "Improved Medicare for All." Bernie Sanders championed single payer during his campaign, and says he will soon propose legislation to that effect. In Atlanta, on April 8, about 150 people rallied in front of Grady Hospital to show their support for this cost-effective and common-sense measure. Above, Dr. Henry Kahn, a MADSA member and Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) activist, addresses the crowd. For more info see healthcare-now.org and pnhp.org. Photo: Reid Freeman Jenkins
Activists from the Atlanta Jobs With Justice and GA J20 coalitions met Thurs. 4/6 at the tent city at 755 Hank Aaron Drive. Turner Field neighbors fighting displacement and supporters from the Housing Justice League and Ga. State U. student groups have been camped out there for some days now despite rain and cold, demanding that the Turner Field developer and GSU sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) which the affected communities have been working on since the stadium changed hands (#TentCityATL). (MADSA is a member and/or supporter of all these coalitions and groups.)
The lively meeting of activists moved forward on plans to hold a joint day of action on May Day/International Workers Day on issues ranging from immigrant rights to neighborhood rights to the fight for a $15/hr minimum wage for City of Atlanta workers. The groups will hold a rally in front of City Hall at 11 am on Monday, May 1, then join a City Council meeting scheduled for 1 pm (#MAYDAYATL).
Coalition members will prepare for the May 1 actions with a speak-out/teach-in at 2pm the previous day, Sunday April 30, in Rev. James Orange Park, 1305 Oakland Drive, Atlanta 30310 (everyone welcome!). The program will include a presentation by MADSA about the history of May Day and a reprise of last year's popular theater piece presenting historic heroes and heroines of U.S. labor. See also AtlJwJ.org and previous stories on GA J20 and MADSA's tour of neighborhoods resisting displacement and gentrification.
At our general membership meeting April 1, progressive State Rep. Renitta Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) provided a no-fooling rundown of the mostly toxic bills passed by the Ga. General Assembly and currently on Gov. Deal's desk for him to sign into law - or not - within 40 days from March 30. Her clear presentation of the bizarre ways some bills were pushed through and their implications was a wake-up call. Here is a superficial summary of just one example: HB452 (look it up). At the last minute, language from two failed bills was added to HB452 to 1) make many forms of protest while committing a felony "domestic terrorism" and 2) set up a public registry of formerly incarcerated undocumented immigrants who have served their time and still live in Georgia, potentially setting them up as targets for hate crimes.
We also heard reports on current MADSA and allied activities, including our Education and Social Media working groups, the Jacobin reading group, the IBM workers' petition campaign (see story below), and Atlanta Jobs With Justice's May Day/International Workers' Day celebration and action (look for more on May Day soon, plans are evolving). Finally, we formed an important committee to plan the 2017 Douglass-Debs Dinner, our major fundraiser, so that Chair Milt Tambor (in photo at left) can be relieved of his 10-year duties as the lead organizer of this very popular community event. To volunteer contact email@example.com.
Following the meeting, many of us fought traffic to get downtown just in time to join the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition and the Housing Justice League as they rallied and marched to Turner Field demanding that Ga. State U. sign a community benefits agreement so that residents of adjacent inner city neighborhoods will be assured of "development without displacement." Many marchers set up tents to camp out overnight in front of Turner Field.
Photos by Reid Freeman Jenkins
MADSA member and 10-year IBM employee Daniel Hanley has spearheaded a petition campaign to demand that IBM CEO Ginni Rometty distance herself and the corporation from the Trump administration (and improve certain employee benefits and working conditions). Rometty joined the president's economic council after sending him a letter congratulating him on his election victory and offering to help carry out his programs. This contradicts the corporation's declared values of diversity and tolerance, according to the IBM workers who delivered their petition to the Atlanta headquarters Monday and to the New York City headquarters on Tuesday, with the names of more than 1,000 of their fellow employees.
Hanley, joined by others at all levels of the company, urged that IBM workers support "democracy in the workplace, and resist any collaboration between our CEO and Trump that results in civil liberties violations impacting Muslims, immigrants, people of color, trans people, and other marginalized groups." In Atlanta, Asma Elhuni of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Jovan Julien of Project South spoke for some of the groups potentially affected by IBM's actions, and 10 MADSA members attended the event. (Note: IBM notoriously provided equipment to the German Nazis that helped them create a registry of Jews to be targeted by the Holocaust. Trump during his campaign called for a registry of Muslims in America.) For videos of the petition delivery events, see MADSA's Facebook page. Photo: Reid Freeman Jenkins
On March 25, MADSA co-sponsored our 6th annual bus and study tour of inner-city African American neighborhoods resisting displacement by gentrification and stadium development, together with the Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, the Housing Justice League, and #ATLisREADY. DSA members, housing justice activists, 14 Georgia Tech students and community leaders visited four neighborhoods that are threatened by corporate interests - with the support of City Hall.
Columbus Ward, president of the Peoplestown organization, who was honored at MADSA's Douglass-Debs awards dinner in November, led the tour, with Tim Franzen of the Housing Justice League and MADSA member and Ga. Tech Prof. Emeritus of Planning Larry Keating (above, standing, third from left). Avery Jackon of #ATLisREADY, Ga. State U. Prof. of sociology Deirdre Oakley, and housing justice organizer Allison Johnson also briefed us on the history and current issues affecting the communities. The highlight as always was our visit to the threatened Peoplestown homes of GSU law professor Tanya Washington (left) and Bertha and Robert Darden, and the home of Ms. Mattie Jackson (center) - who after a courageous campaign with community support was told last year that she will not be displaced, and celebrated her 95th birthday during our visit! Photos: Reid Freeman Jenkins
Friday night's get-together, "Eat Drink and Be Marxist!" was a big success, with about 40 people showing up - including many of our newer members and many friends who are not members yet but came to check us out. We enjoyed the warm weather in the back yard of the Georgia Beer Garden at 420 Edgewood Ave., getting to know each other and "putting the social in socialism." Check our Facebook page for announcements of similar events in the future. Thanks to MADSA's Social Media team for organizing this one.
BTW, Beer Garden owner Johnnie Martinez is a DSA member who also owns the Joystick bar across the street. We met him through his support for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and have enjoyed his hospitality on other occasions. Thanks Johnnie and partner Brandon!
On March 19 our second Democratic Socialist Dialogue of the quarter focused on resistance on many levels: In the electoral arena, with mayoral candidate and long-time friend of MADSA Sen. Vincent Fort; against racism and xenophobia, with Adelina Nicholls, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights; Asma Elhuni, Council on American Islamic Relations; and Elise Cohen, Jewish Voice for Peace; and MADSA’s Daniel Hanley sharing his vision for socialism and his experience organizing a workplace campaign to petition the CEO of IBM to leave President Trump’s economic council.
Over 50 people attended, including many new faces, and our Social Media team livestreamed the event.
As a community, we protested outside of the Atlanta Immigration Court March 11 to demonstrate our resistance and demand that the cities and counties we live in stop supporting Trump’s agenda by refusing to use its resources to assist in the deportation of our immigrant communities, by ceasing to detain immigrants for ICE in the Atlanta City Detention Center, and by repealing city ordinances that provide the base for “Broken Windows” policing.
This was a Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)-sponsored event, with speakers from some of the organizations led by people of color working on immigration rights here in Georgia: Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR); Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR Georgia); Project South; Jewish Voice for Peace. - Lorraine Fontana
(Photos: At right, Minnie Ruffin with sign, by Lorraine Fontana; at left, other MADSA members who joined the demonstration, by Steve Eberhardt)
Late February has been hectic, with protests on many fronts continuing throughout the Atlanta area. MADSA members and their friends joined a Showing Up for Racial Justice anti-Trump march Feb. 18; were among some 800 marching from Midtown to Lenox Square on “Not My President Day” Feb. 20; took part in the 1,000-strong march from Midtown to Woodruff/Troy Davis Park Feb. 25 to save healthcare; and no doubt were present at other rallies and some “shaming” events at the hangouts of our elected officials – or at least their staffs.
Adam Cardo; Khalil Kamau; Matthew Wolfsen and Karl Grindal from Ga. Tech; and David Littman from Athens traveled to New York for the Young Democratic Socialists' winter conference, which was bigger and better than ever.
(Photo: Adam Cardo).
When the Democratic National Committee came to our town the last weekend in February, several of our members joined an effort by the progressive wing of the party to elect Bernie supporter Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota chair. Props to Teamster Local 728’s Eric Robertson, who provided an opportunity for us to meet Charles Lenchner, co-founder of People for Bernie and a Brooklyn DSA member, among other comrades from all around the country who came to engage in the struggle at the downtown Westin Hotel (see photo).
Daniel Hanley and Evan O’Reilly called on us to join them early Saturday morning as the last skirmishes began. The corporate wing of the party prevailed in the end – with Thomas Perez, the victor, quickly making a gesture to the rest of us by appointing Ellison his deputy chair - but the fight isn’t over, as the following commentaries remind us.
In DSA we believe that to be effective, we must combine action with reflection - theory as well as practice. To help new members understand democratic socialism and to refresh long-term members' thinking about our values and analysis, the Education working group, headed by Ray Miklethun, launched a 5-week study group based on Jacobin magazine's booklet "The ABCs of Socialism," an anthology of short articles including several by DSA members. About 40 people signed up, too many to fit in one room, so the introductory session broke into two groups: one led by Minnie Ruffin (foreground, left) is shown here (photo by Reid Freeman Jenkins). We shared our very diverse stories of how we became politically active and what socialism means to us. Next week: Discussion based on reading assignments. To join: firstname.lastname@example.org.