Endorsement of the Nationwide Prison Strike

We, the Local Council of the New Orleans Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, have voted to endorse the Nationwide Prison Strike. The strike will begin on August 21st and end on September 9th, the anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising. The call to strike has, so far, been taken up in almost two dozen states across the nation.

We stand in solidarity with the strikers and with all those incarcerated in the United States and beyond, and we support the demands of the strikers, which can be found in full here.

This strike was declared in response to an uprising in Lee Correctional Institute in South Carolina, during which seven people lost their lives fighting for an end to the inhumane conditions and prison slavery that comprise the American carceral state.

There are numerous ways that those on the outside can support the incarcerated strikers, including:

  • Contacting your local, state, and federal representatives to ask where they stand on the demands being made by the strikers.
  • Spreading word of the strike and remaining informed about the strike by keeping in contact with people you know who are in prison or who have family in prison.
  • Reading the Prison Strike Zine.
  • Donating to the strike’s official fundraising page
  • Amplify the strike using #August21 and #prisonstrike hashtags

Louisiana has one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States and thus, the world. Tens of thousands of Louisianans are currently behind bars and subject to horrifying conditions. Mass incarceration uses the tools of the state–from a violent and utterly unaccountable police force to a legal system in which justice is only granted to those who can afford it–to divide and oppress working people, and especially black, Latinx and indigenous people.The Local Council of DSA New Orleans is proud to endorse the Nationwide Prison Strike of 2018 and to stand in solidarity with the prisoners demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform, the end of prison slavery, and the reinstatement of all incarcerated and formerly incarcerated citizens’ right to vote.

Why New Orleans DSA Is Hosting a Protest Health and Safety Training This Weekend

In solidarity with Charlottesville DSA as well as all impacted by the fascist violence one year ago — and in remembrance of Heather Heyer — New Orleans DSA is using this Medicare for All Weekend of Action to host a Protest Health & Safety Training with the help of our local street medic collective.

For those at that protest who suffered injuries and trauma, health injustice is an urgent, concrete, and ongoing crisis. Even with single-payer, we will need to know how to take care of ourselves and each other. We’ll need to know how to offer healing and wellness to our communities in times of trouble.

Today, we’ll be learning skills to keep each other as safe as possible in compromising situations, and we’ll discuss how to support one another’s wellness on an ongoing basis. We’ll be thinking of Heather and Charlottesville as we do so, and will collect money for the Charlottesville Resilience Fund.

Solidarity Forever,

Allison Tebbe and Frances Gill, New Orleans DSA

Immigration Working Group: Upcoming Meeting

Our Immigration Working Group formed in mid June to provide support for the Abolish ICE march lead by Congreso and People’s Assembly. Its current purpose is to develop our members’ capacity to support immigrant communities and stand in opposition to borders, police violence, and mass incarceration. At Immigration WG meetings, we focus on educating ourselves through a socialist framework, discussing different tactics of resistance, and how we can plug into active support roles.

The next Immigration WG meeting will be Sunday, August 12th at 5:30 PM, 2022 St. Bernard Ave.

For this meeting, we will be discussing this short article: How the US’s Foreign Policy Created An Immigrant Refugee Crisis on its Own Southern Border.

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Stories and Takeaways From Our 7/28 Brake Light Clinic

The New Orleans DSA’s monthly Gimme A Brake (Light) event on Saturday, July 28, drew a grateful crowd eager to talk about over-policing in the community and get free brake lights.

The clinic drew a wide array of participants, from a Tulane law student working on criminal justice reform who said, “Socialism is great,” to a pregnant hairdressing business owner and her fiancé, who both needed bulbs replaced. One man was moving to Atlanta with his wife to be closer to his children and needed his brake light fixed so he wouldn’t be pulled over on the long drive.

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DSA to S&WB: End Water Shutoffs Now!

The New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America stands strongly opposed to the Sewerage and Water Board’s decision to resume water utility shutoffs for accounts the board considers “delinquent.” We believe every person has a right to clean water, a basic human need, and that all utility shutoffs are a violation of this right. These resumed shutoffs will do little to resolve the budget problems that the utility claims prompted this decision. Instead, they will impose needless harm and hardship on the poor and working class people of New Orleans.

The S&WB claims that over 12% of the residences and businesses in New Orleans are currently more than 60 days overdue on paying their bills and that this is causing the utility to run out of money. However, the financial difficulties at S&WB are, by the utility’s own admission, a result of its own mismanagement. The utility acknowledges that the bills people have received are wildly inaccurate due to the utility’s own mishandling of a switch to a new billing software system. In fact, shutoffs were suspended because S&WB was aware of how widespread this problem was and that it was their responsibility. The billing problems have not been resolved. If S&WB acknowledges the widespread inaccuracies of the bills, they have no authority to collect on these inaccurate and inflated bills. (more…)

Candidate Statements for the 2018 At-large Council Elections

Following are Candidate Statements from the four members running for election as Councilmembers At-large of DSA New Orleans for the ’18-’19 term. Per our Bylaws, two members will be elected. The election will be held Monday August 6th, at 6:30PM at 2022 St. Bernard Ave. All members in good standing will be eligible to vote and are strongly encouraged to attend. In alphabetical order:

Jordan F

As at-large member of local council I will focus in two areas: building the strength of membership and committee programming. Membership strength comes from size, skills, and connection to the New Orleans working class. I will work with committees to design programming that builds members’ skills and working class power simultaneously. This way our chapter will build horizontal leadership. I will work to build programming capacity between committees: sharing work, resources, best practices, and feedback. Our chapter has grown dramatically over the past year. To build a strong chapter for the future we need to focus on membership and programming impact.

Read Jordan F’s Full Candidate Statement

Kaitlin M

As an at-large member, I want to work on building regional capacity. The small chapters that surround us here in Louisiana, in Mississippi and Alabama, they face unique challenges of geography, ideology, and capacity. Our experience has been quite different, but what makes New Orleans DSA well positioned to help these chapters grow is our vision. We know that the south is diverse, and there are people in urban, suburban, and rural areas who are willing to fight for a better world. This can be hard to remember that we can win when you are working in what feels like a suffocatingly conservative political atmosphere. I want to work to strengthen our ties with these chapters and organizers. I want our chapter to help develop organizing efforts beyond urban areas and start understanding how to organize in rural areas. A medium-term goal of mine is for us to build a socialist movement in the Gulf South that is so strong and so powerful that it’s confusing to the rest of the country. They won’t see it coming, but we already do. I believe that we can help other chapters overcome challenges that we don’t even necessarily have blueprints for by supporting them, offering guidance when we can, and reminding them and ourselves always, always, always, always, always: we can win.

Read Kaitlin M’s Full Candidate Statement

Sue M

Over the past year, New Orleans DSA has grown tremendously, taken on new projects and programs, and thoroughly earned our reputation as “a chapter full of badasses.” Looking forward, there’s so much potential for more growth and for our organization to be a strong voice for socialist ideas and analysis in our city and region. I’m running for At-Large because I want to work with all of you to support that potential: to build systems and capacity for our organization, to expand our reach into our working class base, and to help strengthen our collective voice by supporting new leaders. I’ve spent two decades organizing, mobilizing, and advocating with New Orleans groups and organizations, and I’m genuinely excited by what I see in our chapter, and eager to help build even stronger going forward!

Read Sue M’s Full Candidate Statement

Logan Y

I work in environmental education, where I develop new projects, coordinate resources, and interpret quirks of energy policy for actual human consumption. As this chapter of the DSA has flourished, we’re shifting to fewer general meetings, mobilizing our membership through committees and projects. Our committees will consequently bare a heavier load, as they play a larger role of the laboratories which concentrate the diverse interests of the chapter into action.

I would use the At-Large position to offer institutional support and logistical coordination for committee and chapter leaders, facilitating the synthesis of a cohesive chapter. As our membership’s positions are realized across the chapter, the at-large council members can assist committees in articulating those interests through practice. Each of our meetings is an opportunity for recruitment, agitation, and to surface the “everyday communism” that nourishes us. I’m seeking an At-Large Council seat to make this period of expansion distinct and cogent within and without.

Read Logan Y’s Full Candidate Statement

 

Health Care Committee Hosts Successful Health Fair in Central City

On Sunday July 7, the New Orleans DSA Health Care Committee hosted their second Health Fair + Medical Debt Clinic in Central City. We offered blood pressure and glucose screenings, assistance with and education around medical debt disputes with help from Debt Collective, community health and housing resources, and food and drinks — all for free. The event also offered an opportunity to speak with community members about our fight for Medicare for All, how our current health care system has impacted their lives, and how single-payer health care would transform our lives and communities.

Over four hours we completed dozens of health screenings, spoke with many community members and leaders, shared over 100 pages of local resources, and had in-depth discussions about debt with a number of neighbors. In addition, we received dozens of pledges in support for Medicare for All.

The Health Care Committee meets on the third Thursday of each month. The committee also leads monthly Medicare for All canvasses, the next of which is Sunday, July 22, from 2-6 PM. You can sign up or at this link or get more information by emailing healthcare@dsaneworleans.org.

Brake Lights for a Better World

On June 16, the New Orleans chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America put on their 6th (!) Gimme a Brake Light event. We had a dozen volunteers and 19 community members who got their brake lights changed and talked to us about their lives and experiences with police. We also partnered with a comrade from Debt Collective who was available to talk to people about how to renegotiate and resist debt.

Why do we change brake lights? By changing brake lights for free, we aim to take small but significant action to protect one another from state-sanctioned violence at the hands of the police. We want the brake light clinics to open conversations in our communities about our police and prison systems and to get us thinking and organizing together for a different kind of system.

Some of the people we spoke with had recent direct experiences with the police because of broken taillights, including one who received a full dressing down by an officer simply for having a newer car with a non-functioning light. The officer then preceded to chide the man and that he’d “better have a job” to pay the ticket.

Another attendee was a construction worker from across the river who had had a taillight out for weeks but was too busy to change it, while simultaneously saying he was frequently worried about getting stopped for it. He did not know about the event in advance but saw our sign-holders and his wife convinced him to pull in and get his light changed.

We also did one headlight change, for a participant who was on a fixed income and had the headlight but couldn’t afford to take into the shop to change it. Headlights aren’t typically our purview, but we got it done thanks to the tireless efforts of a comrade.

As we come up to the one-year anniversary of the very first brake light change event, we’ve learned a lot. It was never enough to just change brake lights. This isn’t a charity project, but a way to highlight the contradictions between the capitalist police state and socialist equity. As such, we’ve worked hard to become more intentional about the ways in which we interact with people at the events – basic stuff in terms of having real conversations, inquiring and listening to other community needs and opportunities, encouraging people to learn more about democratic socialism, and making them feel welcome at our table.

We have a long way to go, but with each clinic, we become better organizers – and perhaps more importantly – better members of our communities.

Canvassing for Medicare-for-All

The Health Care for All Committee shared the DSA vision for universal health care in the 7th Ward on Thursday, finding a receptive audience eager to share their struggles with capitalist medicine.

The canvass was part of the national Medicare for All Campaign. This was the fifth Medicare for All Canvass, and the third in the 7th Ward. Ten organizers met with our neighbors about their health care experiences.

Some shared difficulties they’ve had with the for-profit health care system. One organizer spoke with a woman on N. Galvez Street who could not get enough insulin and struggled to find a doctor who was accessible to her despite having Medicare.

Overall, neighbors in this community were very receptive to organizers, and the canvassers collected about 20 signatures in about an hour and a half of organizing.

The Health Care for All Committee will continue to follow up with neighbors we’ve talked to while organizing. The committee will collect more stories and engage neighbors who want to get more involved and volunteer.

Join us at our next meeting, Wednesday June 20th, 6:30 at 2022 St. Bernard Ave*

*We meet regularly on the third Thursday of each month

 

Candidate Statements for the 2018 Co-Chair Elections

Following are Candidate Statements from the three members running for election as Co-Chair of DSA New Orleans for the ’18-’19 term. Per our Bylaws, two Co-Chairs will be elected. The election will be held Monday June 18th, at 6:30PM at 2022 St. Bernard Ave. All members in good standing will be eligible to vote and are strongly encouraged to attend. In alphabetical order:

Alli DeJong

I’m Alli DeJong, a founding member of New Orleans DSA and the current co-chair. Over the past year I have led the bylaws drafting and revision process, represented us at the national convention, developed our incorporation paperwork, and assisted other organizers with our campaigns and actions. I’m running for re-election because I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together and I know we can accomplish even more in the next year: building our base through committee-led campaigns, growing our internal capacity, and becoming more involved in local struggles where a socialist perspective can shift public policy. I am a socialist with a MBA who can handle the regulatory, legal, and financial considerations, freeing our chapter’s organizer-members to accomplish extraordinary things. I will keep us connected to DSA National and other chapters, so that we can be a leading voice for socialist organizing in the Gulf South. I will do everything I can to make DSA New Orleans a powerful voice and force for socialism.
Read Alli DeJong’s Full Candidate Statement

Michael Esealuka

I’m Michael Esealuka (she/her). I’m a restaurant worker and student. I got involved in socialist activity through my experiences in the Bacchanal Workers Union, a rank-and-file led union my coworkers and I founded. I’ve organized custodians and other low-income workers as a staff member of United Labor Unions. As a member of DSA I’ve helped lead the development of our Socialists of Color Caucus, and I was on the team that organized our Block out the Sun Yard campaign.As socialists and workers, we know that only an organized working class can leverage the power necessary to fight against capitalism. I believe that in order to become a force for poor and working people in both government and the streets, DSA must build a base of support by embedding ourselves into working class struggle through participation in rank-and-file labor activity, tenant organizing and the expansion of our mutual aid programs.
Read Michael I. Esealuka’s Full Candidate Statement

Josh Lewis

Throughout my first term as co-chair, my aim has been to uphold democracy within the chapter and aid and coordinate the work of our committees. While we have more than doubled our membership this year and enjoyed some victories, we face challenges in keeping our members engaged, our campaigns focused, and our tools of political analysis and strategy sharp and effective. I remain committed to a chapter culture that is welcoming and educational ȉ one that enables us to learn from each other, build shared understanding, and take action together. As more eyes turn toward our movement, we have an historic opportunity to articulate clear ideas and organize campaigns that advance a socialist vision of society. People are listening. If re-elected, I will work with comrades on the Local Council to deepen our efforts to grow our active membership, clarify our vision, and wage effective campaigns in New Orleans and the Gulf South.
Read Josh Lewis’s Full Candidate Statement