2018 Election Candidate Statement – Michael I. Esealuka

My name is Michael I. Esealuka (she/her) and I’m running for co-chair of our DSA chapter.

As the largest socialist organization in the U.S. for a generation, DSA is now able to leverage some serious political muscle. We’ve elected socialists around the country, won municipal reforms like paid sick leave, and supported striking workers in New York, West Virginia and beyond. Right now the socialist movement is in a period of high activity and DSA has the momentum on our side.

But momentum doesn’t last forever. Activity surges and wanes, participation spikes and then drops off; this is the nature of people’s movements. I want to make sure that regardless of what happens in 2018, our chapter continues to expand its capacity.  In order to do that we have to build a base amongst working class people. That way, even when socialism isn’t in the news, we are still growing our ability to activate large numbers of poor and working people to struggle at their jobs and in their neighborhoods, to fight against capitalism and systems of oppression.

What does it mean to “build a base” in the working class? Building a base means that DSA develops ongoing relationships with people who don’t already share our political affinities. It means engaging as socialists with other poor and working people, and actively bringing them into our campaigns. It means embedding DSA more deeply into working peoples’ existing social and political networks so that we’re able to inject our socialist beliefs into strong working class movements.

As socialists, we understand how important it is to orient our activity toward increasing working people’s political agency. Without a powerful and organized working class, we can’t achieve any of our socialist ambitions.

New Orleans is over 50% black, and over 60% nonwhite. Most of this city’s working class are black and brown people who work as cooks, custodians, and garbage collectors, in construction and home health care. And while almost all of our members are working class — meaning that we work for a wage or salary, not as business owners, developers or investors — our chapter’s membership does not yet reflect the composition of the broader working class of New Orleans. That means we’re disconnected from many of the communities we seek to organize alongside. Largely we agree this is something we need to remedy, but a clarified direction around how to address this has yet to develop in our chapter.

I believe the best way forward is to root our chapter’s work in the everyday struggles of working people, learning to organize with one another across difference (whether race, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, origin or ability). We can do this by supporting rank-and-file labor activity, tenant organizing and immigrant solidarity work, and through the expansion of our mutual aid programs.

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Prior to joining our chapter, I’ve been primarily involved with labor activism. In my time as a staff organizer for United Labor Unions, an independent union in the Deep South, one of my accomplishments was increasing union density in a long-neglected 100+ worker unit of school custodians from 5% to 60%. As a restaurant worker I helped lead the organizing committee that formed the Bacchanal Workers Union. As a former core member of the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee, I helped organize and lead a 75-person worker’s march through the French Quarter last fall. In April, after my restaurant’s manager called the police on two young black regulars and fired me for intervening, my coworkers and I organized to have him removed — I was later reinstated to the job, where I now work. I approach all of my organizing efforts from my experiences as a black woman and low-income worker.

In my time as a member of our chapter, I was a lead organizer of one of our first public political education events, the Southern Struggle forum in January of this year, where I spoke to an audience of fifty about the history of the Alabama Sharecropper’s Union. I’ve helped to lead the formation and development of our Socialists of Color Caucus. I was on the team that organized and oversaw our chapter’s first-ever canvassing efforts with our Block out the Sun Yard campaign, and as a member of the Direct Service Committee I helped initiate our canvassing efforts to promote our Brake Light Clinics.

As co-chair of New Orleans DSA, I would aim to:

  • Develop our chapter’s capacity to confront the issues that working people face everyday through support for rank-and-file labor and tenant organizing
  • Guide the development of robust mutual aid programs and provide assistance to our chapter’s continued efforts to expand the Brake Light Clinics
  • Guide our chapter’s efforts to organize alongside and build coalitions with working class institutions in our city, like labor unions and social justice organizations with deep ties to marginalized communities
  • Support our member-led initiatives to develop comprehensive and accessible political education programs to strengthen our understanding of socialist history and theory

I’m committed to helping our chapter realize its great potential. I believe I would be a strong asset to our work in a leadership position. I want New Orleans DSA to become a force for all working people as we continue to build our power to fight against capitalism in the years ahead.