Whether it’s tax policy that throws away public resources, a carceral system that steals years of labor from citizens or demagogues aiming to divide with extremist right-wing rhetoric, the residents of the state capital face a constant barrage of reactionary politics.
In that environment, a new DSA chapter is working to bring socialist ideas to the fore.
Pepper Bowen Roussel is a food, water and environmental attorney running for State Representative of District 91 in New Orleans, the election of which will be on October 12. Ms. Roussel did not seek or receive the endorsement of the DSA, but agreed to an interview to explain some of her positions. To find out more about her campaign, visit her site vote4pepper.com. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Louisiana will officially have a DSA member on the statewide ballot on Oct. 12.
Marguerite “Margee” Green has qualified for the race for Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. She aims to unseat incumbent Mike Strain on a platform that will elevate all Louisianans, and she’ll need volunteers to do it.
$100 late rent fees. Evictions without warning. Refusing to fix collapsed ceilings.
These are merely a few of the myriad abuses New Orleans DSA member Breonne D. has seen in her time as an organizer with Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative.
For over 10 years, Jane Place has fought the deluge of gentrification, rent hikes, and landlord abuse in one of the most hostile regulatory environments in the nation. Their goal: decommodification of housing. Their method: community land trusts and expanded housing rights.
DSA New Orleans members elected new leadership, approved new bylaws and made the chapter’s first campaign endorsement at the annual convention Saturday.
Over 60 attendees voted to change bylaws, including streamlining and clarifying the chapter’s endorsement process, clarifying the stance on nationally endorsed campaigns, establishing new credentials officer and alternate positions, and creating working groups for growth and diversity, as well as chapter conduct. The convention also resolved to prioritize Medicare for All and labor rights and to continue streamlining budgeting and finances for the coming year.
Another major milestone passed with an overwhelming majority, as Marguerite Green received DSA New Orleans’ first official political campaign endorsement as she begins her run for Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry.
A number of candidates ran for local council seats, with Jordan F. elected as a new co-chair alongside re-elected Co-Chair Michael E.
“We learned a lot talking about what campaigns were successful and which weren’t, and we’re in a great position to reorient our organizing around that. I’m looking forward to seeing how the chapter will grow by moving away from the activist model and into a place where more casual organizers can make meaningful contributions to our work,” said Jordan.
Michael echoed his sentiment.
“I’m excited to work with new leadership to strengthen and grow our chapter as we start to take up more ambitious campaigns for working-class demands,” she said. “It’s clear we’re becoming a serious, durable organization with real potential to fight for meaningful change in Louisiana, and I’m honored to serve our members in another term as chair.”
The entire elected Local Council includes Zach D. and Sophie K. as at-large Local Council members, Logan Y. as membership chair, Alli D. as treasurer, and Ryan S. as secretary. Michael E., Sue M., Frances G., Josh L., and Jordan F. were chosen to represent the chapter at DSA’s upcoming National Convention in August.
Following Saturday afternoon’s convention, DSA members met for a social at a chapter member’s home. We look forward to building a better world and New Orleans over the next year.
Trey D: Over the last several years, I believe we’ve witnessed a genuinely rare moment: for the first time in decades, we have the chance to truly build a unified, durable and powerful workers’ movement in New Orleans and nationwide. Generations of stagnant wages, the Great Recession, and the endless fiasco that is our political system have swept underfoot generations of old lies about socialism (and a lot of other lies besides). As a result, our organization has grown from a tiny sect to the largest anticapitalist organization in the country in at least 50 years. I am running for co-chair because I believe our chapter, and DSA at large, now faces a profound and crucial question: what comes next? How do we turn this moment into a durable, powerful and multiracial workers’ organization? I believe we must prioritize, above all, both sustained membership growth and democratic durability. Growth that will continue regardless of who is in office or what happens on election day; growth which actively and tirelessly reaches beyond the heavily white demographics of our current membership. Democratic durability that is built on creating opportunities for involvement in our movement beyond committee-centered, single-issue organizing; durability that is founded on making democratic self-organization a part of the fabric of working peoples’ lives. I hope that some of my work over the last fifteen months as membership chair, such as creating the chapter Mobilizers Program to ensure every person expressing interest in our chapter is connected with an established member, leading development on the chapter website, and co-authoring the Collective Power Network’s Regional Representation plank, has contributed to beginning to address these goals. But as a chapter, I feel we must deepen our commitment to them, and if elected to co-chair, doing so will be my priority.
I’m Michael (she/her). I’m a restaurant worker and student who got my start in organizing as a rank-and-file labor activist, and later as an organizer for United Labor Unions, working primarily with school custodians. I’ve served as co-chair of New Orleans DSA for the past year, working on new member onboarding, navigating our coalition work in the Three Point Platform campaign, and helping to lead our chapter program process. For us to stand a chance in the struggle against the rich power players who run our state, and win working class victories that materially change peoples lives, we have to build our chapter. We’ve got to pair campaign activity with strong systems for growth & member development.
If elected to a second term as co-chair I’ll work to
Collaborate with the Labor Committee to build working class power through support for organizing in major industries
Team up with the Membership Chair and Mobilizers to implement a strategy for growth – one that emphasizes reaching and building trust with working class communities of color and working class women
Create tools to help incorporate political education and organizer training into all of our activity
Help guide our work in coalition with membership based organizations and working class communities whose priorities align with our own, especially on key issues like education, healthcare, labor and environment
We are at a rare moment for the socialist movement. We’ve continued to grow through ongoing political crises because more and more people believe that we are going to win. Our role as organizers is to show people that we will win. We do this when we create material changes for our neighbors and coworkers. And we make these changes by building real power. We must always be thinking about our work in relation to how it builds power, and as co-chair I’ll continue to challenge the membership and chapter leadership to think in these terms. I’ll do this by focusing my efforts on a small set of concrete goals:
Pushing the chapter to do more outward-facing events and outreach to build trust in our work and make it visible to our neighbors.
Creating and supporting an internal body focused on onboarding and welcoming new members.
Creating and supporting the Growth & Diversity Working Group to organize our neighborhoods beyond specific issue areas.
Developing a Leadership Development strategy. To identify informal leaders, create a succession plan for elected leadership, and create tools and trainings.
Centering political development and education in all our work.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has signaled his intention to sign the “fetal heartbeat bill” (SB 184, HB 133, HB 484) that would criminalize abortion after a heartbeat is detected, usually at 6 weeks. This bill is the result of decades of work by anti-choice zealots to shut down abortion access state by state.
This bill won’t protect life in Louisiana. It won’t do anything about the maternal mortality rate that is the 2nd worst in the country. It won’t stop the 45% of pregnancy-related deaths that are preventable. It won’t address the fact that childbirth is 4x more deadly for black people in Louisiana, and 3x more deadly for parents over 35. It won’t provide greater access to healthcare. It won’t help a single person living in this state.
It won’t help parents provide for their children’s food, shelter, education, or healthcare. It won’t create jobs and livelihoods to sustain families. It won’t stop violence. This bill is meant to punish and dominate. To steal autonomy and choice from pregnant people. This bill is designed — as most of Louisiana’s abortion laws are designed — to punish working class people and make our lives harder. Already, 95% of parishes don’t have an abortion clinic (75% of Louisianans live in a parish without a clinic). People seeking abortions already have to arrange transportation and travel, take multiple days off work, receive medically unnecessary ultrasounds and state-mandated counseling, and self-fund procedures that cost hundreds of dollars — starting around $500 in the first trimester and getting more expensive as time passes.
Happy May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day. This Wednesday, May 1st, DSA New Orleans will be joining the annual march organized by New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. We’ll gather in Congo Square at 1:30 PM and we invite all of you to join us! Remember to wear red.
We have a ton of great events planned this month. In addition to our regular monthly Brake Light Clinic, we’re doing two Medicare-for-All canvasses. We’ve got a film screening about Anne Braden, a southern socialist organizer and civil rights activist. Our Socialists of Color Caucus is hosting a forum about liberation movements in the Caribbean. We’ve got a book event about the red state teachers’ strikes, and we’ll close out the month with a social.
*Upcoming June Convention*
Don’t forget we’ve got our chapter convention coming up in June. Our convention is one of our most important events of the year, where we elect new leadership and vote on important political resolutions. You can read a guide to the chapter convention here.
Upcoming DSA Events
Film Screening: Anne Braden, Southern Patriot Friday, May 10th, 7 – 9pm The Dragonfly: Poetry & Performance Ritual Space, 3921 St. Claude Ave This riveting documentary tells the story of one of the South’s most important socialist organizers, with appearances by Cornel West and Angela Davis among others. Free screening, all are welcome. Dinner provided.
Gimme A Brake Light Clinic Saturday, May 11th, 11am – 4pm Kruttschnitt Place, 2437 Bayou Rd Join us for our monthly brake light clinic, where we fix brake lights for free to prevent unnecessary traffic stops and speak out against police violence. Snacks and water provided, no experience necessary, family friendly.
Comrades of the Caribbean Friday, May 17th, 6 – 8pm Community Book Center, 2523 Bayou Rd Join DSA’s Socialists of Color Caucus for a forum on Caribbean liberation movements. From New Orleans to Cuba to Haiti, we believe that we must know and support each other’s struggles towards freedom. Food from CocoHut provided before hand and a brief Q&A with our panelists afterwards. Family friendly. We’re raising funds to cover the cost of catering and hosting this event. Click here to donate.
Medicare-for-All Canvass & Health Fair Saturday, May 18th — Canvass from 10am – 12pm, Health Fair 12 – 4pm A.L. Davis Park, 2600 La Salle St Every month (or more!) we organize a canvass for Medicare-for-All, a policy to create free universal healthcare. Snacks, water provided. No experience or supplies necessary.
We’ll follow up our canvass with a Health Fair + Medical Debt Clinic. We offer health resources, hot food, cool beverages, assistance with debt disputes, and talk to folks about Medicare for All. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to volunteer!
Red State Revolt Saturday, May 25th, 3 – 5pm Musician Union’s Hall, 2555 Ursulines Ave In 2018 a strike wave—the first in over four decades—rocked the United States. Inspired by the wildcat victory in West Virginia, teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, and across the country walked off their jobs and shut down their schools to demand better pay for educators, more funding for students, and an end to years of austerity. We will be hosting former teacher, DSA organizer and author Eric Blanc for a discussion of his recently released book, Red State Revolt.
New Member Social Friday, May 31st, 6:30 – 8:30pm Location TBD Save the date, we’re having a new member social on the last Friday of May. This will be a great chance for new folks to meet New Orleans socialists and learn how to get involved in our work. Children welcome, dinner provided.
For the most complete, up-to-date information on all of our meetings and events, check out our calendar.
We’ve got two big events coming up next week. On Monday we’ve got our April Chapter Program meeting. Friday we’re hosting a cookout on the bayou. More info below.
While you’re at it, check out this amazing op-ed our Healthcare-for-All Committee leader published in the Lens yesterday! She calls on Rep. Cedric Richmond to co-sponsor the Medicare for All Act.
Local Dues have been re-established with a completely new system. We are an all-volunteer organization that is 100% member-funded, so local dues support our work and help keep us independent. You can sign up here.
Finally – don’t forget we’ve got our chapter convention coming up in June. Our convention is one of our most important events of the year, where we elect new leadership and vote on important political resolutions. You can read a guide to the convention here.
Chapter Program Meeting: Our Priorities Monday, April 22nd, 6:30 – 8pm 2022 St. Bernard Ave
We’re working on our chapter program, which will help guide our work and focus our efforts as we organize for a better world. In February members identified four issues they want to focus more on: growing the chapter, labor organizing, healthcare justice and environmental issues.
We’re getting together to brainstorm and develop action plans for our chapter based on member feedback, and we want everyone to come! Dinner provided, children welcome. Wheelchair accessible building.
Socialist Cookout on the Bayou
Friday, April 26th, 6:30pm til late On the Bayou between St. Ann & Dumaine
We’re having a cookout and everyone’s invited! Bring cold drinks or something to throw on the grill — or just bring yourself. Children welcome. Nearby bathroom available.
Wheelchair accessibility info: event will be held in a grassy area. The bathroom is, unfortunately, not wheelchair accessible.
Hello & thanks to everyone who attended our April general meeting. We had at least 80 attendees, making this our chapter’s biggest meeting yet!
We were lucky to welcome Miriam from Familias Unidas en Accion as a guest speaker. Hannah gave a recap from the Dallas DSA conference, where 10 delegates from our chapter met DSA leaders from all over Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Josh went over some guidelines for our upcoming chapter convention in June, and we heard updates from all of our committees and caucuses.
Jordan gave a report back on our chapter program development and our work to develop political proposals and strategies around priorities of growing & diversifying the chapter, labor organizing, ecosocialism and healthcare justice.
There are so many ways to get plugged in to our work. If you attended our General Meeting, you already know a little bit about all of our different committees and upcoming events. Here’s a list of events we’ve got coming up that are all great ways to get involved in our chapter.
Socialist Feminist Reading Group Today! Thursday 4/4, 6:30 – 8:30PM, Faubourg Wines (2805 St. Claude Ave) Roughly every other month the Socialist Feminist Caucus meets to discuss a book. This time we’re talking about adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy. We strive to keep book club discussion open to all, so feel free to come even if you haven’t read the book!
Brake Light Clinic Saturday 4/6, 11AM – 4PM, 2437 Bayou Rd (Corner of Bayou Rd & N. Dorgenois), Join us for our monthly brake light clinic, where we fix brake lights for free to prevent unnecessary traffic stops and speak out against police violence.
Medicare-for-All Canvass Tuesday, 4/9, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM, 2022 St. Bernard Ave Join us on our next Medicare for All canvass! Every month (at least!), the DSA New Orleans Health Care Committee goes out door-to-door in different neighborhoods to talk to our neighbors about the fight for Medicare for All. No experience or supplies necessary. Everyone is welcome to join!
Workplace Organizing 101 Sunday, 4/14, 2 – 5PM, 2022 St. Bernard Ave Join the Labor Committee for a Workplace Organizing 101 event. We’ll learn the basic steps of organinizing in our workplaces and how to come together to demand better conditions and dignity from our bosses. We invite workers from restaurants, factories, hospitals, schools and any other workplace to join us. Crawfish will be provided after the training. Accessibility info: the event will be held in a grassy area. No steps to get to bathroom.
Socialists of Color Potluck Sunday, April 14th, 6:30 PM – 8 PM, WHIV Radio Station (2762 Orleans Ave) A monthly potluck for black, brown and indigenous people on the left to meet one another, share experiences and build community.
For the most up-to-date information on our events, click the link below for our calendar.