Decades of racist practices at the USDA have robbed black Louisianans of their farmland, and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry could help undo this injustice. Ag Commissioner candidate Marguerite Green wants to make sure that they do.
Agriculture is big business in Louisiana. The state’s forests and fields are one of our main industries, supporting hundreds of communities and thousands of families.
While farming can be a lucrative business, it has been at the expense of black farmers, whose land has been stolen from them through corrupt institutional practices, discrimination, intimidation, and collusion. As Vann Newkirk documented recently for The Atlantic, Wall Street firms like TIAA are buying up farmland in the Mississippi Delta, pushing black farmers off their families’ lands. In total, black farmers in the US have lost 12 million acres in the last century. This crisis of land loss is acute in Louisiana.
On April 4, Louisiana will hold a primary election to decide which Democratic candidate to support in a run for president. This will be a closed primary, so it will only be open to registered Democrats. Many members of the Democratic Socialists of America are not registered Democrats: they may have been drawn to the DSA because they have no faith in existing political parties, or because they don’t see any political party that is a good representation of their personal ideology. The Democratic Socialists of America are a political group, but not a party. When our members register to vote, we don’t have a DSA box to check, we have to make our own choice about party affiliation. In this primary for the Democratic nominee for president, we are encouraging our members to register as democrats to take part in this contest. It’s a simple process for voters to change party affiliation to Democrat to cast this vote, and then change to something else afterward if they wish.
Last month, chemical company Wanhua announced its withdrawal from a bid that would have seen it build a 250-acre plant in Convent, a small community along the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Its defeat can be attributed in large part to community activists, including Rise St. James, a local, faith-based group determined to turn the tide on toxic air, land, and water pollution caused by a chemical industry run amok. There are 22,000 residents of St. James, and 32 chemical plants. The defeat of the $1.2 billion complex means that its annual production of 300 tons of harmful pollutants will not exacerbate a problem in a community already dubbed Cancer Alley.
ICE is waging a terror campaign in our community. It has residents afraid to leave their homes, go to church, pick up their kids, or go to work. The campaign is part of a nationwide push to dehumanize and threaten immigrant communities, and a local organization, Congreso del Jornaleros (Congress of Day Laborers), has served a critical role in protecting our vulnerable neighbors.
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.