Serious Resistance: Why I Joined the Democratic Socialists of America!

Like many other people, when Donald Trump was elected in 2016 I decided to take action. I have always identified as a socialist, a leftist, and a progressive. While growing up I always did my best to get involved with activism, especially when the Occupy movement began to explode in 2011. Yet as time drifted on I could find few causes that motivated me to do anything more than share a tweet or a Facebook post. That all changed in 2016.

I am from a family of left leaning activists. My grandmother was a well known activist in Sacramento who had always organized for the homeless, migrant farm workers, and war refugees. I had the good fortune of tagging along with her to all of these causes as I grew up. She and my mother took me to my first peace march when I was five years old, and I have been there ever since. It was probably thanks to their upbringing that I ended up being voted “Most Opinionated” by my graduating class in high school. In college I became obsessed with Occupy and kept track of every single occupation that I could while trying to also find a cause to organize for at my school. Besides a few protests about tuition fees, momentous as they were for my school, I did not do much.

Then came the Bernie Sanders campaign, and as a socialist I was thrilled to just have our names on the board. I had little confidence his campaign would take off though, but I pledged my support for him from the beginning and both Bernie and the country pleasantly surprised me. It was thrilling to hear people take the platforms of the working class seriously. Anti racism and feminism became unavoidable topics thanks to the 2016 election. No matter how you want to interpret it or whose side you were on during the primary, it cannot be denied that a serious conversation about progressive policy and theory finally was taking place in the United States. When Bernie came to California I was lucky enough to make it to the front row at his first rally there, that was when I started to figure out what causes needed people the most.

It still wasn’t enough for me though. At this point getting involved still looked like nothing more than showing up for protests or Bernie events. This was around the same time that the Black Lives Matter movement in Los Angeles, where I was living at the time, took off. I was following BLM since the events in Ferguson and I wanted to get involved as much as I could because black liberation is synonymous with working class liberation.

What finally got me to show up was the case of Jasmine Richards, a BLM organizer who was arrested for lynching because she touched a police officer. The officer in question is caught on camera assaulting a friend of Richards’ and Richards reacted as any person would to seeing a friend assaulted: they tried to interfere and de-escalate the situation. The law that was actually used to arrest and prosecute Richards is the same law that California had passed in order to prevent lynchings of black people who were already in police custody. The law is meant to protect black lives not the police force who already have extra laws protecting them from assault. The fact that a black woman can get arrested for breaking a law that exists to protect black people was a wake up call to me. That wake up call said, “The system is just plain wrong!” I know I should have woken up long before this and the fact I eventually realized white supremacy and my privilege are systemic are not things I should be rewarded for.

When Bernie’s campaign ended I was disappointed and heartbroken, but I was still inspired to carry on. I stayed dedicated to the cause and I knew I would be voting for Hillary in order to dodge the bullet of a Trump Presidency. As disappointed as I was that Bernie would not be president I was relieved that at least an Oxford educated woman would be keeping Trump from the highest executive office in the country. So as you can imagine I was one of the many people who was shocked and horrified when it was announced Donald Trump had won the election thanks to a fluke in how we count and allocate votes. Trump’s victory was the grandiose wake up call I needed. It was the realization that I cannot be dependent on others like Bernie or Hillary to change the system. I knew that as did the several thousand people who took to the streets the next day screaming “Not My President!” The time for delay was over.

I had been raised in Sacramento, the capital city of California. I knew that I could accomplish more organizing in the capital than I could as just another protester in L.A. Plus I could carry on the legacy of my grandmother whose work I was worried would go in vain thanks to the new administration. I moved back to Sacramento, but was still not sure how to get involved. When I say “get involved” what I mean is what one should be doing beyond just showing up for marches and protests. While they are important I wanted to do things that I would see the immediate effects of. I did not want to just validate myself for being anti-Trump.

My work at first was very similar to what I was doing before I moved back to Sacramento. I showed up for anti-fracking events, No Dakota Access Pipeline solidarity groups, Black Lives Matter rallies and vigils, and every march including the Women’s March, the Science March, and the Tax March. Despite all of this I still had a desire to do more; I did not just want to protest for the sake of protesting. I wanted to organize and achieve tangible victories on the local level that would help the working class. That is how we can stop Trump’s fascism and reduce the effects his legacy will have; we should focus on getting resources and protections to the communities most affected by Trump’s policies.

That was when I started showing up for meetings for Sacramento’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. I had been following their social media before I had even moved back from Los Angeles, and one day I decided the time was right to join and attend a meeting. At my first DSA meeting, without even knowing a single person there, I was immediately welcomed into a sphere of like minded people who had the same exact goal as me. They wanted to achieve tangible victories on the local level that were socialist, progressive, and therefore inherently anti Trump. I was both impressed and thrilled to discover such a group existed in my home town. At the first meeting I attended I learned about how in November of 2016, a former Co-chair of the DSA named Michael Israel had been killed in Northern Syria as a rebel fighter for the socialist revolution in Rojava. The chapter was planning a memorial and was inviting people to attend, including myself. I was at first hesitant because I thought it would initially be just for people who knew Michael but the membership encouraged me to attend. The memorial was not the somber event I had expected but was a lively thing with dancing, music, food, and what seemed to be the entire activist community of Sacramento coming together for a day to celebrate a life so dedicated to the cause of humanity. At both the meeting and the memorial I felt a degree of acceptance and belonging that I had never felt before. The sense of togetherness that seemed inherent to the DSA was awe inspiring, unlike anything else I had witnessed or experienced before. The strong community that I both witnessed and experienced with Sacramento DSA had so impressed me that I decided to attend the 2017 DSA convention.

Within three months of my joining DSA, I ended up becoming the chairperson for the Sacramento delegation at the convention. This was the convention where we made abortion access a national priority, where we started our Medicare for All campaign which has become a mainstream policy platform, and we laid out our electoral strategy which has brought on the success of people like Lee Carter and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. I feel an immense sense of pride that I took part in a piece of socialist history. The convention was one of the most stressful experiences of my life but one of the most worthwhile. There were intense outbursts from the voting floor and passionate debates about the direction of the largest socialist organization in America. It was something that I got to put a piece of myself into and I am proud to see that our work from the convention is constantly yielding such successful results. With Sacramento DSA I witnessed and experienced true community, at the national convention I witnessed and experienced true democracy. Not only did I feel happy to belong, I felt proud to be involved.

I have since put a piece of myself nationally into an organization that goes against everything that Trump stands for. He attacks women’s healthcare, so we make abortion access a priority. He attacks immigrants so we adopt the policy of abolishing ICE which like Medicare for All has become a mainstream platform. With these national priorities, on the local level Sacramento DSA has organized support for Black Lives Matter and the unhoused. We have worked with the Brown Berets and other anti ICE groups. We have a flourishing socialist feminist reading group, thanks to which I have learned to reconcile with my own sexism. I have taken action against the very institutions that create and enable Trump, I did not just throw weight behind actions against the man himself. This is only a fraction of how much I have learned from my experience with the DSA. Not only have I worked hard and found a sense of belonging, I have grown and continue to grow intellectually thanks to the people that I call, “comrades.”

In short, if you want to get serious about resistance, about stopping Trump and obstructing his presidency, then look no further than your local DSA chapter. Don’t have a local chapter yet? Even better, because this is your chance to start one and therefore your chance to create an organization to fight Trumpism on the local level. The DSA combines anti racism, feminism, and class issues into one fight. If you are serious about resistance, if you genuinely want to create a space and community that goes against the racist and sexist status quo, look to the Democratic Socialists of America.

Published by James J Jackson

I'm a poet from California.

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