I spent a couple days going down to Chicago (March 2–4, 2017) to participate in a few events that have DSA connections.
On Thursday evening I went to a Street Fight Radio live show at Township Bar. Street Fight Radio is a podcast based in Columbus, Ohio and dedicated to “spreading a message of egalitarianism and trying to create a completely horizontally organized worker’s party with global representation.” The hosts, Brett Paine and Bryan Quinby, have hosted the show more than five years and recently began participating in the DSA chapter in Columbus.
The show was extremely funny! The humor is very accessible — some may call it “low brow”, but I find it so refreshing and enjoyable to have an anti-capitalist voice that doesn’t get caught up in complicated vocab and in the same vernacular as you would hear at the bar. They brought on three guests:
- Chuck Mertz, host of This Is Hell! a weekly interview show that broadcasts on WNUR 89.3 Chicago. This Is Hell! specializes in interviews where Chuck asks hard questions to authors, academics, and artists.
- @lindzeta, a Columbus, OH native and counselor currently living in Chicago, where they talked fondly about memories of Columbus.
- Arish Singh, a Sikh-American comedian from Des Moines, Iowa who had a story about a statue at the site of the Haymarket Riots that happened in Chicago in the late 19th century and was a focal point of the labor movement.
After the podcast I hung around for a while and got a chance to talk to Brett, who is working on local Columbus campaigns, primarily around anti-police brutality causes:
- Pushing for an investigation for Jaron Thomas, a black man who died from wounds sustained during a mental health call to police
- ending the Summer Policing program (where plainclothes cops increase patrolling and target vulnerable neighborhoods) He also joined DSA recently and it was good sharing perspectives with him about how we needed to start putting our words into action.
On Friday night I went to the Jacobin Magazine Release Party, which was hosted at the In These Times office. Micah Uetricht, assistant editor at Jacobin, led a panel with organizers from the Chicago community:
- Michelle Gunderson, Chicago Public Schools first-grade teacher and member of the Chicago Teachers Union’s Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators
- Rory Fanning, former Army Ranger, antiwar activist, and author of Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America
- Carlos Rosa, alderman of the 35th ward
- RL Stephens, labor organizer and co-host of the podcast Stockton to Malone on the Jacobin Radio podcast channel
The panel members provided great perspectives on what Trump’s election means to their movements, the groups of people they work with, and what the Left needs to do to not only resist Trumpism but to build an effective movement going forward. There was heated but constructive debate on to what extent leftist movements need to work outside the Democratic party near the end of the panel. See the video for this panel here.
The panel was completely packed — the room was set up for about 30–40 people to sit and around 100 showed up. After the panel there was a reception and I got a chance to talk to Micah briefly and a number of organizers in the Chicago area from DSA, ISO, and labor- and immigrant-based groups.
Both events were very enjoyable and just seeing the huge turnout for the events was inspiring — it really feels like we’re building a movement! Chicago is a much larger population area than Madison is, and that certainly makes it easier for larger numbers of people to get involved. Getting an opportunity to talk to leftist groups in another city is invaluable, and I look forward to future opportunities to do so in other cities around the Midwest and the US if I get a chance.