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Thu Apr 11, 2019, 03:52 AM

Here's What Happens at a Local DSA Chapter Meeting, or: Despite National Stereotypes, Cleveland's

Here's What Happens at a Local DSA Chapter Meeting, or: Despite National Stereotypes, Cleveland's Democratic Socialists are Organized and Mobilized

Its 6:30 on a Thursday evening and Im wandering through a library in Cleveland Heights, following the young man with the rose pin on his shirt. I know that if I follow him follow the rose Ill likely end up in the right place. Sure enough, hes not only attending the same meeting I am, hes the meeting chair. Tonight, he has volunteered to ensure that the agenda items are covered in a timely fashion. Other volunteers cover other roles some have chosen to take on a position while others have been nominated and elected by their peers. Two people kindly greet me at a welcoming table laden with snacks. They ask if I wouldnt mind filling out a name tag, and I note that their name tags include not only their first names but their preferred pronouns. This isn't a requirement some people have pronouns on their name tags and others do not but it strikes me as kind and thoughtful gesture. I ask them if its alright if I record the meeting. Well have to ask and get back to you.

National stories about the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have been dominated by a narrative that portrays the group as a misguided, simplistic, or even as a laughable conglomeration of misfits. Headlines and in-depth coverage of members across the country intentionally juxtaposes a seemingly radical ideology with the average life of a young person, DSAs largest growing demographic. However, the Cleveland chapter of the national organization is engaging in grassroots social equity work that outpaces even some of the established progressive agencies in town.

When charter school teachers in Parma went on strike, Cleveland DSA members brought refreshments for the labor union, joined them on the picket line and raised funds for the effort. In response to the Cuyahoga County jail failures, the organization started a bail bond fund. Even more recently, the group joined a coalition of individuals and organizations to collect signatures for petition effort to force a lead-safe ordinance, and DSA members collected almost a third of the more than ten thousand signatures that were eventually submitted.

Its the dissonance between the national headlines and the local work that brings me to the Cleveland Heights library. I want to witness a meeting, but not to report on the odd professions or social ambition of the members. Instead, to get a feel for the environment, the procedures and the ways the members interact with each other.

Read more: https://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2019/04/10/heres-what-happens-at-a-local-dsa-chapter-meeting-or-despite-national-stereotypes-clevelands-democratic-socialists-are-organized-and-mobi

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