Solidarity Across Borders

When Fatou Camara was a teenage socialist in Kaolack, Senegal, the future looked good. Abdou Diouf, a socialist, was president, and the party had just given her financial aid to study economics in Quebec and get the education she wanted to be able to help her six brothers and sisters and her parents. While she was in Quebec, Senegal devalued its currency, and her dreams of a university education crashed. She returned to Senegal, where she interned with an accounting firm before striking out for the United States in 1994. Like so many immigrants, she came with hope and the name of someone who might be able to help her. That name was Alan Charney, then national director of DSA. He’d met a friend of hers at a Socialist International meeting, and the friend thought that Alan might be able to steer her to paid work. DSA had no opening for a bookkeeper, but Charney offered her office temp work and helped her find other part-time work.

The classic immigrant story had begun. Was it different for her as a non-European, a socialist, a Muslim? “Up until September 11, 2001, I had no problems,” she says. “I’ve been able to help my parents and my siblings, which is what I wanted,” says Camara, who has no children of her own. Because Senegal at the time required workers to retire at age 55, her father has had to support the family on a devalued pension. Her earnings helped pay for a house and for her younger siblings’ education.

When DSA’s full-time bookkeeper left, Camara moved into the job, leaving the full-time position only when it looked as if DSA might move to D.C. By the time the decision had been reached to stay in New York City, she was working full time elsewhere. DSA still benefits from her knowledge and long history with the organization because she squeezes time in the evenings and on Saturdays to reconcile the books.

Even in the cramped and crammed DSA space, she’s been able to find a spot to say prayers. At her full-time job, she noted, where there are employees from around the globe, management has provided her and other Muslims with a separate room for daily prayers. Still, after September 11, she became more guard-ed. Relatives in France and Africa urged her not to wear her headscarf outdoors. “I do it for God,” she says simply, having refused to com-promise in the way she appears in public. About a year ago, a street-corner encounter with a man who screamed at her and threatened her about the head covering left her shaken. A non-Muslim woman came to her defense.

Now, with Donald Trump having blurred the line between free speech, political speech, and hate speech, her faith in the United States has also been shaken. “This isn’t the country I thought I knew,” she says, as she tells of watching news re-ports of Muslims being beaten in the city.

She is furious at those who have “hijacked” her religion. “They don’t represent me or anyone I know,” she says of the killers of Boko Haram and Daesh. “Islam is a religion of love and peace.” She shakes her head in amazement that anyone could consider them representative of the religion. “They’re killing a lot of Muslims, too,” she notes.

What can DSAers do in solidarity as more hate speech and hate crimes poison the atmosphere? “Recruit more Muslims to the organization,” she urges. Many immigrants come as socialists already. DSA needs to start with them. After more than two decades here, she and her husband, whom she met in France, still consider themselves socialists. “My politics haven’t changed, but now, in this atmosphere, I have to be watching all the time.”

Maxine Phillips is the editor of Democratic Left. The interview was conducted in the DSA office.

Film Discussion: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 15 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 45 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 53 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 56 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

What Is DSA? Training Call

April 05, 2017

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 18 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 7 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.