Justice and Democratic Socialism in George Floyd’s Hometown: Houston DSA Aids Coalition Work

George Floyd may have been murdered in Minneapolis, but he came from Houston, Texas, and his hometown has returned to the streets as Houstonians agitate for justice after another racist police murder. On July 26, 2023, the family of 29-year-old Jalen Randle, joined by Black Lives Matter HTX, Black Lives Matter Grassroots FL, Restaurant Workers United, Texas State Employees Union Local 6186, the Office of Ben Crump, Community Voices for Public Education, the Houston Tenants Union, and the Houston DSA gathered for a press conference demanding justice for their son. The day marked the latest action of the family’s campaign since Randle’s murder by Houston police on April 27, 2022, in the historically Black neighborhood of Pleasantville. Organized by local DSA members, this event may have marked the first time since 1946 that labor unions in Houston have stood with grassroots struggles against racist violence and murder. 

Since Randle’s murder, the fight for justice in Houston has not been led by established activists or organizations but by Randle’s family. His father, Warren Randle, is a full-time physical athletic trainer. Tiffany Bouyette Rachal, his mother, works as a touring singer and artist. Few others carrying these commitments would have maintained the capacity and passion for a regular schedule of monthly protests and actions for well over a year. The family’s tenacious determination inspired the Rice Women’s Basketball Team to feature Jalen’s name on uniforms in February 2023 and directly challenge the leaders of Houston’s political class two months later. The Randle family has united with the family of George Floyd and developed contacts with abolitionist intellectuals such as Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Robin D.G. Kelley

In an interview published on the first anniversary of his son’s murder, Warren Randle told The Real News Network, that Jalen had made him “a better person even in his death.” Rachal, similarly, has made her activism airborne, supporting the movement demanding justice for Andrew Joseph III in Florida, as well as in Atlanta where she sang at Tyre Nichols’s funeral, and as far away as Ohio and Washington D.C. where she traveled to march in solidarity with the family of Jayland Walker.

After a year of organizing, the Randle family in April of this year finally forced Harris County DA Kim Ogg to place the officer who shot Jalen, Shane Privette, before a grand jury. On April 26, the grand jury returned a “no action” decision, leaving the task of ruling up to a second grand jury. The date of its convening is still unknown. Despite the criminal legal system’s cruel maneuvers, the Randle family and their supporters have not backed down. They have instead upped the ante by organizing broader alliances involving teachers and unions and raised public questions about the real agenda of the DA’s office. If the resources of DSA nationally can be marshaled together with local ones, the Randle family could make DA Kim Ogg’s life even more difficult in the coming months.

But the primary challenge facing the Justice for Jalen campaign is one currently shared by every fight waged by our side right now, whether in Houston, Cop City, Ron DeSantis’s Florida, or far beyond. In a strong statement of solidarity to the Randle campaign, the Southern Workers Assembly in South Carolina warns that “there is a rising right wing assault on every aspect of our lives.” Queer and trans communities, communities of color, reproductive rights, librarians and libraries, public schools, unions, and everyone else and thing we hold dear are all in grave danger. There is no path forward for resisting this broad offensive if our struggles are not connected. And there is no reason they shouldn’t be. 

Each struggle puts us on the front lines of fighting for a different kind of society, for those we do not know and in the memory of those no longer here. Socialists today must build a new Left grounded in the same commitments that brought millions to the radical streets of 2020. Their example could not have been more dramatically pre-figurative of the world that could be ours, where “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

A World Where Injuries to One Matter to All

We have seen the legacy of the 2020 uprising play out in industrial action and workplace rebellion this summer. For socialists, the writers’ and actors’ strikes aren’t only about residuals, dystopian technological agendas, or even the status of art as we know it. Yes, they are about these, but they are also about another, much wider world made possible when workers stand together against injustice. Any and every locked arm against scabs and cops calls into question the false common sense of an undemocratic society built on profit over need, where ordinary people take orders from above rather than run society collectively from below. 

Bernie Sanders gestured toward these kinds of prefigurative commitments when he posed the question to his supporters, “Are you willing to fight for someone you don’t know?”

The transformation of ordinary people through struggle into some of the best leaders, organizers and tacticians also takes place on the streets against the cops and the courts. The same radical needs as well as capacities for collectivity and solidarity that emerge during fights with employers also arise independently among the oppressed, including in struggles against systemic racism and state violence. A socialism truly democratic can only thrive where these needs and capacities are developed on a mass scale through the passionate cultivation and care of activists. It is perhaps another way of describing the molecular infrastructures of abolition.

Seth Uzman is Co-Chair of the Houston DSA’s Abolition Working Group. For more information or to become involved with DSA’s abolition work, visit the site of the National DSA Abolition Working Group.

Tiffany Bouyette Rachal, flanked by Warren Randle and Martin Rachal, leads with an opening statement at a solidarity press conference on July 26th, 2023, outside the Harris County Criminal and Civil Courts.

HDSA Banners at the head of the family’s one year anniversary march for justice on April 22nd, 2023 at City Hall

Warren Randle shows solidarity at Houston DSA’s Teamsters BBQ Fundraiser on July 22nd, 2023 at the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation

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Stenciled banner donated by  Houston DSA to the Randle family and subsequently painted and embellished by community members on display during a Pleasantville town hall on July 28th, 2022.