I learned how to be a socialist from my mother, Kathleen Murphy. She grew up in a small house off Woodward Avenue in Detroit that spilled over with the eight children of a working class Irish-Catholic family. The death of her brother Pat with the marines outside Hue in Vietnam radicalized her into the anti-war movement where she met my father—a marine veteran himself, radicalized by what he saw and did in the war.
She studied art education and taught elementary in Kalamazoo, bringing her politics with her. For over fifty years she’s fought for her students, for the union and fellow public workers, and always against America’s wars. When the bombing of Iraq began under the second Bush, she brought roses to the Al Saedy family who worked at a restaurant near her school, starting a friendship that grew into Iraqi Health Now—an organization delivering medical supplies to Basra, a city destroyed by our war.
She brought my sister and I into organizing early, to anti-war marches with her Code Pink ladies, to union strikes, and along for her more personal activism—helping her students and families, bringing into their homes hot meals, warm clothes, and support without conditions or judgement. She had no background in theory, but alongside her we learned what it was to stand in solidarity with the oppressed against racism, capitalism, and imperialism.
My mother taught me that your community is your family, that an injustice to anyone is an injustice to all of us, that our fights are moral and are worth fighting—even when it feels like you are losing. It is because of her that I am a socialist organizer and a member of the Central Brooklyn Branch of NYC-DSA.
In my career, I’m a Product Strategist for ThoughtWorks, working in Organizational Design and Transformation, which I love. I help organizations reshape their structure and process towards a more democratic model where employees define the strategic vision and direction of their work, own the outcomes, and self-organize into autonomous teams to design and deliver great products. I get to listen to people, understand their problems, and facilitate them in creating their own solutions—it is work that has greatly influenced how I think about political organizing and leadership.
Prior to my work in technology, I spent six years in External Relations and Fundraising for youth development and education nonprofits in Chicago. While I eventually left the field, unable to reconcile my values with the work of NGOs—so entrenched in the neoliberal project to dissolve civil services into competitive charity—during my time I was able to develop skills invaluable to later organizing. I learned event planning and fundraising, how to build and maintain partner relationships, and how to make the most of limited resources and support to deliver maximum impact.
Within NYC-DSA, I organize the Sunday Social(ism) events that bring new and old members together for camaraderie, discussion, workshops, and trainings. I also helped start the NYC-DSA Medic Collective within the Red Rabbits (Marshals) where we support the direct action of DSA and other left orgs in the city by strengthening DSA’s coalition building, leading trainings, and organizing health + wellness mutual aid within the community.
As I have grown within DSA—supporting and organizing our work, engaging in my own political education—the scale of the fight in front of us has sometimes felt overwhelming. Even with the recent surge in DSA membership and activity, I have sometimes wondered if we can truly win against all that we face—and then my mom calls. She has stayed angry, and hopeful, and she is as dedicated as when she began her fight fifty years ago. I’ve begun to see her in so many of you, in the passion you bring to your work, the love and care you show your comrades, and the community you build for us all—when I see what we are capable of, together, it makes me believe that we will win.
The Treasurer of NYC-DSA should facilitate the most efficient and robust process possible that allows our members to state their goals, define success, and organize successfully. That means branches, working groups, and members should have a voice in how we plan and allocate our resources, access their funds with ease, and collaborate with the treasurer on the best ways to build upon our current capacity. As treasurer, I’ll bring members closer to the work, collectivize our fiscal strategy and decisions, and operate with the transparency befitting our socialist vision.
As a socialist, it is paramount for me that DSA is democratic in how we plan the use and distribution of our resources, that our collective membership, working groups, and branches ultimately determine and invest in our priorities as a chapter. As such, I’m a full backer of Participatory Budgeting, and worked with the authors of a CLC proposal to enact it. It’s implementation would mobilize the working group treasurers and CLC branch delegates as a committee to design a process, build funding proposals for our work, and pass them to the chapter for a vote that prioritizes our budget.
I will also ensure the successful implementation of the Cash App distribution model approved by the Steering Committee, making it easier for branches and working groups to access their funds, do their work, and track their expenditures—reducing the burden on our organizers as they work day to day.
Finally, I want to provide openness and clarity around DSA’s finances at all times, filing regular financial reports available to all chapter members, ensuring they are easily found and accessed so we are all better informed when considering our capacity and resources as we organize.
We face an enormous challenge in our work to organize for class struggle in New York, and that means increasing our capacity and building up the resources needed to win. That’s why I’m in favor proposing a Local Dues program where our members can voluntarily support the organization with dues, at the amount that fits their ability, and on a recurring basis, giving NYC-DSA a consistent source of new funding.
Our members have also demonstrated the amazing capability to organize fundraising efforts that drive our work, and I want to bring formal support and collaborative planning to fundraising going forward by instituting a Fundraising Committee. The group would be open to all members, giving them a chance to gain new skills or contribute established ones, and would serve to facilitate campaigns, caucuses, working groups, branches, and members in their fundraising—offering material support, planning resources, and coordination to ensure the greatest impact possible. It would also be tasked with the organization of quarterly fundraisers for the Chapter with ambitious funding goals.
Finally, NYC-DSA is home to one of the best Media working groups and most talented designers around. I want to work closely with Media to build out our Merch Store—both as a physical presence at events and also online—where we should offer consistently available NYC-DSA merch. It would also be a powerful platform to highlight more specific parts of the chapter, with limited runs of products designed with and for branches, caucuses, working groups, and campaigns, with revenue going directly to support their needs.
In speaking with people about this leadership role, I’ve been excited to find that we have members with some truly inspired ideas for sustaining our chapter and it’s resources long into the future. They shared ideas about credit unions, worker cooperatives and DSA-owned and operated businesses, platform cooperatives and finance initiatives—it made me realize that there should be a space within DSA for members with ideas to explore long-term opportunities to sustain our fight.
That’s why I plan to collaborate with the Debt and Finance working group on an Exploratory Finance Committee, focused on the long-term future of NYC-DSA’s sustainability. They will research funding opportunities, new economic approaches, and emerging best practices on the left (like Cooperation Jackson), and develop strategic proposals for the chapter’s consideration.
March 22nd, 2018 was my one-year anniversary as a Socialist Organizer in the Democratic Socialists of America—it has been the most purposeful and rewarding year of my life. Since joining, I have had the opportunity to work alongside the most dedicated, passionate, inspiring individuals I’ve personally ever met, people I am proud to call my comrades.
Today, I see a thriving organization that could become an institution in the fight for Socialism—but only by providing the infrastructure needed to support the dedication of our organizers will we win the fights ahead.
I’ve found I’m not alone in this view. While organizing with DSA and listening to my comrades’ perspectives, I’ve found that members want to build an organization with a structure that’s designed to enable them, and one that will last. People want clarity in how they can contribute their labor to valuable work, and they want leaders who empower them to take ownership of the strategy and direction of our work.
I joined this platform because we are a team of people who share a vision where DSA is central to organizing New Yorkers in class struggle against capitalism. Where we continue to grow our numbers, develop our skills, and win even greater fights with ambitious plans for recruitment, political education, and training. We believe that good ideas and tactics come from everywhere, that the membership leading the work should decide our direction, and that their leaders should support their needs and facilitate their success.
I believe in a model of service-leadership. That means my role as an officer within DSA would be to facilitate the most efficient and robust processes possible to allow members to determine organizational goals, define success, and organize successfully. I do not have all the answers, and no one considering voting for me should expect that I do.
What I do offer is a plan for the office I have built with members, and an approach to the work I have successfully implemented in both professional and political contexts. I believe in collaboration within an open and transparent process—that the best results come from a model that prioritizes shared ownership of vision, where the decision of what to do to be successful is determined by all of us working together to understand the why—establishing a strategy around a collective understanding of problems and opportunities, designing solutions together, and continuously refining as we learn together. We need greater democracy to define both our purpose, and our methods.