Jose Cabrera

Jose Cabrera

Membership Coordinator Candidate

Who Am I

My name is Jose Cabrera I am a born and raised New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, a disabled Marine veteran, and a proud socialist. My parents were both born in Puerto Rico and came to NYC as children. My mother was a public school teacher and my father was an exterminator. Like many Americans they lived above their means to give me and my brother opportunities. I had no idea how much they sacrificed to give me the “American Dream”. Sacrifice for a dream that was never real.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but my experience in the military was the primary force that radicalized me towards socialism. I joined the Marine Corps shortly after 9/11, still believing that America was a force for spreading democracy through the world. Through my two tours in Iraq, I came to see the world through a different lens. We were not the good guys. We were the storm troopers fighting on behalf of the evil empire. I saw the lie of American liberalism laid bare and knew things needed to change.

After I came home, I got a job as a hot dog vendor uptown. Veterans have certain rights when it comes to vending in NYC, but sadly, I spent a lot of this time being harassed and targeted by the NYPD. I routinely got tickets that were later thrown out by a judge. We appealed to the Veterans Committee in the City Council. We found an unresponsive body that could not be bothered with the struggles of veterans vendors in NYC. My experience with this ineffective committee frustrated me and made me realize that, even in New York City, a supposed bastion of liberal progressivism, our government is designed to be dysfunctional and antagonistic to the working class.

One thing about hot dog carts is that when it is slow, it is slow; and you have a lot of time to think. I thought a lot about my time in the Marines. For all the horrors of American imperialism, there is a lot about life in the military that works for those involved. Free housing, healthcare, food, training, and education. A true sense of comradery and shared goals. A culture and pride at being part of an enduring institution. I remember telling my friend, “We should apply this to society, people should have all of this.” He asked me if I had been reading Marx. I was offended because I still considered Marxism to be bad. It was not until I went back to school at Hunter College and started studying history and philosophy that I realized my friend was right. Without knowing it, I had come to realize that socialism was the solution for our society.

I graduated from Hunter with a degree in History and Childhood Education. I have over 700 hours of student teaching in Spanish Harlem. I saw firsthand the issues our public schools face. We have a lot of work to do in this city and public education is a huge part of this struggle. We need a well-educated populace to face the threat of capitalism. Our public schools and the teachers who dedicate their lives to educating the children of this city are ripe for radicalization and I am happy to learn more and work with our teacher comrades in the Labor Branch to help them build their projects and grow out our membership in this strategically fertile direction.

I currently work for a non-profit as a talent acquisition associate. I work to support people of diverse backgrounds including recent college graduates minority groups and military veterans. I work to overcome some of the structural barriers people face towards employment in order to get them into entry level positions at Fortune 500 companies. Like many of us who work in the non-profit field, we know the project of liberal reformism can offer marginalized people material improvements in their lives, but our jobs can only address the symptoms of capital.

However, the process of my job has given me the opportunity to grow skills that I have found invaluable to my abilities as a socialist organizer. I don’t just read resumes. People are so much more than words on a piece of paper. They have skills, ideas, and ambitions that we can only learn about by sitting down with them and having conversations. This applies to our membership as well. Our members are more than just names in an excel spreadsheet. They have skills, talents, and networks. Our job is to engage them, build relationships, and give them the training and knowledge they need to be the most effective and engaged socialist organizer they can be.

Lastly, in regards to my military service. The military taught me about the evils of imperialism and the truth behind American capitalism. I and many others were used as pawns. I carry invisible scars that will never heal but I will always carry in my heart the desire to serve others. The systems we live within channeled that desire of mine into the wrong causes in my youth, but the rest of my life is dedicated to serving my comrades and the working class in the fight for socialism.

Why I Am Running

I am coming up on a year of being a card carrying DSA member. In this first year I have formed many valuable friendships and relationships. I attended a mobilizer training early on and got my first list over the summer. One of the members I mobilized had been doing work in NYCHA with a group called Justice 4 All. I accepted his invitation to attend a planning meeting. Justice 4 All was started by women of color who lived in the NYCHA houses. I immediately saw the value of having a strong mobilizing program. We have members who are doing work with other organizations and we need to develop those relationships as well. Mobilizing helps us to build personal relationships with communities we are not currently doing work in. Through mobilizing, I met many of the DSA members that I currently do work with. Mobilizing is a great way to get people directed into the work they want to do.

I then ran for CLC delegate. Being a CLC delegate has been an opportunity to meet so many other members from other branches. We are not just eight separate branches, we are one NYC-DSA and we are stronger together. When it has come to Queens doing work in NYCHA, we have gotten support from multiple branches. This is also the case for the Rikers table, we have had members from multiple branches come out to work together to build relationships and community. I would like to help us build our relationships and work across the branches.

Our members are more than just names on an excel spreadsheet. We are not in the business of collecting names for collecting names sake. We are finding people that we want to build our organization with. We want our members to do more than come to meetings. We want to empower them to engage in meaningful work they enjoy. We can’t do that without building trust and having a structured new member onboarding process.

I believe that a robust New Member Onboarding program will retain membership by keeping them engaged. Many new members just do not know how to get connected right away and end up drifting away. The Onboarding program will also allow us to build relationships with new members. I look forward to working with my comrades across the branches to create an onboarding process for each branch.

We should look to empower our branches to take innovative steps to adapt their mobilizer systems to see what works best for them. The city wide membership coordinator should help build platforms for peer to peer information sharing and resource sharing. Our new members are very important to the future of the organization and the people doing the work deserve our support and assistance.

We also need to think about how we engage with communities. Plenty of people in the chapter have been talking about building inroads into communities of color, but, sadly, people also talk about imaginary obstacles for not doing this work. We have to have the courage to do work that will build community and personal relationships. We have to be humble, show up, and get our hands dirty. We cannot come into spaces of color as saviors but as comrades, willing to serve with them in solidarity. We need to build the trust that will show people we are not just a flash in the pan, but a firmly committed group of socialists dedicated to helping rebuild this city from the bottom up. We have to have the courage to follow through with our words and turn them into action.

Where I Stand

I believe in transparency and building a bottom-up organization. The DSA should be an organization of leaders. All of our members who are available to, should be rotating in and out of officer and leadership positions. People are concerned about burnout and a way to combat that is having a confident membership that has the ability to step in and out of the most taxing positions within the organization.

The steering committee should be facilitating conversations between our different branches. We have so many members scattered over this city and a membership coordinator’s job is to bring them together. The SC needs to identify and make best practices available to each branch. If one branch is doing something amazing, the SC should make sure other branches can implement those best practices as well. We are not just 8 different branches, we are NYC-DSA, and we should take every opportunity to learn from each other and grow our effectiveness as an organization.

As membership coordinator I would strive to help build an organization based on transparency and communication. A handful of people can’t decide the future of a bottom-up organization. Our members are the stars of the organization. Our members are going to decide the future of our organization. My role is to serve our current members and to help create an onboarding process that gives every new member the resources and knowledge they need to be effective socialist organizers. If elected, I look forward to working with all of our membership throughout the city to build socialism in our communities, our city, and our world. We may not know what that looks like yet, but I look forward to figuring it out with my comrades as we work together in solidarity.

Resume
  • Queens Branch CLC Delegate
  • DSA-NYC ‘Red Rabbits’ Marshals OC
  • Queens Branch Mobilizer
  • Founding member of the Rikers Mutual Aid table
  • Point person for Queens Branch in Northwest Astoria NYCHA houses
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