Austin Democratic Socialists of America

Emma Boardman-Larson

Do you self-identify as a man?:
No

Do you self-identify as a person from a traditionally marginalized group?:
No

Please describe your involvement in Austin DSA:
I have been one of the co-chairs of the Feminist Action Committee for about a year now. In that time, we held fundraisers for the Lilith Fund’s yearly Bowl-a-thon abortion access fundraiser, created a feminist workshop for the chapter, and held several smaller events and fundraisers. During the most recent fall semester at UT I helped get a YDSA chapter off the ground, which has around a dozen active members and is planning a campaign to force UT to divest from oil. I am also the secretary of the nascent Mutual Aid Committee.

In a non-official capacity, I have done a lot of canvassing and phonebanking in support of Medicare for All/Paid Sick Days and Proposition A, and led a Paid Sick Days blitz team. I also frequently attend meetings of the Criminal Justice, Housing, Health Justice, and Ecosocialism committees, and of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus.

What strengths would you bring to the leadership committee?:
As someone who had no organizing or policy experience prior to joining DSA, and as one of the youngest members of the Austin chapter, I fully believe that anyone can and should be an organizer, and I encourage people who are new or unsure of their abilities to do the thing, whatever it might be, anyway. I am also a pretty good listener, and I’m always happy to hear different opinions on contentious issues, which helps me to think through an array of options when it’s time to make a decision about something. I ask questions if I have them, and try to create work environments in which other people feel comfortable asking questions too. I have a really cute dog who brings joy to everyone that she meets.

If elected, what would be your priorities be for the leadership committee and Austin DSA?:
I am pretty sure an ecosocialist/Green New Deal priority is going to pass at the convention, and when it does we need to get behind it full force. The impending climate apocalypse is terrifying, and if we are not able to transition to a sustainable economy none of the rest of the work we’re doing will matter. Ecosocialist campaigns are also good vehicles for training existing members and reaching potential supporters.

Over the past year, I have observed too many amazing, capable people burn out. This is bad for the future of the chapter and it is bad for the people experiencing it. Because of this, and because our membership demographics skew heavily towards white cisgender men, I think we should prioritize accessibility in 2019 in all its forms. Expanding the range of individuals who are able to participate comfortably in DSA work is an end in itself, if our goal is to build a movement that is truly of “the people.” It will also help to ease the burden on people who currently have too much work to do. I have a few ideas about increasing accessibility, but they are obviously not all the ideas and my constraints are fairly minimal, so it would behoove us to have an accessibility committee charged with facilitating community discussions about accessibility and making recommendations to the general body. Here are some of my ideas though:

-More opportunities and methods for feedback, asking members to comment on their experience of being a DSA member and what they feel could be improved or added. The methods I currently have thought of are surveys distributed electronically and in person, and discussion groups similar to the Code of Conduct meeting held a few months ago, but I’m sure there are more ways to hear from members.

-Creating different avenues of participation while remaining attentive to security needs: we need to find ways for members to be involved without making it to every meeting.

-More workshops centered around traditionally marginalized identities. The feminist workshop held at the September General Body Meeting started some great conversations, and I think we can do more in the realm of patriarchy as well as creating similar discussion spaces for other varieties of oppression.

-With regards to the Leadership Committee specifically, I think it would be helpful to have a system where each LC member with a designated role (for example the Membership Coordinator or Secretary) has an at-large member assigned to help them out, and if necessary has a committee to help them do the work as well. Having a second member trained to do the specific tasks would allow for members with specific roles to take time away if needed without worrying that everything will fall apart in their absence, and also ideally lower the workload so that there is less time away needed to begin with. It is also generally more democratic to have more people involved.

What is your approach to resolving conflict and achieving consensus among differing viewpoints?:
In both online and in-person spaces, DSA members miscommunicate a lot, sometimes in terms of content and sometimes in terms of tone. I think it would be helpful to practice communicating more clearly and effectively with one another. I don’t know how this is typically done, but I suspect that the HGOs might have some ideas. The idea I have currently is for some kind of “speed-dating” environment where people rotate partners and discuss how they would respectively interpret a comment. This ties back to accessibility as well; being yelled at and called names, or joining DSA and immediately seeing immensely contentious discourse on Facebook or Slack, is never conducive to participation.

Do you identify with any caucus or political tendency, either within DSA or in general?:
I am an active member of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus.