Austin Democratic Socialists of America

Nikole Sturm

Do you self-identify as a man?: No

Do you self-identify as a person from a traditionally marginalized group?: Yes

Please describe your involvement in Austin DSA:

I’ve been a member since July 2016. My initial involvement was with the Queer Coalition. I attended the first meeting and since then have been active in facilitating and maintaining this committee. We were active in phone-banking membership to come out and speak against the bathroom bill during the last legislative session, helped put on the Drag Prom last year, and have been active in supporting other LGBTQ+ groups in the city.

I also helped get a brake light clinic going for our chapter. We put on 3 clinics from the funds we’d raised, along with training.
Since February 2018, I’ve been an active HGO (Harassment and Grievance Officer) for the chapter. During this role, I’ve helped with mediation, organizing workshops, and have consistently been quick to respond while being deliberate in the decision making.

What strengths would you bring to the leadership committee?:

A strong commitment to justice, an eagerness to learn from others, responsiveness, and ability to follow through on tasks. I am dedicated to continuously learning from other members, activists, organizers, etc, and aim to stay flexible in my organizing approach. If I were elected to the LC, I would make sure to support folks in their talents and listen to ideas other members have to strengthen our group and move us towards a democratic socialist society.

If elected, what would be your priorities be for the leadership committee and Austin DSA?:

1. Hold anti-oppression workshops for the LC and members. Everyone has good intentions, we also didn’t show up to socialism as perfect individuals. We have a lot to learn and dismantle. If we are going to build a successful movement, we need to learn to cooperate and hear each other better. We need to celebrate our diversity and stand together in solidarity.

2. Restart the mobilizer model. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we can’t rest it on a few individuals. If we share the load, we’ll avoid severe burnout. This would also help welcome new members into DSA.

3. Support allied groups that focus on people of color and the working class. When I first started coming to DSA meetings, I loved how it was an opportunity to get plugged into all the great work other orgs are already doing. I understand the need to build up our own strengths and campaigns, but at the same time we should work to reduce duplication of existing efforts. As a primarily white organization, it would be wise to have a more active listening role, while still making clear the socialist analysis as to how we got in this overworked inequitable mess of a society.

What is your approach to resolving conflict and achieving consensus among differing viewpoints?:

Active Listening. I believe when you give people the opportunity to fully express their viewpoints, that you can pull out places where they overlap and coexist. Often times conflict comes from making assumptions, and being dismissive. While active listening is a good approach for interpersonal conflict, it isn’t the only route. In regards to political ideology, (i.e. endorsing candidates), I think it’s important to be clear on what the end goals are and what values people have in common. If a consensus can’t be reached, then depending on the topic, it’s usually best to table the issue. I don’t think forcing a viewpoint or plan is healthy for a growing organization if the majority cannot agree. It’s better to spend our time and energy on the things we do agree on.

Do you identify with any caucus or political tendency, either within DSA or in general?:

My political tendency is, to be cautious of establishment Democrats. They stay beholden to the big corporations that support them. Therefore I have little trust for what they say or do. However, I do realize that on a local level, there can be legitimate progressive and even dem soc candidates under the democratic party ballot. Rather than focus on political parties and candidates, I would rather DSA stay focused on policy. I think viewing campaigns from a policy perspective rather than a party one will help maintain cohesion within our group. Politics is already a place of contention, so until we learn to express our viewpoints in a way that doesn’t fracture us, we should stick to the values we have in common. People hold the power. We are the ones who can put on the pressure to change things. We should be vocal about our goals and not water them down. We should demand more. People are suffering all around us and don’t have the luxury of waiting several political cycles for a political party to change. Our climate doesn’t have the time either. It’s socialism or barbarism.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?:

As for time commitment, I’m self-employed and could devote 8-10 hours a week to DSA (more during intensive campaigns). I also have personal history with emotional, and physical abuse due to my sexual orientation and how I present my gender, because of this, I feel morally obligated to stand up for people within my community and to always remember that our struggles unite us. Because of this and more, I’m committed to making DSA an inclusive safe space, that gets work done.