Blake High School Young Democratic Socialists of America

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Blake High School Young Democratic Socialists of America is a Tampa Florida affiliate of Young Democratic Socialists of America.

Members

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Left to right: Graham Shelor speaks at a Young Democratic Socialists of America meeting; Lillie Shelor, Andy Villegas and Chadrick Fleno attend.

In a Blake High School, Tampa classroom with handmade posters covering one wall, approximately 15 high school students are chanting the words of black revolutionary Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and we must support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” With some embarrassed giggling, they recite it once, twice, three times, led by their visiting speaker, Pamela Gomez of the Hillsborough Community Protection Coalition, an alliance of local progressive groups.

These students are some of the 40-odd members of the Blake High School Young Democratic Socialists of America. The Tampa high school has 1,697 students, a majority of them black or Latino, and the YDSA chapter reflects that. The chapter also has a high concentration of LGBTQ students, the club’s biggest demographic bloc.

The chapter is the brainchild of Graham Shelor, 17. Slim and sandy-haired, a contemporary dancer as well as an organizer, Shelor grew up in a “fairly liberal” household but became disillusioned with the Democratic Party during the 2016 elections. “They lied to me and the people of America that they were going to make it work,” he says. “It led to a domino effect of me seeing the flaws in the current American system.”

Blake’s chapter is part of the youthful explosion of interest in socialism that has led to YDSA’s impressive recent growth, with 130 chapters and organizing committees, a five-fold increase in two years. Since 2015, the average age of a DSA member has dropped from 64 to 30.

Chapters are largely autonomous: Though many work with their local DSA chapter, they’re not required to. Often, they focus on youth and campus-specific labor issues, like graduate student organizing or fighting the privatization of facilities staff at state universities. Blake’s YDSA has rallied in support of a long-promised wage hike for their teachers.

The meeting begins with announcements about upcoming actions, like canvassing for Medicare for All with the Tampa DSA. Then an invitation is issued to join Hillsborough Community Protection Coalition in campaigning for Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights and environmental justice.

For co-chair Kayla Ginty, 16, YDSA is more than a conduit to political action: It’s led her to question inherited political beliefs and define her adult political identity.

“There are a lot of myths about what socialism is,” says Ginty. “High school is the perfect time to start educating ourselves. We are the next generation of voters. We can’t keep depending on older adults to lead the way.”

“When the [2008 financial] crisis hit, I think a lot of [young] people experienced the impact of that on their home lives,” says YDSA National Coordinating Committee co-chair Michelle Fisher, 20. “Their parents got laid off, they got evicted from their homes, and they needed to be able to do something about it.”[1]

References

  1. [http://inthesetimes.com/article/20901/YDSA-teen-Socialism-Millennials-high-school ITT FEBRUARY 14, 2018 Behind the Explosion in Socialism Among American Teens BY REBECCA STONER]