Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America

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Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America was re-established, circa 2006, largely due to the work of Milt Tambor, a "recently transplanted AFSCME union officer from Detroit who has utilized his considerable organizing skills to recreate a DSA local firmly linked to the labor and civil rights’ movements."[1]

Following an organizational meeting in January 2006, fifteen Atlanta DSA members petitioned the National Political Committee for a local charter covering the Metropolitan Atlanta Area. We formed a steering committee, adopted bylaws, and held monthly meetings. At those meetings, speakers discussed such issues as single-payer health care, environmental justice, and immigrant rights. We also contacted several DSAers who had been active in the Atlanta local in the 1980s.[2]

Sanders fundraiser

One of Atlanta DSA's first actions was a fundraiser for Senate candidate Bernie Sanders. . At the same time, there was some reluctance to take on an assignment that would be too difficult and demanding. DSA nationalleadership provided the necessary assistance to facilitate planning, with DSA PAC house-party organizing kits that included program suggestions and time lines for organizing the event. The locals drafted sample invitation and contribution forms, and DSA local representatives who were planning fundraisers in their own cities shared useful information in telephone conferences.

A DSAer and faculty member at the Emory School of Medicine with many ties to Atlanta’s "progressive community", Henry Kahn, accepted the invitation to co-host. Two other community leaders – an attorney and former city council member, John Sweet, and the president of the North Georgia-Atlanta Labor Council, Charlie Flemming – had worked together in past political campaigns and agreed to co-host as well. John and Midge Sweet offered to host the Sunday afternoon party at their home, a gathering place for progressive activists. The three co-hosts signed the letter of invitation that would be sent out four to six weeks before the meeting. The Atlanta DSA local PAC consisted of six members – Jeff Bragg, Kempton Haynes, Barbara Joye, Norm Markel, Austin Wattles, and Milt Tambor.

We began by compiling a list of invitees– DSA members, friends, names submitted by John Sweet, and a PAC member active with Atlanta’s alternative radio station. That list, however, was limited to only 125names. This changed quickly when we were able to secure from the Sanders campaign a list of 500 Georgia contributors – two thirds living in the Atlanta area.

The program for the party included Frank Hamilton – formerly of The Weavers – and Mary Hamilton who agreed to entertain with folk music free of charge. Following the entertainment, Sanders, who was to attend a Detroit DSA fundraiser that same afternoon, would call in. The fundraising and collecting of checks then followed.

The party raised over $3,000. The grand total, including checks received in the mail, reached $5,200 from seventy individual donors.

Beyond raising the $5,200, Atlanta DSA realized other benefits. They signed up several new members, our mailing list grew by fifty names, and, at a meeting following the party, we had our highest turnout. The fundraiser has set the stage for Atlanta DSA to become a serious player in the progressive community. We also feel proud that we were able to contribute to DSA PAC’s national effort to raise $50,000 for Bernie’s campaign.[3]

2008 officers

2008 election

DSA members in Atlanta worked separately with a variety of organizations on various aspects of the presidential and senatorial elections: canvassing with the Democratic Party, phone banking with the North Georgia Labor Council and True Majority, registering voters with Women’s Action for New Directions, dropping banners on expressway overpasses, and helping the NAACP monitor the voting process.

“The experience was good,” says Carol Coney, a poll monitor. “If I hadn’t been there when polls opened at 7 a.m. to report that the computers were all down, who knows how long it would have taken to get them on line? I had Election Protection at that precinct within 20 minutes. It was good teamwork, and I felt good that the computers were only down for the first hour.” Unfortunately, even with our help, neither Obama nor the liberal senatorial candidate Jim Martin – who could have helped the Democrats achieve a filibuster-proof majority – were able to overcome the superior Republican organization in the state. Jorge (Jorge A. Lawton) traveled twice to North Carolina during the primaries to organize Latino voter registration in Winston Salem and Charlotte and help deliver votes that proved key to the Obama campaign and later the governor’s and senatorial races in that state..”[5]

2011 DSA National Conference

Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America delegates attending the November 11-13, 2011 National Convention in the Washington DC area included Barbara Joye, Jorge A. Lawton, Minnie Ruffin, Milt Tambor and Bob Wohlheuter.[6]

2012 officers

2012 officers of Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America were Marcia Borowski, Barbara Joye, Barbara Landay, Norm Markel, Ray Miklethun, Barbara Segal and webmaster Bob Wohlheuter. Adam Shapiro died during the year.[7]