Naomi Burton is a Detroit activist.
Socialist Feminists (DSA) Facebook page
Detroit DSA FB group
Greater Detroit Democratic Socialists of America closed Facebook group, accessed April 22 2018.
- This is a closed group for members of Detroit DSA where we can share information specific to our chapter. Help us grow this group by adding other DSA people you may be friends with on Facebook! 
Admins and Moderators
- Danielle Aubert, Assistant Professor at Wayne State University
- Naomi Burton, Director at FleishmanHillard
- Catherine Hoffman, Created group on March 6, 2018
- Greater Detroit Democratic Socialists of America
According to Dick Olson the "2018 midterm elections were incredibly momentous for DSA nationally, as well as here in the Detroit area. We scored critical wins from coast to coast — getting leftists elected to office and pushing through key ballot measures".
Most critically, two DSA members were elected to Congress — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York’s 14th district and Rashida Tlaib from Michigan’s 13th district. These victories have shaken things up in D.C., and put DSA on the national political map.
Detroit DSA’s marquee endorsement of this election cycle was Rashida Tlaib, who is a card-carrying DSA members. During a hard-fought Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional district, Detroit DSA members knocked on hundreds of doors for Tlaib and helped her win 27,803 to 26,916 over her nearest competitor, a member of Detroit’s city council. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American who has served in the Michigan legislature, then went on to win an overwhelming 85% victory in the general election.
Detroit DSA was also involved in AOC’s win in New York. Indeed, her historic victory was propelled by a viral campaign ad produced by Means of Production, a leftist production cooperative created by three Detroit DSA members: Naomi Burton, Natasha Fernandez-Silber and Nick Hayes.
Imagine this: Your sweetie texts you about how to spend your quiet night in together, or you’re looking for the perfect binge watch to reward yourself after a tough finals week. As you’re scrolling through the latest additions to your favorite streaming site, you realize the entire entertainment industry is actually a capitalist machine designed to monetize your eagerness to chill.
What if, instead, you could pop on something about the history of colonization, the challenges of workplace hierarchies, or socialist feminism?
That’s exactly the world Naomi Burton and Nick Hayes are trying to create with Means TV. The duo behind Means of Production, which put together Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s viral smash hit campaign ad last year, is busy building a streaming platform service. They hope to bring to the world what Jacobin called “Netflix for socialists” and Burton calls “Netflix for the left.”
Hayes tells Teen Vogue that the project arose out of their interest to “shift the culture towards one where socialism and overthrowing capitalism becomes the possibility.” Burton says the “post-capitalist, subscription-based streaming platform” will feature exclusively anti-capitalist content, “all of it with the idea that we have to be within the culture, introducing these ideas to people before they're just accepted.”
“We need to rebuild the culture of revolt and tear down a lot of these individualist ideas that are pushed in entertainment,” Hayes explains. “We are working to build solidarity through entertainment, to build class consciousness, to build frustration and anger towards capitalism.”
The pair is especially hopeful that their new project will resonate with younger audiences, even amid concerns that the recent upsurge in socialism’s popularity with young people might not last as millennials and Generation Z grow up. It’s an age-old idea that getting older means getting more conservative.
“Am I just gonna become some crusty old dude who's like, ‘Yeah, I used to be a socialist, and then I woke up to the real world?’” Hayes says. “I think that the people we hear that coming from are a generation where they weren't facing any real crises. They weren't facing climate change, they weren't facing 17 years of occupation in the Middle East.”
“It feels very different to me,” Hayes, who’s 21, says of his cohort. “We are [a] socialist generation as millennials because we grew up in such precarious economic conditions and such precarious global conditions.”
Burton, who’s 29, says that there’s a subversive element to socialism’s youth appeal: “I think a lot of the reason [socialism is] so popular right now is there is such an effort over the last four years to really stomp out even the idea that socialism could be a possibility here. And there's been a real effort by media and by the establishment on both sides to say, ‘Capitalism is the system, we've landed on the answer, we're good now.’”
“I think all of a sudden in the last two years, a lot of people have been exposed — because of [Vermont senator] Bernie Sanders — to this different kind of economic system that actually has a lot of solutions to a lot of the crises we see,” she says.
The out-front nature of the duo’s capitalist critique developed largely after they started attending Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) meetings in Detroit following the 2016 presidential election.
“We were angry and frustrated that the Democrats lost what we saw as the easiest-to-win election ever,” Burton explains. She shares that she and Nick attended their first meeting the same night.
“It was what we were looking for,” Hayes says of the DSA. Hayes bought a camera the day after the election, met Burton at the DSA meeting, and soon after, the pair started to see ways to take advantage of their communication skills for a higher purpose. That’s why they started Means of Production, a media cooperative specifically engineered to give labor unions, political organization, and candidates an alternative to for-profit media production on their campaigns. Burton says they were joined by other DSA members who similarly saw that the talents they were using in jobs at for-profit companies could be turned toward the political work they wanted to advance.
“We realized: Wait, we have a lot more to do with this, and we can actually take the skills and the resources and the expertise that we gleaned from the private sector and bring that to the left to create high-quality video,” Burton says.
“For socialism,” Hayes adds.
Means of Production’s first big hit was with an underdog candidate from the Bronx whose socialist message immediately drew them in. Before Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was tearing it up on Capitol Hill, she was a longshot running against one of the Democrats’ biggest players. Burton and Hayes say their relationship with the congresswoman known as AOC began somewhat unconventionally.
“As she always says, ‘It all goes down in the DMs,’” Burton explains. “One day, I was on Facebook and I saw this video of this woman and she was clearly speaking about socialism. She was clearly saying socialism. And she was running for Congress in New York.”
“I just reached out to her on Twitter,” Burton shares. “She responded within an hour. We were on the phone the next day with the campaign.”
Burton says AOC was involved in every part of the production process as they learned her story and the basis for her politics. The two made clear that when it comes to candidates they’ll work with, it’s socialists only.
“We can do such a better video when we are working with somebody who is a socialist,” Hayes says.
Means TV will start a free, 10-week rollout this spring with a Bread and Roses campaign offering up educational (bread) and entertaining (roses) content to build the brand and fundraise for the eventual launch of the Netflix-style platform itself later in 2019. Aside from the financial needs they hope to meet, the duo is also hoping to provide a venue for better representation for people left out of the for-profit media game.
“A huge part of Means TV comes out of a criticism of this entertainment establishment, which is that it is completely nepotistic, highly misogynistic,” Hayes explains. “Overall, it is largely inaccessible for working people, for people who come from less privileged backgrounds, for people who are people of color, are LGBTQ, women — all sorts of different folks just have no access into the entertainment establishment.”
Ultimately, despite whatever challenges may come, Hayes believes that being out front about their pro-socialist, anti-capitalist stance will be a boon to Means TV as it grows because, in his view, “That is something that has a lot of appeal with young people who seek authenticity in a world totally filled with bullsh*t.”