For Drake Edmonson, sophomore, being part of the breakout of chants at the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) winter conference brought a new sense of community.
“It was like for just one weekend, our little YDSA Club exploded to 200 people,” Edmonson said.
Edmonson was among the members of Knox’s chapter of YDSA who attended the organization’s winter conference in Chicago on the weekend of Feb. 14.
The event brought together what students estimated as over 200 YDSA members from schools across the country for a series of workshops, speakers and panels intended to guide them in managing their campus organizations.
While interacting with students from larger institutions, sophomore Poornima Tata found it interesting learning about the larger scale issues they face.
“It’s harder for them as students — they don’t have as much influence as I feel like we do, just because they’re like one in 40,000, versus us, it’s like one in 4,000,” Tata said.
Patrick Mulchrone, sophomore, said that they had found similarities with other schools in terms of the type challenges they face navigating issues with administration.
“We have to walk the tightrope with the school where they’re in economic difficulty, but also there are needs on campus that aren’t being met and that there’s injustice on campus that needs to be met,” Mulchrone said. “That needs to be rectified.”
A large impression was also left on Tata by one of the featured speakers at the conference, activist Phillip Agnew. Agnew had told the story of how he was brought into activism after seeing video of the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, who was beaten to death at a Florida youth detention center.
“He was explaining to us how the fight never ends. You can’t do this for a year and then let it go. It has to be a lifelong fight,” Tata said.
The members who attended the conference said they had been slowly working on the process of passing the information they had gained from the conference onto other members of YDSA and implementing the ideas they had gathered on how to improve the organization.
Edmonson said that one of the organization’s hopes was to make sure the organization is welcoming to new members and is inclusive, having attended a workshop on the building of diverse coalitions.
Mulchrone stated that this would entail making efforts to ensure members from marginalized communities are given more direct opportunities to speak at their meetings.
“We’re trying to implement those sort of structural things in our meetings in our organization so that we amplify voices that usually aren’t amplified in our society”
During the conference, Tata attended a breakout for people of color. While the number of people of color represented was greater than Tata had expected going to the convention, they ended up having a discussion on the need to involve more people of color in the movement.
Tata said the organization would also be working on improving how the workload of organizing is shared amongst its members.
“We try to make it very democratic, so there’s a very loose structure of how things work. We still get things done, but it usually ends up falling on a few people,” Tata said. “Not because people don’t want to do it, we just don’t know how to disperse that effort.”
While the issues being discussed at the conference were serious in nature, Mulchrone found joy in the atmosphere of the campus as students sought ways to organize around those problems. Tata had a similar experience with the energy of the conference.
“It was very inspiring. It’s nice to know you have more people around you that you don’t even know, but you’re fighting the same fight,” Tata said.