Atlanta Douglass-Debs Dinner Draws Enthusiastic Crowd

by Milton Tambor and Barbara Joye

Milton Tambor, Atlanta DSA,and Bill Lucy, AFSCME

Milton Tambor, Atlanta DSA,and William Lucy, AFSCME

On November 8, Metro Atlanta DSA celebrated its second annual Douglass-Debs awards dinner at the IBEW hall. About 200 people were in attendance. The diverse crowd’s joyful, high-energy mood was enhanced by elation over the recent election. Songs and music by Elise Witt and the Cafe Mezclao band further added to the evening’s strong spirit of solidarity.

Local unions from CWA, AFSCME, UAW, UNITE-HERE, ATU and UFCW played a major role in the event by purchasing tables and ads for the program book, which included a warm message from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney about DSA. Rev Tim McDonald opened the program with a passionate appeal for a continued commitment to the struggle for economic and social justice. William Lucy, AFSCME’s international secretary-treasurer and president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, gave the keynote speech.

Lucy stressed the deep significance of Obama’s victory, evoking images from a history that began on slave ships and culminated in a mass movement for change.  In discussing the current economic crisis, Lucy recalled Michael Harrington’s The Other America and urged those present to be strong advocates on behalf of the poor and homeless. In his conclusion, he emphasized the importance of mobilizing and pressing congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and enact universal health care.

DSA Executive Director Frank Llewellyn, in his witty remarks, described the “surrealistic” role the S-word played in the presidential campaign and in the reaction to the Wall Street bailout.

Sandy Stimson, manager, UNITE Georgia (standing) with comrades

Sandy Stimson, manager, UNITE Georgia (standing) with comrades

Llewellyn underscored the need for progressives to organize around a common agenda — suggesting, too, that many progressives might indeed be democratic socialists and should therefore consider joining DSA. The co-chairs presenting the awards, Richard Ray, Georgia State AFL-CIO president and Charlie Flemming, president of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, both urged full support of the Democratic Party candidate for senate, Jim Martin, in the runoff election December 2.


Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace

Many attendees shared their enthusiasm about the program and encouraged Metro Atlanta DSA to continue to make the Douglass-Debs Dinner an annual event. One of the Grandmothers for Peace said in a note the next morning: “The night was so inspirational. Your speakers were wonderful, as were the three amazing individuals who were honored. Georgia may have a large group of ‘unthinking’ people, but we sure have some beautiful and dedicated individuals too.”

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney sent a message to the Alanta DSA Douglass-Debs Dinner, which said, in part

In the midst of a crisis like this, the DSA is politically and morally indispensable. I have always admired and supported the DSA, but never more so than in the last seven years when it has consistently spoken out and struggled against the administration’s ruinous economic policies, its battles against working families and their unions, and its disastrous war in Iraq that has been based on a long series of lies to the American people.

The Metro Atlanta DSA is a splendid example of the activism this country desperately needs, particularly in your reaching out and working closely with some of the best progressives in your area— the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, the Georgia Progressive Summit, Jobs with Justice, the Georgia Minimum Wage Campaign, and of course the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council.

Milt Tambor is president, and Barbara Joye is recording secretary, of Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America. Photos by Judy Kuniansky, .

A copy of the Atlanta Douglass-Debs can be downloaded here.

Videos were produced by Artemis Productions.

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