Written by East Bay DSA member Jetta Rae
To My Comrades in East Bay DSA,
I support the Brake Light Endorsement Proposal, and believe enacting it is in the best interest of EBDSA and the left mass movement in which we are collaborators.
As socialists (or communists, or anarchists), we are tasked with confronting the illegitimacy of capitalism as a moral, political, and socio-economic system.
The regularity with which our Black and Brown neighbors are harassed, beaten, and even killed by police over a light bulb that in many cases costs less than a Starbucks latte or McDonald's Big Mac is nothing short of barbarism.
Addressing and alleviating this condition by offering free brake light repairs
- lays bare the fundamentally predatory nature of police, which reinforces white, capitalist hegemony and is largely a blight on municipal budgets
- presents a front of multi-racial solidarity in face of this predation that obstructs its ability to commit violence unaddressed until we dismantle the prison industrial complex, and, most importantly
- keeps our friends and neighbors alive.
These clinics are not about bringing vehicles into compliance. It's about building capacity.
Our neighbors who receive this service are collaborators. They learn how to replace their brake lights, which they can teach to their neighbors. They also care for sick and elderly family members; they mentor each other; they self-organize within their families and communities to provide each other the support that the capitalist society does not afford them.
By providing a low-cost resource (that, by preventing a potentially lethal stoppage or simply reducing the anxiety of being on the road, makes our neighbors safer), we are bolstering the networks we will come to rely on for building a mass movement. These are the people we will ask to sign our petitions, or pledge to vote for whatever candidate or bill we want, to take to streets with us to demand parity and justice.
Among the promises socialism makes to those oppressed under capitalism is a collective, multi-racial liberation. Changing brake lights in itself does not fulfill that promise, but the community ties we forge through this work can bring our movement closer to an actionable praxis of racial justice.
On November 18th, the DSBay to Brakelights coalition held a brake light clinic in a part of Oakland known as Deep East. The perceived lack of leftist presence in Deep East is often evoked by liberals in Oakland government to dismiss leftist organizers as out of touch and disingenuous.
In 4 hours, 75 volunteers from East Bay, San Francisco, San Jose, Peninsula, North Bay, and Fresno chapters changed brake lights on 33 cars and canvassed 90th street to distribute flyers for the Alameda County Public Defender clean slate clinics. In addition to drivers, we also spoke to dozens of people who came over to the clinic just to see what we were about and talk with us about socialism and the struggle under police violence.
Our coalition had raised our own funds, booked our own meetings, and assembled our own clinic kit (based on New Orleans DSA's model). Future clinics are planned for San Jose, Fresno, and San Francisco, utilizing a collective pool of volunteers and supplies.
These clinics speaks to a sincere desire for mutual aid work among DSA members in the Bay Area; by endorsing this proposal, we can cultivate that enthusiasm and experience in our own chapter, allowing us to address local issues while we continue our work for statewide healthcare reform.
With the aid of the chapter's infrastructure and resources, the brake light clinics in the East Bay can become large-scale events on par with the healthcare canvasses, mass-disseminating our message and our commitment to solidarity, and organized by people who aren't already overcommitted with healthcare organizing. And we don't have to pay rental fees for the venue.
The fight for medicare for all will be long, and arduous. There have and will continue to be setbacks. It is good for us as organizers and for our communities to have projects like brake light clinics that are self-contained, easy to accomplish, maintain morale and solidify community ties.
This isn't about "mutual aid vs canvassing". These tendencies are two great tastes that taste great together.
When we combine our skills and tactics, we stand a much greater chance at fermenting a mass movement that can recognize and overthrow the "kinder, gentler" forms of capitalism and white supremacy of the Bay Area liberalism that dispossesses and brutalizes our Black and Brown neighbors under the guise of repelling "Trump's America".
I implore you to vote yes on the Brake Light Endorsement Proposal.