What to expect at your first convention

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In August of 2017, myself and 10 other delegates, as well as 2 alternates and several observers, made our way down to Chicago, IL for the 2017 DSA National Convention.

Being my first National Convention since joining the organization, I didn’t know what to expect. I had read up on the agenda and programming and heard tell of past Conventions from long-standing members of Twin Cities DSA. Yet, we were being told that this Convention would be historic–after all, DSA had grown exponentially in less than a year.

I ran to be a delegate earlier that summer and was elected to a delegate spot by the general membership of Twin Cities DSA. I was looking forward to representing our chapter at the Convention, voting on bylaw and constitutional changes, networking with other chapters, and taking workshops to learn new skills. What I got was all of that, but also so much more.

The majority of the Convention was spent in the General Plenary Session. This is where we would present, debate, and vote on amendments and additions to our National Bylaws and Constitution. Each delegate received a packet with all of the proposed amendments and resolutions being brought forward by members and chapters throughout the country.

At first, it was pretty overwhelming. Many delegates were both new to DSA and also new to Robert’s Rules of order. There were hiccups along the way–frustrations on logistics, disagreement on certain points of debate, time constraints, and more. It was a learning curve for all of us.

When not in the General Plenary Session, we had breaks during which we could meet up with Regional or Political Caucuses. These were the times during which we were able to learn from one another and discover what other members and chapters were working on throughout the country. I personally loved having the time to talk with other chapters in our region so that we could build more connectivity and solidarity between the chapters closest to us.

Another chunk of the weekend schedule was devoted to educational workshops. Some workshops were built around theory, while others were built around skills. Each delegate got to choose which  workshops they most wanted to attend. For me, I found the workshops to be invaluable and was able to bring what I learned back to our chapter so that I could teach others the same skills.

The last night of the Convention culminated in a banquet that featured speeches from comrades around the world, a fundraiser, great food and conversation, and of course, a socialist sing-a-long. I really have to say, you haven’t experienced a socialist sing-a-long until you’ve sung Solidarity Forever in a room of 500 fellow socialists.

I learned a lot at the 2017 Convention, both about myself as an organizer and about DSA. Now, we all have a lot to look forward to with the 2019 Convention right around the corner.

For those interested in running for a spot in this year’s delegation, I first recommend taking a little time for introspection. Think about what you want to achieve as a delegate–what are some goals you can make for yourself, what do you want to gain from the experience, what do you want to bring back to the chapter?

Secondly, I recommend talking to your fellow Twin Cities DSA members. Find out how you being a delegate could help serve your fellow members. Remember, we work best when we work together.

And finally, learn from former delegates who can teach you about their experiences at past Conventions. My account above is brief and is the experience of one individual member. Each and every delegate has a different experience at Convention.

Stay tuned for more information from our chapter soon!

Solidarity Forever!

Lauren

To learn more about the 2019 Convention, check out the National website.

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