In July 2011, YCLUSA’s Little Red School Bus Tour came to Hurst, Texas. This was not the biggest stop on the tour, but this stop did have a big impact. This school put a spark in the Texas YCL, which has since grown to around forty members across the state, from the Dallas/Fort Worth south all the way to Brownsville. Since this school, the Oklahoma YCL has also seen growth. It was the dual desire to review the work that the Texas and Oklahoma YCLs have done and to meet their new members that drew Lisa Bergmann, YCLUSA’s National Organizer, to the region.
Lisa flew into DFW Airport on Sunday March 11th, where she was greeted by members of the Texas YCL’s Red River Club, who served as her hosts, and then she was off to the races. She met members of CPUSA – North Texas Club that night and then hung out at a pool hall with the Red River Club, who successfully defended their honor in a rigorous tournament of Air Hockey, in a three to two series win.
On Monday morning the driving began. This was the beginning of a 1550 mile road trip. The distance was so great because of how far apart many of the YCLers live from one another. The road trip did not end until late Thursday night.
Unfortunately, because of a limited time-frame and prior commitments, there are some clubs in the Texas and Oklahoma YCLs that could not be visited. Lisa missed Odessa, Amarillo, San Antonio, Laredo, and Brownsville in Texas and Tulsa in Oklahoma. Future trips, to which Lisa is invited should time allow, are in the works, though.
The stops on Monday included Ardmore and Norman in Oklahoma. Tuesday morning, after having returned to DFW the night before, Lisa then visited Linden and Lufkin in East Texas. After these two meetings and a chance to witnesses a live band play in a local Lufkin coffee shop, she ended the night in Austin in Central Texas.
Wednesday found Lisa in San Marcos, south of Austin, in the morning, where she got a look at the crystal clear San Marcos River and had a chance to speak to an important regional labor leader. That evening, back in Austin, Lisa encountered… “the most intense concentration of ‘Hipsters’ she had ever seen.” She was also greeted by a member of the Rosa Luxemburg Club out of Copperas Cove, on the south side of Fort Hood, who came down to meet her.
Thursday morning, she visited the Capitol Building in Austin, where she found, to her astonishment, multiple monuments dedicated to Texas’ Confederate ‘Heroes.’ The most notable of these was the one dedicated to General John Bell Hood of General Robert E. Lee’s Texas Brigade. She was rightfully disgusted. Thursday ended with a visit to Plano, north of Dallas, where a little chess rivalry was brewed up. On Friday March 16th, Lisa met with the CPUSA – North Texas Club leadership for a quick debrief and then returned to her home in New Haven, Connecticut.
Now, of course, the trip was not meant to serve solely as a meet and greet, though some meeting and greeting, which was designed to show the members that they were not alone and were actually now connected to a nation-wide network, did take place. Each meeting involved some very serious discussion about the issues that are facing America’s youth today. Voter registration and suppression, recruitment, immigrant rights, employment, reproductive rights, student activism, soldier’s rights and PTSD, poverty, unions, and education were all topics that were discussed in the meetings.
Young people across Texas are affected by these issues every day. Texas is pushing laws to suppress the youth vote, the Texas YCL and YCLUSA, in general, needs to focus on recruiting women and minorities, youth jobs are scarce in Texas, and Planned Parenthood is under siege in Texas. Also, many young people feel that there is not much they can do about the problems they face, so they remain complacent and do not get involved or do not understand how to get involved. Furthermore, Texas has provided a great many soldiers to America’s war effort, many of whom are coming home troubled and then being redeployed without proper care. Finally, in Texas, immigrants are poorly treated, poverty is a problem across the state, Right to Work laws limit union effectiveness in labor disputes, and public education is suffering severe cutbacks in funding.
To augment these discussions, Lisa mentioned some of the work that her club in New Haven has done. The action that most attracted attention from the clubs in Texas and Oklahoma was New Haven’s Youth Jobs Marches. They have already done one and are planning another on June 16 in celebration of Juneteenth, which, it was noted, actually started in Mexia, Texas. Lisa received commitments to organize marches in solidarity with New Haven from Comrades in the Lufkin, Plano, Red River, Austin, San Marcos, and Rosa Luxemburg clubs.
To conclude, the trip was a great success. Lisa left feeling good about the Texas and Oklahoma YCLs and their impression of Lisa was that of an inspired, dedicated, and heartfelt leader. The trip also did a great deal to boost the confidence of the Texas and Oklahoma YCLs and helped to show that there are young people in Texas and Oklahoma who see what is going on in this country and who are interested in doing something to push back against the Ultra-Right, in defense of the Working Class. Further, the trip helped to strengthen the network that has been established between the local YCL clubs in Texas and Oklahoma. It also improved those club’s connections with other YCL clubs across the country. More trips like this need to take place. They will help to strengthen the YCL’s network even further, as young people across the country learn that they are not alone, are facing much the same issues as the rest of us, and that it is more than acceptable to stand up and defend their rights.
After departing, Lisa sent this message:
I want to express my deep and sincere gratitude to you all for hosting me on a very successful trip in Texas. The program was well organized, and I was inspired to meet so many of you who are building the YCL and the Party in such an important and challenging state. Thank you so much for your "above and beyond" hospitality and for welcoming me into your meetings and into your communities.
I truly look forward to our next steps together. The proposed actions that you all made during the trip, such as coordinated actions for Jobs for Youth on June 16th (around the Juneteenth Holiday), voter registration work, and renewed efforts to recruit more women and youth of color will certainly bring the Texas YCL, and indeed the entire National YCL, to a new level of unity and strength.
Remember that you have my support for all of these activities, and please let me know how I can be of help as we continue to build the organization in Texas.
Again, thank you all so much for a wonderful week! Onward we go!