BUILDING the RELIGIOUS LEFT Conference April 24th and 25th--Program


Welcome to the largest gathering of the multifaith religious Left in DSA’s history, perhaps in U.S. history. Each of our traditions has a history on the Left, and we will continue to work within our own traditions. But we can also work together. This weekend, more than 600 of you want to create a different story than the one the religious Right tells. This conference marks the beginning of that journey.

Please register for the conference here. Once registered, you can access specific sessions through the links on the titles of the sessions below.

We will be sending out emails to all registrants if/as panels or workshops change.

And if you can’t attend the whole conference, no problem. All panels and workshops will be recorded and links sent to you if you register here.

Below is the schedule, but please note that part of the conference is asynchronous: We have uploaded recordings of some fascinating short talks and interviews with Chaz Howard, George Lakey, Angela Cowser, Sam Cruz, Gary Dorrien, Joerg Rieger, Sajid Khan, Avi Garelick and Russell Fox. You can watch those presentations at your convenience here

If you have questions, contact us at [email protected]

Saturday, April 24, 2021

(All times are U.S. Eastern Time)

11-a.m.-noon: Shabbat Room: Join Rabbi Robin Podolsky for a time of centering prior to the conference opening

Noon-1:15 p.m.

The Fire This Time: Forging a Multi-Faith Movement for Religious Socialism

There is a resurgence of socialist analysis and organizing, but little attention has been paid to the increased amount of religious commitment--the fire of both embodied analysis and practice-- being brought to bear in the moment. In the spirit of James Baldwin’s iconic texts, communities of faith, in the wake of union organizing in Alabama and pending prospects of the PRO Act in Washington DC, have the opportunities to help spark the fires of our verdant, variegated religious traditions toward transforming our political economy, undoing white supremacy, and realizing a more just society. Join us as we talk through the possibilities, challenges, and pathways for religious socialism in this critical moment. Panelists Andrew Wilkes, Xavier Pickett, Jazmine Brooks, and Samy Amkieh.

1:30-2:45 p.m.

Multifaith Perspectives on Medicare for All

Panelists--including Hebah Kassem of the Green New Deal Network; Sanjeev Sriram, M.D., of the National Physicians Alliance, David W. Greene, Sr., President of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and Pastor of Purpose of Life Ministries; Rabbi  Robin Podolsky, a Board of Governors member for the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din and Religious Advisor to the Jewish Student Union at Occidental College--will discuss what their religious traditions have to say about the moral imperative of ensuring healthcare for all. Fran Quigley of the DSA Religion and Socialism Working Group will be the moderator. 

Strategies of De-escalation: What Muslim Thought Contributes to the Practice

In response to the routine violence and death often experienced during police encounters, there has been a call for police reform, de-escalation, and mental health training to help provide alternatives to conflicts in our daily lives and our communities. This program led by Waleed Sami, a doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Counselor Education program, will provide a framework for understanding de-escalation, skills and tips, along with the chance to break out into role-plays over zoom. Additionally, an Islamic perspective will be provided on de-escalation and emotional regulationImaan Javeed of the DSA Muslim Caucus will moderate the session.


Refugees at the Border: How do we respond?

Duane Campbell, co-chair, DSA Immigrant Rights Working Group, and Eddie Chavez Calderon, member, Arizona Jews for Justice will separate fact from false news about the situation at the border and engage with participants about how to convey information to potential coalition partners and move them to action.


3-4:15 p.m.

Black Church Radicalism

Joshua Davis, executive director of the Institute for Christian Socialism, will moderate a panel with Andrew Wilkes, co-pastor of Double Love Experience; Angela Cowser, Associate Dean of Black Church Studies and DMin programs at Louisville Seminary; and Obery M. Hendricks, author of many works on Christianity and politics, including The Politics of Jesus


Mutual Aid: Connection and Change, not Charity

Megan Romer of DSA Southwest Louisiana co-chair of DSA Southwest Louisiana, steering committee member of the DSA National Mutual Aid Working Group, and ordained ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), will be in conversation with Zellie Imani , a Muslim who organizes with BLM Paterson; Sarandon Elliott, co-chair of YDSA UVA, where she is a History major and Jewish Studies minor; and Fadumo Osman of the DSA Muslim Caucus and a local organizer in Brooklyn Center with Twin Cities DSA. The panel will talk about how mutual aid is not charity, but is rather a tactic for building power and organizing, as well as the reverse: how people of faith can use the leftist principles of mutual aid to inform the way they approach faith-based aid. 

Democratic EcoSocialism & the Green-Red-Black New Deal: Getting the Change We Need

How can environmental justice advocates bring about real change for all affected communities? Marie Venner, whose family is part of the Juliana v. United States case, is co-chair, CatholicNetwork US and an applied researcher with the National Academies Cooperative Research Programs. She will talk with Desiree Kane, a two-spirit Miwok storyteller, multimedia journalist, and co-founder of Grinding Stone Collective; George Lakey, nonviolent direct action trainer and activist for climate justice and author, among other works, of Strategy for a Living Revolution and How We Win; and climate justice activist Rodney S. Sadler, Jr., Associate Professor of Bible and Director, Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Union Presbyterian Seminary.


Worthy of Their Hire: The Alliance of Labor and Faith

UMC pastor Don Jones of Knoxville DSA, will moderate a panel on worker justice with DSAer Lisa Rung, East Tennessee Poor People's Campaign; Jim Sessions, former director of the Highlander Center and retired UMC pastor; and David Linge, professor emeritus, Department of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee and community activist.


4:30-5 p.m.: 

Create a ‘Zine to Remember this Day and your Takeaways

Bring some paper, pens, markers, collage materials, whatever strikes your fancy to this art-making event with Nicole-Ann Lobo to finish off this stimulating and inspiring day.


Sunday, April 25, 2021

2-3:15 p.m.

Views from Left Field: Mapping the State of Contemporary Jewish Life 

Join  moderator Lawrence Dreyfuss and the staff of Jewish Currents for a panel discussion on how the divided political landscape in North America is shifting Jewish communal life in the synagogue and the home. We will consider the recent rise of socialism, the schisms exacerbated by the Trump presidency, and how these changes have altered social bonds within Jewish community.  Jewish Currents is a widely read magazine committed to the rich tradition of thought, activism, and culture of the Jewish Left. Participants: Editor-in-chief Arielle Angel, Assistant Editor Mari Cohen, Managing Editor Nathan Goldman, and Managing Director Joe Roberts.


Abolition: Can Religion Help Us Imagine a World Without Policing and Prisons? 

Stephen Crouch of the NYC RS Group will speak with abolition activists Rabbi Barat Ellman, Rev. Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam, and Nura Ahmed to explore the religious roots of abolition, how religious imagination might be particularly helpful in imagining a world without policing and prisons, what spiritual resources, ritual or textual, point to the abolition of the Prison-industrial Complex (PIC), and what the role of faith communities should be in the PIC abolitionist movement.


Using Values to Drive Social Change Around Poverty Issues: An experiential workshop

In their book, Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty, authors Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox lay out the case for what is essentially a democratic socialist revision of the U.S. economy. The authors have spoken with many groups, religious and otherwise, about these reforms and built support by linking the change they advocate with values that the audience already embraces. This workshop will consist of three parts. The authors will present information on the  science of persuasion and what research tells us works and doesn’t work; each author will model   arguing a socialist reform from the basis of her faith tradition – Joanne (Judaism) Colleen (Roman Catholicism); and participants will work independently for 10 minutes developing an argument for a socialist reform from their faith tradition. We will return to the group and share as many of these as time allows.

Practicing Anti-capitalism in the Church: Political Education, Debt Liberation, and Liturgy  

Let's get practical. How do we practice anti-capitalism or Marxist politics in our churches? Kevin Georgas and Joe Stapleton from Jubilee Baptist Church in North Carolina, as profiled in Buzzfeed, will share about their debt liberation circles, "financial literacy classes" (aka reading Marx's Capital), and how Jubilee orients their liturgy and sermons on an anti-capitalist framework. Sarah Ngu from Forefront NYC church in Brooklyn, as profiled in The New York Times, will also share their insights on how to discuss socialist, leftist ideas from the pulpit within a largely liberal, nondenominational congregation as well as lessons learned from starting a Christian leftists small group, modeled after Jubilee's, which covers perhaps the most taboo topics in church: Marxism, sex work, and prison abolition. 

CANCELLED: Civil Disobedience from the Soul: Preparing Spiritually for Protest and Direct Action

This workshop that was scheduled to be led by Charles “Chaz” Howard , vice president for social equity and community at the University of Pennsylvania, has been CANCELLED. But you can check out Chaz's interview for the conference with George Lakey on nonviolent direct action here.


3:30-4:45 p.m.


Intra-group Organizing by Religion

Do you want to meet other DSAers who share your faith tradition to talk about next steps in countering the religious right? Sign up and then break into groups for Buddhists; Catholics; Earth Religions; Hindus; Humanists, Jews;  Muslims; Protestants, Quakers,LDS, and Nondenominational; Unitarian Universalists; and Others


How to Organize One on One

Former DSA staffer, Boston DSA activist, and current rabbinical student Lawrence Dreyfuss will take you step-by-step through the structured organizing conversations so crucial to every organizing campaign. 

5-6:15 p.m.


How to Start a Local Religion & Socialism Group

Learn from different groups in various stages of formation and share your experiences and questions with other DSA activists.


6:30-7 p.m.

Create a ‘Zine to Remember this Day and your Takeaways

Bring some paper, pens, markers, collage materials, whatever strikes your fancy to this art-making event with Nicole-Ann Lobo to finish off this stimulating and inspiring day.