Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission. Because victory for Louisiana requires you.
I'm your host Lynda Woolard. On this episode, I speak with Justin Hartley, current president of the College Democrats of Louisiana, about CDL's bold stances on issues impacting our state, the importance for Democrats to coalition build with local community groups, and the need for the party to pass the torch to the next generation.
Justin Hartley! Thank you so much for joining me on Louisiana Lefty today.
Thank you so much for having me.
Well, I always start the podcast with how I know my guest. And we talked about it before we started recording, and realized we've never been in a room together. We've known each other for a little while now, but because of COVID, we've never been in a room together. But we've been on at least one Zoom, and I know you very well through your social media.
Well, Justin, what got you interested in politics, how old were you and what first piqued your interest in politics is something you wanted to engage with?
So I think like a lot of people in my generation, I got involved in politics at the very young age of seven and a half. In 2007, I saw an ad on TV, that just totally took my breath away. And a little controversial, I think a lot of people expect me to say Barack Obama, but it was actually Hillary Clinton. I saw her on TV, and I was totally captivated. My parents and my eldest brother are all from Jamaica, first generation immigrants, and I was like, "No, we have to go to her rallies." I dragged them all the way to Iowa, as a seven and a half year old, and said, "We're gonna knock on doors." So that's how I first got involved. And then later on in high school, I got involved in more issue based activism in racial community organizing. And then I moved down here to Louisiana for college. And I've been involved in a lot of electoral organizing down here.
Well, and I did see a post from you. from 2016, when Hillary lost that election. It did say on your Instagram, that your preferred candidate had lost a second time. And so that did make clear to me that that is someone that you had been following for quite some time.
Yeah, Hillary, she will always have a very important place in kind of like my political development. So I begrudgingly went over to Barack Obama, and then supported him again in 2012, of course. But she was very formative in like a lot of my early political beliefs.
Well, very good. The other thing I've seen is that you have a lot of imagery on your social media from Jamaica. Where are you originally from?
So I'm originally from just outside Chicago. That's where I grew up in my childhood. But my entire family is from Jamaica. So I grew up with a very international, multicultural view of the United States and politics. And I think that's the primary reason why I got involved, because I had parents who were always kind of analyzing things that happened in the United States with things that have happened in Jamaica. So we go there often, and it's a second home for me.
And when did you come here to go to Tulane?
In 2019, which I feel like was very, very impactful for me, because it was in the midst of, one, we hosted the College Democrats of America convention here at Tulane, and then also JBE was in the midst of his reelection. So there was a lot of political and electoral organizing going on. So I just got swept up in it and really hit the ground running.
How did you get engaged with the College Democrats of Louisiana.
So it's actually really funny. When I was applying to colleges, I wanted to make sure that there was a strong chapter at whatever school I attended. Because, you know, at my high school, there was a lot of issue based organizing, but I really wanting to move into electoral organizing. So I was raring to go when I got to Tulane. Tulane College Dems was the first club I went to. And there during my first meeting, I met this really amazing person, Henry Walther, who eventually became my mentor. And he got me engaged in Tulane College Dems as their freshman representative. I ran in that election, and got the votes and became the freshman rep. And then by my spring semester, I was the development director for the College Democrats of Louisiana. So by then I was starting to get involved at the state level, doing kind of work with the party, work with young people across the state, and getting engaged that way.
Awesome. So I keep mentioning your social media, but I did study it. You also mentioned a couple of reproductive rights organizations that you're involved with locally. Are you still doing work with? I think NOAF and Lift were a couple of things you listed in your bio, are you still doing things with them?
So I work with the New Orleans Abortion Fund doing their social media and communications work. So that's my job. That's how I pay my bills. And then I'm also a board member at Lift Louisiana for women. So I help with kind of like the mission and goals, making sure that there's always a youth voice in the room, making sure that equity, diversity and inclusion are centered in the work that we do. So Lift is a big part of my heart now. It's an organization I love to support. I'm also their board secretary now.
Fantastic. Well, I love to hear that. And I love to hear that those organizations are centering those things. But I also love to hear that you've gotten engaged with them. How did you connect with them?
In 2019, after my freshman year, I was looking for an internship for the summer. And I really wanted to get involved, because I was scrolling through my Twitter one day, and Representative Mandie (Landry) actually retweeted a link from Georgetown Law Center that rated Louisiana as the worst state to be a woman. And I realized, I need to do something. I was like, I need to be involved in some way. So I applied to be a campus organizer with the Feminist Majority Foundation, working against Amendment One, which would add a constitutional amendment to the Louisiana Constitution that says that there's no right to an abortion. And I was like, "This cannot do." So I spent the semester working towards that, leading up to the 2020 election. And afterwards, I realized I still needed to be involved. So I applied and became an intern with the New Orleans Abortion Fund. And that's kind of spiraled into me becoming a reproductive justice advocate, and investing a lot of my time in making sure that all aspects of reproductive justice are centered in the work. So Lift is an extension of that. And it can actually goes back to something I did in Chicago. When I was in high school, I helped pass a bill that requires LGBTQ+ inclusive history to be taught in all public schools. So, you know, I recently went to the Capitol to talk about redistricting. But that wasn't the first time I was in front of like a senate committee. So I really view reproductive justice as my primary issue.
Well, and I'm so glad to hear that you're involved in all these other groups that are either issue based or community based or both, because I really think that's where a lot of the activity is happening right now. So I love to hear that there's a connection between College Democrats and those groups. That's how you coalition build. And that's how you move a lot of these issues forward. So I'm just so happy to hear that.
Exactly. Thank you.
How is COVID impacting the work you're doing with College Democrats of Louisiana?
To give a little context about CDLA, we're a young group of progressive organizers from all around the state, that are invested in making the organization more inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible. We're the youth wing of the Louisiana Democratic Party. And if we're going to be honest, we will call out anyone, Republicans, the odd Libertarian, and even our own within the Democratic Party. But we use the party framework, because we know that there's room for us at the local and national stage, and that ultimately, we're the future. Lots of our members worked JBE's campaign, LaToya Cantrell's campaign, and others around the state. So as the youth wing we work campaigns, get out the vote, and support the issues and causes we find innovative. But COVID-19 has really impacted CDLA and other College Democrats Federations around the country. You know, in the midst of COVID, engagement was low. We all remember the throes of the "lockdown," when we were all in 10 Zooms per day. I think a lot of students in particular are still in survival mode. And organizing has fallen into the backburner. You know, when I first got to Louisiana, in 2019, electoral politics was the main pursuit of young organizers in the circles that I was familiar with. We were all so excited to help get JBE reelected. And then over the last few years, that's kind of shifted to anti poverty policy, Racial and Community Justice, particularly after the George Floyd protests, and Climate Justice. And you know, during this time, CDLA has grown to support each of those issue based campaigns. But now we're really excited to reorient to the 2022 midterms and to redistricting, as well.
So you worked on Governor John Bel Edward's reelection campaign. And I noticed - because I was working for a PAC for the Sheriff's race in Orleans Parish - I noticed that College Democrats actually picked a candidate in that race, which, of course I appreciated. But that was an unusual thing for a statewide group to do. Your focus right now is on redistricting and midterms, you said. Is there anything else that you're particularly looking at? Or are those the really two big things?
So I think those are our primary goals right now. For the last, I would say six months, eight months, we've been working to make sure our organization is as strong as possible. You know, after two years in a pandemic, we really needed to rebrand and rebuild our membership. But now we're shifting our focus to doing some of the external work. So we were elated to endorse Susan Hutson for Orleans Parish sheriff, and do some work around that through our campuses at Tulane, Loyala, and Xavier, really getting out the vote there and making sure our young people recognized and were engaged with that election, because we had the chance to elect one of the most progressive sheriffs that our city's ever seen. And we're so excited that she's now in that role, and doing amazing work there. So look out for future endorsements and races around the state. We're really excited to make our influence and impact known.
Have you all looked at the senate race yet?
Yeah, we definitely have a favorite amongst our board. And right now we're doing some work to finalize a possible endorsement, you know, and making connections with the Young Democrats of Louisiana and other youth groups to see how we can multiply our impact.
Lovely. We spoke about redistricting on a video before we started recording the podcast. You mentioned that as one of the things you're focusing on. You went with the Power Coalition to speak at the legislature on that. So tell me your thoughts on redistricting, what the possibilities are, and how it was going to testify in front of the legislature.
Definitely. Louisiana is a state that's 1/3 black, but we have a very diluted political representation across the state. And that's something that young people are aware of. When I went to go testify, the reoccurring theme amongst all of our speeches was that if we continue to be ignored, more young people will be leaving the state. And that's something I don't want to see for Louisiana, that, because of our political representation, and the feeling that we have no impact on the things that are passed, and the things that matter within our state, we won't be listened to. That will eventually lead to us finding new homes elsewhere. So a lot of young people, that's our primary concern. So it was an amazing experience seeing hundreds of young people fill the halls of the Capitol, and speak in front of the Senate committee, as well as the House committee about the issues that are so pertinent and impactful to us, we see our history being written right now. And the next 10 years being a very unique time in Louisiana's history. We could either continue being fragmented by the Republican supermajority, or we can chart a new path built by fair maps and impactful representation.
And you mentioned this a little bit, but I hope you'll go a little further into it. The issues that are animating young voters and engaging them to action right now, what do you see as the big ones?
It's definitely issues of Racial Justice and Climate Justice, and then also our political representation, making sure that our representatives, congressmen, etc, represent us at the ideological level, making sure that progressives are elected around our state. We have the opportunity to left people like Dustin Granger in Southwest Louisiana, people like Susan Hutson here in New Orleans, people that will truly change how we interact with our systems and the political apparatus. Especially for Susan, how we interact with the carceral state, and how we see a future for people all around Louisiana. Louisiana is the most incarcerated per capita place in the world. And that is a very scary fact to think about, especially when we look at places like Angola and the deep histories that are there. So when we look at the future, we want to make sure we're undoing a lot of those harmful systems and building a new Louisiana, a new south, a new America that includes all voices and all people.
And I'm glad you mentioned about Louisiana being the most incarcerated place in the world, because we've got this tug of war, now that crime is on the upswing. The episode before yours, I had Sade Dumas on from the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, who as I recall, came to speak to College Democrats. But we spoke about this tug of war between criminal justice reform and this sort of knee jerk, return to law and order, because people are worried about crime on the upswing. And her point was: if incarcerating people led to less crime, Louisiana should be the safest place in the world. Right? And that's just never been the case.
You know, the way I look at it is that putting people in jail is never the solution to crime, building, you know, new additions to jails is never the solution. We need to meet people's needs, whether it be food, water, good paying jobs, universal health care, or any other kind of core need that a person needs. That is what we need to be focusing on. You know, in New Orleans, we're seeing this kind of endemic carjacking situation. If people had those resources, I don't think that that would be an issue. So I would really encourage people on our city council to be focusing on how can we get those needs met for each and every citizen, rather than emboldening police or the carceral state, because that's not how we're going to get out of the situation.
I think that's right. Justin, I had a couple of folks from College Democrats of Louisiana on in season one.
Was it Brooks (Fordham) and Cameron (English)?
That's right. And they mentioned the National College Democrats coming here for the convention as the most exciting thing they had done with the College Democrats. Is that still the case for you? Is that still the most exciting thing you've done?
So I have to let you in on a secret. I was on campus for about three weeks when the national convention was held on Tulane's campus and Loyola's campus. So I was still getting adjusted. I was in the middle of my freshman representative campaign. And I actually did not attend, which is like the biggest mistake of my College Democrats career, especially because now I'm involved at the national level. I'm the Vice Chair of the College Democrats of America Black Caucus, and a senior advisor to the president and vice president. So all of my colleagues essentially have deep memories of New Orleans. And I'm like, "I was there, but I wasn't actually at the convention." But I would say my favorite memory so far, last summer, I kind of led a slate of young people to run CDLA now. And it was really an amazing experience bringing together different voices from around the state to become impassioned, and want to rebuild our organization. So yeah, that's probably been my favorite experience so far.
Great. And what are you most looking forward to?
I'm excited to see where CDLA goes after my term. I think there are so many new and young voices that are excited to get involved in our organization and chart a new path, one that maybe I can't lead or that Cameron or Henry couldn't lead. But I think it's something that I am so, so excited to see happen. And when I go off and do other things, I know that they're always going to be that bold, progressive voice, whether it be on our Twitter or Instagram, that will always call out and be involved, and the first voice in the room to say, "This can't happen."
How are you building a bigger College Democrats a Louisiana base in parts of the state where you haven't been located yet?
That's what we're so excited to be doing right now. We're expanding our membership to regions and colleges that haven't had a chapter before. We've been investing a lot of time in reaching out to community colleges, rural universities, and HBCUs across the state. We had a very small federation of like seven chapters that kind of organized all around the state. And now we're hoping to expand that even further. Reaching out to student governments, professors, and DPECs and things like that around the state to make sure we can build out that even wider progressive base that includes more voices, particularly rural voices is something that we're focusing on this year.
That's great. I think that the rural connections in our state really need to be made. They are not reached out to enough by Democrats, in general. And there are big pockets of Democrats in some of those rural areas of the state. What do you feel like you need from your elected officials, from older Democrats, or from democratic institutions, that you as young democrats or College Democrats are not getting?
I think the College Democrats of Louisiana and young organizers across the state, even those that are not affiliated with us, we all need the attention and the resources to make our organizing as impactful as possible. Investment by older Democrats, the party, etc, are invaluable to growing out the people that will then become those older Democrats. Right now we're seeing a lot of young people become disaffected and truly apolitical. And that's something that we shouldn't allow to happen. Because there will always be people like me and the board at CDLA, that will be engaged in electoral politics, and fighting for the mission and goals of the Democratic Party and progressive values overall. But we can definitely also see ourselves losing to just a sense of politics does not matter. And that's not a place that we ever want to see our youth in, because I think a lot of older Democrats just view us as, "Oh, they're young people, they don't vote. " Why don't we vote? Why aren't we being engaged with? And how can we build out systems, so that we can always be engaged and involved within the party? And then, you know, look to the other side, and we see Turning Point investing $3,000 into a student government campaign? Why can't we do the same thing for progressives? Why can't we do the same thing for young people who are running for office? We can really be the change, and we just need the investment to do so.
So just to clarify, when you say investment, are you talking about money?
I think it can be money. Money is always good, especially when, you know, we do this as a labor of love. But a lot of young people also can't do that. The College Republicans of America, they have a very paid apparatus, and that allows them to do that work. But then I also think, in addition to money, the investment of time and more intangible resources are also just as important.
Okay, is there anything you see that we're doing right, those of us who are older or elected or institutional Democrats? Is there anything we're doing that's helpful to you that you can acknowledge?
Of course, definitely. I think older Democrats and our elected officials, and a lot of the people that are the faces of the Democratic Party here in Louisiana, have done a really good job of reaching out, especially when they see things that maybe we've done that they can tell can cause a little bit of drama. Always reaching out and saying, "Keep on doing what you're doing." You've always been one of those voices, which we always appreciate, and encouraging us to be who we are and say what we need to say, even if it will get us in a little bit of hot water with certain other aspects of the party.
I do call you or text you every now and then, because I think the work y'all are doing is awesome. But it's also really important. Your social media is awesome. And I'm sure you're reaching out in other ways, but that's how I interact with you all, is through your social media. You've been very brave in pushing diversity, calling folks out, like you mentioned before, and I think at a time when we see our democracy at stake, that's sort of what's really called for by our Democratic groups. I think that we do have to be bold right now, and taking action on that boldness. So I see y'all doing that. And I reach out to you, because I want you to know I appreciate it.
And thank you so much. And that point about our democracy being at stake is the reason why I feel so impassioned to do this work. You know, we all saw the insurrection at the Capitol and how that was then recently turned into a topic of debate. That was one of the darkest days in our country's history. We need to make sure that things like that don't happen again by being realistic with how we view situations. We've been committed to calling out those elements ever since that day. And honestly, prior because we kind of had a little bit of foresight that something like this was kind of around the corner.
I want to put a final cap on this conversation we're having. I do see young democrats, small y young democrats, as the future of the party. And that might seem obvious. But I really mean that in a much more immediate way than it sounds. I think we need y'all to step up and be in the middle of things right now. But that also means you need to be invited to be in the middle of things and given a seat at the table. Your issues are the issues that will keep the party afloat, and will keep the party vibrant, long term. And young voters, if we're speaking to them, they can swing pretty much any election. There are very few elections that a large turnout of young voters couldn't swing. To your point, we've got to be speaking to young voters in a way that makes them feel like they want to vote. But that's also a power that you yourselves could take and use in whatever way you feel is appropriate. Right? So that's both an admonition to our Democratic infrastructure and politicians, but it's also a call to action to y'all. And I hope you'll just pull up folding chairs at every table you're not invited to, because we really need you. The country needs you. So I just wanted to share that.
Yeah, it really means a lot. I have a pipe dream that I think that CDLA and Young Democrats of Louisiana, that people within our organization can be the driving force to creating a even more progressive and emboldened Louisiana Democratic Party, and how we can see that kind of maybe 10 year or three year plan go into action starts now, and how we can help change how our party works, and the issues that are important to us, making sure that young people are in the room at the party, at the Capitol, at state senate and representative offices, how we can start building out the infrastructure for a party that cares about issue based activism and elevating the voices of progressives - not saying that it doesn't now - but building a much more modern and intimately tied to youth-based-activism party.
I think it's critical. And I love that you've talked about your work with Lift Louisiana and NOAF and Power Coalition, because those groups are being very active, and they are reaching out to young people and people from underserved communities. And that's really where our base and our power should lie. And because y'all are marrying being bold with organizing, to me, that's how we win. So I think you are the future in the sense that you really are creating the infrastructure now that will serve us in the long term.
Exactly. One of the only posters on my wall is a Barack Obama Hope poster and his 2008 campaign built broad based coalitions and that's how we elected our first African American president. And that's how we, you know, have started the process of creating a more progressive country, a more progressive political infrastructure. And that has then grown into what we've seen in the Biden administration and the progressive wing that is forming amongst, you know, the squad, and just any other young person being elected right now. They have these radical beliefs that my generation finds entirely necessary for our political future.
I think courage and organizing can get us out of anything. But to your point, there is a lot of conversation now that the Obama coalition, and the organizing work that Obama really - did not create but - made so popular nationwide, that that's what's created some of the backlash from the conservative side right now, that they're really don't want the multicultural, multi ethnic, multiracial, pluralistic America, that they'd really rather see us go back to a day when it was closer to white male landowners that really controlled things. So that's what we're really having to be bold and organize out of now, is that backlash.
Exactly. There's a book that I really recommend, actually based here in Lake Charles: Strangers in Our Own Land. It's by a person from, I believe, Berkeley, California, and she moved to Louisiana to really investigate why people were voting against their interests, particularly working class white people. And people vote against their interests when they aren't reached out to in the ways that they understand. A lot of those people in Lake Charles, we saw it with like the Dustin Granger campaign, like they are excited and interested in progressive organizing, and people that actually speak to them. And when we invest, we can see rising stars within our party. But they saw that everything was put before them, and that their concerns weren't listened to. And that's why I think we see a lot of the backlash against critical race theory, it's because people don't understand what it is. And that conservative kind of upstart legacy we see from Donald Trump, it will only be recurring unless we invest in rural organizing, and reaching out to communities that were essential to the Obama coalition. I'm looking at states like Michigan and Wisconsin, even Iowa, that are kind of left behind now that we've kind of moved to a more coastal or city based organizing tradition.
And I'm going way off script here, but I think that's fine. I love the conversation. I understand that as Democrats, we often are limited in the money we have. From having worked on numerous campaigns, I know, we so frequently say, "Well, you know, we've got this pot of money, who are we going to reach out to? Well, you know, these people are gonna vote. We know these people might vote. We know these people are unlikely to vote. So we better reach out to those people who might vote. Because if they have a history of voting, people are more likely to do something they've already done before. Let's make sure they vote and hope that that's enough of a pot to get us to win." But then, like, what you're saying is there's a whole group of people who are never reached out to. And again, I think their groups like the Power Coalition, like Step Up Louisiana, like VOTE, like Together Louisiana, there are other groups across the state, who have taken up the mantle of reaching out more to those folks. And that's so critical. It's so critical, not just to having more Democrats elected, but to having more people elected who care about the people of our state, the working people, the families of our state. And so I think it's the combination, and that coalition building that really helps us reach all those people. So I'd love to see Democrats reach out to more of those folks. That does require fundraising, that does require us getting enough money. But those are conversations we should have. Those are people we should be coordinating with and having those conversations with. That's really critical for us.
Exactly. I don't see a reason why Louisiana can't be the next Georgia. Stacey Abrams, and all of the different organizations that she's kind of like the co founder of or head of, were essential in making sure that Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were elected in January 2021. We can do that here. And I think that starts with all those organizations that you listed. But then it also comes with strong party infrastructure that is ready to mobilize all of the activated people that those organizations interact with, and get plugged in to organizing circles. New Orleans is like the nonprofit capital of the country. There's a nonprofit for every single issue and organization. So how can we make sure that we're building those coalitions that can bring people into the work at any point, whether it be, you know, if you're interested in recycling glass, if you're interested in agricultural revolutions, you should find a way to be able to influence policy within our state, and influence the party. And that's a way that we can make sure that all of those issue based coalition's are coalesced into one vision and one overall effort to make our state blue, and more so than just blue, progressive. The South overall is exactly where the next - not to bring in a poli-sci term - the next like political cleavage that we can then activate. It's not an attempt to abandon any communities, but I believe it is the next place where we will see an insurgency of progressive activism, because that's where, you know, civil rights was founded here in the South. As someone who grew up in a northern state in a northern city, I never knew that schools were desegregated here in New Orleans. So how can we make sure that that progressive political history is replicated across the South and known across the country?
Right, and it's important for this work to happen here, because it's where the work is most needed. Do you have an interest in running for office yourself?
That's really the question. I really do love assisting people when they're running for office. But I would be foolish in saying I've never considered the possibility of running for office. But right now, I'm a little bit more concerned with helping young people get involved around the state and possibly around the country, and making sure that that's something that has my focus right now.
Is there other campaign work that you particularly like? If it wasn't running for office, is there something in politics that you would do as a career choice?
I love communications and I love running campaigns. I've done a couple of campaigns here for student government, and I would love to expand that into possibly like a chief of staff role in the future.
Excellent, excellent. Well, another thing I saw, back to your social media, and I have to bring this up, I'll tell you why in a minute. I saw in that same post where you were talking about Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump in 2016, you were ready to pivot to 2020 in that post. It was the day after the election. And the two folks you mentioned were Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker as your dream ticket.
Personally, I wouldn't pair the two of them now or in 2020. But funnily enough, I did support Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 primary. I believe that she spoke directly to young people that are just like me, especially because she's like a former professor, it felt like I was in class. I don't know. Anyways, Elizabeth Warren, is someone that I really believe in. And she truly did have a plan for everything. And that's the kind of like competent leadership that I find really inspiring, and especially the way that she advocates. But I think we always need to be ready to, you know, we always have to like digest our losses, but we should also be able to pivot and organize for our collective futures. So yeah, I that day, it was really hard watching Hillary lose. But I was ready the next day just start organizing against Donald Trump and the destruction that he would have on our democracy.
Well, I liked that resilience. And I brought it up because I love Cory Booker, I'm a huge Cory Booker fan. So I love that you name checked him there. But I also, I really love Elizabeth Warren, as well. I thought they were both really outstanding candidates in 2020. And what the field in 2020 said to me was that we have a pretty deep bench.
Exactly. And we have a lot of young people who are excited and ready to take on these elected positions across our country, from the presidential race all the way down. So I'm really excited to see Booker's generation, Kamala's generation, take on leadership, possibly in 2024, or 2028, whatever the time may be.
Right. Are you thinking you might stay in Louisiana after school? Are you just not sure what you're doing then?
So I think like a lot of young people, I'm not quite sure yet. There's so many different ways that I could be pulled and prodded to go. But I'm hoping to stay in Louisiana for a little bit longer after graduation, and do a lot of like community engagement work down here, because there's a lot of really cool organizations that I just want to support and be a part of, even if it's for a year or six months, really engaging with those groups.
Well, how would people plug in to the work of College Democrats of Louisiana, if they wanted to engage with you?
Definitely, we are always looking for young people on college campuses who are ready to create new chapters and engage with their local politics. We always need new eyes and ears in every community. Something that's been amazing is having so many people from LSU on our board, because we have such insight into local politics there, and how we can access new opportunities for even our members in New Orleans to go to Baton Rouge to advocate for new bills and things like that. So we're always looking for people at particularly colleges outside of New Orleans to activate their college communities. And we'll provide them with the resources, toolkits, etc. to make that as easy and impactful as possible. So, if you're a progressive, if you're someone who knows someone on a college campus or are a college student yourself, feel free to reach out to our Instagram or there's a Google form in our linktree. And you can reach out to us and we'll help you get a chapter started. And then also, if you're interested on serving on our board, we regularly send out applications for new members to join us and expand the team that we have currently.
Well I, of course, will put those links in the Episode Notes. I assume you also would like for elected officials or leaders of organizations to come speak to y'all. So if they wanted to reach out... If I was a candidate, I'd certainly want to get on your agenda for one of your meetings.
For sure, that's exactly what we want, especially heading into 2022. There will be candidates that are a part of that old boys club that are institutionally supported in the way that we don't want. So if you're a candidate that is an upstart, that is ready to make change, reach out, and we would love to find ways to work with you, and build those connections so that the young people, that we can support you in your campaigns and the work that you do. And then once you get elected, because we're in the business of electing people, we would love to continue those relationships through the legislature or the city council, or whatever position those people are elected to. So that's kind of what we hope to do in the future. So if you are one of those candidates, feel free to reach out.
And likewise, I want to make sure that we're continuing to amplify your voices, because y'all are saying some really important things, getting out in front of some very important issues that, honestly, I don't see any other Democratic groups in the state doing. So you're so valuable, your voice is so valuable right now. If there's someone promoting the Democratic platform in Louisiana, it's the College Democrats. So that's really important. You've mentioned some other spaces you're working. Would you like to give people the opportunity to plug into them as well? Are there ways that you would like people to connect to any of your other work?
Definitely. So I work for the New Orleans Abortion Fund, like I mentioned earlier. We are always looking for donations. This upcoming legislative session, we will most likely see a similar bill as Texas' SB8 replicated here in Louisiana. These things work in cycles, and making sure that we're supporting every person's right to reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy is essential. So I always encourage people to donate to their local abortion fund. NOAF, we fund abortions across Louisiana, but we also send people as far as Chicago, Texas, Georgia, for abortion. So make sure that you're always supporting that work. Lift Louisiana has so many different programs. One that I like to highlight, because a lot of my former colleagues at the Feminist Majority Foundation now work for My LA Sex Ed, which is a really cool youth programming. Louisiana has some of the worst sex ed regulations. So we want to make sure that people have the information they need to have healthy sex lives and are informed about their choices. And we also have a gala coming up on March 11, hosted by the Promise of Justice Initiative here in New Orleans. So definitely buy tickets to that, you'll probably see me somewhere around in the crowd. So those are kind of the two major things that I would plug in the repro Louisiana world.
Well, I'm going to ask you to give me links offline to all of those things, so I can make sure I put them in the Episode Notes. So they'll be easy for folks to get to when they are checking either our website or their podcast platform, whatever, they'll be able to click on links. Well, I want to pivot to the last three questions I ask a version of in every episode. Justin, what do you think the biggest obstacle is for young people in politics in Louisiana? And I'm and I'm specifically thinking democratic or progressives, obviously, that's really our focus.
Definitely. Yeah. I think the biggest issue for progressives in Louisiana is access, how we can make sure that our voices are elevated in spaces. Something I really like that you said earlier is bring a folding chair to every table that you're not invited to. We're seeing that boldness and that attitude grow amongst people in my generation and the generations surrounding us, especially, like, I've been so impressed by even younger people, like high schoolers and how just nonchalantly aggressive they are in getting to the goals that matter to them. So finding ways that we can make sure we always put attention and emphasis on that work is essential, because that's how we see progress get made. Progress isn't made when people are happy and very casual about their advocacy. It's when people put in the time and energy, and there's a little bit of discomfort, and we need to be okay with that.
I like that. And hat tip to Shirley Chisholm on the folding chair, by the way.
What do you think the biggest opportunity is for young Democrats and young progressives in Louisiana politics?
We've seen some really exciting people get elected around our state. I'm thinking of (Representatives) Mandie Landry, Amy Freeman, people that have really invested in youth. And I think over the course of the next couple of years, we're going to see even more people like that elected. And through that, we have the opportunity to have that same access that I was saying is our biggest obstacle to the spaces where power is decided and the rooms where decisions are made. So making sure that those people are held accountable always to young people, which they have so far. We love the two of them. And making sure that those access points are passed on from young person to young person. So eventually, when we're in those positions, we can continue to make that progress.
I love that. Justin, who's your favorite superhero?
You know, this was the question that I was afraid of, because I feel like there's so many good choices. So, if you would have asked me this probably around the time I started supporting Hillary Clinton, I would say Aqua Man, because I love the water, he's amazing, and I think the ability to like talk to fish and stuff like that is really exciting. But now, post 2018, I think I have to say Black Panther as my obligatory pick, especially with all the good work that Chadwick Boseman did while he was alive. I think he kind of exemplifies a future where we can be both peace loving, but also active in international and global affairs, if you want me to over intellectualize it just a little bit.
Well, I love that you said Aquaman, because that's a first. But also, Black Panther is rightly a podcast favorite, so it's always a welcome answer. Justin, thank you so much for giving some of your time to be with me today and sharing all your insights. I really appreciate it. I appreciate everything you're doing and I can't wait to see what you do next.
Then you so, so much for having me. It's been a pleasure.
Thank you for listening to Louisiana Lefty. Please follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Thank you to Ben Collinsworth for producing Louisiana Lefty, Jen Pack of Black Cat Studios for our Super Lefty artwork, and Thousand $ Car for allowing us to use their swamp pop classic "Security Guard" as our Louisiana lefty theme song.