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Students build for 8th annual Students for a Democratic Society National Convention

By Stephanie Taylor

Student activists at 2011 SDS convention

Clarksville, TN – In just four weeks, progressive students from throughout the country are convening for the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) 8th annual National Convention at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee. The convention runs from Oct. 11 through Oct. 13. SDS will bring together new and old chapters as well as students from other progressive organizations. Featured at this year’s convention are hip-hop group and immigrant rights activists Rebel Diaz; Sara Flounders, a longtime leader of the anti-war movement; and Kait McIntyre, a lead organizer from the Chicago Anti-War Committee.

SDS is the nation’s largest multi-issue student organization. It re-established itself in 2006 at the height of public outrage against the U.S. war on Iraq. Since its re-founding from the 1960s organization, SDS is building broadly amongst the student left, helping to lead mass campaigns against tuition hikes, school privatizations and student debt. SDS is the leading voice of the student movement against U.S. wars and occupations. SDS organizes against the U.S. war in Afghanistan, against the occupation of Palestine, in solidarity with the people of Colombia, and against drone warfare in the Middle East. SDS is now leading and participating in the ongoing campus protests against U.S. war and intervention in Syria. SDS has good relationships with anti-war groups, trade unions and other progressive-minded youth organizations, which will be represented at this year’s convention.

On Oct. 12 there will be workshops and panels that reflect the campaigns and goals of SDS chapters. Sara Flounders, anti-war activist and co-director of the International Action Center, will speak on the ongoing wars, occupations and so-called ‘humanitarian interventions’ of the U.S. government. Speaking with Flounders will be Kait McIntyre, an SDSer with the Chicago Anti-War Committee which is one of the leading groups opposing U.S. intervention in Syria and which is currently building for a regional action, the Midwest Action Against Drones ( McIntyre says about the convention, “As students, much of the technology utilized by the U.S. to further its wars and fuel the military-industrial complex begins at our college research institutions. I believe the SDS Convention will offer student organizers the tools to take back their campus and demand money for education and human needs, not war and destruction across the globe.”

Rebel Diaz will perform at the convention as well as hosting a workshop on Saturday called “Hip Hop and Immigration.” Rebel Diaz is a politically minded hip-hop group based out of South Bronx, New York. Their workshop will focus on the historic role of immigration, the criminalization of immigrants and youth of color, and hip-hop’s role and responsibility in defending immigrant rights. Rebel Diaz is performing the night of Oct. 12 on the Austin Peay campus.

Other workshops will run through Saturday and part of Sunday, with topics such as abortion rights, overcoming problems with organizing through student governments, revolutionary organizing in America’s heartland, and the international student movement. These workshops are facilitated and led by SDS chapters, affiliate organizations and guests.

Preston Gilmore, an Austin Peay SDSer and lead organizer on the SDS National Working Committee explains, “The SDS National Convention is of huge importance to the student movement. It allows all of us to learn from each other’s experiences and gain knowledge about how to synchronize our campaigns and build a national movement that unites students across the country. We are in a historical period where atrocities are being committed not only abroad, but also right here at home. From the murder of Trayvon Martin to the threat of U.S. war with Syria, students and young people are looking at the world they will be inheriting and are rising up to fight back. The convention provides an opportunity for us to meet each other. We will come together to build a more powerful movement together.”

SDS is asking anyone interested in student organizing to register for the convention on the web at Some travel stipends are available, with housing, food and entertainment provided. A sliding scale registration fee is being asked, but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.

Members of SDS in Minneapolis protest U.S. war on Syria

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