Earlier in February, there was a screening of The Murder of Fred Hampton, a documentary about the life and death of the prolific Illinois-based revolutionary. The screening occurred at a local union’s office. Only a handful of attendees came, looking awkward and discouraged seeing there were little more than themselves. A young man stood with a welcoming smile and intensity about him.
He encouraged everyone to mingle and enjoy the socialist reading material laid out on the table. He shook hands and tried to shoulder the mood of the more hesitant audience members. When it was time to begin the screening, the handful of attendees all sat down, and that initial stiffness of regret settled in.
Still, the young leader of the evening kept high spirits. He introduced himself as Bezal Jupiter, a sophomore political science major at Southern Miss, and an active member of the Party of Socialism and Liberation. He also provided background information on Hampton and proceeded with the documentary. When the documentary finished, no one rushed to their cars. The film opened a wound in the entire room. The attendants stayed afterwards and eagerly discussed the issues in the country.
“It really got the people wanting to know how to get involved.” Cade Colleta, one of the attendants, said. Colleta is also a member of the People’s Defense League, a free-speech, second-amendment advocacy group based in Louisiana.
The People’s Defense League occasionally partners with groups like PSL for educational events such as the Fred Hampton screening. Colleta and Jupiter actually began their relationship with PDL after a social event organized by Jupiter.
For Jupiter, getting involved became imperative after the election of President Donald Trump.
“With Trump being elected, I could no longer be apathetic. And before that, with the rise of Bernie Sanders, I began to look into more revolutionary politics,” Jupiter said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders became a leaping point for Jupiter to delve into socialism.
“Learning about socialism led me to learning about things like the Black Panther Party, Angela Davis, and that Martin Luther King was a socialist. I learned about looking at both the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power movement through the lenses that these movements were really propelled by socialism, or at least by some form of economic justice too.”
Jupiter felt even more emboldened after the egregious “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
“The fact that you had this emboldened Neo-Nazi group, Neo-fascist movement, stoked by the Republican Party,” Jupiter said. “I looked over to what the Democrats were doing, and they do not want to address the root of the problem which produces fascism and economic inequality. That problem is capitalism. It made me realize we need something outside the Democratic Party to address that. And that needs to be something that is revolutionary.”
Jupiter then joined the Party of Socialism and Liberation. He discovered the party after following their monthly magazine, “Breaking the Chain,” and direct messaged them online. Unlike other political parties, PSL actually has a vetting process for their members, which includes a series of interviews and educational sessions.
PSL aims to continue the legacy of revolutionaries like Hampton who seek to inspire fundamental change in society, grant power back to unions and give workers a say in their own lives.
While Bezal and many other college students are finding great purpose and drive in socialism, it is still looked at by many in the United States as almost a political disease.
“People tend to think socialism is about giving handouts,” English professor Charles Sumner, Ph.D, said.
Sumner identifies as a socialist.
“You need a certain economic freedom from economic fear in order to pursue the things that you’re most passionate about.”
Whether or not you agree with socialism, Bezal and his constant strive to stay involved shine a light on how just one individual can help a movement with his own strides.