Leslie Driskill

Oklahoma City, OK

Vegan Marathoner. Dog Lady. Single Mom for Single Payer. Potawatomi.

I grew up poor in rural Oklahoma. I spent my teenage years in a town with a population of less than 500 people. Most people did not expect us to amount to much, if they even thought about us at all. I had friends that did not have running water. The town didn’t really have a grocery store. A lot of people smoked. It seemed that nobody ever left. I felt like I was living in a black hole that would suck me in permanently if I let it. And then there was the racism. I remember one day a classmate told me my mom was a “squaw” and only good for f***ing. For many years after that, I denied being Native. I pushed through high school, moving out at the age of 17 as a soon to be mother.

Today, I’m a research manager. I coordinate the financial and logistical aspects of multiple clinical trials and grants, with a cumulative portfolio of over $3 million per year. I helped charter the Oklahoma City chapter and currently serve as Chair. I was a member of the Steering Committee for the OKC March for Science and will be serving on several National committees at the convention. I am proud to be a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation.

I struggled, but now I’m here and I know how to fight.

It was when I enrolled at The University of Oklahoma that I began questioning capitalism. For the first time in my life, I was around people who had never worked before and somehow had cars that I could only dream of affording. I was baffled the first time a friend told me her parents paid for her car and credit card. I spent the first ten years of my life in rural Shawnee/Tecumseh, OK. My mom didn’t work and my dad worked for the government. Sure our two-bedroom house was old, small, and leaky, but my parents owned it. In our minds, we were living the American dream. Even so, my first memory was coming home to our run-down rental after a family gathering only to find that someone had broken in and stolen a stereo system my dad had saved up for. After having my anti-capitalist fire lit in college, I floated through life mad at the system for several years before discovering DSA. I realized I could take action to fight capitalism and help fix the many issues facing our state and our country.

If elected, one of my focal areas will be chapter development and support for chapters in small, rural, or traditionally conservative areas. Oklahoma just passed a brutal anti-dissent law in response to the Standing Rock struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Oklahoma also has the highest rate of police killings in the country. Our chapter has many poor and working class members, some of whom have records. The stakes and the penalties are very high for us here. The state repression on the rise in Oklahoma and around the country severely affects how I’ve been organizing the DSA chapter in Oklahoma City. The national political leadership needs to consider these and other factors for chapters in small or rural parts of the country, especially those of us in conservative areas.

Our current NPC and staff have done an excellent job of managing the sudden influx of membership and rapid growth, but like any organization, there are always opportunities for improvement. I have extensive experience in managing unpredictable funding sources and managing work flow. I plan to assess the financial situation and financial systems being used to run DSA. The recent National Finance call left many of us with unanswered questions. I will utilize my professional skill set to assess the financial picture as a whole, enhance fundraising, and design systems to reduce National staff time spent on mundane administrative tasks. I will also design clear organizational responsibility charts so anyone and everyone on the NPC and staff can reference who to direct questions to.