New MU Democratic Socialists club aims to grow a community

The new club aims to grow a community and engage with Columbia to create a safe space for leftists.

Coming from Quincy, a small conservative town in Illinois, Aspen Gengenbacher did not fit in with the Republican crowd. Now, she’s found her place as president of MU Democratic Socialists.

Gengenbacher said she hopes to create a safe space and community for all leftists, especially those like herself who come from places where there’s an intense stigma surrounding their political ideology. Her vice president, Adam Mertens, shares her sentiment.

“A lot of people, especially in Missouri, are unable to air their grievances with capitalism,” Mertens said. “I want a space to do that.”

The MU Democratic Socialists club serves as an umbrella group for anyone at MU who feels like their ideals fall further left than a traditional Democrat’s. Gengenbacher and her newly elected team have three goals for this year: growing the club’s size, building a safe space for leftist discussion and engaging in conversation with the Columbia community.

Mertens looks forward to bonding with more like-minded individuals. Mertens, a member of Mizzou College Democrats as well as MU Democratic Socialists, feels that the latter better encompasses his beliefs.

“Mizzou College Democrats is more in line with moderate liberalism in that they want to [combat] the symptoms of capitalism like racism and sexism,” Mertens said. “A lot of Democrats believe that eventually these problems will go away and we can keep our capitalistic system.”

Mertens, like many club members, believes the United States should not remain a capitalistic state. Although the club is named “MU Democratic Socialists,” its doors are open to Democratic Socialists, Socialists, Communists and everything in between.

Gengenbacher said they have much to educate themselves on when it comes to their ideology. They hope to learn together while working with other clubs like the Climate Leaders At Mizzou, Feminist Student Union, Four Directions: Indigenous Peoples and Allies and more to make an impact on the community.

Even with COVID-19 and an entire new board taking over, Mark Owoola, chair of social media and communications for the club, said they have still managed to come together.

“We’re in a big group chat where we send memes and laugh together,” Owoola said. “Everyone is so interesting and unique. It really does feel like a community.”

Owoola recently rebranded all of the club’s social media and another club member created a new logo for it. Gengenbacher and Owoola hope that through shoutouts on social media they can soon start promoting MU Democratic Socialist events like food drives, protests, special events and more. Until they build its network of clubs and grow large enough to organize its protests, they’re hoping to keep their safe space and get the word out that their club exists.

Edited by Joy Mazur | jmazur@themaneater.com

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