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Women organizers of Indianapolis: Connie Thompson and the fight against climate change

Connie Thompson speaks at an ANSWER Indiana anti-war rally in early 2020.

March is Women’s History Month in the U.S., and on March 8 we observe International Women’s Day – originally organized and celebrated by socialists. Women’s History Month is typically “celebrated” in a particularly capitalist fashion: corporations put out PR campaigns highlighting women whose successes is measured in dollar signs and corporate power, and we rarely–if ever–hear about the radical roots of International Women’s Day.

In honor of those roots, the Indianapolis Liberation Center is highlighting women organizers in Indianapolis throughout this March. Each of these women are workers, which means the organizing they do is done on top of their waged jobs. They will never be featured in a PR campaign for Starbucks or Google, because their work is done with the goal of fundamentally changing our society for the benefit of the people, rather than profits.

For Connie Thompson, co-founder of the Socialist Climate Initiative of Indiana (SCII), understanding the history of women’s struggles is critical to Women’s History Month.

“Women’s History Month isn’t a time to symbolically recognize women or to treat women’s history with a clinical, detached, or academic review. This month is for actively and critically analyzing women’s history to inform our strategies in striving for women’s liberation,” she told us.

Connie became an organizer with little fanfare. Her first step was calling for a demonstration to protest the U.S. coup attempt against the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. ANSWER Indiana reached out to Connie to help, and they eventually held a relatively large protest on Monument Circle.

“I ended up learning a ton from the organizations I networked with,” Connie explained. “And here I am three years later!”

Thompson speaks at the 2019 Climate Strike that she helped organize

Connie went on to co-found the Socialist Climate Initiative of Indiana. SCII is an explicitly Marxist organization, in contrast with climate groups that don’t challenge capitalism or the state but rather appeal to them by lobbying for reforms. SCII also organizes for reforms, but their ultimate goal is to empower working-class people to take the necessary steps to stop the runaway train of climate change. As Thompson put it, “We know that we can’t morally convince our enemies in the statehouse to go against their own interests.”

Thompson is no stranger to the consequences of environmental negligence. Living in Martinsville, she has been witness to both record floods and record droughts in recent years. The poor air quality has negatively impacted the health of her family, and groundwater contamination has been an ongoing struggle in the city. 

“It’s really a matter of survival,” Connie said. ‘We deserve accountability from the people who chose this.”

For Connie, organizing as a trans woman poses an extra layer of difficulty, but also comes with its own rewards.

“I can get a little lonely to not be with very many people like me,” she said, “but I am filled with complete optimism by how the working class at large has shown willingness to grow.” The groups she organizes with are those that not only fully and without hesitation accept and embrace her identity, but that actively fight for trans liberation.

Thompson finds inspiration in other working-class leaders, especially queer icons Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Their organization Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) is an example of an uncompromising force for social change that Connie strives to emulate in her own work.

When asked what advice she had for women who are looking to start organizing, Connie said, “Never feel like you’re stepping on anybody’s toes just by asking for help or by delegating work. You have every right to make requests on other people, no matter how much you’ve been taught that women must shoulder their burdens alone.”

You can follow SCII on Facebook and Instagram @socialistclimateIN, and keep up to date with them on the Indianapolis Liberation Center website here!

As for what’s next, Thompson says she’s mobilizing an SCII contingent for an action at the Statehouse at 3:30 pm March 19 that Confront the Climate Crisis campaign is organizing. If you want to get involved and help Connie in the struggle for the environment, join her!