Boston Dr. Astier Almedon, a fellow at the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership from Eritrea who directed the International Resilience Program, was our gracious host and moderator for an afternoon at the college meeting first with faculty and later with an interesting group of students. It had been a commitment of the “in for a penny in for a pound” type without a full recognition of whatever and whomever might be involved.
I barely made it to Medford thanks to a lift from a friend, Tim Costello, after a fascinating and exciting discussion about a potential partnership between him and his team with Global Labor Strategies and ACORN International to look at whether or not we could build organizing and research capacity to look at Asian-based multi-national corporations and corporations that operated in that part of the world. Tim and his partners have been flailing away importantly in developing a deeper understanding of labor and corporate practices in Europe and more recently China, and, like ACORN International over the same period, have been making progress without yet achieving full stability and sustainability. It would be fun to triangulate their work with our work internationally and our additional research and campaign capacity in St. Pete. But, I digress.
In my confusion at Tufts I wandered up to the 2nd floor of an office packed house on Packer Street looking for the person I thought she had referred to as the “Chairman,” I assumed of her department or institute. I had a “who’s on first, what’s on second” conversation with a fellow I ran into on the stairway who said he was Sherman, while I kept saying I was looking for the Chairman. It went like that for way too long before it became finally clear to me that Dr. Almedom must have been saying “Sherman” no matter what I thought I was hearing.
Sherman Teichman turned out to be the director not only of the Institute for Global Leadership but also a fascinating network of activist and committed students under the auspices of EPIIC or Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship. Sherman was a live wire and a passionate advocate for his program and all of his students over the years. He would often stop in midsentence to point to a picture of some speaker he thought we should know or flip through a book of photos and essays from some part of the world produced by a recent EPIIC graduate or point out that Matt Bai of the New York Times was a Tufts grad and EPIIC booster. I bet he drives the academy crazy, but I found him to be a hoot.
Importantly, he was also saying something that sounded like it could be music to our ears. He was offering students to me by the truckload as researchers or interns or organizers. If we would train them and supervise them they would be good to go for two weeks, a month, three months, six months, a year — you name it. This was worth figuring out and sounded great!
The several hours we spent in the panel before some 40+ EPIIC students did nothing but confirm what seemed like good fortune. The questions were well thought out and on target. The students were seemed serious and committed. One young woman from Houston asked me about the difference between how Houston has dealt with Katrina refugees versus Baton Rouge, which was a great question and gave me that rare chance to give props to Houston’s Mayor White for everything he did back then for Katrina survivors. Another asked all of us about the difference between a “natural disaster” and terrorism, giving me a chance to prop the Hartman-Squires volume: There is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster.
At the end Chairman Sherman, as I will no doubt remember him, came up and invited me back to their annual symposium next February focusing this year on Global Cities that would give me a chance to talk more about ACORN International’s work in major cities around the world. I was glad to say yes and for the chance to tighten this partnership down.