Nairobi It took more than an hour for the members to arrive for the official launch of ACORN Kenya in Korogocho, but once they were all in there were more than 200 and every time one of the speakers said, “ACORN!” the called response was “Mabadiliko Sasa!” meaning “Reform Now!” I fell in love with that chant.
If there’s one thing that organizers like me believe like life, it is that conflict is necessary to clarify positions and allow a full grafting and binding in strength from previous wounds. The leaders had been calling the organizers throughout the evening, saying they were good now, they were satisfied, they were ready to do something different. In organizing the meeting yesterday was “testing,” and it’s always “pass/fail.” In this case we had passed by standing firm that we were a poor peoples’ organization run by dues that wouldn’t buy or be bought. It was going to be a new day.
There were many highlights to the meeting, but besides what is now the Kenya ACORN chant of Mabadiliko Sasa, there was one beautiful sight for all of ACORN International. I was asked to say something at the end of the program, and I gave greetings from the other countries of ACORN International. Before I began listing the countries one by one, when I finished the word “greetings!” the entire crowd raised their hands and waved back. They were waving to their brother and sister ACORN members around the world. I wished I had that scene on a movie camera!
The meeting left the leaders and organizers delighted. The crowd had been good and spirited. There was no outbreak about our not serving food and drink. Furthermore it was a break forward in terms of respect: 9 other nonprofits showed up and wished ACORN Kenya well, the Chief and two assistant chiefs came, spoke, and offered support, and in so many ways we “arrived” finally in Korogocho.
One of the traditions for a new organization’s founding is to plant a tree to measure the progress and growth of both the tree and the organization. On the Chief’s compound in the center of Korogocho we planted 5 trees. I got to plant the first to honor ACORN International, which was a special treat. Someone representing youth planted the second. A young radio broadcaster for the Korogocho FM station planted the third. The assistant chief the fourth, and the Chief the final tree within sight of her front door.
This is hard, dry ground. Trees are few and far between. The hole was three or four times the dept of the roots on the seedling to plant more dirt and to fill the hole with gallons of water. The members are right. Building an organization, just like growing a tree, is going to be hard here, but we are well off in the right direction after the launch.