Little Rock Landed from Baltimore in time to go spend several hours at White Water Tavern celebrating the 29th Anniversary birthday party for KABF there with some great music including our own Back Roads star DJ, Amy Garland, who opened the affair as well as Bryan Frazier, our assistant manager’s own band ripping it up. It was fun to visit with people who came up to thank us and tell us they had been listening since 1984. Of course ,I knew one woman was a little tipsy when she sat down next to me and asked if I were really 29, nonetheless it gets you thinking about how we celebrate transitions in peoples’ institutions. It is not always our best work.
I had been in Baltimore for several days helping moderate the founding, first convention of a group of local organizations in and around Maryland, Phoenix, and Atlanta largely assembled by an energetic young man, Matthew Munk, who was elected as their Chief Organizer. I welcomed the organization, CROP, the Coalition of Rooted Organizing Projects, as a new affiliate of ACORN International. The CROP groups are embryonic and still sorting through issues they believe demand attention and the ways and means of consolidating a base of supporters and actions that work, so frankly it is too early to say if they will have a first or second birthday party much less 29th. At the same time, they were already solidly multi-racial and their core, committed organizers included union members, ministers, professors, and young high school and college students and graduates who knew they needed organizational vehicles that could build change and power. With good farming, something great could grow from this CROP of people.
I also spent a lot of time talking with an organizer about building community institutions and infrastructure in places like Homestead, Pennsylvania, a hallowed place in labor history in America. We talked about a branch of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse there, and why not. We talked about plans for turning vacant properties into community institutions including one that would memorialize the night the great union organizer, Mother Jones, spent in jail there during the famous Homestead steel strike in 1892. Repurposing old municipal and school properties as social enterprises that can provide museums, cultural venues, fairtrade coffeehouses, education facilities, job training, and, importantly, decent, affordable housing seems like a great idea, even though it might take years of sweat, blood, and sacrifice to make it happen, but this project of ANEW Community Institute, also seems like just the kind of thing that ACORN International should also be trying to encourage and support.
Call us all crazy, but this week we noted 50 years of both changes and work undone. Where 50 years ago 5% of African Americans were registered to vote in Mississippi, 34% in Louisiana, and 14% in Alabama, against all odds and continued barriers, now black registration in all three of those states out numbers all other registration. A lot of seeds and struggle create change as long as we keep marching every day. We need to celebrate the struggle so we all value the prices paid and all the people that made a difference and that includes a pat on the back for KABF and helping hands to CROP and ANEW while we keep our eyes on the roads we still have to travel.