New Orleans I was dragging wagon this morning. Eight days on the road, driving through Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana to visit all six of the Local 100 and KABF/FM 88.3, as well as side trips through Austin and then Fayetteville in the GWA (Greater Walmart Area) was actually a fascinating and fun experience, although as always more than a 1000 miles on the road gets me thinking and in this case being in the classic, heroic ACORN legacy within those three states, my thoughts easily ran to how big and fat the ACORN footprint continues to be.
In fact, the ACORN shadow is all over the area starting in the Arkansas homeland of course where I first began ACORN 43 years ago. Driving to Fayetteville, I could listen to KABF and Local 100’s Toney Orr and Willie Cosme on the “Labor Works” show until the new I-540 Alma cutoff only about 35 miles from the Oklahoma border. In Fayetteville I was doing a TV interview show with Richard Drake about the history of ACORN and current events, and he shared with me stories of interviewing Peter Tooker, who founded the alternative paper, The Grapevine, who used to run the ACORN office in Fayetteville in the early 1970’s, which was the last time I had visited Fayetteville some 40 years ago. After the show, meeting with three folks who were organizing an application for low power radio in the city and talking about how they could partner with KABF, the visit started with interesting introductions, since of the three, two had worked for ACORN decades ago. Joe Newman was a CORAP-VISTA in 1978 for ACORN and remembered training with Dave Glaser, who has been an international representative for the hotel workers now for decades in the Bay Area. David Garcia had worked for awhile with us in Des Moines, Iowa for Stueart Pittman, who now is a prominent horse breeder in Maryland.
At one level I always simply say, “small world,” but it is actually a very large world, and the truth of these common occurrences is really that the impact of ACORN and its work over four decades touched so many so deeply and even over the twists and turns of life, many, if not most, kept on carrying the flames of social change in communities large and small throughout the country. Having conversations with Zach Polett and many others about starting a small, humble ACORN Museum in a room of the Little Rock office building on South Main in 2014 speaks to the special, powerful place the organization has in the hearts of its members, leaders, and organizers.
It is also why ACORN continues to be so scary to the haterators on Fox News and the right wing blogs and internet sites. The debut of Obamacare as the first really big social services expansion over the last 40 years seems to have once again brought them all out of the woodwork, not that their yelps have not been constant for years, but the pack is running in wild circles again now. Local 100 United Labor Unions founded in 1980, thirty-three years ago, is suddenly presented as having jumped fully grown into existence only over the last three or four years. The Tea people types worry that Obamacare and the enthusiastic efforts so many of us are trying to put together to make sure low-and-moderate income people enroll and finally enter the ranks of the insured will help rebuild a progressive movement. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful, and given the big, fat footprint of ACORN, trust me, everywhere you look around the country, if it’s something that is progressive and will bring change and power to low-and-moderate income people, you are going to find ACORN people. That’s just the way it is and will be, and it’s best for the conservatives and the hater-baiters to just get over it. We’re everywhere, and we might just get your children!
Just as I found in Fayetteville and as I spent time in a busy eight days supplying our offices and ferrying information, reports, t-shirts, and whatever from place to place between New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Little Rock, Fayetteville, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge until finally finding myself at my own front door again, ACORN had a big, fat footprint, and there’s still an ACORN Nation out there, and we’re never going to stop marching. This morning I went by and took some pictures of the ACORN Farm on one-half acre in the Lower Ninth Ward to see the fledgling progress, putting one foot after another, planting seeds now for the future. There really are too many of us to ever be stopped, and I guess that is scary to some, even though it’s exciting to the rest of us.