New Orleans Getting ready to roll for the airport and back to the UK to train organizers at something called Action Camp 2014 happening at a conference center near Birmingham run by a nonprofit called Locality that facilitates Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society initiative of putting 500 community organizers all across England. That should be an interesting experience for them and for me! They’re calling the session, “Lessons from the Chief,” which is kind of a hoot in itself and of course a “Glen Beck Alert!” The workshops are all about ACORN International’s work and the whole 44 years of ACORN experience.
Speaking of those 44 years, all of us veteran ACORNers were feeling the love yesterday. A simple post noting that ACORN’s work was now 44 years old got 137 “likes” on Facebook, and they’re still coming in. We also ate some cake and held hands in prayer in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward to celebrate the 9-year struggle and rebuilding of Johnny Davis’s house. He was one happy hotel parking attendant, delighted to finally be home. It was a great feeling!
It was a good day. A surprising, much needed, contribution of $1000 came into ACORN International from an old veteran of ACORN sharing some success. I enjoyed an out-of-the-blue call from a former organizer, a native of Little Rock, who had worked for ACORN in Grand Rapids in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. He shared how much the experience meant to him, asked about other organizers from that time, and noted how it had helped him spend 20 years as an elected County Commissioner there, but the real purpose of the call was for advice and help on a project he is trying to spearhead in Michigan. Behind the current state takeover of Detroit, he told me has been a surge of state appointments of managers to take over other political jurisdictions there in recent years, and the takeovers have been disproportionately in areas run by African-Americans, which was troubling to him as a former African-American officeholder and organizer. The work goes on every day in always interesting ways.
Of course this is no idyllic Sunnybrook Farm. A friend from Canada shared an article that had popped up in his email alerts from Newsle linking to a piece on a rightwing website entitled “ACORN: From Radicals to Rulers,” whatever that means. The heart of its wild-eyed rant can be gleaned by this selection:
The NWRO was not radical enough for one staffer, Wade Rathke, a former organizer for Students for a Democratic Society, forerunner of the Weather Underground terrorist organization. Cloward and Piven were his mentors, but Rathke wanted to be his own boss. In 1970, Rathke planted ACORN, in Arkansas. Said the mayor of Little Rock: “I have never seen a group so secretive. They refuse to tell where their money comes from.” In 1979, Ronald Reagan called ACORN “dangerous.” ACORN endorsed Bill Clinton in his first campaign for governor, and the Clintons have returned the favor many, many times. He was the keynote speaker at the 25th anniversary celebration of ACORN’s New York chapter, and Hillary has addressed an ACORN national convention. Despite its claims of being a democratic grassroots organization…quotes David Horowitz: “Wade Rathke is the lifetime ruler. How’s that participatory democracy? It’s like all communist organizations, the dictatorship of the elite.”
You know it’s “water off a duck’s back,” but just “keeping it real,” so that we all understand the work is hard, relentless, and an everyday exercise. And of course as long as there are haters, it keeps anyone or any of us from “getting the big head,” as ACORN’s late, great, first president, Steve McDonald used to constantly counsel.