New Orleans The Little Rock premiere screening of THE ORGANIZER documentary that looked at ACORN past, present, and future was a fascinating and unique event, where everyone there might truthfully say, “I wish you couldn’t have been there!” Everything was going against it in some ways. It was a hot day, Saturday afternoon, and Mothers’ Day weekend, and that’s just the short list at rocks in the road.
Key people on the turnout were out of town for the last push. Talking to organizers, all of whom were seasoned crowd counters, days before the event and on the eve of the showing, the numbers were falling like a rock. On the last call on the Monday beforehand as we counted down the days, when I tried to put a positive spin on the weakening commitment count by saying, “I think we have a shot at one-hundred,” an old, senior hand cautioned that I was being way too optimistic. On the eve of the premiere another veteran thought we might get sixty. The show must go on though, so whether many or few, we were all in.
We got there more than a half-hour early, and there were already two people at the locked door of the Ron Robinson Auditorium of the Central Arkansas Library System trying to get in. People coming early is always a good sign and come they did. At the front table we were swamped trying to get people to sign “Tell Me More” attendance and information sheets and buy copies of Nuts & Bolts: The ACORN Fundamentals of Organizing. When it was over, the CALS crew told me they thought the count was 130. Admittedly, we aren’t movie people, so what happened here?
Ok, it surely helped that we had gotten some early reviews including in the Friday edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that had scored the documentary at 87 out of 100, so people weren’t coming with expectations of seeing a dog. But, the key to what drove people seemed simpler: this was an ACORN love fest. The standing ovation at the end of the movie was a giant “thank you” cheer for the organization’s contribution to change both in Arkansas and nationally. It was an expression of deep pride that from this hard bitten, last on many lists, deep red state, ACORN had risen and become a voice for low and moderate-income people, had fought the good fight, often won, and sometimes lost. The other secret to the event’s surge could be seen throughout the packed crowd when during a momentary lull in the Q&A period after the show ended, I asked everyone in the audience that had led or worked for ACORN or its family of organizations to stand and be recognized, and more than twenty people jumped up to long applause. This was a reunion of ACORN and those proud to be counted as supporters.
But, it was also more than that. Question after question were not about the past, but about the future. What was the ACORN Home Savers Campaign doing in US cities, Wade? What are the chances that ACORN International would be big enough in the future to rebuild ACORN everywhere in the country? Why was there such a “war on the poor” now and what could stand up to it? These sparks of interest and anger were not nostalgic, they were demands for a revival, hard to answer, but impossible to ignore.
Thanks to KABF.