New Orleans Reaction continues to slap back on the Palin swing in Denver at the RNC about community organizers. Here are a couple from surprising sources that stepped up positively:
This one was posted on a site called, Blogs4God, which defines itself as a “semi-definitive list of Christians that blog.”
Jesus was a community organizer. Pilate was a governor
Sep 6th, 2008
I don’t know what creative soul over at MoveOn.org, the Daily KOS and/or the Democratic Underground thinks up these silly memes, but I do have to admit, I was mildly amused by Jim Treacher’s posting that pointed out to me response to Palin’s experience as a governor versus Obama’s as a community organizer that reads:
You can call a woman a bad mother for not forcing her daughter to have an abortion, and claim that the same woman didn’t actually give birth to her own son…
…but don’t you dare ask what a community organizer actually does.
A commenter at QandO was nice enough to explain the difference between Obama Black Nixon and Palin:
Jesus was a community organizer. Pilate was a governor.
To which I replied:
And last night was the crucifixion.
Hey, you know who else was a community organizer? Don Corleone.
Yeah, just what the Obama camp needs … yet another Messiah reference …
… like the RNC needs any more ammo than the College Board careers site that defines a community organizer as:
Community organizers and activists work on the local level to create positive social change. They help communities come together to solve problems.
And then citing Cesar Chavez as an example. Of course, not nearly as alarming as the Hunter College School of Social Work has to say about the history of Community Organizers:
Organizing has a long, noble, and at times, controversial tradition. It has developed during the social reform movements of the various historical periods, especially the 1930s and 1960s. Organizing–taking collective action–is one of the reasons for the growth of the labor, civil rights, women, peace, consumer, environment, gay and lesbian, AIDS, and other movements throughout this century. Some of the most visible organizers– Ralph Nader, Saul Alinsky, Walter Reuther, Caesar Chavez, Jesse Jackson, Eleanor Smeal, Heather Booth, Faye Wattleton, Marion Wright Edelman, Ada Dear, Wilma Mankiller, Gary Delgado, Wade Rathke, George Wiley, Si Kahn–have all influenced our country’s laws and systems.
Real quick note here folks – it’s not that Jesus didn’t want social renewal nor community action – rather He was into concentrating on the Kingdom of God through spiritual renewal and Godly action – which by its nature bears its beautiful fruit in the form of each one of us serving one another …
… oh snap, there I go again, with another McCain theme – this time service – sorry folks!
Here’s another one from a similarly interesting site called Vox and a set of blogs pulled together in a part of the site called: The Inspirational Place — Live Out of Your Imagination, Not Your History. Food for thought there, too, no doubt.
The Value of a Community Organizer
* Sep 7, 2008 at 8:55 PM
* 2 comments
I am still trying to find things that inspire me & post for my vox hood..but lately I have been drawn into the political fray over the upcoming US election. With the latest depressing news about US unemployment on the rise & mortgage company failures, it has become very difficult for me to hold back my opinions on this election race.
My attention was drawn to a particular comment made at the RNC by "she-who-must-not-be-named"; it has not been sitting well with me for the past few days, this poking jab at Obama’s time as a community organizer (which apparently is an unworthy, mockable waste of time according to the McCain campaign).
So I set out on a brief journey to discover what I could about community organizers, to form my own opinion of their role & value:
Definition: Community organizing is a process by which disempowered people–most often low- and moderate-income people–are brought together to act in their common self-interest. Community organizers act as area-wide coordinators of programs for different agencies in an attempt to meet community needs for health and welfare services. They also facilitate self-help programs initiated by local common-interest groups, for example, by training local leaders to analyze and solve the problems of a community. Community organizers work actively, as do other types of social workers, in community councils of social agencies and in community-action groups.
Jane Addams and Hull House
The American Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movements, the Chicano movement, the feminist movement, and the gay rights movement all influenced and were influenced by ideas of neighborhood organizing.
Many of the most notable leaders in community organizing today emerged from the National Welfare Rights Organization. John Calkins of DART, Ernesto Cortes of the Industrial Areas Foundation, Wade Rathke of ACORN, John Dodds of Philadelphia Unemployment Project and Mark Splain of the AFL-CIO, among others.
Other famous community organizers include: Jane Addams, Cesar Chavez, Samuel Gompers, Martin Luther King, Jr., John L. Lewis, Ralph Nader, Barack Obama, Pat Robertson, and Paul Wellstone.
ACORN: “ACORN members, leaders and staff are extremely disappointed that Republican leaders would make such condescending remarks on the great work community organizers accomplish in cities throughout this country. The fact that they marginalize our success in empowering low- and moderate-income people to improve their communities further illustrates their out-of-touch with ordinary people. Through community organizing, people are empowered to take action to solve their own problems, develop leadership skills and make decisions that improve their lives and their communities.
ACORN has been building organizations and developing leadership among low- and moderate- income residents in neighborhoods throughout the United States for 38 years. During that time, ACORN chapters have worked individually and collectively to organize innovative grassroots campaigns on a number of critical issues. As the nation’s largest grassroots community organization with more than 400,000 member families, ACORN employs 400 organizers that carry a huge responsibility of helping disenfranchised people in their communities.
In the past 10 years, ACORN has helped more than 30 million American families through our various organizing campaigns: better schools, financial justice, living wages, community improvement, immigration, healthcare, predatory lending, voter engagement and utilities.
Source: ACORN website
Today, a piece by the city-side reporter in the New York Times ventured out to Hempstead in Long Island and took a look at a young organizer for a better perspective as well:
Feeling the Sting of Republican Barbs
By PETER APPLEBOME
Published: September 6, 2008
So you’re just out of school, you’re idealistic, you are interested in government, politics and public service. But you don’t really want to sit behind a desk and you would like to do something that seems connected to real life, tangible problems, struggling communities, maybe even, in a small way, positive change.
If you’re Peter Nagy, who is 24 and who graduated with two degrees from the University of Utah in 2005, you end up in the scruffy second-floor offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, in Hempstead, one of Nassau County’s poorest communities. You might work with tenants’ groups worried about inadequate security or onerous rent increases, homeowners facing foreclosure or predatory lending practices, residents fighting luxury condos that they fear will force out working-class people, bus riders facing cutbacks.
You expect long hours, low pay (starting salary $26,500) and the opportunity to practice a peculiarly American sort of activism: a job defined not by advocating for others but teaching them to advocate for themselves. You don’t expect what you do to loom large at a national political convention.
But then, you never know. So there he was last week, like thousands of his peers around the country who were in varying degrees of irritation as collateral damage in the political crossfire from the Republican National Convention. First former Gov. George E. Pataki, then former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and then the vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, all got their chance to imply that if Barack Obama had been a community organizer (a “bizarre left-wing appellative,” National Review Online reported) back in the 1980s, it probably was not a very good thing.
Mr. Nagy, a lanky Long Island native who spends his days meeting with mostly black and Latino residents and adding to an endless to-do list on a legal pad, seemed unfazed by it all. “I got the feeling they were denigrating any kind of work that people do in inner cities,” he said. “To the Republicans, that’s not their voters. So if they attempt to belittle work that goes on in the inner city, it doesn’t really matter to the people they’re trying to reach.”
Community organizing groups, many with ties to religious congregations, are not a monolith. Acorn, the nation’s largest network, which represents 400,000 families in 110 cities, is quite clearly allied with issues and constituencies that are embraced more often by Democrats than Republicans. Unlike other groups that are strictly nonpartisan, its political action committee has endorsed Barack Obama.
Acorn has been criticized at times as being overly centered on protest and confrontation. And it’s facing an embezzlement scandal, dating to 2000 but just brought to light, involving the brother of the organization’s founder, Wade Rathke, a reminder that being a good-government group doesn’t necessarily guarantee good self-government.
Still, it didn’t seem as if the festivities in St. Paul and Minneapolis had a huge impact on what was going on in the office Mr. Nagy shares with Ann Sullivan, 51, who has been building up Acorn’s Long Island network since the mid-1990s.
Mr. Nagy began Friday at Hempstead High School, meeting with officials about registering students to vote, then returned to his office with its decor of newspaper clippings taped to walls, posters reading “Fair Housing. It’s not an Option. It’s the Law,” the Acorn newspaper with the front-page headline “Foreclosure Fighters,” and slightly unexpected bumper stickers reading: “God is Good All the Time.”
He and Ms. Sullivan met briefly with a Hempstead resident named Angela Davis, who has cerebral palsy and had worries about safety and services in her building. She lamented how hard it was to get residents to voice their concerns. “People are afraid to come forward,” she said. “They’re afraid they’re going to be evicted.”
Later there were meetings with tenants of a residence for the elderly, and with other residents facing foreclosure, and then time knocking on doors in Westbury to try to make contacts and generate interest in a meeting about foreclosure issues.
“There are different kinds of power,” said Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York Acorn. “There’s electoral power. Movie stars have fame. Billionaires have money. Low- and moderate-income people have their numbers, and every great movement for social justice — Nelson Mandela preaching against apartheid, civil rights — have all been led by community organizers who took action and held their elected officials accountable.”
By week’s end, community organizers around the country, not surprisingly, had organized to push back, with a Web site (http://organizersfightback.wordpress.com) and public comments wondering just what’s so devious or marginal about what they do.
The site quotes John Raskin, founder of the Community Organizers of America and a community organizer on the West Side of Manhattan: “Maybe if everyone had more houses than they can count, we wouldn’t need community organizers. But I work with people who are getting evicted from their only home.”
Though Acorn leans left, it and other groups often have combative relationships with whatever party is in power. Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, a Democrat who has butted heads with Acorn, said that while organizers and community groups can be a thorn in the side of public officials, that is the way the system is supposed to work.
“Their job is to take individual weaknesses and create organized strength to address systemic socioeconomic problems,” he said. “The fact that Republicans would mock what they do really points up their fundamental lack of understanding of what people who are jobless, on the brink of it, or facing stagnant wages, are up against today.”