Montreal ACORN celebrates its anniversary or “founding day” every June 18th, the day I drove into Little Rock, Arkansas from New Orleans, Louisiana to begin the work of building the organization. People have often asked me, “did you ever imagine ACORN would get this big when you started” or “would be in this many places” or “would have this impact” or “would be…” this or that. Whatever the question might be, the answer, honestly is always the same: yes and no. We always imagined in our dreams that ACORN and the branches of its work could be so many things, but we were organizers so we also knew the odds were long, the struggle was real, and the chances were slim that we would survive even a year much less forty-five years in any shape or form.
The truth is that no one can predict anything in building mass organization with anywhere near complete certainty. The only thing you can ultimately control is your own commitment to continue the work every day in the belief that it adds up to organization and the change you are trying to realize.
Forty-five years is a long time in organizational life and an epic period for social change and social movement organizations. Sometimes ACORN was smaller, and sometimes it was larger. Sometime we were in this neighborhood and other times in that one. Sometimes we were strong in certain cities and weak in others. Sometime we won, and sometimes we lost. Sometime we opened new frontiers, new towns, even new countries, and sometimes we did not and other times we even saw the frontiers close, the cities fall, and the countries deserted. The only thing that was always constant over forty-five years, and remains true to this day, is that the work never stopped, the organization never abandoned the fight, and we never quit.
So in the forty-five years of ACORN’s history to date, there have been huge ups and terrible downs, but the work has always continued. We were both bigger and more powerful in the United States than in any other country, but we also were brought down lower than anywhere else there. The work continued though, through all kinds of weather, so that now ACORN has nearly 80,000 members in Canada and 40,000 in India with huge potential in France and the United Kingdom. Who knows what might be possible in another five years or ten or twenty or even another forty-five? The only thing certain is that the work continues every day under the ACORN banner, no matter how hard it might be to predict the future.
I’m often asked, “Will ACORN come back to what it once was in the United States?” Who knows? I do know that the work of many of the successor organizations that survived the attack on ACORN has continued unabated in the same tradition with good results. I do know that ACORN itself continues to build bridges and encourage the work in various cities and states among workers and low-and-moderate income communities.
Who would have imagined the organization would continue the battles for forty-five years? Not me! I was of the generation that thought it was a miracle to make it to thirty years old personally, and I’ve been riding for the ACORN brand for every day of those forty-five years of its history. Still, the only thing I know for sure is the same thing I knew on the first day I drove into Little Rock: as long as people fight the fight and do the work, the future is impossible to predict, but anything, and everything, is possible.