Interesting Questions from the Netroots Crowd

ACORN ACORN International Citizen Wealth Community Organizing Financial Justice

New Orleans    Netroots has become a big event for the digerati, especially the subset involved in internet campaigning and the like.  This year they held their annual confab in New Orleans.  In August, believe me on this, the Morial Convention Center makes some deals to bring people into the city, and, thank goodness, they brought in some good folks this time!   The latest, and reportedly the last, version of “The Organizer” documentary was kicking off the film screenings, and I was scheduled to do the Q&A after it ran.

I was a hot mess having landed after 1 AM from Charlotte only hours before.  I was running late for a quick meeting before the screening, parked at a two-hour meter knowing I was going to get a ticket, and bolted towards the Convention Center and the elevator going up to the meeting rooms.

Whoops!  Security was tighter than an airport!  No badge-y-no entry!  I fast walk to registration that then pushes me between three different tables as weird punishment for having missed some kind of internet code they might have sent me in Honduras, but, oh well, the internet does not end bureaucracy, it just creates another kind of impersonal set of gates to goods and services.

All good, I made it when I needed to be there.  The documentary had so many changes, I almost didn’t recognize some parts, even after having sat through it at least thirty times before, but I learn from the Q&A’s, so I was in for a penny, in for a pound, and it was worth it.  I knew some of the audience.  Hector Vaca and one of the new organizers from Action NC, formerly North Carolina ACORN, was there, as was Ron Neimark, a former Local 100 organizer now in Minnesota, and Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, son of Local 100’s field director from Houston, Orell Fitzsimmons, and Judy Graves, an ACORN organizer in Iowa and Texas, and now a long time CWA staff and deputy organizing director of that union.  A woman in the back whispered to me after the start of the film a question about whether I was related to her former accounting professor at Southern University at New Orleans, and when I told her he was my father, it was a special moment.

And, many of the questions were excellent and insightful.  The lead question was the obvious one:  why had more groups not learned from the ACORN scam attack?  Answer: beats me!  Predictably given the crowd, I was asked about how current social media might have impacted ACORN organizing methods a decade ago and now.  I answered, but raised the issue of the “digital poorhouse,” as a warning that the progressive digerati needed to oppose this and raise it up higher on the “to do” list.  One woman astutely observed that she could tell from the movie that our organizer recruitment program had changed from the 70s from idealist young white, college educated organizers to a more diverse, constituency reflected staff, so that was fun to talk about.

Importantly, one question noted that the new climate in the last ten years made diversity important, but anti-racism a greater priority, so how would ACORN have responded and represented in the current climate.  I answered that we always had been at the vanguard of adaptation to changing times politically and culturally, and I thought we would have continued in that vein, since the nature of successful organizing is adaptation on all fronts.  Having touted Automating Inequality earlier, I asked who had read Stamped from the Beginning and its anti-racism argument around historical figures and movements.  The book was known more than read, I joked that I was sounding like Oprah, but that only proved how much time I still spent on airplanes.

I didn’t even mind the $30-dollar parking ticket.


Sky Full of Song by Florence & The Machine.

Thanks to KABF.