Pearl River In the early spring of each year, the ACORN federation’s leadership comes together in a governance call. This year was more of a challenge. With the pandemic receding, whether in reality or in our minds, there were more scheduling conflicts with other meetings, training sessions, and even long postponed holidays. Regardless, whenever a dozen leaders come together from countries around the world, it’s amazing to hear the diversity of voices speaking through the Zoom galaxy, and share the leaders’ surprise at the commonality of the issues many of them are facing.
We heard the term “New Deal” in several different iterations. Various proposals were “green” as in Green Retrofits, an emerging international campaign pioneered in France, but also part of the branding around some other efforts like the bioswale projects in Louisiana. Before the call, one of the staff support team, asked me if the board was likely to raise the issue of Ukraine and whether to take a position on the current invasion by Russia. I told him that I was doubtful that it would come up, but, as it turned out, I was only partially correct. The representatives from the ACORN affiliate in the Czech Republic, centered in Prague, indicated that a major part of their program was pivoting to deal with the influx of Ukrainian refugees. Our ACORN building cooperative there was also now moving to establish a community center of sorts to handle issues and support for this wave of families fleeing the war. No resolution was proposed or adopted, but other delegates were supportive to the work in Prague on this issue that was much on everyone’s mind.
Housing, tenants’ rights, rent control, and rehabilitation of housing, like retrofits, were raised in different forms by leaders from Canada, England, Scotland, France, and the United States, but now inflation and its impacts were part of the reports and the urgency of the campaign planning. Everyone knew there were going to be impacts, but no one was sure that we could control the harms that were coming.
In the Zoom chat, the “wows” and hurrahs were flying after the French leadership reported on the victory in the French Senate supporting the right of the “hijabbers”, as they were called there. These women wearing hijabs wanted to be able to play sports and access public facilities, and have now won the right. Sadly, these attacks on religious wear by Muslim women were also a common refrain and not just in Francophone areas like Montreal. Dharmendra Kumar in Delhi reported that attacks on women and girls wearing hijabs were also increasing in India, where in Karnataka the state government was barring any girls wearing hijabs in the public schools.
Pulling all of these pieces together internationally isn’t easy, because some of the targets are so local and national. Retrofits, rent control, and anti-Muslim attacks might be common, but the resolutions are complex. International efforts are valuable in aiding research, as well as collecting tactical and strategic information with every success adding encouragement and precedent. Hearing leaders share insights, advice and support for each other builds the organization that much stronger, making these calls essential.