London I had met with our ACORN London crew nine months earlier as they were just beginning their work here. Now there were branches formed in Haringey, a launch coming soon in Hackney, and other groups forming with actions here and there and more than 400 members now in this brief period. The office was still in a co-op space at the top of a five-floor walkup near the Finsbury Park stop on the Victorian line of the Underground.
The branch was hard at a campaign to improve swimming pools in the area which had become more expensive, dirtier, and sketchier than they had been when under public supervision by the council. Ostensibly, a social charity was now running the operation of this pool and others in London and throughout the United Kingdom, but its website made it seem like a small sports empire in the guise of a charity. Recently, the branch had done an action, highlight the queues, by standing in line at the pool’s desk and each individually handing a demand letter to the attendant, demanding a meeting, which is upcoming. The video made by one of the members was short, quick, and effective. The organizer, Fredi Genz, and I drifted later into a conversation about using TikTok as an organizing and communication tool, and that video seemed made to purpose, once we sort out this platform.
ACORN was showing The Organizer that evening at the headquarters of the Voices of the World Union in East London. A BBC short about the independent union and its work had been shown at the ACORN conference in Sheffield. Its organizer and leader, Petros, had tried to zoom in from a picket in Brighton. We entered the space through their office, and I briefly shook his hand on the way through, before moving to set up the space. The crowd hit the range expected by the “yesses” that Fredi had recorded with about thirty there. Where the members in Brighton had laughed regularly and those in Bradford had often smiled and winked at the same moments, this being London, it was a young, but sober and silent group during the screening, but they responded with boisterous applause when it finished.
The questions were serious as well and much more political, rather than the usual organizational queries. One asked whether organizers could be more demonstrative about their personal politics now than 50 years ago in Arkansas. I replied that an organizer needed to still decide whether personal politics were more important than building the mass organization. In the many showings I’ve had, I got my first question about whether ACORN used patriotism and the flag as organizing tools. We didn’t, and I said so, but the question still made me curious where it might have come from? Other questions about preparing against attack and assuring the permanence of the organization and lessons learned were both common and welcome.
It was certain that we had ups and downs in building ACORN in London over the last eight years of our history, but equally clear now hearing the members, meeting the leaders, and visiting with the organizers, that we were on solid ground now and building rapidly. ACORN is going to be huge in London in the years to come!