All is Well that Ends Well in Organizing Training


Fayetteville, NC          Fayetteville, North Carolina is not a small town with a population exceeding 200,000, but it feels smaller, because it seems spread out horizontally, filled with big yards and wide streets.  The tiny regional airport is unpretentious and miles from the center of town, nestled off the interstate in the trees.  Walking along the concourse and near the baggage claim area the adverts give off a very military vibe, which is not surprising, because Fayetteville is the supply depot and entry point for giant Fort Liberty, formerly Bragg.  I had an excellent guide to the past and present of Fayetteville in Pat McCoy, longtime comrade and friend from ACORN days, who is has been the head organizer of Action NC, the North Carolina ACORN successor organization, and is now the co-director of that organization, who’s personal and family history also intersected with the city.

We were lucky Fayetteville wasn’t larger.  Pat and I had the donuts and coffee ready for the training and Tarsha Gunn, one of the ANC local leaders, had gotten everything organized and ready to rock.  The closer it got to the 10am Saturday starting time, the more we were scratching our heads at the fact that no one had arrived.  Signs were made in case people came to the front.  Scouts were sent to the street.  Finally, Tarsha had the ah-ha moment.  We had the wrong address on the flyer and had sent people to the old office, not the new one in this co-working space.  We jumped in the car, got there in minutes, and caravaned back in lickety-split fashion, so that we could start about 20 minutes after ten, not much later than we might have begun had everyone been milling around getting to know each other over coffee and Krispy Crèmes.  It was kind of embarrassing for us old hands with more than 100 years of experience between us, but once nearly twenty people from eight different organizations settled in, it was no never mind.

As usual in these joint Anthropocene Alliance and ACORN trainings, the groups were diverse, having come to climate, environmental, and community issues from different, often very personal, directions.  This session had more service-oriented groups than some of the others.  Groups dealing with lead and chemical poisoning, job development, land trusts, and community gardens, as well as art and culture, and even wigs.  Two of the organizations were firmly based in community as well, one with the Waccamaw Indian people and another from the Gullah Geechee Chamber Foundation, both around Myrtle Beach in the low country.

We heard frightful stories that sometimes took surprising turns.  Many complained of being oppressed by their proximity to military installations of one kind or another from sonic booms that would rattle the dishes to rivers poisoned with military waste practices.  After practicing raps, hearing about what an ACORN community organizing drive looks like, and going through campaign scenarios about flooding and home insurance, and having a lunch caucus about community radio, since we had helped on three or four of these groups make applications, there wasn’t time to explore that issue, but it might have been interesting to do so.

The session may have started in confusion, but I can honestly say it ended with a bang.