ACORN at 54


New Orleans       There’s a call on my calendar about getting ACORN up and running in Cleveland by organizing tenants there.  One of the participants noted that it was a perfect way to celebrate Juneteenth.  Indeed!  Pairing the date with yesterday’s fifty-fourth anniversary of ACORN’s founding is also kind of special in its own way, especially this week, when it is bookended on one end by the wonderful and exciting ACORN Canada convention, where they celebrated their twentieth anniversary, and the second national conference of ACORN in the United Kingdom, where they are also celebrating their tenth anniversary.  I count myself wildly lucky to be present at both of these special, historic events.

Personally, I love these big meetings, as hard and expensive as they are to organize, because it gives me an opportunity to personally visit with ACORN members, hear what they are thinking, and understand their vision for ACORN’s importance in their lives.  Local organizers are lucky.  They get to visit and talk to members every day.  I use to tell organizers to enjoy every minute as a local group organizer, both the great days and the hard ones, because they will miss those days as they advance in the organization.  It’s been decades since I drank from that same well.

Having been with the organization in one way or another for all of these fifty-four years, I think about this often, but at no time more than when I’m standing there watching them in so many ways make the organization their very own.  I found myself thinking about all of this as I helped members unload their bags when they arrived.  Standing along the march route there’s also a certain peace, even while I’m trying to see what’s ahead of us and calculating how far behind the end of the column might be, in listening to the roar of the chants and feeling the crackling excitement from so many simultaneously.  These are amazing experiences for us all.

In sports, the camera always lingers on great players taking their last look at the field or the court, knowing their time as a participant, rather than an observer has finally come.  I found myself watching the ACORN Canada convention in the same way, knowing I had so many fewer ahead of me, than behind.  Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to contribute fully in different ways another half-dozen years and experience three more Canada and UK conventions, past their 25th and 15th years.

It didn’t feel like nostalgia though.  There were no regrets.  Frankly, there was relief.  This was no longer “my” organization and hadn’t been so for many years.  Every one of these members had embraced ACORN as their own in various special ways.  They had brought their own ideas and culture into the organization in a continuing evolution to inhabit it fully.  Members, leaders, and organizers now had clutched the organization tightly.  It’s exciting for me to imagine the future.  I’m with them now, but every day, the organization is increasingly, firmly in their grasp, and it is in very good hands.