Category Archives: ACORN

Putting the Fist on the Wood Again

Pearl River     The sports pages are full of discussion about whether or not baseball players will be putting the wood on the ball soon in huge, empty parks, or whether basketball players will be bouncing the rubber on the hardwood courts to resume their season.  For organizers, putting the fist on the wood again, means that we’re gearing up to hit the doors again.

Now that France has reopened, first tests in Lyon, France last week in a social housing project where we are organizing were golden.  The masked organizer had no problems getting families to open their doors.  He signed up a new member while he was out there.  One member he visited had already personally gotten thirty signatures on their petition to the government to cancel rent debt by going door to door on the bottom floors near where she lived.  He only took off his mask when there was an impromptu house meeting with three folks, none of whom were wearing.   A report half as good would have still been solid.  In a quick test in New Orleans, we found much the same thing.

In England, ACORN has been having zoom trainings to put out “an army,” as they are calling it, of door knockers in our neighborhoods to raise up our new campaign called, “Housing is Health.”  The trainings make sure that all of the volunteer organizing committee members are sensitive to the new pandemic environment for our work and are comfortable going forward, but there is little doubt about the success this mass doorknocking will have.  Partially, that comes from ACORN’s successful experience in the United Kingdom of having mobilized thousands of volunteers in Covid-19 support and solidarity work over the last two months.  We’ve been in and around homes in our communities already deliverying grocery and pharmacy orders.  I apologize for the pun, but ACORN has already taken the pulse of our communities, so now it’s time to get the job done.

Talking to an organizer in Milwaukee about our experience and whether it made sense for his team to start canvassing to register voters in the area, my recommendation was categorically, yes, once he indicated that his program was targeting minority, low-and-moderate, and youth communities. Their doors are unlocked and ready to respond.  The success rate is likely to be amazing, because more people will be home, out of work or furloughed.

Out in the suburbs, upper middle-income areas, or lily-white neighborhoods, the response and my recommendation would have been different, but to tell the truth, many of those areas didn’t open their doors to us before the pandemic, so why would it be different now?  Summer is our season, and all around the world, we’re getting ready to go hard, go big, and make it happen on the doors again.

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Time to Hit the Streets Again

New Orleans       In the United States all states are now opened with different levels of restrictions and rules.  While businesses try to lead people back into malls and restaurants, many of us, listening to our members and their concerns, know that it is also time for us to lead our people back into the streets.  Protest is always timely against injustice, but for many around the world it took a holiday during stay-at-home orders, and politicians and autocrats tried to fill the void with new rules and expanded powers to keep it that way.

Certainly, there have been tactical adaptations.  Many organizations have organized car caravans, encircling targets and their buildings, if anyone was still in them, with hundreds of vehicles.  Online protests have proliferated.  Business and governments were already disrupted, so many of these actions were more like a dab of icing on a cake already pretty baked.

The far right engaged in direct actions to demand that government reopen states for business in many states to huge publicity.  The fact that a fair number of protestors were armed in Michigan, including when they stormed into the state capital in Lansing, has now led the governor to declare that protests with guns and rifles in such situations are now illegal, open carry be damned.  There was a lot of finger wagging and tongue clicking about the protestors lack of social distancing and the absences of masks, but tactically the actions were effective and a number of state legislatures and even the Wisconsin Supreme Court took up their banner.

I’m an organizer, not an ideologue, so I give the devil his due.  They had the right to protest.  Freedom of speech in public spaces is a basic constitutional right and central to our ability to express both our aspirations and resolve our grievances.  Some politicians from the president on down to governors and mayors went across the line in using the police and emergency powers to restrain such protests.  These are precedents we have to oppose, before they are turned against all of us, as surely, they will be.

There are creative opportunities right now.  Talking to ACORN’s head organizer in France about this, he shared a picture of an action by CGT, the huge French labor federation.  Workers were protesting and doing so with masks and six feet apart.  The picture was impressive.  The action was effective.

For organizers working with mass organizations, this is a gift.  Two hundred people spaced out on the streets looks like one-thousand.  For members worried about neighbors or bosses seeing them at an action or in the media, masks are the definitive disguise.  Masks with the ACORN insignia are even better than buttons and almost as good as flags and banners.  Speaking of banners, having six-foot banners held by protestors both underlines the distancing and raises the profile of the protest.  We can also string people together with paper tape with ACORN’s logo all over it.

Whatever?  Come up with your own thing.  My point is simple:  it is now time to take back the streets, let our voices roar, and let our bodies stand up for the anger in our hearts.

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