Category Archives: Community Organizing

Five Thousand Blogs and What do You Get

New Orleans       When you do something every day, rain or shine, here or abroad, every once in a while, you need to take stock, and evaluate whether a disciplined practice is a trivial habit, an obsession, or a deep rut with no escape route.  I say this because when doing my daily “Chief Organizer Report” or Blog or whatever you or I might call it, I number it.  Today, as I write before dawn on December 5th, 2019 the number is 5000.  That’s not a small number!  Running at least 500 words a posting, that’s more than 2.5 million words, and that’s a lot of words as well.  It’s fair for any of you – and me — to ask whether I’m just talking to myself and a rat in my pocket, another voice in the wilderness, or if there’s a method behind all of this madness.

We organize people, lots of people, so that they have a voice.  In a small way, this is also my voice, so it matters to me, and others who read or hear it.  Some parts of the question are easy to answer now that the last 1000 or more of these postings are also podcasts that are broadcasted on a regular, daily schedule on our radio stations and partners in Little Rock, New Orleans, Greenville, Nairobi, Flagstaff, Columbus, Dallas, and more. Then there’s more outlets where people can stumble on them besides just our organizational websites.  There’s Facebook for sure and even the terrible Twitter.  At the same time, it’s personal for me, something like a daily log of where I’ve been and a journal of what might be on my mind worth sharing, my blog has become part of the “architecture of my day.”

We’re yelling in a big wilderness though.  Asking Google, they took me to an even bigger number, saying…

There are over 600 million blogs in the world today, out of over 1.7 billion websites. In the United States, there are over 31 million active bloggers posting at least once per month. And according to data from Ahrefs, people search Google for “How to start a blog” 121,000 times per month worldwide.  (www.growthbadger.com)

If there were only one tongue wagging in that forest, could anyone hear it?  Good question, but clearly, we are not alone!

Looking back, my first blog was written in Havana, Cuba on March 14th, 2004, fifteen years ago, giving my impressions and reports on meetings there.  My 2000th in 2011 was from Missoula, Montana, where I was reading about the fight over the debt ceiling and at a neighboring table, the couple said the big news was caterpillars.  The 3000th was from Bristol, England where I was bemoaning the obstacles to making the Affordable Care Act work in June 2014.  My 4000th saw me sharing a discussion of digital organizing tools for building mass movements on a cold January day in New Orleans in 2017.  You get the picture.  There’s always something, and it’s not boring.

In the beginning, it wasn’t every day, but gradually over the years became so, everything being equal.  It ended up as 5000 blogs over 5540 days besting 90% of the time even after a slow start.

Does it really matter?  Being able to note the work of great organizations, campaigns, organizers, and leaders, their comings, their goings, and even their passing is worth the work. When I see that one of my pieces is on the first page of a Google search on somebody or something, that seems to count.  It doesn’t equal change, but it’s another log on the fire, another light in the dark.  Calls, letters, and threats from some of the subjects of these pieces along with comments and reflections from friends and colleagues and others gives it value.

Working around the world over the last fifteen years, one thing I’ve learned is that not everyone is allowed to have a voice.  The opportunity is taken away and silenced.  Having a voice only matters if it is used, so bear with me until we truly are able to “take it from here to there.”  In the meantime, I’ll keep at it, so stick with me until we get there.

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JT Introduces the Documentary

KABF Documentary is a Winner

Little Rock      JT Tarpley approached us out of the blue three years ago with a wild and crazy idea.  He wanted to make a documentary about KABF, our 100,000-watt noncommercial radio station broadcasting throughout central Arkansas.  This was during the time of troubles in the wake of the mind-blowing election of Donald Trump to the presidency turning so many people’s world upside down.  Tarpley’s notion was that he would tell the story of the resistance, if you will, through the lens of a foundational community institution, KABF.

How in the world would he manage that?  We didn’t know, but of course we said, yes, what did we have to lose?  It was a documentary after all.  Many are called, and few are completed, so what’s to worry.  The ACORN documentary, “The Organizer” drug on for eight years.  JT swore his would be different.  He was going to do it on a shoestring, and he was going to do it quickly.  Famous last words.

We heard from him last year.  Would a couple of us be willing to take a look at what he had been doing the last two years?  Ok, sure.  He then told me it was 180 minutes long.  Holy-moly!  We’ll watch some of it, but….  So, Toney Orr, KABF’s board chairmen, and John Cain, the program director, and me sat down with him and watched a bit on a busy day.  Our advice?  What did we know?  He had some interesting stuff, but it was just too long.  JT said he wanted to keep it all.  Ok, good luck.

KABF hosts catching the documentary

A week ago, he reached out.  The documentary now had a name: “88.3 FM – The Voice of the People.”  It was down to 100 minutes, and darned close to finished.  He wanted to know when I was next in Little Rock to see if we could do a “sneak preview” screening for KABF hosts and friends.  What the heck, sure, that was going to be a hella-day anyway with stops in Greenville and Drew, Mississippi, but I could be there by 630 PM in Vino’s back room.

We had a good, solid crowd of thirty or more, mostly KABF hosts.  And, lo and behold, I’ll be honest, to my surprise, it was a great documentary on the station!  Good camera work.  Parts of it were actually funny, which captures the true heart of KABF.  The diversity of the programming – and its hosts – old and young, black, white and Latino, came through clearly.  Ok, it was still too long.  Some pieces were ten minutes that should have been two, like the King march.  Too many speeches without enough connection to the main themes in the women’s march and the school closings, but, hey, that’s just a matter of tightening everything down.

Props to JT Tarpley for a crazy idea and for making it happen.  I’m biased, but my verdict as a now experienced documentary veteran, is that once this is at a festival near you, or anywhere you can get your hands on it, grab a copy or a chair and enjoy.  Then, throw a couple of dollars towards Tarpley so he can get it finished and always remember to show some love to KABF and become a member and jump for your wallet during pledge drives.

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