Plotting the Future, Drowning in Opportunity

Cardiff     Whether the leadership of ACORN International, led by President Marva Burnett from Canada, meeting under the shade, appropriately of an oak tree, or the organizers from around the world, joining the leaders, in talking about our directions for the future sitting in a circle on floor-seats in a yurt, it was clear we had grown by leaps and bounds during the past year.  Membership and dues were up everywhere.  Campaigns and victories were stirring and significant from Delhi to Tegucigalpa, from Lima to Newcastle, from Toronto to Paris to Bristol to Glasgow to even Detroit and Cleveland.  It was exciting to be part of the discussion.

We were not only growing in the cities where we had staff, but everywhere we were facing a challenge:  we were drowning in opportunity.  On one hand we had new cities where we had committed to building organization like Montreal in Canada and Montpelier in France, but we also had three new groups in Tunis where we needed to tighten down our supply lines.  We had affiliated our partners in Liberia but were trying to see if we could expand by uniting noncommercial radio and direct organizing in Kampala and other cities in Uganda.  We had added new groups in Manchester and Brighton successfully and seen our chapters in Birmingham begin a revival, but had twenty or more invitations from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and throughout cities large and small in England and Scotland asking for assistance and wanting to join ACORN.  We were training and developing initial plans to expand in Belgium and Bulgaria and trying to figure out how to support our allies in Greece and Slovakia, but everywhere we faced critical need and urgent requests, but we’re stretched to breaking in our ability to respond robustly.

Over and over again the discussions would hit ceilings and walls.  Common themes continued to emerge.  Every project, large and small, needed more staff and more money.  The leadership had discussed how to start to create a procedure for evaluation affiliations and facilitating expansion.  The staff started to grab the bull by the horns to discuss not only how each national affiliate could train staff and resource its program by how we could develop training centers and pool our more limited resources to raise the money to expand and answer the demands from so many other communities and countries.

Nothing sounded simple.  We had to smooth out the structure.  We had to keep the doors open.  We needed to figure out how to standardize our training programs in Canada, France, and England for new organizers and operations.  We were unsure how we could finance even the efforts to bootstrap to hire a development person to raise more money.

Nonetheless by the end of the meeting there was an emerging consensus on what needed to be done to stop the “moaning” and embrace the future.

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Please enjoy Kinky Friedman’s Autographs in the Rain.

Thanks to KABF.

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Detention Centers for Immigrant Families and Children – The Arkansas Welcome Mat

Tent City in Texas where children and being held.

Little Rock       Trump’s executive order claimed to end the family separation policy, but it doesn’t end the crisis or solve the problems.  Officials from the Department of Human Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement reportedly were scurrying around the country trying to find federal facilities that could house up to 20,000 unaccompanied children and an untold number of others.  They were particularly enamored of military installations, viewing several locations in Texas and Arkansas.

One site they inspected was an abandoned US Department of Agriculture site in Kelso, Arkansas in the southeastern delta area of the state.  That site is only two miles from Rohwer, Arkansas, little known for anything much these days and hardly a postage stamp of a town, but infamous for having served as one of the notorious Japanese-American detention camps during World War II in one of the darker periods of American racial and ethnic history.   Even as tone deaf as the Trump administration has been about its mishandling of the migrant and refugee crisis at the border with Mexico, it is still hard for me to believe they would be clueless enough to allow the media a political field day that would come with setting up a 21st century version of the same horror so close to the ongoing stain of America’s own experience in running concentration camps.

Mayor DeBlasio of New York City was horrified visiting a center in his city that held over 200 children that had been separated from their families at the border and was protesting loudly his inability to get answers from federal authorities on the status and future of these children.  The Mayor of Houston told the federal government he did not want them to construct a planned detention center in his city.  Governor Cuomo of New York said his state didn’t want to have anything to do with children and family detention centers.  In the alternate reality of Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson welcomed the feds interest in his state and made suggestions, including about the feasibility of the Little Rock Air Force Base as a detention facility.  There is controversy in Arkansas over monuments celebrating the ten commandments on the state capitol grounds, but any religious concern by conservative Arkansas politicians for family values evaporates when they start reading the stories about billions of dollars of contracts and jobs galore to run these children prisons.  I think there are a good many passages in the bible about the dangers of serving mammon, which is the greedy pursuit of wealth, as opposed to God, but I’ll leave that argument to others.

While the Trump administration is real estate shopping for prison facilities, their lawyers are begging the federal judge to allow them to extend the time they are able to hold children past twenty days and potentially hold their families indefinitely.  The judge has expressed previous reservations about the handling of immigrants and is the daughter of immigrants herself.  Trump’s pleading faces an uphill battle.

I listened this morning to the director of Catholic Charities in Fort Worth, Texas that have received about twenty of these children between five and twelve years old from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.  Some of the young children have no idea what a phone number for their families might be.  Others can hardly speak, complicating resettlement.  They continue with their policy of trying to find family members to take the children and try to connect them to their families, while standing in solidarity with their bishop and his condemnation of the Trump program as an insult to the “right to life” and its dignity.

A piece of paper won’t solve this crisis, nor will hard lines and hard hearts.

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