Tag Archives: Columbus

Morgan Harper, candidate for Congress in Ohio 3rd district

Second Saturday Salon in Columbus

Columbus        It has been a long day, but a good one in Columbus, Ohio. I had met for hours with my colleague and partner in the Voter Purge Project, Steve Tingley-Hock, in Marysville, a bit more than 30 miles out of town, and then at the Lincoln Café in town with Barbara Clark, the former head organizer for ACORN in the city with some of her old members about starting ACORN again.  I was staying in a bedroom off the 3rd floor library in the home of the multii-dimensional activists, Bob Fitrakis and Suzanne Patzer, who were teachers, lawyers, editors, film, radio and video impresarios, and more.   They had been my hosts at the Columbus Film Festival 18 months ago when “The Organizer” was the social justice film of the year, and Bob and I had crossed paths in Detroit in the 70s.  Subsequently, I had contributed an almost every month column on organizing to the Columbus Free Press that they own and edit.  I reached out for Suzanne at the last minute and asked if they had room for me in the attic for my quickly scheduled trip to meet with Steve.  She’d said, of course, but mentioned the Free Press crowd was getting together that Saturday night from 7pm on, and I was welcome to attend as well, since it was going to be in the house.

Little did I know?  The event turned out to be the Second Saturday Salon, which they have hosted ever second Saturday since 2004!  It’s impossible not to appreciate the value of such  a gathering of the tribes in Columbus, ostensibly in the name of the paper.

It was advertised as an open house salon from 630pm to midnight.  I went down a bit after 7pm not wanting to interrupt the festivities by checking my phone too often in Ohio State’s backyard in the last minutes of what looked like the end of a long drought with LSU beating Alabama. I was wrong for that, since it turned out the game was on in one of the rooms with a crowd. People were everywhere. Food and drink were laid out in several rooms.  It was a diverse crowd,skewing a bit towards the elderly, but not too ridiculously.

Harvey Wasserman with Canvassers

With the game over and people well fed, there was an effort to share a program for those interested.  The first speaker was Morgan Harper, a dynamic 36-year old African-American woman who was running as a Democrat against a long established incumbent black woman.  She was endorsed by the Justice Democrats, the upstart group pushing a more left Congressional program in the shadow of some of the 2018 midterm upsets.  I was lavishly introduced by Bob for some brief remarks about ACORN’s current work around housing and tenant rights as well as an update on the brand new Voter Purge Project and its impact on Ohio.  Harvey Wasserman, a longtime anti-nuke activist from the area spoke at some length with two canvassers, one a former ACORN worker, on their recent effort to get a referendum on the ballot and the intimidation their teams had faced from blockers paid by the utility company and a competitive fake petition that paid them $8 per signature.  Quite a story!

Regardless, what a wonderful way to gather people, update and let them meet and greet, network and exchange information, old and new.  I picked up a volunteer who was game to help on the data crunching and another who said she would help raise money for us to acquire voter files.  Harper, whose great signs encouraged people to be “morganizers,” got some signatures on her filing petition.  I snuck out before ten to my resting place, but it was still going strong with about 15 or 20 people milling about.

Every city should be lucky enough to have such a salon!  Why not yours?


Finding Fellow Travelers Across the Country

Wade with Bob Fitrakis (on right)

Columbus      After an exciting day in Youngstown meeting with officials of the Mahoning County Land Bank and getting to understand their operation and the challenges they face more clearly, as well as the opportunities and potential a partnership might yield we enjoyed a great meal prepared by former Pittsburgh ACORN and current ANEW leader, Anita Drummond, while we met with our members of the ACORN Home Savers Campaign and sought to make continued progress on their path to home ownership with their contract holder, Vision Property Management.  Those meetings turned out to be truly a glass half-filled, once I traveled onto Columbus where “The Organizer” was one of the opening shows for the Columbus International Film and Animation Festival founded in 1952, making it the oldest film festival in the United States.

The film was showing in the historic Drexel Theater in Columbus which in addition to everything else just happens to have perhaps the most comfortable seats I’ve ever experienced in a movie theater ever.  The audience was diverse and responsive.  It was good to meet so many committed and caring people in Ohio’s capital where we need legions to join and follow them if we are ever to change America.

A huge dividend though was finding just how small the world has become over the years.  The spark plugs behind “The Organizer” winning the Free Press Independent Film Award at the festival were The Free Press’ editor-in-chief Bob Fitrakis and associate editor Suzanne Patzer, who is also his wife.  Bob it turned out had been an old friend and supporter from Detroit in the late 1970s when ACORN began organizing in that city and was the landlord to countless ACORN organizers, interns, and trainees when he had owned a giant 3-storey house there where it seemed everyone lived, and I certainly spent a couple of nights sometime back-in-the-day.  He kept referring to it as the “ACORN commune,” but I’m sure he meant it in the best of ways though later he couldn’t help mentioning what a mess living with all the organizers was, though he gracefully excused it on their endless working hours.  Oh, to be young!

Bob it turned out had subsequently gotten a PhD in political philosophy and a law degree as well somewhere along the line, and ended up in Columbus, where he seems to wear a bunch of different hats, perhaps in no small measure thanks to Suzanne’s ability to keep them on his head.  Besides being a lawyer with a host of pro bono clients and some that occasionally pay and working with others to keep the monthly Free Press alive, which all seems too familiar, they also are active in the noncommercial radio world to boot.  These were brothers and sisters of another mother.  Interviewing for one of their shows run on the low-power WGRN 94.1FM, his co-host was Dan Dugan, who quickly mentioned to me that he had been a canvasser for ACORN during the time of Cate Poe and Fred Brooks in Columbus and asked me when I had shaved off my mustache.

There were endless old stories and new ones that needed to be told, including hearing the grisly details from Bob’s partner of how he represented ACORN successfully when ACORN and the NAACP were accused of registering voters in 2008 by giving them crack, but most amazingly was the joy at finding how many of us are still burrowed deeply in cities across America and the world and keeping the flame and fight alive on every front possible.