Citizen Wealth, the Movie

Little Rock   We’ve talked about “crowd sourcing” as a method of using the power of many to come together collectively to make something happen.  Most recently I’ve written about trying a “citizen journalism” project at KABF to put audio-files on-the-air of what people in the listening area believe is community news.  Earlier, I’ve written about Ushahidi in Nariobi which developed a tool using SMS text messages to track post-election violence in Kenya.   The same system has also been used to spread information after disasters like the recent earthquake in Japan.

The notion of “crowd sourcing” is also behind Kickstarter.  Someone proposes a project and people who believe the project is a good idea independently come together to support it with a pledge of donations from as low as $5 to as high as whatever it might be, in the case of Citizen Wealth, the Movie, $10,000.  The trick behind Kickstarter is that unless the stated goal of the project is reached, no one has to pony up their pledge, but if the goal is met, then everyone pitches in, which brings me to the point today.

Over recent years four or five different sets of folks have approached me about their interest in doing a documentary film on ACORN from one angle or another.  It’s hard to make a documentary.  It takes time, skill, money, and great good luck, so I say “yes” to one and all and help in whatever way I am asked in hope that one of them (or more!) will actually succeed.  Two of these efforts led by Nick Taylor from Toronto and Joey Carey from Brooklyn have combined forces over the last year to try, after four years of working independently, to get a film done.  They optioned my book, Citizen Wealth:  Winning the Campaign for Working Families, they managed to get access to all of the video archives on ACORN at the Wisconsin Historical Society and get everything digitized, they’ve raised some money, done a trailer, and it looks like they have a good chance of getting it done.

They are trying to raise $30,000 through Kickstarter.  So far, so good, more than 140 folks have contributed almost $19,000 with 10 days to go to make up the last $11,000 which might be the hardest part of the climb.  Look at the trailer below.  Frankly, I was excited about some of the archival footage and how they have woven the pieces together.  I would love to see them make it, but I’m not sure they can do so without some of you becoming part of their crowd and clicking through the links to pledge whatever you can, $5, $50, of $500.  Give ‘em a shot, so the story can be told. Link to Citizen Wealth, the Movie donation page. 

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Karla Lara, Valle de Angeles, and Informal Worker Unions

karla lara honduras(1) Tegucigalpa The highlight reel of this year’s annual meeting of ACORN International’s board and staff is rolling out now.  The Mexican and San Pedro Sula delegation were on a morning bus Saturday for the journeys home.  At 4 AM I saw off the first five from ACORN Canada heading for their 24 hour journey home.   A universal assessment from one and all was “bueno reunion!”

Saturday was the wind down day.  Dilica Zavala, ACORN International’s organizer in Tegucigalpa thought the folks might enjoy a short trip to an old colonial village 30 kilometers up the mountain, Valle de Angeles, where we ate pupusas in the rain and any interest in souvenirs could be easily handled.

Mildred Edmond, Local 100 United Labor Union’s president, sat next to me in the van and told me that “I couldn’t even imagine how much the meeting and the visit meant to her,” and I felt like she was speaking for me and probably everyone there!

I thought of this often the night before at Cinefilia, a mutli-purpose bar, restaurant, video rental, and meeting space popular with the resistance crowd.  For an hour I had enjoyed sitting on the window sill listening to the great Honduran singer, Karla Lara, sing South American protest songs and romantic ballads.  Her voice was full, robust and gorgeous as she swayed to her songs.  The power of the singing and music was fascinating because it transcended language itself.  I could fall bits and pieces of the verses, but eventually would almost not try and instead just connect to the power and passion of the singer, the singing, and the music itself.  Several times Karla Lara dedicated individual songs to me and to ACORN International’s staff and leaders, which was humbling.  Karla was a singer from the feminist wing of the popular resistance to the golpe de estado. I had googled her later and she had toured Europe and the USA to build support for the resistance through her song.  I was sorry so many of our team were outside chatting and missed some of the dedications.  I was proud of Dilcia for having been able to convince Karla to sing for us.  I could imagine some of these songs as background for the documentary that Toronto filmmaker Nick Taylor traveling with us this week for his “Citizen Wealth” film.  It was a great time.

The last session was a make up event at the end of the day where we discussed the essay I had written in Social Policy (www.socialpolicy.org) on the “Maharashtra Model of Informal Worker Organizing.”  For an hour and half we quietly talked about Local 100’s experience with these kinds of workers and organizations and how various initiatives and legal opportunities might evolve in Canada to allow us to pilot some of these programs.  It was hard not to feel excited at the prospects even as momentous as the obstacles to success seemed.

Every meeting is always defined by how the meeting is defined later, and this one has set the stage for great work in the future.  It was hard not to be both exhausted and hopeful!

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