Saturday, September 06, 2008

Wanted: More Community Organizers

What America’s cities need are more community organizers.

In cities like ours, these special people are often the threads holding together inner city neighborhoods. They are often the social entrepreneurs creating new programs to hold together the frayed fabric of their neighborhoods. They are often the only symbols of hope that exist in some of the most challenging circumstances in urban American.

Apparently, some people are so out of touch with urban American that they are unaware of the pivotal role that community organizers play in the life of our cities.

Faith In Community

Strangely, some of the people who seem inclined to denigrate community organizers are the same people who argue that faith-based organizations are most effective in dealing with the problems of our nation. The fact is that some of the most impressive stories of community organizers are those connected with African-American churches combating serious urban problems.

That shouldn’t be surprising, because where the poor is concerned, it has historically been the African-American church that has acted on a central message of their Christian faith: 'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him…”

Then again, these churches have always taken special meaning from the fact that the Bible is filled with admonitions about providing justice and a helping hand to the poor, and their commitment is strengthened by the understanding that there are more references in the Bible to the poor than the rich.

Profiles In Courage

When we think of people who are acting as community organizers, we think of Saint Andrew African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, where Revs. Kenneth and Marilynn Robinson are redefining what a church can be with programs that are reaching more and more into the adjacent neighborhoods to improve the living conditions and lives of the people there.

We think of other churches, both white and black, like Idlewild Presbyterian Church, St. John’s United Methodist Church, World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church and Hope Presbyterian Church that often are essentially acting as community organizers.

We think of the grassroots-oriented work by Jacob Flowers of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center that ranges from community gardens, meals for the homeless and voter advocacy. Whether you agree or not with the positions of the Peace and Justice Center, Memphis is well-served by its focus on issues too often overlooked by the political and economic interests in our city.

Organizing Lessons

By the way, if you want to learn the fundamental skills of community organizing, the center is offering an eight-week course beginning September 16 that deals with “power analysis, strategic planning, public speaking, planning a variety of public events, fundraising for justice, working with local media, becoming your own media, coalition-building, and transforming conflicts.”

When we think of community organizers, we think of Albert Crawford, who died a year ago after devoting his life to strengthening his Airways-Lamar neighborhood. Mr. Crawford was always a quiet force for improving his neighborhood although most people had written it off, and because of his community organizing, the area fought the economic forces that threatened it.

We think of Rebekah Jordan, a founder of the Mid-South Interfaith Network for Economic Justice, whose persistence and organizational skills led to formation of the Living Wage Coalition. Defying most predictions, her community organizing resulted in City of Memphis and Shelby County Governments passing policies requiring their employees to be paid a living wage.

High Impact

We think of Reginald Milton, founder and executive director of the South Memphis Alliance, who spending every day fighting the problems, harnessing the energies and providing the services that give neighborhoods a fighting chance. It has developed HIV/AIDS, anger management and conflict resolution and sexual responsibility programs for youths; places where teenagers can go for help and safety; literacy classes to reduce the cycle of poverty and training to teach citizen engagement.

We think of the numerous people in community development corporations across our city who use their community-based work and their unique relationships with their neighborhoods to create better housing and jobs.

In other words, based on what is taking place in Memphis and in countless urban neighborhoods across America, there’s no excuse for community organizing to become a demeaning punch line for some politicians. These organizers simply have too much impact and too much importance for too many neighborhoods.

Citizen Power

The point is underscored this week on Smart City radio, where nationally-known community organizer Harry C. Boyte talks about his new book, The Citizen Solution, which links organizers’ work in neighborhoods to a “citizen movement” and part of the U.S. tradition of populism.

Like community organizers everywhere, he believes that energized, mobilized citizens are more powerful than the politically-motivated politicians who act too slowly to address the needs of the poor and their neighborhoods. It’s in this way, Mr. Boyte said, that citizens can change the face of American by focusing on issues close to home.

It’s inarguable to us. The proof of community organizing in Memphis is too obvious and too compelling, not to mention too vital to our future.

That’s why political smears that demean community organizers are more than manipulative. They are just plain stupid.


antisocialist said...

I spent seven years serving as a volunteer director of an urban nonprofit. That qualifies me as a community organizer.

I offer strong accolades to the community organizers you mention in your post. I am familiar with at least one of them and some of their organization's accomplishments.

Contrary to popular opinion among the community organizer community, I am not taking personally the so called smear against community organizers.

I took what was said about community organizers at face value; that is to say that Barak Hussein Obama's resume and record of accomplishment as a community organizer appears to be awfully weak.

I would put my own record of accomplishment as a community organizer (replete with successes and losses) against Barak Hussein Obama's record in an instant. That's really the point of the so-called smear. Obama wants us to believe his community organizing experience somehow makes him prepared to be president. As an actual community organizer, I am qualified to say that his claim is pap.

It's a shame the the media has abjectly failed at vetting Barak Hussein Obama as a candidate for President of the United States. Fortunately, their are community organizers such as me that are willng to expose the truth.

Anonymous said...

antisocialist: And what community organizers do you admire in the McCain campaign?

antisocialist said...

anon 7:23

That makes no difference. The post was about "smearing" community organizers - and as a community organizer, I am honest enough to recognize that the smear has everything to do with Barak Hussein Obama's paltry record of success as a community organizer.

I vote present!

Zippy the giver said...

SMC is my favorite community organizer!!

Anonymous said...

I think the jab about Mr. Obama being a community organizer came about because Mr. Obama and his supporters demeaned the opposing VP candidate's experience as a small-town mayor. All's fair in love and politics, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

It is beyond my reasoning to understand how a traitor to the Union and his wife can be allowed on the stage of the Republican National Convention. Todd Palin is a traitor to the Union and his wife is sympathetic to the dissolving of the Union. Funny how republicans forget patriotism when pursuing power. Forget the utter crap of the community organizer distraction. Sarah Palin has traitorous sympathies. There is no denying this. McCain says he puts America first? Whatever, he put a secessionist on his ticket. He doesn't care about America, he cares about getting elected.

So this is what we know of Palin so far. She is contemptuous of people working to improve their communities and social justice, especially Catholic organizations like the one Obama worked with in Chicago. She is an absolutist on banning abortion. She will work to ban books and force her religious beliefs on citizens, including teaching creationism. She doesn't believe in global warming and thinks Alaska has enough oil to power all of America's needs. Her religious beliefs blinds her reason. (Plus, what good is allowing more drilling in Alaska when it is a separate country?) This is the kind of thinking you can expect from a cadidate who took 6 years and 6 colleges to get an undergraduate degree in Journalism.

Republicans have fallen so far that they want to dissolve the Union to create another Confederacy based on radical evangelical beliefs powered by Alaskan oil. Bigoted Confederates. How did 2008 become 1860?

gatesofmemphis said...

hear, hear, SCM!

Thanks for pointing out the community organizers training at Mid South Peace and Justice Center. I hadn't heard about it before this post.

Anonymous said...

anti, if you're going to continue to use his full name you might want to spell it correctly.

Anonymous said...

and I agree on the traitor issue; amazing the rightwingnuts who lambasted Michelle Obama for her perceived lack of patriotism yet give this fascistintraining Sarah Palin and her husband a free pass when that idiot belonged to a group that wants to get Alaska to secede from the United States. How could you possibly be more unpatriotic and traitorous?

antisocialist said...

anon 4:05

I didn't realize I spelled it incorrectly. I haven't really paid much attention to it.

However, I'll do my best to spell "Barry Soetoro" correctly in the future.

I vote present!

antisocialist said...

Oh, since someone brought it up, Governor Palin has been a registered Republican since she first registered to vote in that state in 1982 and has not changed her party affiliation since.

As for her husband, I have seen reports that his affiliation is undeclared. Apparently, he has from time to time been registered with a third party called "Alaska First -- Alaska Always".

It seems this third party advocates for Alaskans to be able to VOTE on whether or not their state can cede from the US. To my knowledge, they were not threatening armed insurrection, just a vote. At least he doesn't seem to be associated with Marxism.

Given the path this country has taken ever since the New Deal and given how far removed the Federal government is from following the Constitution, I can appreciate wanting a vote on succession. I don't necessarily agree or disagree with it, but I can appreciate it nonetheless. It seems far more Jeffersonian in spirit than some things associated with Michelle Obama, such as Public Allies.

Go ahead and keep these smears up though. It seems to be doing wonders in the polls.

I vote present!

Anonymous said...

Hey Anti,
At the 6 minute mark the leader of the AIP talks about Palin being with them. Todd Palin was a member of the AIP from 1995 to 2002.

In this part of the AIP leader's same speech, he talks about how AIP members infiltrate other parties in order to advance secession.

But here is a direct quote from Dexter Clark AIP party leader-
"The AIP now has 13,689 registered voters as members, that’s not our count, that’s the State of Alaska, they count them for us, we don’t have to keep track of them. That’s a little more than 300 up from last year’s conference. Our current governor, we mentioned at the last conference, the one we were hoping would get elected, Sarah Palin, did get elected. There’s a joke, she’s a pretty good looking gal, there’s a joke goes around we’re the coldest state with the hottest governor. And there was a lot of talk about her moving up. She was an AIP member before she got the job as a mayor of a small town – that was a non-partisan job. But you get along to go along – she eventually joined the Republican Party, where she had all kinds of problems with their ethics, and well, I won’t go into that. She also had about an 80% approval rating, and is pretty well sympathetic to her former membership."

Now when a party wants to secede from the Union, embraces infiltration of other parties, and says Palin was a member and sympathetic to their cause, why wouldn't I think she maybe a traitor.

But in case you aren't sold on how crazy Sarah Palin's secessionist friends are here is another quote from her buddy Dexter Clark from the same speech
"You should infiltrate – I know the Christian Exodus(?) is in favor of it, the Free State movement is in favor of it – I don’t think they even care which party it is. Whichever party in that area you can get something done, get into that political party, even though it does have its problems. Right now that is one of the only avenues. And you get a few people on a city council or a ??? you can have some effect."

Some more from Dexter-
"And when we speak at the high school and we talk to these youngsters and tell them they’re different, they already know. And when we talk about America, there are kids in that class doing this (shows thumbs down), and when we say Alaskan, they’re thumbs are up. "

It sounds like TRAITOR talk to me. It's not smear if it is true.

antisocialist said...

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
--Thomas Jefferson

To me, the desire to be free from tyranny is laudable.

Once again, according to the State of Alaska, Governor Palin has always been a registered Republican since she first registered in 1982.

Based on my anecdotal experience with Alaska and Alaskans, I am not surprised if many citizens there feel they could live more freely without being entangled in this union. I understand the sentiment. Whatever Todd Palin's affiliation with this group may be does not alarm me.

Affiliation with domestic terrorists and communists pegs a lot higher on my care meter, as it should all of those who embrace freedom.

I haven't heard any traitor talk from Governor Palin and don't suspect that I will. If I find out she is most likely a Marxist, I'll stop donating money to the McCain ticket and withhold my vote. Please keep the up the smears against Governor Sarah Palin, registered Republican since 1982.

I vote present!

antisocialist said...

Since the subject of Todd Palin's erstwhile third party affiliation does not really concern me, I must admit I have not read very much on this subject. From what I have gleaned, he apparently supported return of federal land to the people of Alaska, and this is linked to his occasional affiliation with the third party.

I do not agree with either McCain or Palin on 100% of the issues. Likewise, it would surprise me if Todd Palin agreed 100% with this thrid party.

Upon considering that Todd Palin is a Native American, it is especially understandable that he would want Alaska lands returned to the people.

I vote present!

Anonymous said...

Way to go antisocialist. Never let facts get in your way. You fit right in with the likes of Sarah Palin.

antisocialist said...

Way to go anon 8:42. Never let logic stand in the way of an ad hominen attack.

I vote present!

Zippy the giver said...

I can't believe either of you are seriously arguing those two lame points which are obvious red herrings.
BOTH CANDIDATES SUCK, they both have rotting corpses in their closets. A vote for either is a vote for death.
So, which "traitor" will you vote for?
It isn't even worth thinking about, let alone discussing.
Get a real issue.
Get a real candidate.

Anonymous said...

wasnt this post about community organ-izers being needed?

what it morphed into was a spiteful political circle jerk among (hopefully soon) organ-donors.

stay on track or go to Thuds website.

Anonymous said...

The federal lands in Alaska never belonged to the state of Alaska, so there's nothing to "return." Now, if you're talking about returning those lands to the native tribes who once had dominion over them, that's another subject. And your rationalization and obsfucation over the Todd Palin secession issue is hilarious. Bottom line; anyone who supports seceding from this great nation is unpatriotic and traitorous.

Zippy the giver said...

Yes it was about community organizers.
The de-evolution we just witnessed here is why Memphis is the backwards-ass jackyard-backoff capitol of the USA.
Too many people trying to gain "identity" through ownership of public domain ideaology, not to serve a a real purpose like public service, just themselves.
Their uniforms are so brightly colored, how could we miss them.

Anonymous said...

Good point 9:43.

Anonymous said...

i vote the off-topic antisocialist off this thread!

antisocialist said...

The bottom line, anon 9:43, is that your bottom line is only an opinion, and it differs from my opinion.

Based on what I have learned thus far, I'll take Alaska First -- Alaska Now connections over Marxist connections in an instant. It's just common sense that Marxism currently is a graver threat than this Alaska First -- Alaska Always third party probably ever could be.

However, don't let Marxism's discredited record during the 20th Century stand in the way of your hand-wringing over some third party freedom seekers.

George said...

What in the world does any of this have to do with Marxism??

antisocialist said...

Anon, 6:18, I am happy to explain to you what any of this has to do with Marxism. And if you don't believe me, you can read all about it in an article by Melanie Phillips published today in The Spectator.

The definition of "community organizer" hinted at in this post on Smart Cities Memphis, is awfully broad. However, serious commentators regarding Obama's, community organizing probably tend to take a narrower view of the term, which is essentially Saul Alinsky style transformational Marxism.

The intellectually curious among you who are unaware of the direct link between Obama style community organizing in Chicago, it's Marxist roots, and Obama's connection to it should read the article in The Spectator. This is the kind of stuff Smart Cities Memphis probably doesn't want you to know about community organizing.

The article is entitled "Revolution you can believe in" and it appeared today in The Spectator (UK). I have pasted the url for the article below. You'll probably need to cut and paste it.

When I say that Obama has Marxist ties, it's not something I am pulling out of thin air. His Marxist record is tremendous, and this article provides a concrete example.

Given that the goal of transformational Marxism is the destruction of western society, it appears Obama's Marxist connections, stretching back to at least his community organizing days, logically make him an unsafe bet for President.

While I am at it, I challenge anyone to refute my concern about Obama given my understanding of Saul Alinsky style community organizing, Marxism, and Obama's connection to it.

I predict if anyone has the courage to respond to this, they will do so by insulting me rather than addressing my argument. This is because the information about Obama and his Marxist connections is the truth.

If I have accomplished anything, hopefully I have alerted Anon 6:18 to precisely what Obama's community organizing has to do with Marxism.

I vote present!

Anonymous said...

anti, former republican here(voted for Buhs in 2000). had enough of scare tactics from the right (like yours) oooooooh!!! oooooh!!! he's a muslim, he's a marxist! he eats babies! I'm still voting for Obama and against neo-con corruption and incompetence and endless war.

Anonymous said...

BTW, anti, I'm also familiar with Alinsky and Obama's use of his techniques, which doesn't make the guy a marxist. Bur again, I don't care, I'm still voting for him, I hope he shakes this country to its foundations. We need it. Oh, McCain just lost my conservative wife's vote with his pick of Sarah's time for the neocons to be humiliated, the congressional elections ought to also help in that regard (those fools couldn't even beat Travis Childers).

Anonymous said...

I personally think Chico was the underrated Marx.

Anonymous said...

This a meta-type comment on the discussion happening here. Antisocialist is very rightwing in his beliefs. So much so that such "radical ideas" as people being able to form unions for better pay and working conditions or, god forbid, people having healthcare are labeled socialist. (I guess social security and medicare are horrible socialist programs that made a America worse.) But what is most interesting about Antisocial is that he is a reflection of what the Republican Party has become. The sheer fact that Antisocial is more sympathetic to a member of rightwing party pushing for the secession from the Union than for reasonable reforms common in every other industrialized society shows how reactionary the base of the Republican party has become.

However kooky and extreme Anitsocial is, I welcome his comments on this blog. I want everyone to see exactly what he believes.

antisocialist said...

anon 8:38, I do not know what scare tactics you are talking about. As I predicted, you lefties would opt to attack me rather than my logic I don't recall accusing Obama of being a Muslim or eating babies (all though he has advocated for infanticide!). I just pointed out Obama's strong Marxist connections. Does that mean Obama is a Marxist? No. Does it rule out that he is not a Marxist? Absolutely not.

I am well acquainted with the history of Marxism in the 20th century. You should look into it. I reckon there is even film footage available that documents it. You wouldn't have to crack a book. Marxism has been responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people and the loss of liberty of untold millions and millions.

You lefties can't refute my logic because it is founded in the truth. All you ever seem to do is throw mud and adjust your halos.

I vote present!

Anonymous said...

Just as facsism and religious wars by people convinced they have the "correct" and only way to God have been responsible for the deaths of tens of millions and untold suffering. So what's your point? Are you trying to say liberals are Marxists? By that logic, you're jackbooted Facsist thug. And don't worry, I've read enough in my 44 years about economics, history, philosophy, religion, etc., that I think I can converse about the subject coherently. I can retrieve any number of books on these subjects from my own library in about 30 seconds, thanks. Again, anti, I'm a former republican, and I've had it with Republican hypocrisy and corruption and lies and pandering to idiots who believe in a 6000 year old earth. Obama is definitely better than four more years of war and incompetence and false patriotism. At least he can speak coherently, unlike your hero, GW. "fool me once, shame on you, fool me can't get fooled again."

Smart City Consulting said...

Someone asked us our opinion of Saul Alinsky: he was what the times demanded, and in his work, he was often hated and scorned, but in the end, he was a vehicle for change (and was subject to epithets such as being called a Marxist and worse) that was needed and for a new perspective on community organizing and grassroots advocacy that are powerful and needed now more than ever. About 10 years ago, an offshoot of the group formed in Memphis and worked on poverty and racism with mixed results, but they weren't bomb throwers and incendiary. They were simply passionate, persistent people who believed in the power of the people to shape their own destinies. We may not have agreed with them on tactics or outcomes, but we respected their commitment.

antisocialist said...

Anon 8:52, you're putting words into my mouth. I never once said GW was my hero although I believe George Washington was certainly one of our greatest Presidents.

Anyhow, what was my point? Was I trying to say liberals are Marxists? No, I wasn't trying to say any of those things. My point was Obama has substantial Marxists connections, including his community organizing position.

I am really not sure what "all" liberals are. To me, many liberals appear to be socialists at minimum. In my experience, liberals seem to be unable to grasp basic economics, logic or rhetoric.

I have a question about your library you mentioned, Anon 8:52. How many books do you have left to finish coloring?

Anonymous said...

anti-intellectual, I mean, antisocialist,

It sounds like you were talking more about yourself, "unable to grasp basic economics, logic or rhetoric."

A little introspection would be really helpful about now.

Zippy the giver said...

You may not like this, but, if you take the dollar amounts of liberal policies OF MEMPHIS and plot them on a graph and time from 1950 to today, and the problems of crimes related to the people who are recipients of those policies and graph their stats, you can see how much and how long it takes a liberal policy to destroy Memphis TN and it's biggest resource.
Giving must be done properly to be effective.