Steven Renderos: Support Our Community Organizers
The job and responsibility of a community organizer is to build leadership and build power. It's no surprise that wherever there's poverty and communities of disenfranchised individuals you'll find a community organizer nearby trying to change that. Last night I heard Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin mock the profession of community organizing by saying that being a mayor of a small town was "sort of like" community organizing only with more responsibilities. Public officials do in fact have more responsibilities because they have more power.
Organizers view power through two lenses, the world as it is and the world as it should be. We understand that power in the world that we're living in today is believed to be in the hands of few people. In the world that we want to live in, power is relational and therefore if you have power and I have power, then together we have more power.
We understand that power can be created through organized people, organized money, organized resources and organized ideas. Public actions, such as protests, marches, and rallies, if used strategically, can move public officials into making the choice that serves the interest of their constituents.
If you analyze any major change in our country's history, it began with building power through collective action. The Revolutionary War, Abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano Movement, Immigrant Rights Movement, Unions, Women's Suffrage have all been examples of major organizing campaigns that impacted a broad base of people.
On a smaller scale, there are organizing campaigns taking place today within cities, neighborhoods, apartment buildings through non profit organizations, neighborhood councils and resident associations, all community organizing vehicles that allow regular people to become politically engaged and develop into leaders. Their issues can be as simple as trying to build a community garden or can tackle larger issues like gentrification and racism.
There is a war of values going on today in the United States and at the center of the conflict are community organizers who face those overwhelming challenges with the same sense of integrity and bravery bestowed upon our troops overseas.
Organizers are agents of change and in this profession there are far more defeats than there are victories but the victories always make every obstacles along the way seem worth it. I remember shortly after a public hearing with a small town mayor, a leader from the community I was organizing in was reflecting on the meeting. Over 200 hundred of his neighbors came and spoke out against a road expansion plan that the mayor was trying to promote. This road expansion plan would've displaced over 150 individuals from a low income neighborhood. During his reflection this leader said, "before this meeting I was afraid of the mayor, I was afraid to ask him a question...now after standing up to him I can honestly say I'm no longer afraid of him."
While Vice Presidential candidate Palin may enjoy comparing herself to a community organizer, as a community organizer myself I would never want to be compared to a public official because I know I'm accountable to the community I'm organizing where unfortunately the same can't be said for public officials.
Thank you to all Community Organizers for doing this important work in our communities.
The following is a clip of CNN Columnist, Roland Martin. His parents were both community organizers.