Posts Tagged ‘activism’

Reason #2: For Voices Like Sister Regina

November 3, 2008

Yesterday I said goodbye to my uncle and aunt after a family wedding over the weekend. As they drove away, I caught a glimpse of a small card they had hanging from their rear view mirror. I took a second look somewhat incredulously – there was Barack hanging proudly from the rear view mirror!

This got me to thinking about how this guy, who stands on the cusp of being elected to our presidency – hopefully – tomorrow, has managed to inspire voices from around the country, as well as the world to shout, speak, sing, and even cry out in support. How did Obama, in essence, come to adorn people’s rear view mirrors?

Sure, there have been some  oratory displays on issues that have long plagued our country, like race, that will surely go down in history. There have also been a sound political platform and promises of change.

But the excitement I’m seeing in the streets and cafes and airports and universities clearly trancends these essential aspects of a campaign. People are literally moved to tears over the raw emotion Obama evokes.

I’m betting the Obama mystique represents something much bigger. I’m betting it represents not only him having a voice and presenting policies we more or less agree with. I’m betting, on a larger scale, that Obama represents – more than ever before in our lifetimes – the possibility that you and I and our neighbors and friends might actually become part of a new progressive majority that is able to be heard amidst the cacophony of that complex and monolithic thing we call government (remember those community organizing roots that Palin bashed as unimportant). That would be a change. And that possibility is what is making people cry (and we’re talking public figures like Oprah, Chris Matthews, and Drew Barrymore, but also regular folks who attend his rallies).

Now this won’t come without a price, my friends (said in my best McCain accent). Here’s what Obama is asking of us from this point forward, if he gets into the White House.

First of all, he’s demanding that people wake up and pay attention to the world around them (remember that bumper sticker we’ve all probably seen, “if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention!). Never before have I heard people debate the issues surrounding a presidential campaign in such an involved and impassioned way. Obama inspires this, he challenges us to get off our arses and get involved. But that can only happen when you have a clue what you’re getting involved in.

Secondly, Obama demands that we laugh at ourselves. Sometimes even in public. Never before have we had a presidential candidate inspire so much attention from our mainstream public media outlets. He dances. He sings – in Spanish. He appears on comedy shows. His performances even demanded that McCain and Palin meet him on this turf (click here to view – or read – that famous moose rap again!). This has certainly added some levity to a very long campaign. But more importantly, it helps take that mystery out of the people we have running for office in order to run our country. Beyond seeing them in debates and giving scripted stump speeches, we see them, to a degree, as people. People who can laugh at themselves.

Finally, after inspiring us to get educated, and to laugh at ourselves, Obama demands that we take to the streets. That we participate in whatever level we want to – from our neighborhoods to our world community, with everything in between. Sure, tomorrow holds promise for record numbers of voters. But, even more importantly, it holds promise for an involvement – that begins tomorrow – from those who haven’t been heard before. And that, my friends (yeah, I’m not letting John take that line from me) is powerful.

So, let me fill you in on the reason behind the Obama car ornament. Sure, my relatives (well, at least some of them) are voting for Obama. But here’s why they hung him up to accompany them on their drive. My uncle writes:

My uncle writes:
“The Obama picture hanging from the rear view mirror has a history—doesn’t everything! When Jean (my Aunt) was recovering from breast cancer she became friends with a Mercy Sister—Sister Regina Gnoit—she also had breast cancer and was in recovery.

Regina was a person on the cutting edge of most movements. Every Sunday she would go to the Art Institute on Michigan Ave in Chicago and carry a picket sign—for anything and everything—against poverty, the Iraq War, Bush; Death Penalty ; etc. etc.

This past spring Sister Regina became very ill. She wrote personally to Barack. She got a very nice note back signed by Barack and Michelle Obama. Regina made many of the pictures for her friends. She tried her hardest to live to vote for Barack—she died about 6 weeks ago.

Thus the picture.

Regina was one of a kind.”

So tomorrow as you take to the streets to vote or canvas, as you get yourself to work, and see those around you holding signs, many for the first time, think about participation. Some folks, like Sister Regina standing on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, have been at this for a long time. Others will begin tomorrow. Perhaps inspired by Obama. Because behind the rhetoric and the hype, he represents something that more than ever before is now a possibility. Your voice.

What do you want to say?


As a postscript to this post, I just received the latest Obama video. It couldn’t be more appropriate for my message above. Check it out here. Then ladies, men, children… lace up your skates, and head out on the rink. Sure, it will be slippery. If you fall your butt might get a little wet on those spots the Zamboni just passed over. But there will be guard rails, and your teammates, to help you along.

Take your shot at the goal – vote Obama!

– Colleen, mother of three in Boulder, Colorado who thinks it would be the highest compliment ever to be described as “being at the front of most movements.”


Reason #23: Because Community Organizing IS Relevant

October 13, 2008

Community and organizing are not dirty embarrassing words to be mocked – as Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin did at the RNC with cocky giggles – as if somehow being a champion for social justice is a detriment for Obama.

Giuliani said, “Community Organizing is the first problem on Obama’s resume.”

It’s, in fact, the very gold on his resume.

Consensus building, empowering disenfranchised populations, brokering equality, and practicing inclusiveness – these are the polished jewels that reveal Obama’s leadership proficiency, and where his presidential policies will converge.

In a similar jab, Palin contorted her face and chirped, “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer…..except that you have actual responsibilities.”

Apparently, Giuliani and Palin do not recall our history steeped in struggle – those pesky community organizers of our past that accomplished the unthinkable.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” said Frederick Douglass.

A band of Colonists dumping tea in Boston Harbor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton launching the women’s movement from her living room. Frail and soft-spoken Gandhi leading the Indian Independence Movement – often from prison or his fasting bed. Helen Keller seeing the light in the labor movement, Martin Luther King, Jr demanding civil rights. Oh, and that one guy….Jesus – he was a community organizer!

These are my heroes. Sages that began on the small stage in the backyard speaking truth.

Finally, we’ll have a president that really cares about social justice. A president that in a silent but salient way has ALREADY worked to reform schools, convert black churches into agents of social change, empower neighborhoods, remove asbestos, and register voters (which helped Carol Moseley Braun become the first black woman ever elected to the Senate.)

Obama’s roots in community organizing disclose not only his mission of justice, but also his vision of politics. In 1995 Obama asked “What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer, as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short, but who educates them about the real choices before them?”

Michelle Obama told a reporter in 1996, “Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He’s a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.”

Community Organizing is synonymous with America and our lineage of grassroots change, civil disobedience, protest, social action, and justice for all. Doesn’t  “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” sound presidential?”  Lincoln thought so.

While the critics of community organizing may see it as a silly little hobby or bleeding heart volunteerism, its legacy should be among our proudest – and is exactly what our country now needs most. Thankfully, Obama will soon organize not only the community of America, but also the world.

– Brook, mother, business owner, and patriot of progress!, Boulder, Colorado