Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Community Organizing - Why the bad rap?

If you were as disgusted as I by Governor Sarah Palin's derogatory, condescending remarks about Barak Obama's community organizing days - or heck, even if you think Gov. Palin was right! - please read on...

I can't figure out how community organizing suddenly became a derogatory term. Some of these organizers are true heroes, helping people with few resources and no political clout to obtain health insurance, job training, and safe neighborhoods - resources to which all Americans should be entitled.

Why would someone bash such a profession?

So I decided to do a little digging and find out just what Obama was accomplishing in his community organizing days. According to an article in The Nation ("Obama's Community Roots," April 16, 2007, by David Moberg), here's what Obama was up to:

"Obama and DCP [Developing Communities Project - which focused on black neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago] protected community interests regarding landfills and helped win employment training services, playgrounds, after-school programs, school reforms and other public amenities. One day a resident at Altgeld Gardens, a geographically isolated public housing project surrounded by waste sites, brought a notice about planned removal of asbestos from the project manager's office. Obama organized the community to find out if there was asbestos in their apartments. They persisted as officials lied and delayed, then took a bus--with far fewer people than Obama had anticipated--to challenge authorities downtown. Ultimately, the city was forced to test all the apartments and eventually begin cleaning them up."

Employment training? After-school services? Protecting residents from dangerous carcinogens? It takes a lot of ... ummm ... "guts" to stand up in front of millions and say that such work doesn't matter. I don't think the lower-income, minority residents with whom Obama worked would say he was wasting his time... Palin's comments about this work are insulting to those community members, and to me.

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