We’re sure you heard about Sarah Palin’s comments at the Republican convention mocking community organizers as part of her effort to divert attention from her own inexperience. “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer,” she said, “except that you have actual responsibilities.”

As outrageous as that is, unfortunately, she isn’t the only one dismissing community organizing. Here at Highlander we have seen campaigns and policy efforts for things we believe in ignore the importance of community organizing on the ground, not as an oversight but as an actual strategy. And we think that’s dangerous.

Highlander has been supporting organizing for over 75 years, because we know that any movement that makes the promise of justice and democracy real for all people has to start at the grassroots level.

Organizing brought us the 8-hour work day and stopped child labor in this country. Organizing won the right to vote for women and African Americans; secured access to public buildings for people with disabilities; and gained equality for lesbigaytrans people in multiple states and municipalities. Organizing achieved the environmental protections we have today, and organizers are leading efforts to solve the problems posed by global warming in the short window of time we have now. Organizers on the ground took care of Katrina survivors when government wouldn’t.

And it is organizers who are shaping the next wave of change in that arc toward justice.

Change never comes from the top down, and today Highlander continues its cutting-edge work from the bottom up by strengthening grassroots community organizing addressing such issues as immigrant rights, youth incarceration, education, the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the impact of mountaintop removal.

We know there are multiple demands for your resources during this critical presidential election. We trust you agree with us that whatever happens, we need strong grassroots organizing groups connected to each other to push forward. We hope we can count on you to help Highlander strengthen that community organizing by making a generous contribution today!

Make a secure online donation to Highlander.

To contribute, click on the button above, or mail your check to Highlander at 1959 Highlander Way, New Market, TN 37820.

For Peace and Justice
Pam McMichael, Director, and the Staff of Highlander


9/18/08 – Highlander’s letter on community organizing has been excerpted by Michael Iafrate on Vita Nova: Catholic Perspectives on Culture, Society, and Politics. To read Mr. Iafrate’s post and the comments from others on the site, click here. Thanks to Mr. Iafrate for the cross-posting.


5 Responses

  1. Yeah! Those who have been trash-talk community organizers and activists recently really get me riled- these are the hardest and worst-paid jobs; they deserve our respect, not ridicule. But I suppose most organizers are used to being the underdog like this. I’m rooting for you!

    Excellently concise response!

  2. Readers might also be interested in another post I made there yesterday:

    <A HREF=”http://vox-nova.com/2008/09/17/the-contradictions-of-redneck-rhetoric-or-why-palin-does-not-represent-rural-culture/The contradictions of “redneck rhetoric,” or why Palin does not represent “rural culture”


  3. Community activism is about to become all the rage as the O man heads for the White House. Who knows how long it will last, but let us who know the deal ride the wave for as long as it holds. For the last 12 years I have been using the Juneteenth Movement to help my community heal from the legacy of slavery. When the VA General Assembly passed a resolution expressing “profound regret for slavery” that august body also passed a “Juneteenth Freedom Day” resolution at the same time. (Incidentally, much of the language in both resolutions was provided by our organization.) We do our work by using the theatre arts and in this way we are able to help youth and adults look back at a difficult history without shame or blame. We look back, so that we can move forward into a stronger, more wholistic future.

    Peace n the Vision of a Nu World,
    Sheri Bailey