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!
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.