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New posts to the Organizer's Clipboard will focus on thoughts and tips relevant to social justice, movement building, and community organizing. Sometimes there will be posts about current events and others will be tips and tools for the work. Each time will be informational and (hopefully) entertaining.

The topics will serve as jump-off points for conversation, so comments are encouraged. But note, that we will be monitoring responses and retain the right to delete or not even post responses that do not move the conversation forward, are negative or attack based, or seek to move an agenda or market a good or service that is not in line with Alliance Institute's mission and goals.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Alliance Institute.


Why Would a Community focused Organizing Group Venture Into the World of Peer-Review Journalism?

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was at a meeting of organizers, academicians, and theologians and asked, what is that we (the organizers) needed from the others. My response was “paper.” The thinking behind my one word response is based upon a very realistic view of the world we live in versus the way we, as organizers, go about our work. As community organizers, most of our data and information is anecdotal. Unfortunately, as successful as we may be at creating minor changes in the communities we work with, anecdotal information does not allow us to 1) effectively share our strategies and tactics in a way that they can be replicated and/or brought to scale; and 2) convince those we seek to influence (foundations, donors, media, politicians, etc.) that our actions and positions actually have merit beyond minor community changes.

Over the past few years, Alliance Institute has been working considerably with many sectors in the field of public health. A continued frustration has been that of working against long held stereotypes regarding marginalized communities and the organizations that serve them. The lack of an ability to cite peer-reviewed sources to support our positions and actions has only exacerbated that frustration (if one more person mentions best practices…). So when the opportunity presented itself to serve as collector, reviewer, and editor for scholarly articles articulating the veracity of community voice as partner, versus just client/consumer, we jumped at it.

While the goal for this specific project is to begin the process of altering the direction of public health in its relationship to the communities it serves, perhaps a more important goal is to inspire others to begin the process of producing scholarly publications for the support of the important work of community change via community organizing. Besides, Paolo Freire* can use the company.

*Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is easily the most recognized scholarly piece cited and referred to by workers in the field of social justice.


The Fiscal Cliff No One Sees Coming

Of all the things folks are talking, tweeting and facebooking about – Iggy Azelea winning rapper of the year (really?), Bill Cosby rape charges, even the Mike Brown non-indictment ruling – none will have a bigger impact on poor and marginalized communities than the coming Health Center funding cliff.

That’s right, in October of 2015 the Health Centers Fund, which makes up more than half of all funding for the Health Centers program, will end unless it is reauthorized. This would mean that Health Centers will see up to 70 percent reductions in grant funding, health center closures, layoffs of health center staff and, most troublingly, less access to care for millions of Americans.

Why seemingly no one knows about this upcoming tragedy is beyond us here at Alliance Institute, so to that end, we are hosting a webinar on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 11:00 am Central Standard Time. The National Association of Community Health Centers will present information on the impact of the coming cliff along with how to get involved.

You can register to be a part of the solution here

Millions of Americans just got access to health care via the Affordable Care Act, let’s not aid in the obstruction of that access by allowing the Federal Government to cut Health Center funding by 70%!

I look forward to seeing you on the webinar!


Black People Had the Power - They WERE Failed

Charles E. Cobb Jr., former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary, recently wrote a very good article “Black people had the power to fix the problems in Ferguson before the Brown shooting. They failed (” While Mr. Cobb makes some excellent points regarding the Civil Rights Movement as it relates to the events that occurred, most recently, in Ferguson, MO, he falls short when placing the blame at the feet of the citizens of Ferguson. Mr. Cobb reveals his short-sightedness when on the one hand he describes a number of instances where young people in the work of social justice should be celebrated, and that the key is organizing, but then goes on to say “[a]s Julian Bond once challenged a group of young people, “Pass the torch? Snatch it like we did.”

It is, in fact, this last statement that spurred this article, and is perhaps the primary issue at the core of why so many young people feel a lack of attachment to the “movement.” Do not get me wrong, I hold the highest respect for the organizers of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, and those of SNCC in particular. In my experience, SNCC organizers have always displayed a unique ability to analyze situations at a deeper level than most, an eye to the root cause as opposed to merely the symptoms of the issue at hand. However, this idea that today’s youth need to make their own way, or “snatch it like we did” as Julian Bond put it, is a bit disingenuous.

For the sake of context, I think we need to recognize a timeline, if you will, of “movements”. From the beginning of the United States of America, there has been what can be called a Black Freedom movement that encompasses the following: the Abolition movement, which upon the abolishment of slavery,  gave way to several overlapping movements, such as anti-lynching, voting rights, human rights, Black empowerment, Back to Africa, and so on. All of these happened within the context of Blacks being recognized and afforded the rights of U.S. (and world) citizens.

During the 1910’s the NAACP began to emerge as the primary organization for Black Folks’ rights. It is important to note, that neither their birth nor growth occurred in the absence of people who had been in the work from prior decades; most notably the Niagara Movement. When, during the mid-1950’s, the organization was outlawed in Alabama and all but outlawed across the South, Southern ministers, trained by the NAACP, along with NAACP field organizer Ella Baker, started the SCLC. This act, right here can quite effectively be argued as the start of the Civil Rights Movement – the latest (at the time) part of the overall Freedom Movement – it was this act that freed up Southern Blacks to organize actions against the local White Power Structures in the form of boycotts, sit-ins, and such.

While the boycotts and sit-ins raised the issue of terrorism against Black Americans to the national stage, others began to look to the vote as a means for Blacks to effect power over their lives in their communities. It was in this environment, that Ella Baker worked with Bob Moses and others to help form and advise SNCC. I’ll stop here as this is the source of Mr. Cobb’s training and experience, as well as that of Mr. Julian Bond, who Mr. Cobb quotes in his directive to young people today.

For Mr. Bond, or anyone else, from SNCC or any of the other organizations that have fought for Black Freedom in these United States to imply that they “snatched” the torch or anything else is misleading in its directive and negligent in its implication that the youth of today do it themselves cuz we that’s what we did.

No, the Black people of Ferguson did not fail as much as they were failed. They were failed by a community of Black leaders and citizenry who chose to leave the Black community to fend for itself as they took University positions and political offices, strove to be the “first Black,” and chase the myriad manifestations of “the white man’s…” As a result, communities across the country, in the absence of trained organizers, thought leaders, etc. were left with television, radio, and other forms of entertainment to guide their social thinking processes. There were far too few voices consistently reminding us of the need to support local businesses, exercise power via the vote, and to continue to value education as a viable tool for personal and community development; as a result, today’s young organizers are the first, since the Freedom Movement began at the dawning of the United States, to have to figure it out for themselves; and that is not only a failure but a tragedy. 


Frederick Douglass Was Only Partially Right

First, calm down. I am still a great fan of this juggernaut of Bootstrapping Black Power, but sometimes the times call for things to be said that run counter to the popular notions. Furthermore, to deny the shortcomings of our heroes and sheroes is to deny them of their humanity while lifting them to a pedestal too high for us mere mortals to imagine attaining – and that just ain’t right.

In the case of Frederick Douglass, the shortcoming I’m referring to is not one of character but of not putting forth the full reality of struggles against structures of power. Being a Black Man, working in the field of Social Justice, I am often faced with folks who wanna impress or otherwise seem some kind of clever with the mis-quote “Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never did and it never will.” Although the actual quote is “demand” and not struggle, the basic sentiment is the same. And for the purposes of this discourse whichever you choose won’t change anything.

The statement, profound as it may be, fails to clue the listener/reader into an equally important part of dealing with power, once power concedes, if you don’t work to maintain the concession power will take it back. Disagree? Once support was withdrawn from the antebellum South, Southern power took all them concessions back, every last one of them, and threw in a few decades of intense oppression with a hefty dose of lynching thrown in for good measure.

Following the enactment and enforcement of the civil rights act of 1964 (and subsequent years) folks got excited and took jobs, bought homes, enrolled in private schools and enjoyed the “good life.” Two decades later, when the complacency of the “good life” had set in real nice like, we saw heads banging up against glass ceilings (not just Blacks but Women who benefitted from the Civil Rights Act). That was followed very shortly by removal of middle management positions, the start of the attack on Labor, the birthing of predatory lending, privatization of public education, revocation of voting rights and a new form of intense oppression with a hefty dose of imprisonment thrown in for good measure a’la the war on drugs.

Frederick Douglass was quite correct in pointing out that on its own, power will never concede a single anything, and whether it be a demand or struggle something has to create the tension Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Where Brother Douglass' statement fell short was to not inform them that it is not enough to just get power to concede, you must maintain a vigilant guard over that concession or risk having it taken away. In the case of social justice, this is a reminder that the work of justice is neither short nor swift, but ongoing, as power (in this good ol' U.S. of A.) will always seek a way re-establish its positions of comfort and luxury at the expense of others. In the meantime, let us heed the words of Samora Machel of the Mozambique Liberation Front “A Luta Continua!”