It took awhile for me to recognize that I was, in fact, a community organizer. It’s not a well-defined job, and many of the organizing activities in which I engaged I saw as means to an end–winning support for policy issues–rather than as the ends in themselves. I organized rallies and town hall meetings because I needed to demonstrate that there was an organized public who cares about immigration reform. I used media and other mass communication because I had a message to get out. I trained grassroots leaders because I had more work to accomplish than I could possibly manage. I built coalitions because I needed other organizations to step up when immigrants were so villified and marginalized. I registered new voters because I needed to show that immigrants become citizens and citizens become constituents, so elected officials had better start paying attention now.
So, then, pretty much everything that I learned about community organizing I learned as I muddled my way through; I know now that that’s how a lot of organizers learn the craft, since there’s no substitute for getting out and actually trying to organize with people. Since stepping back from organizing and advocacy as a full-time job, I have had more time to read about organizing and to think about how we approach this slightly odd endeavor of professional, platonic ‘matchmaking’ that we call community organizing.
The links below contain some of my thinking about community organizing. If you’re an organizer, please tell me about your work. If you just now realized, reading the above, that you’re an organizer, I want to hear about that too. Organizing in Latino immigrant communities was one of the greatest privileges I was ever given. I had a chance to build relationships that were incredibly powerful and, more importantly, I saw people gain a real sense of their own immense strength. I’ll tell some of those stories in the weeks and months to come, but I’d love to hear yours too.
For more information: