Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Community Organizers Seek Unity, Leverage In New Administration

NWBCCC leaders arriving in Washington, D.C. to meet with President-elect Obama's
Transition Team.

1/12/09 NPR Morning Edition- by Pam Fessler

More than 2,000 community organizers met in Washington, D.C., last month to celebrate the election of one of their own, Barack Obama, and also to ask: Now what? How could they use what they hope will be unprecedented access in a new administration? Will the poor and powerless really have a voice?

For those gathered recently at the Washington Hilton, it was a long-awaited moment. For years, these community organizers had been stuck in the wings.

Teresa Anderson, of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, told members of the crowd it was their time to shine. She recalled a promise made in Iowa a year earlier.

"Sen. Obama, now President-elect Obama, told us that we would have a place at the table where the decisions that impact all of us were going to be made," Anderson said. "Today, we are here to keep that promise. Today is a new day."

The audience erupted into cheers, chanting, "Fired up and ready to go." The crowd was so ecstatic — and expectations so high — the ballroom walls actually shook.

This wasn't your typical Washington affair. The activists, with their brightly colored T-shirts and baseball caps, traveled by bus from more than 30 states. Many had children in tow and hope in their eyes. These people are usually out on the front lines, pushing for things such as low-income housing, universal health care and a higher minimum wage. But here they were, on the inside, being courted by soon-to-be White House aides, such as Obama domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes.

"We are counting — counting on you to talk to us," Barnes told the crowd. "And we have already started that process of listening to people on health care so that we can use that information to build the solutions that are going to bring opportunity and mobility back to this country."

But a few blocks away was a sober reminder of just what these groups are up against. Executives from the Big Three auto companies were appearing on Capitol Hill to plead for a $34 billion government bailout.

Gerry Hudson, of the Service Employees International Union, tried to bring everyone down to earth.

"I know, and you know, that this will not happen just because we now have a friend in the White House," Hudson said. "It's going to take the active participation of all of us in trying to figure out how do we, in fact, realize the promise of this moment."



Kwasi Akyeampong said...

Great job guys. I am proud of the the work you do. Thanks for being out there. Next time take some pictures of the event.


Kwasi Akyeampong said...
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