Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Grassroots Democracy

We live at a time when the dominant culture, including the media, elected officials, and corporate advertisers, herald individualism. The stories we hear in school focus on the heroes and heroines of history, rarely on the collective power of organized groups. Although it is true that good stories rely on strong characters, promoting individuals helps those in power to play down the stories of how mass movements, collective struggle, and community-based campaigns have moved resources, shifted power, and improved the lives of many people. (p. xiv).

When you set out to build the power of a community – particularly a politically marginalized community – you are explicit. You propose that the community can build power in addition to winning on issues, and you are strategic about establishing a team of community leaders who can drive the process of doing so on their own behalf. You include training and political education and get agreements on fundamental goals and principles for how the community will use collective action as a way of achieving solutions to its problems. … You take action. You do not wait for people to come to you. You find partners, go out, listen, learn, and build a network of public relationships. (p. 1).

From Tools for Radical Democracy: How to Organize for Power in Your Community by Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos (foreword by Peter Edelman). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Josey-Bass: A Wiley Imprint--2007).



Chris said...

This sounds like it came out of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. The book could very well be titled Tools for Marxism.

Larry, your promotion of the radical agenda is nothing short of amazing. You're not even subtle about it anymore.

Larry James said...

Chris, you clearly don't understand the plight nor the options facing the poor in our nation. When all the wealth, opportunity and options that are available to you reside in the community, then it is in the community where you work, organize and create viability to press for change, new options and hope. If that is radical, then we've moved much, much farther away from the ideals of the nation than I realized. People working together to promote and champion their own self-interest for the good of their communities is the only option, save unending charity and dependence, open to the poor where I live and work daily.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Chris - Marxism is the rule!

Anonymous said...

The quotes are about using the democratic political process. Not a word about class or revolution. I don't think you have a very good understanding of Marxism, Chris.

Anonymous said...


It seems that your starting point is almost this: "how can Larry ruin our society this week?" If you knew the work he does to feed the hungry, to find housing for those who need it, to provide medical help and job counseling help and legal help to those in need, I would hope that you would feel some level of shame. I have walked through the Bridge for homeless people in Dallas with Larry, listening to him listen to the human cries of those in need. You really are out of line -- time and time again.

This book, which he quoted and I have read carefully, is intended for good, not for harm. And its principles are put into practice all around us -- from walks for victims of breast cancer to the "March of Dimes" which I remember from my childhood. This book is about how to organize people to seek to alleviate human suffering. And it is a radical act to take action instead of sit back and say "we can do/should do nothing."

I will simply quite reading any of your comments -- you are far too judgmental, you do not acknowledge the great work done by Central Dallas Ministries, and you have nothing to offer me at all when you begin and end practically every comment with such a judgmental spirit.

Randy Mayeux,

rcorum said...

Chris, I want to make a suggestion which I think Larry will be agreeable to. Why not spend a day with him and actually see what he does. In my opinion Larry is a man of deep conviction and practical efforts to give a voice to those who have none. I think you might be surprised at what you see. I disagree often with stuff Larry says on this blog, especially of a political nature, but that does no preclude me from having a deep respect for his work. Larry is not a second cousin to a communist, and I think he would be open to meaningful dialogue, and Chris I don't think you are a bad person, and at times I agree with what you say, and some people that attack you come across to me in a negative light. On a side note. I found out after the fact that you were speaking in Memphis at the Sycamore church. I would have love to have heard you. I am not sure why the event was not publicized.

Larry James said...

Chris and anyone else is always welcome to visit CDM. We'll give anyone the complete tour.

RC, enjoyed my time with Josh Ross and company. Great people trying to touch and transform a city full of poor folks.

Anonymous said...

Come on, Randy, Chris's comments are good for something: like Roseanne Roseanna Danna on SNL in the 70's, her opinions always fall apart in the glare of actual facts or analysis. Unlike Roseanne, however, Chris rarely gets to "Nevermind." But it can still serve as comic relief.

c hand said...

maybe it would help if Larry could compair and contrast CDM's vision with ACORN's vision. Are they still kindred spirits?

Larry James said...

c hand, not sure where you landed on the idea that CDM and ACORN were "kindred spirits." I really don't know that much about ACORN. What I do know of them in Dallas has to do with their efforts to assist working people with the Earned Income Tax Credit program and with tax returns that didn't involve ripping folks off. They also worked on some housing issues and housing rights. Beyond that I don't know anything or any of the players.

I heard all of the same national reports of the recent scandal, and of course, don't appreciate what I heard workers say at a few ACORN offices.

We do work with very low-income persons. We do try to organize folks to provide for themselves . We have worked in voter registration drives, but in a TOTALLY non-partisan manner with all volunteers being trained and commissioned by the election officials. We've never told people who to vote, but rather just to get out and vote.

All of this aside, I find it bewildering and, if it weren't so serious a matter, almost funny how some middle class people are threatened by even the mention of "community organizing." What do more well off people have to fear from poor folks getting together to do better for themselves and their families? After all, charity only goes so far and it seldom if ever shares the power.