I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities.- Sarah Palin, 2008
I have been involved with community organising for my entire adult life. I have been a member of the African Health Forum for several years. Our members work within African communities in South London, providing health education and awareness around HIV prevention and testing, and supporting those with HIV to get the best treatment available. We also now work around other health issues including sickle cell and teenage pregnancy. People from the voluntary sector work alongside those in the NHS to provide these services, and we share knowledge and skills with one another.
I am both proud and humbled to be a part of this work. (Search this blog for more information.)
People in many different African countries are part of this community effort, organising in their towns and villages, in places where there are few resources but an abundance of ignorance and stigma around HIV and other illnesses.
I am also involved with the Black Parents’ Forum and I lead workshops for African Caribbean parents, to support them in getting the best out of the education system for their children, and in working to stem the gun and knife crime which is dramatically increasing both in London and across the UK.
This work is obviously vital to our communities. We are saving lives. For Sarah Palin to be so dismissive about community organisers is to say that she doesn't care about human life.
When the Jena incidents began, who was it that brought this to the public’s attention? Community organisers on and offline.
Similarly, campaigners on and offline are challenging the excessive use of tasers and other forms of violence by police officers.
I don’t know if Palin is really that ignorant, or if she just does not care. Or if she is running scared because she sees the power of Senator Obama’s campaign. By networking with, drawing on and channelling the energy of community organisers, Obama has put the Presidential campaign back where it belongs – in the hands of the people (a/k/a voters). The churches, the synagogues, the mosques, the schools, the PTAs, the small groups and organisations and forums all over the world that are doing their bit to make life better for those around them.
This is what it’s all about. Senator Obama has tapped into that energy. African American politicians and African politicians internationally have been doing this for many years. Telling people what they need to do, telling them how to bring about change.But this time it’s different. Obama does not just tell people what to do. He asks us what we want. And that is scary. To people who don’t want to see change happen, real, fundamental change, this must be absolutely terrifying.
Obama’s people are on the case. They are out there right now, signing people up to vote. Young African American people, who normally don’t cast ballots, or register to vote. Those in the inner cities, who are the most likely to end up in poverty, in jail, or dead. They are signing up in their thousands. This could mean a real future for those who, up to now, never had a chance. At last, they have a voice, and somebody who is listening to it.
I still don’t know how much change Obama can or will bring about if he is elected President. But I can see how much change he is bringing about now. Drawing on the strength of the community, and the organisers within it, can potentially create massive change.Yeah, Sarah Palin. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Many members of the AfroSpear and the afrosphere are blogging today to challenge Sarah Palin’s disrespectful remarks about community organisers. Please join us.