Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time, S P A C E and A Place to Belong

As the New Year dawns on humanity, bringing with it a new calendar, a new President (thank the Lord ), a new slate of issues to address and a new frontier of promise and opportunity, I’ve spent time (of which I have an abundance lately) contemplating the ever elusive ideas of time, s p a c e and a place to belong. It’s the kind of stuff that you think about when you are listening to Jack Johnson or something.

So I’ve spent the last 5 months as a physical, emotional and spiritual nomad, finding my way through these complex mediums. My time has been double time, my car has been my sanctuary of clutter and my place has been a community organizer. When I returned to my mom’s house (a living space complicated a bit by the occupancy of 4 adult women.) all of that changed and I felt a bit isolated. I found that, more than anything, I just wanted some S P A C E. I don’t have my own room so I asked my mother to give me, at the very least, the screened area off of the living room. Her reply, to no shock of mine, wasn’t “ Sure 22 year old daughter that has no sanctuary to let her creative genius flow” It was, instead “ S P A C E for WHAT?!?!?” Really. Was she kidding me? No. She wasn’t. I needed that space for the same reason that I needed to take my next breath. Survival. I’d like to say that the convo ended more dramatically, but after a slight bit of bargaining, I settled in to the space and suddenly my whole life confronted me. There were boxes of campaign stuff….college stuff….bills….winter clothes…summer clothes. It was a bit more than I bargained for. But there I was with 2 of the things that I desperately craved….time and space. I felt overcome with my thoughts and this idea of where in the world I belong.

After I packed, filed and organized just about everything that I could and made unrealistic TO Do Lists that would plague me for the next 70+ years of my life; what was I supposed to do then?? Somebody, anybody? Build community and make the idea of SPACE grow, both physically and metaphorically, by leaps and bounds. We, as people, have devolved into materialists who punch the clock of time constantly. We acquire S P A C E to fill it with stuff that WE have amassed on our OWN by punching the opportunity clock. Creating S P A C E this way can be tiring and painful. What we miss in all of this is that we need each other. The success of the “world” lies in the intermixing and interdependence of shared SPACE.

In the book I’m reading, “The Impossible May take a Little While” there were a few passages that really spoke to this need.

“Forming strong bonds amongst people to go where life is fragile and hidden, and create new life. But it does not happen automatically. It happens when we have the sense to choose community, to come together and celebrate and share our common store"

The time is now but the timeline is eternity. The space is small communities projected onto the world stage. The place where we belong? Up to us. We must harvest our own communities.

WEB Dubois captured the sentiment when he said:
“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.”
It was all super -confusing at first, and it’s still a bit fuzzy. But now, I’ve cleaned up a bit, gotten my business handled, and taken captive my thoughts (the kind that feed OCD tendencies). I like my little space. It’s cozy. But when I look out the window (which I fear that none of us do enough), I can see the bigger world and I am connected by something deep inside of me. Kind of like my workshop on the world. Kind of mad scientist-esce, Not huge, but it’s all that I can handle right now. Much like my life. The problem, I realize is not that people seek individuality and a S P A C E to call their own. The problem is that this desire consumes our thinking and bludgeons our thinking about community. Let this not be the mark of another year or another generation. Coming into a new year, that epiphany was just what I needed.

My New Years Resolution (of sorts….because I hate New Years resolutions) is this. I feel the need now, as a community organizer, to reach out to those who seek these things-time, S P A C E or a place to belong. I can’t create time. My closet is a testament to my inability to create s p a c e. But there’s something about this whole “place to belong” thing. It doable. If only to help someone to recognize that they are a non-conformists in a sea of conformity. We have an unwavering responsibility to create community in this new day and age of disharmony. As the author of this article closes:

" Community (shared S P A C E) not only creates abundance, it is abundance." The STANDard here? To do just that every chance we get .

Happy New Year Everyone!! Go hug a neighbor and take it to the streets.:-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Bailout Grinch stole my Consumer Centered, Christless Christmas…..and he can have it!

Two disclaimers on this entry:

(1) I am not an economist… fact, I hated math in HS and took 1 semester of it in college. So I am in no position to diagnose or remedy the current economic situation…..actually, I think that there are like 5 people who could actually do that (HINT: George Bush and Dick Cheney are NOT on that list...)

(2) I am Christian and Christmas is my favorite holiday by a long shot. I believe, unashamedly, in the crucified and resurrected savior, Jesus Christ

Spending Christmas in Eutawville, SC (the kind of small town that politicians allude to in their stump speeches and young people escape the day that they turn 18), the simplicity is almost startling. It is a far cry from my suburban Atlanta life. There are no cell phone towers and many of the roads are not paved. Standing next to the decrepit Christmas tree that my Grandma takes great pains to put up every year, I think of all of the important things that this “economic crisis” has taught us.

One thing separated this Christmas from 21 that came before it (no, not Santa. I never bought that crap). The difference was that there wasn't a single present. Not one. I suppose Christmas played out the very same way in living rooms all over America. I’m really glad.(Don't hate me, I'm not a mean person). But maybe now, like me and my family did, (and were kind of forced to in the absence of gift opening) we can start having conversations about, you know, values and stuff and the real meaning of Christmas. On the flip side, I do, however, find it troubling that Christmas is such a major financial undertaking for most families that it puts houses in risk of foreclose. Hmmmm. This either reflects poorly on our ability to shop within our means, or our perspective on Christmas. Shouldn’t we blaming Christmas (the kind that we buy in the stores, not the Jesus one) for the destruction of itself? It, just like our complete dependence on fragile financial institutions and lean savings accounts, was bound to crumble.

On this whole values tip: Another bone that I have to pick with Christmas is that Christ is always missing. I'm not going off the deep end with this like a religious zealot, but honestly, we marvel at nativity scenes, cover just about everything that we can in lights, buy ugly sweaters and stand in concert sized lines to return gifts, all in the “celebration of Christmas” but perhaps Jesus will get more scorn this year than he bargained for. I mean, just because we tried to take "In God we Trust" off of our money, doesn't mean that he shouldn't have bailed us out this time right? Doesn't the whole story go something like: Born of a virgin birth, placed in a manger, to save bank accounts everywhere??" No? Perhaps then, we should replace this whole "In God We Trust" think with " In the Financial Institutions, Bankers, and Government we Trust"? Wonder why none proposed that in the first place?

So we are in a crisis right? Let’s define crisis by Webster.
a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
2.a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
3.a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person's life.

We are in a crisis. By Webster's definition and by every telling sign in society. We are in a place which has forced us to rest solely on values that we many times, do not posses and have taken no time to asses. By crisis I think some people mean that they have actually had to live within their means, save money and plan for the future…. but aren’t we supposed to be doing that anyway?

In times when the very thing that we put every ounce of our faith in, has left us, we are forced to return to the very things that were supposed to make us strong to begin with. So the economic crisis has striped us of everything but what has made us such a great nation. (tongue in cheek)

My prediction, more prayers will be heard this Christmas than shrieks from the receipt of astronomical gifts that we can't afford anyway. I might be just fine with that. :-) In the absence of gifts, my family, true to being southerners, still ate like it was going out of style, suffered crippling ITIS, ate again, watched movies, and played UNO at nausea and slept. Strangely, no one died. I won't lie and say that it was the best Christmas ever. That would strip this entry of all sorts of authenticity, but it really put everything in perspective.

Sooooo. What did I get for Christmas besides nothing??

I’ve been reading this book (and I am promise that I won’t regularly plug books) that has been like a year long Christmas present to me. It is called “The Impossible May Take a Little While:" A Citizens Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear. It’s a compilation of stories from people famous and not so famous about how they discovered, cultivated and were inspired by hope and the individuals and experiences that captured that elusive feeling. It was not until I began reading this book that I felt that I could adequately describe what I had been given for Christmas.

For Christmas, months before and years to come, I have been given an abundance of humanity. Huh!?! Granted, I began receiving the gift a bit earlier than I had expected, but it took a retrospective look at all of it to truly understand and appreciate it. An abundance of humanity, and described by the author of this particular essay is the ability to feel good, think positively about the world and do good works on the earth simply through the recognition that ordinary humans can make a difference. My work on the Obama campaign gave me this opportunity. To recognize that there was still good and the potential for good left in the world. I realize now, why Christ was sent to earth. It was hope, from God. A sign that humanity was not lost, and could be redeemed. For a few months, working in communities, relying on the hospitality of strangers, taught me that this thing called kindness did still exist and could be replicated. Just like the years prior to the birth of Jesus, the world was a hopeless place and people needed a reason to home. The Obama campaign has done that for the state of the political world.

That realization, that awakening, was what I needed to survive. It didn't put more money in my pocket, it certainly didn't make gifts magically appear under the tree, but it did give me and thousands of organizers and volunteers and voters a bailout of a world of hopelessness and despair and give me a gift that I will give to others as often as possible.

Ya know, it's kinda like that kid, born in a manger to a hopeless world that he would one day save. :-) Merry Christmas to all....and to all a good night!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's YOUNG, It's BLACK, It's ATLANTA!! : Poverty of Ambition in the BIG city

In my fervent attempt to build on the past 5 months/21.5 years of my life and launch myself into a promising future, I, quite the square peg, made a half-hearted attempt at fitting myself into the round hole of "young, black, Atlanta." I knew it was risky, but I gave it a shot. I went to an event the other night at some Wine Loft that was intended to be a prime networking event. Networking events in Atlanta are mainly "meat/meet markets" full of women squeezed into little skirts, balanced on stilettos, staring down other women who might be in competition with them to attract men who might be interested in dating them, I mean, giving them jobs.

Sitting on a couch for about 30 min, people watching in a sea of young professionals, my mind was drawn away to this idea of "poverty of ambition." Our illustrious President-Elect just might have said it best.

"Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." --President Obama

My fear: That a room full of young, intelligent, black professionals, may be, despite the occasional effort, living out this "poverty of ambition."

No one, almost none, even moves to Atlanta to serve the ailing communities that populate the city. They instead, flock, because they are young, single, fly and childless.....or at least they seek to be. But what else are they chasing? What virtue are they seeking? My sister, the consumate young, black, Atlanta professional, explains these events to be a means to an end, a stepping stone so to speak, but I think more than a few folks step and get stuck waiting for the next mixer.

The larger problem in all of this: being a community organizer makes you look at everything like a social experiment. It causes you to despise the simple, surface conversation and the array of self-serving items that top people's lifelong To Do lists. I want to make it clear though that I am not turning my nose up a girl who owns a new Coach bag and volunteers at a shelter once/month. We can't all be Mother Teresa. I'm simply saying that my wagon, as Obama says, has been hitched to something much bigger than the next sale at the mall, or the newest bag by Coach (don't get my wrong though, I do love a good sale). There's gotta be a place for community organizers in this lipstick jungle!! Here I was, all dressed up in my tight little skirt with my afro packed down to satisfying heights and I have never, ever, felt more displaced, nor have I even felt myself to have so little in common with people who LOOK JUST LIKE ME. Is it my job, as a community organizer, to help people hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves, whatever that may be. Is that how we sustain a movement? It that our place as community organizers who have been released out of the captivity of election season into the wild?

So, to make a long story short, or long, I didn't quite fit in. Perhaps, it's because I am a community organizer and not a social climber. Perhaps it is because I'd rather be on the phone in my stretch pants and Converse doing volunteer recruitment calls than in an uncomfortable outfit, showing cleavage to attract my next short term boyfriend or long term disappointment. Perhaps it is because this is all a little bit country, and I am just a little too rock and roll. :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hope vs. HOPE

So I've spent a great deal of my post-campaign life pontificating upon the many principles that I learned while organizing in two unique Missouri communities and one of them has become almost crystal clear to me in the past few days:

It is....the idea of Hope vs. HOPE

HOPE: the kind you find on the many Obama stickers and bumper stickers

Hope: the old school virtue that we were living by in the pre-Obama era. The kind of stuff that people write about in Self-help and Weight loss books. And you read about in the bible. That thing that none could wrap their mind or heart around, but desperately needed.
~Jonae definition (not official)

**No, caplocks aren't the only difference between the two.

Where does this election leave us with this notion of hope? Certainly not just with a stack of un-sold bumper stickers bearing the image of a certain President-Elect. What, truly, is our hope rooted in and how does it sustain the heatwave of a movement??

So, last night at my church's mid-week service a lady spoke of setting our sights and our virtue higher than what we see on earth. I know that some readers aren't into religion, but it's something worth pondering.

Maybe, just maybe, we have over-commercialized this idea of hope. HOPE, the new age stuff, comes from people like community organizers, and seas of people at rallies, and rural offices brimming with volunteers at all hours of the day. We like HOPE, we buy HOPE and we watch HOPE played out in special interest pieces on CNN. In some ways, as we have seen in this election, HOPE moves us to action, and seems much more useful than some stuff your grandma has prayed on for years, but what is it rooted it?

What does that mean for you, and I, or country even, today, tomorrow, and the day after. We must invest in hope. So that when we are no longer wrapped up in a candidate or a race, hope will subside. Good news though. The types of hope that I refer to have you and I in common. We are the thread. In my post -campaign life, I pledge to do what I can to keep hope alive, simply because, as the great Dr. Martin Luther King once said (maybe even more than once):

If you lose hope you lose the vitality that keeps life moving... you lose the courage to be... that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream. ~MLK, Jr.

So it's up to us (isn't everything??) to cultivate a culture of hope by translating HOPE into hope, get it? Taking the amazing thing that has been stirred up in communities across America and merge it with the hope that sustained Dr. King and his people and keeps that old wise man in his rocking chair talking about "the struggle"

Quick story: I was having a 1:1(campaign term for short, personal meeting with a potential volunteer or team leader). It was the best one I'd had yet. She was a lady, middle aged, who lived in rural Missouri. We shared a ton of personal stories, and I even felt comfortable divulging more information than I usually would. By the end of our discussion she looked at me teary-eyed and said to me:

"I'm so hopeful." I'd like to think that the HOPE that this little brown Obama field organizer brought to this lady (she later became a neighborhood team leader) , gave a boost to the hope in her heart. That, in essence, is why I prefer to be called a community organizer as opposed to a political organizer.

Perhaps the only actual confrontation that I have had about this Hope/HOPE/community organizer/political organizer issue came after our defeat in the Jim Martin runoff election. A few organizers and I went to an event called The People Speak. Despite a little bit of Obama bashing, the event was quite interesting. Afterward, the same few organizers and I had an encounter with a man who, despite his age and depth of wisdom (not really), clearly did not understand what "Obama organizers" did. His refrain during the entire dialogue was "But you guys were organizing around a candidate, not policy really, I mean, it's different than organizing"

I was highly perturbed with this gentelmen. I was also pretty offended. I seemed to have failed on all levels of explaining my job with any degree of efficacy. All I could say, because our job descriptions are often lost in rhetoric, was the we were COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS. We we planting the seeds of activism in communities all over the nation. Seeds of hope with a message of HOPE. Geez. No one was carrying around a policy manual quoting PDF files or stacks of flyers bearing policy bullet points.

I suppose it takes a special person to organize and a truly open-minded one to understand it...

Really World?

Drawing the world's/ limited readership's attention to the day's/ few day's revelations:

(1) EVERYONE in Cobb is NOT a Republican. Brace yourself.
I as at Comp USA getting one of the many computers that I managed to ruin over the course of the campaign diagnosed, when I ran into a young white man who, by my expertise of having lived in Cobb for quite some time, looked like a Republican. I thought he may have given me issues when handling my Obama shrine of a computer, but as I was leaving, we told me that I might want to hang on the HOPE sticker on the top, because it was pretty valuable. That just about made my year :-)

Of course that enlightened moment of stereotype-shattering clarity was soon followed by reminder that the world still needs to get its act together.

Rick Warren and Barack Obama cannot share the same stage, because that often recited vow of "reaching across the aisle" that has become a nauseating buzz word this campaign season would actaully become a reality. . Read the article.

My take: Really, I think this whole fuss makes the Progressives look silly. In my opinion, when you wear the label progressive, you are taking some ideological and even ACTUAL steps toward making the world a more tolerable place....or not. That means that even leaders of powerful churches and and President -elects with controversial pastors, should be able to break bread at the same table, right?

Obama is not BLACK enough, at least for some people.

Perhaps they should, instead of showing his face (which may
be more black or white depending on the season of the year) at press conferences, the AP (who decided to break this amazingly relevant story....I hear the economy is looking up....not) should instead insert this patriotic sticker in it's place. Country first. :-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Don't Call it a Comeback

Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for YEARS....

I'm back in the blogosphere and here to stay. :-) I've been at this thing since high school but alot has changed since then. Most recently I spent 5 months as a field organizer. Honestly, I'm just now catching my breath. It was and is a job, I have quickly, painfully and most irritatingly learned, may never be understood by those who weren't there. It dawned on me one day that I may spend my whole life talking to people who believe the sole responsibilities of a field organizer to be....

(1) Attending Barack Obama rallies and waiting in the wings in hopes that he will sign their copy of "Dreams from My Father"

(2) Yard Sign Dispenser. Enough said.

(3) Organzing Barack schedule so that he can purposely skip the cities where your most prized volunteer live. Because, you know, if he's not visiting their city, he's not trying to win an election....:-/

None of the above. Sorry folks. There's just no room in our schedules for that. We're busy doing the stuff that amazing and historic campaigns are made out of aka community organizing.:-) Anyway, I'm back in the blogging world because an experience like the one I and thousands of other organizers had, is best when shared with the world. After all, we are inheriting it and shaping it and molding it into the future. We are the new STANDard.

World, take note.

Just getting my feet wet again, so I'm a bit heavy on the sarcasm. :-) No apologies though. Look for more, because surely there will be.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Issue # 1

Issue # 1 is not the economy- it's the legacy that we are inheriting and in-turn leaving.... That's why I started this blog. We are the voice of our own generation. It's time that we stopped letting people speak for us and tell us who we are.