Friday, September 02, 2005

Listening to the Chief

Wade Rathke, ACORN's Chief has been discussing the aftermath of Katrina on his blog. It's worth reading. Here's a sample.

Helene O’Brien, ACORN’s National Field Director, called me in the afternoon weeping about the TV film of people dying in the Convention Center and yelling that we had to do something, because our people were dying. What could we do? What works?

So, we put out a call on the email alerts and to all of our members to all their Congressperson and demand that the poor of New Orleans and the victims of this disaster get immediate help. Some of our offices are calling for sit-ins in the offices of their representatives until they know there is help.

Is this a decision or a cop-out? It’s a nothing, but it simply a way to allow everyone to do something in a situation where there is almost nothing we can do at the depth of our powerlessness.

My daughter, now a real organizer, talked to me at mid-night from the Tampa office where she and other young organizers had been making calls and running off flyers because they wanted to do something, so they were doing what they knew how to do. It was hard to tell her that there was no way to move 100 people at the Site Fighters Conference to a Congressional office. There were no busses. There was no gas. Maybe at the end of the conference we could have everyone made a cell phone call to the 800 number for Congress at the same time, so that they could do something.

There was silence.
She said it was lame.
It is lame.

I’m ashamed that we have worked so hard for so many years to organize so many thousands of lower income families and built so much power in so many areas and absolutely in New Orleans, but it turns out simply to not mean much when the
price of being poor is reduced to dollars and cents in a disaster and converted to life and death.


At the bottom line as an organizer one learns that sometimes it is not a question of doing the right thing or the wrong thing, but at least of doing something, allowing people to act in some way, to have a voice and to speak strongly with that voice.

Yesterday. the WFP has encouraged our supporters to contribute to the Red Cross. ACORN also needs help rebuildng. You can do that here.


Civilis said...

Hey Alex just letting you know I've changed my blog the new url is

After yesterday's primaries and the low voter turnout. I felt like I wanted to start something new and focus on the WFP more.

p swartzfager said...

I am here in New Orleans, getting ready to move to Rochester since I am one of the hundreds of people now being laid off since there is no help to rebuild the infrastructure of this city. There is much more damage here than people throughout the country realize--people living in tents, people still not allowed home, people homeless and in cars, and hundreds/thousands? of children still unaccounted for. Go to to read the real story. Good people all over this country have no idea how bad it is. The city is dying, businesses and people (the suicide rate is up 30%). Scream at your congressional reps and senators (where's hilary on this?). We can afford a war but not help for working families and poor people in the Gulf Region?

Some of us are moving to other states to activate the country. We will fight to change this system--but for a hurricane or a terrosit attack you could be in our shoes. Don't be complacent. Your government is not on your side.

Anonymous said...

I just heard that the WFP is supporting the TWU in their threat to strike. I'm a supporter of the WFP but this position is insane. A strike will ruin many small businessmen counting on Christmas week to stay afloat. How could you support something that would do such damage to working families? Will you please post and explanation?