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“An Injury to One is An Injury to All” Takes on New Meaning

Statement by National Organizers Alliance Staff & Steering Committee (10/6/09)

“NOA’s mission is to advance progressive organizing for social, economic and environmental justice and to sustain, support and nurture the people of all ages who do it. In furtherance of that goal, our members are organizers who are responsible to a defined constituency and who help build that constituency through leadership development, collective action and the development of democratic structures.”

As part of our commitment to build “a community of organizers,” we express solidarity with organizers who face attacks because of the work they do. We hold up a light on their situation.

In recent months, there has been an increasing number of attacks aimed against community organizers in all of public life. Community organizing groups, funders, unions and faith-based social change organizations are under attack.

ACORN (Association for Community Reform Now) has been the most notable target. Everyday a small number of media manipulators and the unaccountable blogosphere writers rail against ACORN and progressive community organizing. Slanted reports and outright fiction are replayed without fact-checking. Those attacked are not given a chance to respond. That elected officials should be so prone to echo this noisy fringe is even more cynical. We call your attention to the study by Peter Dreier and Christopher Martin: Manipulating the Public Agenda – Why ACORN was in the news and what the media got wrong.”

Today, we express our solidarity with ACORN.

Solidarity is never convenient. We all have our own priorities and agendas. Many are reluctant to stand with ACORN because of past differences or lest one become another target. As Madeline Talbot of Chicago's Action Now! says in a message to organizers: "We can all run and hide and hope that Fox News doesn't come after us next, or we can remember that once they get started, with Van Jones or ACORN, they will soon be coming for all of us."

Some organizers may be reticent to stand with ACORN because of previous disagreements. It is no secret that NOA and ACORN had a rocky relationship in the past. In organizing, however, we analyze who our real opponents are on any given issue. In the right to organize communities, NOA and ACORN are on the same side. We support the engagement of people in their own solutions to problems. With that in common, we can continue to disagree on other things.

Others may keep distance from ACORN because of concealed videos, the reported financial practices of its past leaders, and the more recent allegations of voter fraud.

The emphasis of the attacks usually returns to ACORN's voter registration of thousands. Pablo Eisenberg wrote in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “its organizing efforts have enabled formerly powerless constituencies to gain the power and influence to be a force in the policy debates in many states and localities.”

The attacks on ACORN are about power.

If we allow ACORN's members and organizers to be silenced, we should note the warning of the state motto of Kentucky: “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

Today, the house of community organizing can choose to stand divided or stand with ACORN.

We remain silent at our own peril.

We know that NOA members will have various opinions on the ACORN subject. We want to see them. Send us your opinions (try to keep it to 500 words or less). We will run some in the next Ark magazine or in our Facebook group or future blog.

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P. O. Box 342; Alcoa, TN 37701

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