Michael Gecan is retiring as Co-Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation this month. All accolades coming his way will be richly deserved. His career has been a model of how to build and sustain broad based power organizations. Mike has been an organization builder, innovator, risk taker, and thought leader for over four decades.
While best known for his work with East Brooklyn Congregations (and the sparkling success of Nehemiah Housing in NYC), his mentoring of talented leaders and organizers, his strategic brilliance applied to multiple political fights over decades, his talent for expression through the written word, his (cold) anger, humor and patience put him in the top rung of change agents in the USA and abroad.
See DF's page devoted to Michael Gecan's Books.
BOOK OF THE MONTH:
From the Washington Post:
One person who recognizes this disparity is Mike Gecan, senior organizer at Metro Industrial Areas Foundation based in Chicago. In something of a unique social experiment, Gecan is attempting to address obstacles faced by populations who are disadvantaged by residing in far-off areas of the map. Opinion piece here.
"Franklin D. Roosevelt is reported to have said about the need for a specific policy initiative, "Okay, you've convinced me. Now go out there and organize and create a constituency to make me do it." I fear that too many progressives are still caught up in the "convincing," when what we need now is the constituency-and people who are willing to think hard about how to create, sustain, and energize that constituency." More from still timely piece in Boston Review.
"The grand challenge that Arendt gave herself was the retrieval of the words most associated with politics—and therefore the words most ravaged through centuries of overuse and distortion."
Read the smart, timely piece here.
Over the course of my organizing career with IAF that spanned forty years I can’t recall a strategic idea worth pursuing or a tactic worth implementing that didn’t derive from relational meetings. My recollections in many cases include the exact moment when the spark occurred: The ashen face of a parent in Las Vegas describing the pimping of her child for sex; the tight jaw of a woman despondent over the number of children running loose after school in her neighborhood; the depression of a man whose year of government funded “job training” ended with no job in sight; an immigrant describing his ordeal crossing the border.
“Power before program” is one of IAF Co-Director Ernie Cortes’ signature organizing mantras. Implicit in his exhortation is adoption of IAF’s methodological innovations - first and foremost relational meetings, one to one, that are practices for building power. Strategic, tactical and methodological innovations circle back on one another in a virtuous circle. Where the power of IAF citizen organizations is successfully exercised, business as usual is disrupted as public space opens for more citizen leaders to impact public life with fresh initiatives, energy and action. Troubled democracies everywhere need more of this. Their survival may depend on it.
See books by Michael Gecan HERE.
Thousands of people fleeing situations of murder, rape and gang violence in Central America come to this country seeking asylum. They expect and ought to expect that they will receive a fair hearing. But they are greeted with gimmicks meant to circumvent the law in order to discourage them from pursuing their claims of asylum: people’s children are arbitrarily taken from them; people are told that they must wait in Mexico until their cases are heard; border patrol agents were even instructed by the president himself to lie to judges and say that they are unable to process more cases because they are overwhelmed (their supervisors instructed these same agents to ignore the president).
One might be tempted to say that the administration is administering a policy of terrorism to discourage people from seeking asylum. Terrorism is a political tool. Its aim is to achieve a political aim. It entails perpetrating indiscriminate acts of violence against civilians to create a level of terror that leads to capitulation.
By Frank C. Pierson, Jr., Editor and Publisher, www.democraticfaith.com
Kaz (my wife) and I visited Ambos Nogales - twin cities on the Mexican/US border - a couple weeks ago. We support a cross border tennis program for youngsters and wanted to experience its activities first hand. Of course we both had seen pictures of the towering slatted metal fence dressed out with concertina wire snaking through the Nogales twin cities but were still unprepared for the reality.
A tiny % of American citizens will ever share our first hand experience because the vast majority will never go there. Most, for now, will view the attempt at border militarization from a distance through a political lens. That’s too bad. First hand they might gain some insight into why US border policy is broken.
Let's end it so others don't feel like 'caged animals', former inmate says.
Story by IAF Organizer Nafeesah Goldsmith
In 2006, when I was 26 years old, I was placed in solitary confinement at New Jersey State Prison for 60 days.
I was locked in my cell for 23 hours a day, sometimes 24 hours, depending on the mood of the officers or if there was a lockdown at the prison. Our showers -- which we were supposed to receive every day -- were subject to the officers’ whims as well. Sometimes, I didn’t get a shower for days. More here.
"A nation of organisers: What David Brooks could learn from Saul Alinsky and John Wesley" By Luke Bretherton
David Brooks's article "A Nation of Weavers" points to social isolation as the root cause of the social crisis America faces and the personal suffering many endure. His constructive response is to reweave the social fabric from the ground up. Brooks is right on both counts, but important lessons must be learned from how previous generations addressed the same problem.
Brooks sees "hyperindividualism" and a fragilised social fabric as new phenomenon. They are not. They are a constitutive feature of the modern world that commentators have lamented since the eighteenth century. For example, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, shared Brooks's concerns.
As did socialists and conservative reformers through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some pointed to capitalism as the cause, with its demand that each puts their self-interest above that of the common good. Others to an emphasis on individual autonomy that sees throwing off social obligations as the basis of freedom and, in doing so, refuses the reality that each of us is constituted through our relations with others.