Community Organizing: Si o Si
Commentary by Ramón Pérez, [email protected]
Community Organizing has been talked about for many years throughout the Latino community but very few understand what it means or what it would look like in action. And just as important, if not more important, the benefits for the Latino community. There are various definitions as well as what community organizing looks like on the ground running, so I will attempt to draw you a picture of direct action community organizing.
Winning real, immediate, concrete improvements in people’s lives and their community is the best model of community organizing. Regardless if the improvements include increased access to health care, increased enrollment into head-start, high school drop-out prevention support services, parent involvement in schools, increased employment opportunities, law enforcement protection and relationship building, or better street lighting. A direct action organization uses united action to win improvements for large numbers of people. This model of organizing is much different than what we mostly see used in our community.
For example, most people are helped individually with their problems, which is what social services do best. Nothing wrong with that approach but too many clients usually continue the cycle of dependency on an organization to get them through the day which then usually becomes weeks, months, and years.
Another word, most efforts to help the Latino community are geared towards helping a hungry family for the day instead of helping those families learn to fish and take care of themselves. There are just too many examples of how we ourselves or let other community organizations keep our gente dependent on their services. Where is the dignity in that?
A Community Organizer will go into the community, talk to Latino residents, and follow a proven recipe for getting results. First talk, but most importantly, listen to the resident. Ask the resident what concerns them the most about their family, community, city and county government.
Get them to agree to attend a neighborhood meeting so they can see that there are many more just like themselves that are experiencing the same problems. The plan is to get 50, 75, 100 plus residents together to discuss, and decide their top 5 issues they want to work on.
This is a very short version but I hope you get the gist. The problem is powerlessness. Latino families are being left out when decisions are being made about them. One by one, their voices have not been heard.
Now, imagine Latinos coming together to agree that they need to find funding and hire a community organizer to start building a collective, grassroots voice. The answer is in the development of active and involved Latino residents and making them into local community leaders. They take charge of their lives and community. That’s dignity!
I’m ready; all we need is for some Latinos/as to create a sponsoring committee so we can get the job done. If not in Toledo, please someone or group step forward.