Favorite

Community builders 

Barack Obama worked for a short time out of law school as a community organizer, a job that I share and have made my career at the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. His experience as a community organizer was belittled during the Republican National Convention. Community organizing has been a primary tool of the American reformer from colonial times until now. To belittle it in an election about competing visions of change makes no sense.

True community organizing is non-partisan. It is about putting community decisions as close to the ground as possible — grassroots democracy with the smallest “d.” It brings people together to build stronger relationships, create shared opinions and make shared plans to strengthen communities.

The volunteer militias that freed the United States from the British more than 230 years ago were the product of community organizing. The Bill of Rights is a defining document for organizing, based in freedom of speech, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Harriet Tubman was a community organizer who helped people escape from slavery. Susan B. Anthony was an organizer who helped women secure the right to vote and run for office. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a community organizer who galvanized the nation to stand up for equal rights. The Southern Tenant Farmers Union, started right here in Tyronza, Arkansas, was led by community organizers who put an end to inhumane sharecropping and birthed the farm worker movement. Recent organizing in Little Rock resulted in two different community groups still focused on education — one in support of our former school superintendent and one in opposition.

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel was founded by women who were among those who helped form the Women's Emergency Committee to reopen schools during the Central High crisis of 1957. Today we have community organizers working with leaders who are Democrats, Republicans, independents and Greens — and together they are improving communities across our state.

We are proudly non-partisan. We worked with Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee to create a state Department of Agriculture, implement preschool programs, raise the minimum wage, extend voting hours and raise taxes to fund Medicaid programs for the elderly and education for our children. We worked with Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and Democratic legislators to create a commission on global warming, provide low-income tax relief, improve energy policy, protect victims of domestic violence, open community centers, improve schools, protect individual property rights and protect our drinking water.

Arkansas has a strong tradition of organizing that has impacted the nation. Being a community organizer is no more a qualification for president than being a mayor, a farmer, a governor or a U.S. senator. But the experiences of an organizer should not be discounted either — there is value in knowing how to bring people together and solve problems. Candidates should be evaluated by what they will do on the issues confronting our nation.  Our hopes and challenges are not Democrat or Republican, they are American.

 

Bill Kopsky is executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Bill Kopsky

  • Selling kids short

    young professional family told me this week they are thinking of leaving Arkansas because the state isn't committed to education and opportunities for their kids. Another parent of a child with special needs told me she's frustrated her school can't afford the help her child needs to get her reading up to grade level. Another parent's child isn't allowed to bring textbooks home because the school doesn't have enough of them, and can't afford more.
    • Nov 10, 2016
  • The politics of opportunity

    Are you sick of the election yet? One thing that seems certain is that our politics remain as hyperpartisan and dysfunctional as ever. I may be naive, but I think Arkansas has an opportunity to help lead the country back toward pragmatic progress on the issues that will make our families and communities stronger.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Coalition building

    In 1993 a group of Arkansas grassroots, religious and labor leaders got together to strategize how they could more effectively move positive reforms through our often resistant legislature. The leaders were frustrated that big business interests worked together to win favors and block reforms, while community and worker interests were isolated and often defeated.
    • Jun 23, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Tipping point

    I was extremely cautious before engaging in the educational debate about the State Board of Education's decision to take over the Little Rock School District.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Left behind

    Arkansas is getting a lot of attention for our very low unemployment rate. If you look only at that number (3.4 percent), you would think workers here were doing quite well — better than surrounding states and even the nation as a whole. But that seemingly simple rate can hide some huge gaps in prosperity.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • I am very glad to see a lot of women running for government positions in…

    • on September 19, 2017
  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • Since Hillary's book has come out, the Hillary Bashers have starting ranting again. My thoughts:…

    • on September 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation