CPN is designed and maintained by ONline @ UW: Electronic Publishing Group.

E-mail us at cpn@cpn.org

Topics: Religion & Community (cross-referenced)

East Brooklyn Congregations Build Nehemiah Homes

"Come, let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace." With these words from the Book of Nehemiah, local ministers drew upon the prophetic Old Testament imagery of the the black church tradition to inspire grassroots action and move the mayor of New York City to support what has since become an innovative housing program for cities around the country. East Brooklyn Congregations represents the values-based style of organizing of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which sees community organizing as not just advocacy but as schools for public life and public leadership development. Case study plus.

Case Study Plus: Reconnecting Power and Vision

Reconnecting Power an Vision, a 20-page case study by Harry Boyte, who is Co-Chair of the CPN Advisory Board, and the national coordinator of the American Civic Forum. Excerpted from his book: CommonWealth: A Return to Citizen Politics (New York: Free Press, 1990), chapter 6: "Reconnecting Power and Vision: Education for Public Life." Copyright by Harry Boyte, 1990. Printed case study may be distributed for nonprofit civic education purposes only.

The Industrial Areas Foundation, or IAF, is a network of large-scale, successful citizen organizations made up of poor, minority, lower and middle class groups associated with a training center established by Saul Alinsky. It has reinvigorated an understanding of citizen action by taking advantage of the multiple resources and dimensions of power in the modern world. In particular, IAF groups have addressed a context where information, itself, is increasingly a central strategic resource and form of power.

IAF organizing went through two stages of development. Especially after Alinsky's death in 1972, through the seventies organizers and local leaders explored new ways to ground the organizing process in a deeper connection with community institutions, preeminently local churches of mainstream Catholic and Protestant orientation. Such a development gave rise to a new approach, called "value based organizing." Value based organizing wedded the struggle for power to communal fabric and cultural traditions in a way that enlisted groups of community "sustainers"—those they called "the moderates" —that rarely form the foundation of visible public action, in minority communities or elsewhere. As these groups experienced growing successes and began to think about their longer range rationale, they added a second dimension to their self-understanding, coming to understand themselves as "schools for public life."[1]

"Schools of public life," in the IAF view, are self-funded citizen organizations where people learn the arts and skills of a politics much more multidimensional than voting. IAF experience is intensively debated and discussed throughout the affiliated organizations. Its approach to knowledge and learning develops ways to overcome people's lack of access to civic knowledge and the ability to think about the meaning and values that must be added to information, alike.[2]

The IAF network forges a thoughtful, constantly evaluated political practice out of the tension between the "world as it is" and the "world as it should be." It teaches people not only specific political information about legislation, issues and the skills to cooperate and act together effectively. It also adds a dynamic intellectual life involving a practical theory of action, employing and constantly developing concepts like power, mediating institution, public life, the meaning and management of time, judgment, imagination, and self-interest. Such concepts, in turn, are tied to discussion of the democratic and religious values and traditions which inform and frame their efforts—justice, concern for the poor, the dignity of the person, diversity, participation, heritage.

Of particular importance as these groups have evolved and developed is their concept of "governance" for sustainable citizen activity. IAF groups believe that it is not sufficient to simply protest; to "move into power" on a continuing basis in the modern world, citizens must also assume an important measure of responsibility for the basic public goods of their community. IAF leaders and organizers sometimes refer to such goods as the commons, or commonwealth. Sometimes they give them other names. In either case, it can have a major impact.

East Brooklyn Churches (EBC) is a citizen organizing project affiliated with the IAF training network that Saul Alinsky and his associates established in late 1968. For a number of years, they had had local successes in the impoverished neighborhoods of the East Brooklyn area of New York. In the early 1980s, they had taken on a housing building project on a scale that drawfed not only their own prior activities but any other low income housing development initiative in the country. Early in 1982, they had waited for weeks for word from Mayor Edward Koch about whether he would support their plans. It still seemed uncertain.

EBC envisioned an enormous undertaking: construction of 5,000 single-family, owner occupied housing units designed for lower-middle income buyers, built in the midst of the decimated and mostly black neighborhoods of East Brooklyn. Drug dealers ruled the streets, even in daylight. Block after block had been bulldozed into rubble, like some vast war zone. Most middle income families had long fled. But EBC had lined up a remarkable group of financial backers, including Bishop Francis Mugavero, leader of Brookyn's one and a half million Catholics and theologically conservative church groups like the Missouri Synod of the National Lutheran Church. And EBC had a long track record of smaller victories.

The group had begun far more modestly in 1978 with a small group of Catholic and Protestant clergy and laity to discuss the formidable array of community issues they faced. They followed the Alinsky dictum to start with immediate, small "winnable" issues around which poor and powerless people can experience confidence-building success. EBC members had forced clean-ups in local food stories, pressured the city to install hundreds of street signs, forced renovation of local parks and worked together to clean up vacant lots. And slowly through the process they had forged a sense of solidarity and potency. "We are not a grassroots organization," thundered the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood, a key leader in the organization, at one rally. "Grass roots are shallow roots. Grass roots are fragile roots. Our roots are deep roots. Our roots have fought for existence in the shattered glass of East New York."

Then EBC turned to housing out of the conviction that only widespread home ownership could create the kind of "roots" essential for renewed community pride and freedom from fear. Teaming up with a well-known Daily News columnist and former developer, I.D. Robbins, they adopted his controversial argument that for half the cost of high-density, high rise apartments, it would be possible to build large numbers of single family homes that could create stable neighborhoods.

EBC had come to name their undertaking the "Nehemiah Plan," recalling the Old Testament prophet sent back to Jerusalem by the King of Persia in 420 to lead in the rebuilding of the city after the Babylonian captivity. "The story connected our work to something real, not something bogus," explained Mike Gecan, organizer for the East Brooklyn Churches. "It got it out of the "housing" field and the idea that you have to have a bureaucracy with 35 consultants to do anything. It made it a 'nonprogram,' something more than housing." Or as one EBC leader, Celina Jamieson, emphasized, "We are more than a Nehemiah Plan. We are about the central development of dignity and self-respect."

To the amazement of almost everyone in the housing field, EBC had secured funding nearly sufficient to begin. What remained was approval by the mayor of a plan for loans from the city for each house, payable upon resale, that would bring the prices low enough for middle income families. Leaders held a press conference. "The first question was about the mayor's support," Gecan remembered. They couldn't speak about Koch's intentions, but they declared their intention to go forward.

One of the local network affiliates traveled to the site after the press conference. Cameras rolled over block after block, building after building. That night, as scenes of desolation appeared on the screen, an announcer read from the book of Nehemiah to illustrate EBC's intent:

You see the trouble we are in,

How Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned.

Come, let us build the walls of Jerusalem,

That we may no longer suffer disgrace.

Audience response was immense. The next day the mayor approved the project. Koch, with the flair for publicity that had long been his trademark, soon was comparing himself with the prophet Nehemiah in speeches across the city. [3]

The Nehemiah story is a window into the organizing approach of the IAF network. It testifies to major changes in its organizing over the years, from the scale of the effort (involving tens of thousands of families) to the sorts of projects worked on—assuming responsibility for a large-scale infrastructure effort like the creation of a small township of houses. The language of the Nehemiah undertaking, resonant with the prophetic Old Testament imagery of the black church tradition, is far removed from the "nonideological" vocabulary of raw power and self-interest most often associated with community organizations. Indeed, much of EBC's power comes from its capacity to frame its action in a language that has a widespread appeal: it adds values to "issues," in a way that re-embeds problems like housing once again in a sense of human agency. These changes suggest ways in which Industrial Areas Foundation groups have evolved since Saul Alinsky's death in 1972.

In the context of a growing economy and the Great Society of the 1960s—even through the mid-seventies—the classic Alinsky approach to community organization often proved effective in the immediate terms, at least for those served by dominant organizations in poorer communities. Sufficient resources, controlled by city administrations or local economic power brokers, existed to provide a wealth of local targets for campaigns for tangible benefits in municipal services, housing, education, economic development and a range of other areas. There continued to be a broader public that poor and powerless communities might appeal to on the basis of their right to a fair share. And, at least until the early seventies, dense networks of local neighborhood institutions continued to thrive in most inner city urban areas which could be pulled together and mobilized through effective organization.

Yet the context for community organization changed dramatically through the seventies and into the eighties in ways that prompted changes in IAF methods. Innovations in telecommunications, urban growth and development patterns, the appearance of massive suburban shopping malls and industrial and office parks far from downtown areas indicated a further erosion in the numbers of jobs available in inner city areas and a transformation of the nature of jobs. Cities became less regional retailing and manufacturing centers than centers for administration, finance, conventions and recreation. Those who moved to the suburbs—including, in the aftermath of sixties' civil rights laws, much of the black middle class—were mainly those who could afford to move. Inner city areas were left with large populations of the poor, new immigrants, working class ethnics and others whose traditional blue collar jobs were fast disappearing. An increasingly large number of women-headed, single-parent households were trapped in welfare or low-paid, dead end or part time jobs, which accounted for the growing percentage of woman and children among the poor. [4]

With the flight of jobs and the disappearance of many middle class residents came a weakening in the elements of community that had furnished the foundations of traditional community organization: unions, political groups, ethnic associations, small business organizations. All lost ground, save only religious congregations, which remained centers of local neighborhood life. In view of such changes, the 1983 report of U.S. News and World Report on the next 50 years certainly represents a plausible, bleak scenario. The magazine envisioned "large, aging cities [where] vast neighborhoods housing the least mobile of Americans—the poor, the elderly, and new immigrants from other lands—will continue to crumble. The residential parts of central cities 'will be more a repository for those who have fallen off the train.'"[5]

At the same time, the growing conglomeration of the economy greatly limited the maneuvering ability of local power brokers. Between 1980 and 1985 alone, $380 billion dollars were spent for corporate mergers and hostile takeovers, many involving the purchase of locally owned business by multinational corporations. Patterns of concentration reflected such merger activity. By the early 1980s, the assets of the largest two hundred companies matched the percentage of the economy held by the largest one thousand in 1941.[6]

In turn, the gobbling up of locally owned industries and businesses, the trends toward centralization of financial and economic power and wealth all meant transfer of effective authority to national or even global managers. Meanwhile, Reagan-era cutbacks in aid to cities have severely circumscribed the resources of the public sector.

These shifting terms of political and economic power greatly affected the IAF practice by the middle seventies, as organizers tried to cope with changing community landscape. "We began across the board, working with middle class whites as well as blacks and chicanos," explained Chambers. "We began looking not so much at geography as at communities of interest." They discussed how to deepen the process of organizing, which led to an even stronger emphasis on community institutions, especially congregations. And they began to stress that citizens organizations needed a clear independence from government funding, foundations and corporate donors if local communities were to have a strong sense of "ownership" and power. "We became very strong on the need for the organization to be based on the people's own money or it won't last," said Chambers. IAF leaders and organizers began to stress the need for citizen groups to be largely self-financed through dues from affiliated group and membership fundraising campaigns.[7]

The new focus on religious groups as the foundation for organizing came partly out of IAF organizers' readings of the changing urban environment. It was also made possible by the generational change in IAF leadership.

Ed Chambers, the organizer who took over as executive director of IAF after Alinsky's death in 1972, certainly conveys something of Alinsky's legendary style. He is brusque, often contentious. And he mingles the persona of "organizer" with Alinsky-like intellectuality as well: Chambers seems something of a cross between political philosopher and stevedore. Recruited to the IAF in 1958 to work with The Woodlawn Organization, Chambers combines reflections on books he has been reading lately with profane observations about the state of American politics and society. He constantly uses stories from his three decades of organizing to make his points. At times, he interrupts the conversation to challenge you: "what do you mean by that?" "Why do you think so?" His early encounters with the sponsoring committee of East Brooklyn Churches had this quality, participants remembered. "He stood up there and kept telling us that we were living in a garbage heap," explained Lutheran minister Dave Benke. At times, it made Benke furious, but Chambers also forced attention to things the community leaders had closed out of their minds, "just to survive." "The man kept us in touch with reality and with our anger. He insisted that our people, pastors included, should be training in organizing skills. He demanded that we research every project or issue to be addressed. And he made us practice ahead of time for every important meeting or action." [8]

In ways that resemble Alinsky, Chambers radiates a "tough guy" organizer stance that is abrasive to many. But he has made sharp breaks in the IAF traditional approach to women organizers and leaders. Alinsky was reknown for his comment to Marge Tabankin—a community organizer who headed the ACTION program for the Carter administration—that "women couldn't be organizers" during a training session in the early seventies. In contrast, Chambers has sought out women as paid organizers since his days with FIGHT in the sixties, and he has encouraged women like Christine Stephens and Maribeth Larkin to become leading, highly paid organizers in the IAF network. Chambers is also well known for encouraging women in IAF affiliated groups to take on top leadership positions. And over the past ten years, IAF training sessions have come to depict the contemporary women's movement in a strongly favorable light—a notable difference from earlier years.[9]

Chambers brings a different set of passions to organizing than Alinsky did. A former seminarian, Chambers has strong interests in theology and religious thought, for instance, which have infused his perspective on what organizing is about. As a young man he had travelled through Europe and was inspired by the example of worker priest movements in the fifties. He is also driven by the concern for developing organizing as a respected, reasonably well-paying career with security. Today, IAF "lead organizers"—those who direct large organizations—make comfortably middle-income salaries, and cabinet members, the most senior IAF organizers, make more (such salaries, unprecedented elsewhere in the world of community organizing, are possible because of the strong emphasis on membership-based fundraising—mostly dues from member church, synagogue, union and community affiliates of local groups—and because their new organizing approaches devolve most authority and tasks, eventually, on voluntary leadership themselves). Perhaps most notably, Chambers is more "relational," as one young IAF trainee put it. He constantly encourages, prods, and supports the network of organizers for whom he feels responsible. And he asks for criticisms, feedback and reciprocity from others, as well. Chambers is visibly a man who enjoys public life. [10]

Ed Chambers pointed the IAF organizing network in new directions. But the changes were given depth and substance through an organizing effort called Communities Organized for Public Service, COPS, that proved dramatically successful in the sprawling, impoverished Mexican barrios of San Antonio.

Ernesto Cortes, COPS first organizer, had grown up in San Antonio in the forties and fifties. He had always felt, himself, as a Mexican-American, something of a stranger in the town where the majority Mexican population had been excluded from political and economic power for over one hundred years. "The struggle was to become American," Cortes remembered. "If someone called you a Mexican you were supposed to beat them up." For years, he had been frustrated by the ineffectiveness of traditional approaches to poverty, from the poverty programs to voter registration and economic development strategies. The underlying problem seemed to him the lack of power, reflected in no Mexican representation on City Council. He decided to get organizing experience.

Cortes had read Reveille for Radicals in the early 1960s and had liked the book, but he had thought Alinsky in person too cynical when he heard him speak in college. IAF groups like Rochester FIGHT and TWO were known as the best community organizing around, however. So Cortes went to Chicago in the summer of 1971.[11]

The need to "listen" to community traditions and individual self interests was becoming codified in IAF organizing in a constant practice of individualized, face to face meetings. Organizers and leaders learn how to regularly "interview" people within churches or neighborhood groups and in the larger community, alike, to find out "who people are," what motivates them, what are their interests and concerns. IAF organizers see this structured listening process as the singular "genius" of their work, the key to their successes. They argue that most "organizing" involves one-way communications between activist or group and a passive constituency; direct mail fundraising appeals for causes or electoral politics are familiar examples. By way of contrast, in IAF groups a constant process of interviewing grounds organizing in an ongoing conversation. Sister Margaret Snipe, a copastor at an Hispanic parish in Brooklyn connected to EBC, illustrated the point. She said that the training of a group of lay members of her church in the skills of listening through individualized, face to face meetings worked a dramatic rebirth in the community. It created a group of church "organizers" who were sensitive to other's points of view, more aware of their own needs and interests, skilled at interpersonal communication.[12]

In IAF projects in Chicago and Baltimore, Cortes learned similar skills. "I learned the value of listening," he explained. "I had always had a tendency to jump down people's throats, to intimidate."[13]

When Father Edmundo Rodriguez, a priest in San Antonio, asked for help from the IAF in putting together a local community group, Cortes returned in 1973. He brought with him the IAF emphasis on detailed attention to the community's concerns—Cortes did hundreds of interviews in his first months to get a mapping of local issues, before anything else. It turned out that the chief concerns were concrete problems close to home like the drainage system that overflowed each time it rained and substandard housing—not the more visible issues like racial discrimination and police brutality which Chicano militants had sought to organize around. Father Rodriguez suddenly began to feel that this effort at organizing was different than earlier, unsuccessful campaigns. It wasn't that people were apathetic or unconcerned; they had rarely been asked what concerned them. "It was like one of those light bulbs that suddenly appears in cartoons," as Rodriguez described.

Ernie Cortes brought the conviction that it didn't make sense to organize in the Mexican - American community without an attentiveness to what people actually believed, as well as what issues were on their minds. "I thought a lot about a conversation I'd had once with Cesar Chavez," he explained. "Every organization needs an ideology if it is to continue." For the Mexican community in San Antonio, like the U.F.W. union, Christianity in the form of Catholicism was by far the strongest, most vital belief system, and it was hard to imagine successful civic activity that would not draw on the rituals and traditions of the church, as well its institutional strength.[14]

Combining careful listening to basic community issues with an organizing approach based on the core convictions of the community led COPS in San Antonio, and the IAF network more broadly, to several critical innovations. In the first instance, "self-interest" as a concept became considerably richer and broader. IAF training began to combine the two earlier Alinsky themes of listening to community culture and individual self-interests to gain a different view of what motivates individuals. It began to distinguish between "self-interest" and "selfishness," arguing that people's basic concerns are not only for themselves in an immediate, short term sense. When people think about what they care about in the longer term they evidence a strong interest in the intangibles of their lives—their families' well-being, their own sense of contribution and dignity, their core beliefs, their friends and closest associates, and their sense of efficacy in the world.[15]

A more elaborated approach to listening to community needs also resulted in a change in the base of those organized. The IAF organizing method reached deeper into the community's institutional and social fabric than it ever had before—in the process drawing in conservatives, for the first time, and establishing the organization on the basis of community moderates, through attention not only to community issues but also to concrete needs of institutions such as religious congregations. COPS helped local parishes with tangible concerns such as membership rolls, fund drives, liturgy, music.

Thus the organizational leadership also shifted, from the more visible "public" actors—most typically male—who had championed activist issues like police brutality and protests against discrimination, to a more invisible tier of leaders, frequently women, who had worked behind the scenes to keep school PTAs going, run day-to-day activities of churches and the like. COPS organizers termed such community sustainers, "moderates," in contrast to activists or liberals or "politicos." COPS built on the basis of P.T.A. leaders, parish council members, stalwarts of the church guilds: "Not the politicos, the people who have been in and defined public life, the people who have wheeled and dealed," said Christine Stephens, staff director of the organization in the early eighties who is a student of American social protest and political theory. "This approach builds around the people who have sustained the community instead. The women, for example, whose lives by and large have been wrapped up in their parishes and their children. What COPS has been able to do is to give them a public life and a public visibility, to educate, to provide the tools whereby they can participate in the political process." In the process, "politics," "public life" and "leadership" became redefined.[16]

Janie Gonzalez, the sort of community stalwart to whom people turn instinctively in times of need, remembered Cortes' first approaches. "When Ernie was interviewing people in 1973, he always kept coming back to me. I said, 'Why?'" Cortes's reasoning was clear. For many years she had been active in her church parish and her school PTA. Ms. Gonzalez still speaks softly—until she is in a public setting. In those years, Cortes would challenge her a little: "Ernie used to say you have to speak loud, from your stomach. I'd say, "I'm sorry, I'm not that way." For COPS leaders like Janie Gonzalez, the fusion of particular issues with values and faith gave created a potent alchemy. "We'd talk about what values come from our families and our faiths," she remembered. "Love, caring. Then we'd talk about the pressures on families nowadays: unemployment, drugs, the media, peer pressure, alcoholism. And we'd talk about how the church should be responding." COPS provided a new vehicle for acting on strongly held convictions that had had no outlet.[17]

Such new dimensions of the IAF approach had the visible consequence in San Antonio of delivering a series of stunning political and programmatic victories. The organization forced a the city to act on drainage problems, dirt roads, schools, and soundly beat a "Proposition 13" tax limitation initiative with a massive, door to door campaign in 1987. Its network of affiliated organizations in Texas also passed landmark statewide legislation around issues of school district financing, health care and farm safety in the mid-eighties.[18]

In the early seventies, San Antonio still had a "colonial" air where a small group of businessmen, most of whom belonged to the segregated Texas Cavalier Country Club, held sway. City council members were elected at large, which meant that Mexican and African American candidates could almost never raise funds to compete. COPS "shattered San Antonio's established conservative order." The City Council now is elected from single-member districts: by 1977, five Hispanics and one black formed a new majority in city government. Henry Cisneros, rising to political leadership in the city in large part through his championing of COPS issues, gained national visibility as the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city.[19]

It became clear that in groups like COPS, the "organizer" played more of a catalytic role, encouraging others to take on increasing responsibility for getting people to meetings, planning strategy, doing research, and training itself. "No organizer comes in from the outside and organizes," said Cortes. "All you can do in any situation is to identify those leaders who want to organize. I didn't organize COPS. The leadership did. I taught them; I trained them; I identified them; I challenged them; and I worked with them on a one-to-one basis. But they did the actual organizing. They had already the relationships for years and years, mostly built around the churches. The question for leaders is to what extent they feel serious enough about the problems to work the networks they already have and to build new networks. The basic process was developing the skills to act."[20]

Organizing, then, began to involve a much more extensive process of skill development in the IAF groups. "We began to see every action as an opportunity for education and training," described Maribeth Larkin, an organizer first in United Neighborhoods Organization, an IAF affiliate in Los Angeles, who later became staff director of COPS. "If you look at it in the right way, there are all kinds of opportunities for training—every presentation before city council, every meeting, every discussion with the media." Chambers saw this more elaborate focus on what the local organizational leaders were learning as a fundamental difference with the older Alinsky style: "the mistake of the first forty years of Alinsky organizing was the absence of political education. We were very good at the action, very clever and imaginative, but we didn't make a commitment to the growth process of the people. We never forced people to reflect. We never took retreats, or did extensive evaluation."

The IAF "iron rule of organizing" now is "never do anything for people that they can do for themselves." Indeed, IAF's "iron rule," with its insistence on self-reliance and independence as a condition for self-respect, has intriguing parallels with the step by step assumption of personal responsibility one finds in self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Al Anon, on the one hand, or the more political stress on "self-determination" found in movements like Black Power or women's liberation, on the other. But what is unique about I.A.F.'s approach is its location of this stress on autonomy in a specifically public environment, where public is understood as an arena of difference, not homogeneity. The combination of an emphasis on autonomy with one on the different, unique needs and motivations that bring each individual into politics furnishes a constant prod in the IAF organizations for people to acknowledge their mistakes and account for their actions—behavior that in most "public settings" renders the individual too vulnerable to sustain, or changes "public" back into a more personalized communal style. In IAF, public life is seen more as a particular kind of craft, an artful way of acting in a specific setting. With such an understanding, personal vulnerability is diminished by learning the craft itself. And people's experience of "transformation" comes most directly from public roles, connected to feelings of power which result from lessening dependence on experts, professionals, and organizers themselves.[21]

Six years after Alinsky's death, the changing approach of the network were articulated in Organizing for Family and Congregation. "We are in a conversation about families, churches and institutional power," began the document, reflecting "the collective experience of lay leaders, clergy, women religious and professional organizers in twenty cities." The document situated IAF-style organizing in a wide-ranging analysis of American culture and society, with something of the stark, even apocalyptic tone of Alinsky in his 1972 Playboy interview. "If we follow where our dollars go, we fill find the institutions that shape our daily lives," it argued. "Our dollars end up in banks and savings and loans, in insurance companies, in oil companies, in utilities, and in the hands of major manufacturers, real estate developers, retailers and organized criminals...They buy the second level, the politicians, lawyers, the advertisers, the media...and other professionals [who] provide the rationales and jargon to perpetuate the top power institutions and screen them from the public."[22]

This sort of skeletal power analysis was vintage Alinskyism. It departed from the original method, however, in its depiction of the nature of the conflict and its prescriptions about what to do. The document listed a number of consequences—economic pressures that result from families struggling to meet bills; community pressures like drugs, pornography, crime, violence against children; and more subtle cultural pressures as well. "Television tells people how to eat, how to look, how to love, and how to feel." People increasingly were subjected to "overscheduling" that eroded free time and family ties. All of these pressures, moreover, added up to a value crisis: "Our country is in the kind of crisis that both Madison and de Tocqueville warned us about. The intermediate voluntary institutions—including churches—are ineffectual in a power relationship with the powerful. As a result, the middle is collapsing, confused... sucked dry by a vacuum." [23]

The result, argued Organizing for Family and Congregation, was a "value war," fought over the "fundamental question: who will parent our children? Who will teach them, train them, nurture them? How will they be taught and trained and nurtured? Will this parenting take place in a strictly secular setting where the system is said to be the solution, or time is money, or profit is the sole standard of judgment? Or will the true teachers and prophets—parents and grandparents, pastors and rabbis and lay leaders—win this war and continue to convey the best values of the Judeo-Christian tradition?"[24]

Such a framing of the "crisis" in America pointed to the distinctive changes in IAF methods of organizing. Sixties-style movements weaknesses, in IAF terms, included a reliance on charismatic leaders, an absence of ways to teach accountability, activism without careful thought and purpose, and an alienated cultural style which turned off most Americans. As an alternative, Organizing urged the growth of new forms of citizen organizations that had roots in a variety of institutions—from religious congregations to Lions Clubs. Such groups had to build on and respect the traditions and culture of the community, but also be open to diversity. There was no prior specification of what issues such new forms of organizations might address (though the nature of the institutional foundations certainly put limits on what issues they were likely to raise: gay rights was not a likely cause for Catholic parishes, for instance). Rather, the document expressed the conviction that broad and inclusive citizen groups, deciding their own agendas but drawing and reflecting on religious and democratic traditions in the process, would allow "a collection of families, a church or synagogue or an alliance of churches [to] break out of the materialist pattern" and "arm themselves for a value war."[25]

Such an approach spoke powerfully to minority, poor and working class communities, and it also had a wider appeal to Americans, in the period of "Me First" morality and consumer culture. By the end of the decade, the IAF was able to help local leaders build larger, more potent "people's organizations" than had previously appeared out of the community organizing tradition. Indeed, in many ways such groups were no longer "community groups," but broader, more diverse citizen organizations that drew, especially, from congregations.

The experiences and relative successes of such groups, in turn, brought new challenges and questions: how could they be sustained over time? How might new leadership emerge and develop? And, finally—since IAF had spurned the model of sixties-style social movements, which they saw as transitory and superficial—what was such organizing about in longer range terms, in a world whose dominant institutions and culture palpably differed from their values and interests? "Value war" had specific content for participants in these groups. They saw justice, participation, the dignity of people and other key values undermined by "me-first" selfishness. But it was unclear what they were proposing as the alternative. In the 1980s out of a concern for the meaning and content of their broader vision, these groups rediscovered the language of public life. [26]

In the 1980s, the IAF network continued to be widely viewed as models for populist-style citizen organizing. No other local groups in the country could boast the thousands of delegates that IAF affiliates like COPS in San Antonio, BUILD in Baltimore or, East Brooklyn Churches in New York or United Neighborhoods Organization in Los Angeles could turn out to conventions every year or two, nor the scale of victories for poor, working class and minority communities that IAF groups sometimes achieved. San Antonio's Communities Organized for Public Service, for instance, had secured three quarters of a billion dollars for roads, schools, sewers, parks, economic development and other infrastructural elements in once devastated barrios. Moreover, it was understood seen to be catalyzing broader political changes in Texas and even the Southwest. In Texas, the original COPS organization had led to a network which included groups like Valley Interfaith in the Rio Grande, EPISO in El Paso, Austin Interfaith, The Metropolitan Organization in Houston and others. [27]

On the face of it—and even in the view of many grass roots organizers—IAF continued to resemble Alinsky's "classic" approach. "Saul believed power was such a good thing that people should have it and lots of people should have it," said Ed Chambers, Executive Director of the I.A.F. since Alinsky's death, to a reporter in 1988, explaining the animus of the mass based organizations that IAF helps put together. It was the sort of language Alinsky himself certainly would have employed. But in fact, the IAF organizations developed basic themes in ways Alinksy could not have anticipated. [28]

In particular, the IAF approach transformed Alinsky's understanding of "self-interest" and "power" into far more dynamic concepts. Their evolving understanding of such terms now highlights the multidimensional motivations that initially bring people into organizations and the fashion in which any exercise of power is always relational, changing the actor as she or he changes the environment. Moreover, greatly elaborating Saul Alinsky's rhetorical dedication to "democratic values" like diversity, conflict, participation and difference, the IAF has rediscovered older populist ideas of public life as a distinctive, vital arena in its own right, where citizens exchange ideas and power, achieve visibility, engage in conflict and collaboration. Their organizations have also significantly reworked the practical theory of public life and its relationship to private life-worlds. The IAF theory of public life highlights in a novel fashion the dependence of the public realm on the private, as well as the public's distinctiveness. And though groups like COPS haven't solved the problem of organizational inertia and routinization, they have addressed it through an intense stress on the need for self-reflection and education if citizen organizations are to remain vital.

Some of these concerns were visible as early as the Organizing for Families and Congregations book. Leaders in citizen organizations were defined not as simply individuals but as those in relationship with others, who "recognize that leadership is not by nature a form of individual aggrandizement but rather a means to continually expand the number of their fellow leaders in the interest of collective power." A premium was placed on "leadership training," including skills that ranged from "how to listen to and affirm other people" to raising money and negotiating with decision makers. The question of how to hold leaders accountable—both within organizations and in the broader public environment, where they dealt with office holders and others—emerged as a central problem. All of these issues had to do with forms of public activity.

The tone of IAF's book remained, however, parochial. Thus, there was little attention to building any ongoing relationships with groups or individuals outside the citizen organizations. By the late 1970s, in fact, I.A.F. had developed a reputation for an unwillingness to work with other groups. Moreover, organizing was described in terms of its effects on families and congregations, not on the larger institutional patterning of communities or the dominant culture. But several things moved IAF to frame its work more broadly.

In part, the IAF was led to "discover" the nature and distinctiveness of specifically public relationships out of the dynamics of organizing itself, as organizations lasted and matured. Despite their attentiveness to "getting people to do things for themselves" and avoid staff domination or excessive responsibility, patterns of reliance on organizers like Cortes nonetheless developed. What would happen in COPS if he left? Could leaders "do it on their own"? And what happened to the possibilities for new leaders emerging if someone assumed the presidency of the group and kept it year after year? A remarkable feature of the I.A.F. network is the extent to which such questions are constantly posed, in the name of a self-reflective, educational process intended to expand the number of leaders and keeps organizations alive and dynamic. But it was still not an easy process.[29]

Furthermore, relationships over time with politicians had been a prod to thinking more carefully about the nature of public. COPS attentiveness to power and self-interest led them to challenge politicians' personalized styles out of the suspicion that first name relationships and expressions of endearment were in part a mystifying ploy, to win voters support. Moreover, COPS saw itself as creating a different sort of relationship, based on "collaboration," not support. As Christine Stephens put it, "what we create in actions with public officials is a world in which leaders control the agenda for the space of that meeting. It is the people talking and the politicians listening, and not having the central place." [30]

Ed Chambers saw himself as having worked on the distinction between "private" and "public" out of his difficult experiences over the years with the organizing tradition. "Saul never paid attention to organizers' private lives. They were a mess." Indeed, Chambers spoke with some visible pain of Alinsky's cavalier, dismissive attitude towards his associates' family life, retirement and security needs: "He called me up long distance to order me to Rochester." [31]

All of this led to a major innovation in their method by the late 1970s: a basic workshop given in every national training session and reproduced countless times in local groups that I.A.F. calls "public and private." In their typical pedagogical approach, making a distinction to be discussed, the trainer divides the board and makes a serious of paired contrasts, corresponding to "appropriate behavior" in different realms:








the need to be liked







open, fluid

dramatic role

need to be respected

quid pro quo/ self-interest

The distinction between public and private is always framed by I.A.F.'s basic rules of "knowledge": "universals," principles that they have found seem to apply across widely varying cultural and communal contexts, need always to be contextualized to have any real meaning. Thus, I.A.F. teachers argue that with public and private, as with other distinctions, nothing is ever completely "either-or" ("we're the same people, after all, whether we are in public or private setting," explained Gerald Taylor, the staff director of BUILD in Baltimore). All categories should be seen as provisional and fluid, based on lessons of experiences (Taylor pointed out that "public" would have a qualitatively different meaning in most traditional African societies, for instance). And different settings partake of different "public" and "personal" or private qualities—a church, explained I.A.F. cabinet member Arnie Graf, is far more "personal" than a convention or a political rally. [32]

But with all the nuance, the very outlining of this sort of distinction works often large impact on participants, in a culture where such distinctions are regularly muddled or mystified. "The first time I gave the workshop in a training session with UNO in Los Angles, I knew this was something very powerful," Chambers remembered. "The discussion could have gone on all day. And people lined up afterwards to talk about their lives." I.A.F. has used this basic, working distinction for a decade now, and it always stimulates intense, sometimes agonizing reflection, as participants think through the ways such boundaries are obscured or confused in their lives. "It was the most meaningful experience I ever had, more important than seminary or college," said the Reverend Doug Miles, a dynamic minister who heads one of Baltimore's largest black churches, Brown Memorial Baptist Church. Miles described his emotions during an I.A.F. "ten day" training session he went to in July, 1982. After the workshop on public and private and a follow-up discussion of the way participants defined their own individual self-interests, he suddenly was overwhelmed. "Preachers historically have problems in their personal lives at home because they're so busy in 'public,' taking care of everybody else. When I figured out what priorities I had been living by, I set there and cried. My wife was 14th, after the NAACP. For the first time it dawned on me just now neglectful I was being.

"It also altered my view of the ministry," Miles continued. "The church had been functioning so that if the pastor was not involved, the program did not go. I began to see the fallacy of that. The ministry was not something I was responsible for; it was something the church was responsible for. I began to see the need to share responsibility, not to be afraid of training people to become leaders." After the 10 day training session, Miles instituted a program of leadership development in his church, tying 10 day principles" to scriptural and theological reflection. By 1987, the church had grown several-fold. [33]

This distinction proved significant in teaching leaders the dynamics of effective political action, from the parish level to the life of communities. "We would never have been able to challenge the priest to stop acting like our 'father' without this sort of training," said Beatrice Cortez, a president of San Antonio COPS in the early 1980s. "You learn what's appropriate and inappropriate for politicians. They shouldn't try to get us to love them, for instance." Cortez frequently tells the story of her daughter, to illustrate how children can quickly pick up the point. Ms. Cortez had a COPS phone in her house, during her tenure as president of the organization. One day the mayor, Henry Cisneros —whom she had known for years—called up on the line. "My daughter answered and at first didn't know who it was. 'Who should I say is calling?' she asked." Cisneros said, "'Tell her it's a special friend.' Then she recognized his voice," Ms. Cortez continued. "She said, 'on this line, you're not a friend. I know who you are. You're the mayor! I told her, 'you got that right, honey!'" Cortez subsequently found that in training Mexican communities in other parts of Texas in effective "public life," the distinction proved invaluable. "In these towns, politics has come to be equated with family ties. People get mixed up through marriage, godparents and don't want to challenge close ties." Evocation of a "public realm" where dynamics of personal loyalty were not dominant did not undermine extended family patterns, nor consign "family concerns" to the private realm. But it positioned them in a way that allowed common work with people beyond traditional family ties. Cortez does role plays built around scripture to bring home the point.[34] The self-conscious recognition of the public realm in which I.A.F. organizations functioned as significant actors thus began to make explicit and clear what had often been known intuitively but never quite identified: public life has its own distinctive dynamics, principles like accountability, respect, diversity, self-interest, pluralism, "quid pro quo," visibility and collaborative action. But public life, for the I.A.F. groups, also stands in a different relationship to "private" than the arena has been classically conceived. Indeed, they partially reverse the traditional attributes of public and private and their corresponding valorizations, alike. Private, in the I.A.F. terms, is the more self-sacrificial and idealistic realm, while public is the world of "quid pro quo" and "self-interest." Moreover, public life in the I.A.F. view, though it has an integrity and value in its own right, also is "meant" to serve the personal interests of families and private relations.

The republican tradition across the centuries has privileged public life, sustaining in various forms Aristotle's metaphor of public life as like the body, while private life is like limbs, that can be cut away if necessary.[35] In contrast, a more apt metaphor for I.A.F.'s construction of public and private is the BUILD organization's symbol of tree. In these terms, roots serve as the "private" foundations of public life, while trunk and branch, symbols of the visible public world, are expressions of "maturity"—but continue to draw sustenance and support from their roots. Such a set of reversals, conceptually, has its counterparts in the sorts of communal and family issues that are taken up by groups like COPS. And they have led to a radical recasting of the nature of leadership and politics, that encourages women for instance, to take new roles. After COPS first, every president of the organization was female.

Finally, I.A.F. Groups shifted from simply protest organizations to the assumption of some responsibility for policy initiation and what they call "governance." Affiliates began to take on issues of infrastructure that had to do with the entire life of communities, in addition to the issues that affected their own particular constituencies. The results included fascinating examples of how public life can combine difference with discovered commonalties, conflict with cooperation, around a renewal of citizen responsibility for the commonwealth.

1 Interview with Wade Goodwyn on Chambers' "relational" quality, November 8, 1987, Baltimore; on COPS depictions, interviews with Beatrice Cortes, July 8, San Antonio, Christine Stephens, Ernie Cortes, San Antonio, July 4, 1983. Cortes was the first to begin describing COPS as like a "university of public life." See also Peter Skerry, "Neighborhood COPS," New Republic, Feb. 6, 1984, p. 23.

2 An exchange with Ed Chambers, the successor of Alinsky as head of the I.A.F. training institute, illustrated their epistemology. Chambers, describing the importance that I.A.F. organizing has come to place on people's disentangling of "public" and "private" realms, remarked that people lose the "public" side of "mediating institutions," associations between the individual and the state or large scale systems. "They think of things like churches simply as private, so they make all sorts of inappropriate demands," he argued. I replied that the very concept of mediating institutions (seeing them as private) maintains a narrow view of public life.

Chambers went off on another track: "I haven't read Berger in years. The only thing I know is that this thing is very close to the truth." He continued, "I've seen the response to this now in hundreds of meetings across the country over ten years now. It strikes home. People come up, sometimes with tears in their eyes, priests, women religious, lay leaders, saying 'I wish I'd known this years ago.'" Interview in Baltimore, November 6, 1987.

The exchange illustrated I.A.F.'s feedback process. What it calls "universals" of organizing are always contextualized, provisional and aimed at the particular problems they encounter in their work. As Ernie Cortes, a key figure in their network, pointed out, the I.A.F. methodology bears resemblance "critical method" of Karl Popper, philosopher of science, who argued for a view of "truth" not as positive assertion, but as theories formulated out of practice and aimed at problem solving that had not yet been refuted. See for instance, Popper's selections in Adey, Glyn, and Frisby, David, Translators, The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology (London: Heinemann, 1976).

I.A.F.'s epistemology combines "qualitative" and "quantitative" methods—a vast process of detailed information gathering about particular individuals, cultures and settings with a rigorous analysis of the economic dimensions of issues and the like—that is rare in practice today. But it is in keeping with what Michael Patton, a leading theorist in the field of evaluation, has called the growing consensus about what should be done: "pragmatism, methodological tolerance, flexibility and concern for appropriateness rather than orthodoxy now characterize the practice, literature and discussions of evolution." Michael Quinn Patton, Utilization-Focused Evaluation (London: Sage, 1986), p. 210.

3 Interview with Mike Gecan, Brooklyn, N.Y., November 14, 1984; interview with Ed Chambers, February 22, 1983; Youngblood and Jamieson quoted from Jim Sleeper, "East Brooklyn's Second Rising," City Limits, December, 1982, p. 13.

4 These trends are documented in Harry C. Boyte, The Future of America's Neighborhoods (Flint: Mott Foundation, 1986); for a discussion of the flight of the black middle class, see for instance, Nicholas Lemann, "The Origins of the Underclass," The Atlantic Monthly, June, 1986, pp. 31 - 55.

5 US News and World Report, quoted from David A. Roozen, William McKinney, and Jackson W. Carroll, Varieties of Religious Presence (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1984), p. 5, which also has a good sketch of the sources of increasing poverty in inner city communities.

6 Figures on merger from Gar Alperowitz and Jeff Faux, Rebuilding America: A Blueprint for the New Economy (New York: Pantheon, 1984), p. 34; see also Robert Reich and Ira Magaziner, Minding America's Business: The Decline and Rise of the American Economy (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982).

7 Interview with Ed Chambers, Chicago, April 29, 1977.

In a memo to other staff at the United Church of Christ Board of Homeland Ministers dated July 18, 1977, staff member John Moyer reported on extensive conversations with organizers Chambers and Dick Harmon in which they stressed the developing I.A.F. View that organizing had classically used religious congregations to build community organizations, but it needed to take more "seriously" religious congregations and religious language. In particular, though they continued to try to enlist Jewish synagogues as well, this meant a particular emphasis on the sorts of mainstream, ecumenically inclined Catholic and Protestant church groups which normally proved most responsive. Moyer argued that "I.A.F. Has made a radical shift in direction since Alinsky times: namely to view the Church as the one institution in society with the potential to work positively for the empowerment of people. In both San Antonio and East Los Angeles, the churches have been the basic organizing units and the leadership has come directly from parishes and congregations...Training sessions for leaders and organizers emphasize the relationship between theology and the dynamics of power relationships."; Memorandum to Paul Sherry, Wes Hotchkiss, Herb White, Bob Strommen from John Moyer, "Re: IAF," 18 July, 1977, in author's possession.

8 Benke quoted in Jim Gittings, "Churches in Communities: A Place to Stand," Christianity & Crisis, Feb. 2, 1987, p. 6.

9 For all of that, the five most senior organizers—comprising what the I.A.F. Calls its "cabinet"—continue to be men: in addition to Chambers, Ernie Cortes, Mike Gecan, Larry McNeil, who directs the southern California staff, and Arnie Graf, in charge of oversight of midAtlantic organizers. Cabinet membership, according to Chambers, who decides, means an especially intensive, ongoing process of political discussion and training process intended to challenge, develop and mature their thinking. It depends mainly on seniority, he claims—although it has seemed to me there is controversy in the I.A.F. about membership, and several others would appear to have a strong claim. When asked, Cortes told me that the I.A.F. still has far too few strong women organizers—and too few black and Hispanic organizers as well. Organizing, for I.A.F., Has all the seriousness and craft of a highly skilled guild —with something of the weaknesses (of 'handed down' traditions and leadership) as well as the strengths of guilds. Relatively few who intern with I.A.F. projects make it through the rigorous training and evaluation process. The network's most pressing, constantly invoked need is more people who will begin.

10 Trainee was Wade Goodwyn, conversation, November 8, 1987, Baltimore.

11 Interview with Ernesto Cortes, San Antonio, July 4, 1983.

12 Interview with Siste Margaret Snipe, Baltimore, November 6, 1987.

13 Interview with Ernesto Cortes, July 3, 1983, San Antonio.

14 Rodriguez quoted in Paul Burka, "The Second Battle of the Alamo," Texas Monthly, December, 1977, p. 144.

15 Modern conceptions of "interest" are dominated by the utilitarian theories developed by Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and others in the 18th and 19th century which argued for a moral and political principle of "the greatest happiness for the greatest number," with each individual conceived to have separate wants. As Bentham put it, "A thing is said to promote the interest, or to be for the interest, of the individual when it tends to add to the sum total of his pleasures." The interest of the community, in these terms is "the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it." In such individualized terms, the notion of "self-interest" took on the character, especially, of material and economic concerns, and was closely associated with a defense of usury (Bentham's first work, published in 1787, was titled Defense of Usury showing the impolicy of the present legal restraints on the terms of pecuniary bargains). Bentham quoted in Ghita Ionescu, Politics and the Pursuit of Happiness: An Inquiry into the Involvement of Human Beings in the Politics of Industrial Society (London: Longman, 1984), p. 114. Ionescu has a useful discussion of the concept.

But the concept of "interest" "self-interest," deriving from the Latin inter esse, to be among or intermediary, had a richer and more social history. As Albert Hirschmann has observed, "when the term 'interest' in the sense of concerns, aspirations and advantages gained in currency in Western Europe in the late sixteenth century its meaning was by no means limited to the material aspects of a person's welfare." Interest suggests "interestedness," as Ionescu points out—entailing the question, "what's in it for me?" But such a question obviously can be answered in deeper or more immediate and superficial ways.

See also Hirschmann, The Passions and the Interests (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), p. 43.

16 Interview with Sister Christine Stephens, San Antonio, July 6, 1983; Mike Gecan, an I.A.F. cabinet member, described the far larger number of "moderates" in leadership roles in I.A.F. affiated groups as the single largest change in their approach. Interview with Mike Gecan, November 11, 1987, Baltimore.

17 Interview with Janie Gonzalez, San Antonio, July 7, 1983.

18 See Applebome, "Changing Texas Politics at its Roots," New York Times, May 31, 1988.

19 The quote about San Antonio's conservative order is from the Editorial Sidebar, quoting Warner's The Book of America accompanying Ernesto Cortes, Jr., "Changing the Locus of Political Decision Making," Christianity & Crisis, February 2, 1987, p. 18.

20 For a candid look at the staff-domination of ACORN, for instance, see Delgado, Organizing; see also Boyte, The Backyard Revolution, for a discussion of the typical patterns of staff domination; interview with Cortes, Los Angeles, May 17, 1977.

21 Interview with Ed Chambers, New York, Feb. 22, 1983; Cortes interview, Los Angeles, May 17, 1977.

"We began to see that you have to train the people," continued Chambers. "Now we recognize that the most important part of any action or process is not the thing itself, but what happens afterwards, how people evaluate it, what people learn." I.A.F. organizers and leaders alike came to focus on the process of what they call "political growth" that takes place in successful citizen efforts. "Fundamentally, I think COPS is about metanoia," explained Cortes, using the Greek term meaning transformation from one state of being to another. Cortes argued that groups like COPS provided participants with "an opportunity to develop themselves as people. For a lot of them, it means getting in touch with themselves, their anger, their job, their own sense of who they are. It means building the kind of relationships they never had." But all of this was made possible by a new capacity for powerful action. "Most important, COPS provides an opportunity to do something about things that people have been frustrated about all their lives. It means being able to move on issues. It means real hope, not just fantasy or a wish."

22 Organizing for Family and Congregation (Huntington, N.Y.: I.A.F., 1978), p. 3, 2, 13.

23 In developing this sort of analysis, I.A.F. found especially helpful the concept of "mediating institutions" developed by Peter Berger, Richard Neuhaus and others—voluntary and small scale associational ties standing between the individual and the "megainstitutions" of business and government. As Berger put it in his 1977 book Facing Up To Modernity (New York: Basic Books, 1977), "the best defenses against the threat [of disruption and danger in modern life] are those institutions, however weakened, which still give a measure of stability to private life. These are, precisely, the mediating institutions, notably those of family, church, voluntary association, neighborhood and subculture." p. 134. In the I.A.F. terms, however, such structures were not simply bulwarks, but also centers from which to act to change the world.

24 Organizing, p. 3.

25 Ibid., pp. 3-4, 17-19.

26 When I first observed I.A.F. training in the fall of 1980, a long discussion of the way in which "democratic values" like pluralism, conflict, accountability, participation, equality and "religious values" like justice, concern for the poor and individual dignity formed a central part of the curriculum, and counterposed to what trainers called "corporate culture." This sort of discussion also a regular workshop in local organizations.

27 Peter Applebome, "Changing Texas Politics at Its Roots," New York Times, May 31, 1988; for further description of the scale of I.A.F. successes in comparison with other citizen and community efforts, see for instance, Harry C. Boyte, The Backyard Revolution (Philadelphia: Temple, 1980); Frank del Olmo, "Latino Activists Travel Separate Paths: Traditional Politics Versus Community Organizations," Los Angeles Times, July 29, 1983; Michael Ollove, "Md. Organizer Helps Poor in Memphis Seek Power," Baltimore Sun, Feb. 7, 1988, and especially the special issue of Christianity & Crisis, February, 1987, on community organizing in America.

I.A.F. affiliated projects by 1988 included East Brooklyn Churches (EBC), Queens Citizen Organization (QCO), South Bronx Churches (SBC) and the Interfaith Community Organization (ICO) of Jersey City in the New York - New Jersey area; Baltimoreans United for Leadership Development (BUILD) in Baltimore, efforts, Interfaith Action Communities (IAC) of Prince Georges County, Maryland and the Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (ISC) of Memphis in the MidAtlantic region; San Antonio's Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), the Metropolitan Congregational Alliance (MCA) and the East Side Alliance (ESA), The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) of Houston, Allied Communities of Tarrant (ACT) in Forth Worth, El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO), Valley Interfaith of the River Grande valley, all in Texas; and United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO), the South Central Organization (SCCO), the East Valleys Organization (EVO) and the new San Fernando Sponsoring Committee (SFSC) in southern California, along with several other fledgling efforts.

28 Chambers quoted from Michael Ollove, "Md. Organizer Helps Poor in Memphis Seek Power," The Sun, Feb. 7, 1988.

29 "I had to argue with COPS leaders like hell to get them to have a principle of a two year presidency," said Chambers. "And we started a principle of two and a half years for a staff to direct an organization, and then out. If you stay in one place and you're creative, it will be too much your organization." The network also came to accent the importance of a broad, heterogeneous base. "We realized the strength of organizations came from their diversity, as well as their roots. So we don't organize communities. It's not defined by neighborhood. It's pluralist and nongeographic, defined by a mix of interests and values and power."Interviews with Ed Chambers, Minneapolis to Franklyn Square, May 2, 1988, and New York, Feb. 22, 1983.

30 Stephens interviews July 6, July 4, 1983.

31 Chambers interview New York, Feb. 22, 1983.

32 Gerald Taylor interview, Baltimore; observations of Arnie Graf, I.A.F. 10 day training, Baltimore, November 5, 1987. Different I.A.F organizers and teachers, it is interesting to note, place significantly different emphases on the relative degree of "publicness" of churches, for instance.

33 Interview with Douglas I. Miles, Baltimore, November 14, 1987.

34 Interview with Beatrice Cortez, July 8, 1983.

35 "The notion of a city naturally precedes that of a family or an individual, for the whole must necessarily be prior to the parts; for if you take away the whole man, you cannot say a foot or a hand remains..." Aristotle, The Politics (New York: Prometheus Books, 1986), p. 4; see also Jean Bethke Elstain, Public Man, Private Woman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981) for description of the Greek privileging of "public life."

More Information

East Brooklyn Congregations, 287 Lott Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11212. Phone: 718-498-4095. Industrial Areas Foundation, 36 New Hyde Park Road, Franklin Square, NY 11010. Phone: 516-354-1076.

Back to Religion Index
Back to Community Index