Progressivism on Tap: ACORN’s Roots
Steve Kest and John Atlas Speak at Progressivism on Tap
SOURCE: Center for American Progress
The Progressivism on Tap Fall 2010 series concluded with a discussion of community organizing and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. The event featured Steve Kest, former executive director of ACORN and Senior Fellow at CAP, and John Atlas, who recently published Seeds of Change: The Story of ACORN, America’s Most Controversial Anti-Poverty Community Group. Kest and Atlas discussed the history of community organizing, how ACORN developed the modern model, and what the future holds for grassroots organizing.
Atlas discussed ACORN’s roots and how the organization learned from past American organizing movements—from the settlement house movement in the late 19th and early 20th century to labor movements and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. These movements, and ACORN, operated on the fundamental belief that if one wants to help the poor, charity is not enough. Organizations must “encourage people-power,” said Atlas.
What made ACORN uniquely effective, though, was its organizational philosophy and methodology. Some of the key elements of this methodology, according to Kest, were involvement in electoral politics, a replicable organizing model, partnership and creation of unions, and partnership with its enemies, such as banks. ACORN registered to vote millions of people just in the past decade, according to Atlas.
ACORN was so effective in achieving its goals—from voter registration to securing low-interest rate loans for homes for low-income families—that it dissolved in 2009 due to controversy that engulfed the organization. The right-wing media cooked up a variety of scandals targeting ACORN, and the mainstream media did not independently investigate these scandals until too late.
Kest said that in the future progressive organizations should “stick together and show solidarity” when right-wing groups like FOX News try to propagate damaging rumors.
Read about more Progressivism on Tap events here.
To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:
Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or email@example.com
Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or email@example.com
Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, TalkPoverty.org, faith)
202.478.5328 or email@example.com
Spanish-language and ethnic media: Rafael Medina
202.478.5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org
TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or email@example.com
Radio: Sally Tucker
202.481.8103 or firstname.lastname@example.org