How many Black Americans are actually buying into rants against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now? By now most Blacks have heard of ACORN and some are involved in bogus babble defaming an organization that has demonstrated positive intent toward communities where we live. Before Blacks join chattering classes against ACORN, its work on our behalf should be considered.
ACORN has brought about: better housing and wages for the poor, more community development investment from banks and governments and better public schools. ACORN is the nation's largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people with over 400,000 member families in more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters. ACORN helps people historically "locked out" become more powerful players in America's system. Since 1970, ACORN has built community organizations committed to social and economic justice and through direct action and legislative advocacy won thousands of issues of direct concern to Blacks. While mainstream media portrays ACORN, and its politics, negatively; Blacks cannot ignore the organization's economic empowerment inside their traditional communities.
As some Blacks join in partisans' scorn for ACORN, others of us recall its community organizing efforts that pressured banks to provide home ownership opportunities for working people, raised workers' wages, got traffic lights at dangerous intersections and increased police protection in low-income neighborhoods, and helped many families there avoid foreclosures. ACORN is comprised of distinct non-profit entities that include a nationwide umbrella organization that performs lobbying; local chapters established as non-partisan charities; and an ACORN Housing Corporation. ACORN and affiliates advocate for affordable housing by urging development, rehabilitation and establishment of housing trust funds at the local, state, and federal levels. The group also pushes for enforcement of affordable-housing requirements for developers, promotes programs to help homeowners repair homes and organize tenant demands. ACORN built the minimum wage movement that helped lift low-waged poor out of poverty. Local ACORN efforts in the late 1990s led to the 2007 minimum wage laws. ACORN was at the forefront protesting sub prime loans that were pushing people into mortgage foreclosure in the 1990s; and campaigned against predatory, high interest and deceitful mortgage loans. ACORN reports it delivered approximately $15 billion in direct monetary benefits to its members and constituents over the past 10 years. Mainstream media neglects to report that every scholar who has conducted recent evaluations of ACORN found that it to be a good community force. Too often, Blacks who've moved to suburbia buy into the established order and mindset at the expense of their own kind/kin.
Too many of us have bought into the hype and harassment ACORN has long-faced from right-wingers, including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Wall Street Journal editors. While they label ACORN "socialist" and "left-wing", in reality they worry about how ACORN is effectively challenging America's establishment system. The effectiveness of the right wing echo chamber's attacks has damaged ACORN's reputation and led to cut off of federal funds. The "withdrawal" of government grants amounts to about 10 percent of ACORN's million annual budget, so it ain't going nowhere. Unlike any other anti-poverty group, ACORN is a national organization with thousands of dues paying members, mostly black and Hispanic Americans, in cities around the country. ACORN has over 400,000 members and more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in over 100 cities. ACORN and its affiliates advocate for affordable housing by urging the development, rehabilitation and establishment of housing trust funds at the local, state, and federal levels. The group also pushes for enforcement of affordable-housing requirements for developers and promotes programs to help homeowners repair their homes and organize tenant demands.
Blacks should not evaluate ACORN based on politics; but for its economic and social-equity practices organizing poor people, mainly those of color, to fight for their rights in housing, education, etc. Such community activism is against the political right's version of the "American Way". ACORN does not rely on government funds and will survive the right's attacks. But if ACORN is to restore its strength as an effective disenfranchised and national poor people's organization, it will need the support of beneficiaries of its works.
William Reed's website is www.BlackPressInternational.com