Thursday, November 6, 2008


Post-election analysis by Dushaw Hockett of the Center for Community Change:

Who are the real winners of yesterday's election? Not Democrats. Not liberals. Not progressives. But the dreamers. All of us who've been shot down, shunned or told to shut up because we dare to think we can when others say we can't.

In a short amount of years, we watched an organizer become a lawyer, a lawyer become a State Senator, a State Senator become a U.S. Senator, and a U.S. Senator become the first black President of the United States.

All of this on a message of hope, dreams and change. Remember, his story was an "unlikely" one. A Seabiscuit story. Maybe an Ali (versus Liston). He was told he couldn't compete. That the odds were too big. But we pulled for him. We saw bits and pieces of ourselves in him. In return, he brought the nation (and the world) to a new high when we were all at a low.

Today we walk a little taller. Smile a little brighter. Believe a little stronger. Doubt loss. Hope won. There will be challenges and disappointments going forward. It's the human way of life. But the world is a different place this morning. It's okay to dream again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Notable Quotes Responding to Obama's Win

Following are two quotes from statements by partner organizations in response to the election of Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States.

Angelica Salas, Executive Director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
"For all us who seek justice and change, President-Elect Obama's selection is proof that even in times of great anxiety our nation can come together and give democracy the chance it deserves. The significant participation by immigrants in this election cycle will bring with it greater visibility and political strength, especially as we advocate on behalf of millions of immigrant families who must forego their American dream because of our country's broken immigration laws."

Hugh Espey, Executive Director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
"Community organizers and everyday people from all across the state congratulate Senator Barack Obama on his historic victory and are proud of the role his community organizing experience played in leading to his win. ... Nov. 4 marked a critical day in our nation's history, and it is just the beginning of what's to come. Everyday Iowans deserve to set the political agenda. Community organizing and Iowans mobilizing from all across the state will continue to play a key role in our electoral process, making sure we all have the opportunity to succeed."

MASSACHUSETTS: Ricardo From the Alliance To Develop Power About His First Time Voting

Check out this video by the Alliance to Develop Power (ADP):


Camera Person: "What is your name?"

My name is Ricardo Alfaro Serna. I have been living in the United States for 35 years. One of my goals in life was to become a citizen of this country. Thanks to God, after these 35 years, I achieved this goal. And, I am in the ADP's Worker Center/Casa Obrera (the Alliance to Develop Power) fighting for a better future. I was one of a group of 300 new members who went to City Hall to vote. I feel proud. I brought the pamphlet telling me where I needed to go to vote. I think that my story has been perfect for this election. The candidates want change and I am a person of change. You have to fight for this (the flag). We are going to vote for change.

Camera Person: "Well done, Ricardo. And what is a specific change that you all hope to see?"

Ricardo: "Well, some of the changes would be in healthcare, education and bringing home the troops, no more wars or investment in Wars both here and in Latin America.

These are some of the reasons why we have been campaigning to get out the vote. We have called 5,000 people, urging them to vote. We have invited people over the phone to come to the polls. Our campaign has been successful. And all of these achievements are with one sole purpose: change.

IOWA: Postville Streets Empty As Immigration Officials Return

Remember yesterday when we posted a story about an immigration raid in Iowa during Election Day? Here's another story in the Des Moines Register. Marissa Graciosa with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and Erica Palmer from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) are quoted:


Federal immigration agents returned to Agriprocessors Inc. on Tuesday and arrested one suspected illegal immigrant in a follow-up to a May raid, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said.

The secretive operation shocked an already rattled Postville, which has struggled in recent weeks as the kosher meat plant - the city's largest employer - verges on financial collapse.

Agents descended on the plant Tuesday afternoon, said two church pastors who have helped the company's workers in recent months. Frightened plant employees then began arriving at St. Bridget's Catholic Church, they said.

"Our office is in a state of chaos," said the Rev. Paul Ouderkirk of St. Bridget's Catholic Church. "We have people coming off the streets right now in fear."

Agriprocessors was the site of one of the nation's largest single-site immigration raids in May. Federal agents detained 389 illegal immigrant workers in an investigation that continued the national debate over immigration and led to criminal charges against a top executive.

One woman who arrived at the church said agents arrested her husband, who is Hispanic, said the Rev. Steve Brackett of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Postville. Brackett said Postville's streets emptied quickly as word spread that immigration agents had arrived.

Tim Counts, an ICE spokesman, said agents arrested one man at the plant who was a suspected illegal immigrant. Counts declined to identify the man, but confirmed that agents were still present at the plant Tuesday evening.

Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney, confirmed that ICE agents had visited the plant but declined to disclose the reason.

Federal authorities typically release criminal complaints and other case information through an online registry of court records. No records connected to Agriprocessors had been posted to the site by Tuesday evening.

Authorities can detain suspected illegal immigrants without public notice if no criminal charges are filed, Counts said. He said ICE generally confirms the arrest of specific individuals if they are given the person's name.

An advocate for immigration reform criticized the federal action and its timing.

"It's appalling that the federal agents chose today, Election Day, to spread fear amongst the residents of Postville," said Marissa Graciosa, director of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

Erica Palmer, a community organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, called the action "inhumane and destructive to our community fabric."

Tuesday's operation followed a devastating month for Agriprocessors. Federal agents in October arrested Sholom Rubashkin, 49, a top plant manager, on immigration and identity-theft charges. A St. Louis bank alleged in a lawsuit that the company had defaulted on a $35 million loan. Iowa's Labor Department proposed nearly $10 million in fines for assorted labor violations. And the company reportedly owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to Alliant Energy and nearly $70,000 to the city of Postville.

Chaim Abrahams, an Agriprocessors spokesman, did not return several phone messages Tuesday.

Brackett said that the raid and its recent aftershocks threaten Postville's future. The plant came in the 1980s and brought jobs and workers from nearly 20 countries.

"I just shake my head and think, who could think of this as a good idea?" Brackett said.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins! What's Next? [OPEN THREAD]

As we've seen all day on this blog, grassroots organizations have played a historic role in this election, inspiring and turning out voters like never before. And the tools and strategies of community organizing were instrumental as a former community organizer rose to the highest office in the land.

Those of us who are stunned that moment arrived --- that an African American former community organizer who ran on the simple idea that we, as a people, can do more together than we can do alone and that our common good must be the common purpose of our people --- we must not forget that this moment is just the beginning. Tomorrow, the work continues and the next phase begins --- as we define how this overwhelming public sentiment will translate into real policy changes and real differences in the lives of Americans clearly so desperate for change.

Tell us what you think. When we say that American voters stood together for an America that will finally work for all of us, what does that mean to you? What do you think should be at the top of the agenda for President Obama? And what do you think is the path ahead for grassroots organizations to ensure that agenda comes true?

This moment is born of the promises of our nation's past and the potential of our future. Onward.

WASHINGTON: Helping A New Voter Get To The Polls

Here's another inspiring story about the important work that volunteers are doing to help their neighbors participate in this election. This story from Washington CAN! is an example of many other stories around the country.

A major focus of Washington CAN!'s get-out-the-vote work this year has been new voters from immigrant communities. This year, Washington's many immigrant communities are turning out in unprecedented numbers, in districts across the state where they've been traditionally underrepresented.

Tonight, a volunteer doing GOTV phone-banking spoke with Maryan, originally from Somalia, now living in south Seattle. Maryan has been a citizen for four years, and registered for the first time this year. A mother of three, she felt that she needed to make sure that candidates that shared her values got into office. She was very excited to vote, but hadn't received the absentee ballot she'd requested. She knew she would have to go to her polling place, but she didn't know where it was and she worried about not knowing what to do if and when she got there.

Our volunteer put her in touch with Washington CAN staff who not only helped her locate her polling place, but drove her and her kids there and helped them navigate this important new experience.

Maryan is proud that she was able to do her part tonight by voting. Her children are proud, too.

And those of us lucky enough to be doing this work today, wherever we are, can be proud that our efforts helped one more of America's newest voters cast the first ballot of her life.

WISCONSIN: Hundreds of Youth Inspire Voters to the Polls in Wisconsin

Dave Moore of Voces de la Frontera Youth Organizer sends this update:

The polls have just closed here in Wisconsin after a day that has seen a massive youth led effort to get out the vote - more than 600 took part between Racine and Milwaukee. Melanie Benesh, Voces de la Frontera Youth Organizer, literally just arrived back in the office and gave this audio report.

Listen to it here.

As The Spin Starts, POST THOSE PHOTOS!

If you're watching the Election Night coverage like I am, the pundits are starting to shift from debating the electoral map to debating how the next president should govern.

how what you stand for and post a picture here with our "I VOTED COMMUNITY VALUES" sign --- to be part of the drumbeat for bold, transformative change at the top of the agenda, not more of the same cautious centrism we've seen in the past. It will make a difference here --- and we'll use your picture as part of the ongoing lobbying efforts through the Campaign for Community Values.

Let's see those smiling faces!

Send your photos to:

Big News On Election Day: There's No Big News!

As we were preparing for this blog, we prepped dozens of grassroots organizations around the country to pounce on stories of overwhelmed and malfunctioning polling places or outrageous voter suppression. And to be sure, we've heard some disconcerting tales --- from a repeat immigration raid timed for Election Day in Postville, Iowa, to riot police preparing to take the streets in Toledo, Ohio.

But it seems to us, the overwhelming story this election is that while voter turnout appears to be on track for a record high --- thanks in no small part to the work of community organizations across the country turning out voters, including the ones on this blog --- democracy has survived mostly unscathed and the election appears to be going smoothly.

The media and blogosphere seems to be exaggerating every report of the slightest problem, and while I don't mean to suggest any reports of wrongdoing and suppression should be ignored, it does seem that at the end of the day, we will be able to celebrate the day that our democracy was tested by overwhelming enthusiasm and came out the other end having proved itself durable.

Am I wrong?

CALIFORNIA: Story of a Polling Station Inspector

Our colleague, Mari Lopez from the California Partnership sent another profile of a leader who is volunteering at the polls to help her neighbors vote.

Los Angeles, California

Yolanda James is working the polls today as an polling station inspector. She is on the other side of the table from where she has been during the time leading up to the elections. After working the streets to tell people about the election, the propositions, and their rights at the polling booth, she is now working at a Los Angeles polling precinct. Yolanda has also personally registered 450 people to vote.

“It’s important for me to do this because this election is so important and so historic,” according to Yolanda. “I’ve spent months making sure people who can vote are registered, understand the propositions on the ballot – and there are a lot – where their precinct is, and are going out to vote. Now, by working the polls as a worker for the county, I can make sure anyone who wants to vote are able to vote without any problems.” Yolanda, who volunteers for Coalition Los Angeles an organization that works on behalf of low-income communities, is a veteran of L.A. politics. She has registered new voters, walked precincts, phone-banked, attended rallies and anything else that helps bring people out to vote. “This particular election is special. These two tickets are making history” said Yolanda.

Yolanda has worked non-stop since August and won’t stop until 10 p.m. west coast time. The polls close at 8 p.m. but as an inspector she will be responsible for delivering votes cast at her polling precinct. “I’ll be here until every last voter in line at by 8 p.m. gets to vote!”