Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Hawkman's open letter to ACORN

Guest post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman, an ex-ACORN member

I’m sure by now most people have seen the video footage of a pimp and prostitute infiltrating ACORN offices. A quick youtube or Google search will turn up those items for anyone who hasn’t. There has been vitriol from all sides as ACORN has been attacked over the footage. Here in NoMi, we could really benefit from some of the grassroots organizing around financial justice that ACORN used to be successful at doing. So as a former ACORN member, my advice to the organization is this…

The party’s over. Pack it up. Go home. You had a good run, but you’re finished now.

I do not say this lightly. My first job out of college was as an ACORN organizer, and I’m proud to say I was the first person to organize against predatory mortgage lending before “predatory lending” was a word. I remained an active member, and returned to help pass Minnesota’s landmark anti-predatory lending legislation in 2007. I was a long-time treasurer of their political action committee and the chair of the financial justice committee.

Locally, Minnesota ACORN has a long list of accomplishments to brag about. For one thing, they were the first grassroots organization to endorse Keith Ellison (back when their endorsement meant something), Mark Ritchie, and Lori Swanson, among others. They’ve been at the forefront of a number of issues affecting low- and moderate-income people in Minnesota and nationwide.

But earlier this year in Minnesota, they threw their lot in with the Poor People’s Socialist Hippie Movement To Stop Paying for Mortgages Because Housing Is A Human Right (PPSHMTSPFMBHIAHR). I couldn’t support those tactics and I stepped down as chair of the Financial Justice Committee. Ultimately, ACORN was doing nothing to address issues in NoMi and so I decided to cancel my membership entirely.

The current allegations could rightly be labeled a smear campaign, with one notable difference from other such attempts—this one worked. No matter what anyone tries to do or say, all anyone has to do is repeat the magic words, “child prostitution,” and no reasonable person will want to have anything to do with ACORN. The sooner everyone acknowledges that, the sooner we can get to work on many of the real issues that ACORN has worked on back when they were relevant.

Locally, many of the people who have been active still have the same personal connections with movers and shakers as they did before these videos surfaced. But ACORN is too tainted now, with voter registration fraud (drummed up scare), embezzlement (okay, that one was their fault), and the current tax evasion/prostitution videos. So I say to the local members: split off from national, form your own group, call it something else, and get back to work. I’ve even got a new name for you. Instead of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), call yourselves the Organized And Concerned Taxpayers Reforming Everything Expeditiously. “OACTREE: It’s what happens when ACORNs grow up.”


Anonymous said...

Nicely said Hawkman.

Love the OACTREE.

I bet Chipper would like that organization, too.

M. Clinton said...

I used to be an ACORN member. Until I moved to Central. We repeatedly had ACORN organizers coming to our community and signing up members, thus creating direct withdrawls from their checking accounts or credit cards. There was always a promise to work on neighborhood livability issues. But that never happened. It remained in a state of perpetual membership drive. I finally had one organizer recontact me after she quit. She told me that she was never allowed to spend time on issues because there were always membership "quotas" that hadn't been met and her time subsequently had to be focused on the membership drive. By perpetually focusing on signing up electronic withdrawls from poor people's checking accounts and credit cards, without ever creating any of the action that they were being told they were paying for, she ironically began to feel that she was participating in something that was predatory upon poor inner city communities and subsequently quit. Pretty ironic given ACORN's mission. i believe they once had a good mission and intentions, but in the end it became something very different and very ugly.