Everybody wants to be the vanguard

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

I kibitzed a bit of online spill-over of an argument between anarchists, Occupiers, activists, & sundry interested parties regarding organizing & protesting around the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The discussion was about organizing & activist methodologies & the argument (whose provenance is in dispute) was about “diversity of tactics” which, as far as I can tell, is just spin for “we’ll join y’all if all y’all let us do whatever we want”, which defeats the purpose of organizing in the first place.

I don’t really have any thoughts worth voicing about the specifics of that argument/discussion, but it got me thinking.

One of the things I’ve learned over the past decade I’ve spent involving myself in various civic organizing initiatives is that most people want to do something big and flashy that will get them recognized. Everybody wants to be the vanguard.

I’ve also learned that the vanguard gets wiped out first.

The thing that no one wants to do is the legwork. You can have a badass army, but if you don’t have competent folks bringing bread and cheese and water in on trucks, your soldiers get turned into sausage.

There’s nothing flashy about the work of being a Congress-critter. They’re all sausage-makers. The power lies in the willingness to do the tedious preparation and unsung heavy lifting to achieve your goal, whatever it may be. That’s the way it works with any great process. That’s the great test of commitment. People who show up to do the boring shit are the ones you want around, because they know how to make sausage.

There will be plenty of people coming in to town to protest the 2016 RNC, and even more folks coming to participate in it. The folks in Cleveland preparing to protest might consider (if they haven’t already, like I said, I’m only tangentially aware of their discussion) whether they’d rather be 1 of numerous uncoordinated & questionably trustworthy vanguards, or the unsung ground crew that keeps it all together.

Beer and Grassroots Activism

Thursday, 28 September 2006

I was at Edison’s last night meeting with some neighborhood folks about a possible synergy between the larval Tremont Civility Project and a possible mentoring program to bring together new residents, long-time residents and even longer-time residents. I also got pretty drunk.

Rogue Brewery’s Dead Guy Ale

This ale was moderately hoppy with a thick grain and fruity hints, perfect for a fall afternoon or summer evening.

North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

This imperial stout deserves being named for a man with an eleven inch penis that was worshipped as a fertility charm. A strong rooty front note fades into a hint of anise and some sort of wood flavor. The finish is almost too smooth, without the lingering stout flavor I’m used to. This might be because it was bottled. 9% by volume. I don’t really know what I’m talking about here if you hadn’t already noticed.

Flying Dog Brewery’s Pale Ale

Now that it is morning and I’m sober, I actually think I’ve had this before. I can’t really review it because I think it acted as a palate cleanser after the Old Rasputin. I remember that it was about as hoppy as Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA.

Palma Louca

This Brazilian Pilsener was the surprise of the night. I don’t really like pilseners, but my habit at Edison’s is to always try a beer I’ve never had before. I believe this is now my favorite south of the border beer. It beats out Pacifico, Dos Equis, and Corona in terms of flavor and refreshment. And it didn’t even have a lime in it.

Round VII – Third Night of Interviews

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

I swung on up to Ohio City last night for some sushi from Kimo’s before going to the last night of interviews for this round of Neighborhood Connections Grant-making. Kimo’s was closed again. The third time in a row this has happened to me. I know he does the sushi for the Indians, and that its a big account for him, but it is a hassle to get there and find out he is closed. I guess I’ll have to start calling first. Maybe he could use a website to keep folks informed? Instead I went to Heck’s again. I’d last been there over a year ago with Patrick in our quest for the best burger in Cleveland. I wasn’t impressed with their burger then, and I wasn’t impressed with the pasta dish I got last night. The food was good enough, but I can and have made better at home.

The six interviews we had last night switched back and forth between sports/exercise programs and educational programs. Unfortunately the same problem we’ve had in the past also came through with several of these groups. Most or all of the money would go to pay themselves or their business. I’m sorry, but if you request $5000 and all of that money is going to pay for memberships to the business you own you aren’t going to get the money. Similarly, if you request $5000 and all of that money is being split between the workers at the business while claiming their hours as in-kind contributions, you’re not going to get the money. I think that is one of the positives having community activists as the grant-making committee. We know all of the tricks people will use to make a buck. I wonder what it says for the Cleveland economy that small businesses are so desperate for patronage or cash that they’ll create one-off programs and hope the funding source doesn’t look too closely at their application.

Round VII – Second Night of Interviews

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Last evening was the second night of interviews for the seventh round of Neighborhood Connections grant-making. We had six interviews on the schedule, but one cancelled due to illness. The other interviewees presented on beautification programs, safety programs, and educational programs.

One thing that I’ve started to notice, from attending the Tremont Strategic Investment meeting last week, sitting through these grant interviews, and just talking to people around the city is a distinct fear of youth. Time after time I hear people complain that children and youth are playing in the streets and that people don’t feel safe going outdoors because of this. Their answer is always “get the kids off the street and into supervised activities and educate them about whatever we think they ought to know.” The sense I get is that they don’t think children should play in the streets. This makes no sense to me. Children everywhere have always played in the streets. This is not the problem.

The problem is that adults are afraid of children they do not know. Especially in an urban setting, it appears that, to them, unsupervised children playing in a neighborhood equals crime. These folks all want to do something about it, or actually, they want to tell other people what they should do about it. “We need a rec-center;” “The police should keep them from riding their bikes all over;” “Our seniors are afraid to go outdoors.” Bless them for their good intentions, but do they ever think to ask the youth what they want? No. They’re too afraid to go outdoors and talk to them. They want structured environments with specifically targeted youth and a curriculum that usually doesn’t address the real needs of the youth.

The eight of us who went from Cleveland to Nashville earlier this year all came away with this same realization. Youth are ministered to impersonally, institutionalized instruction always seems to be the answer offered instead of actual relationship building, community building, neighborhood building organic interaction. The more I learn about the community organizations and grassroots efforts in Cleveland, the more I become convinced that there needs to be a networking group that connects different groups working on the same projects, offers advice, technical assistance and program information that might be unknown to those groups and acts as a whetstone for their mission and ideas. A sort of networking clearinghouse of institutionalized knowledge that seeks out the groups that need the assistance.

That is sort of what I’m involved in with the 2007 Cleveland Leadership Summit [including focusing on youth involvement], but that is only a one off thing and not the targeted sustainable organization I have in mind.

Round VII – First Night of Interviews

Thursday, 14 September 2006

The first night of interviews for Round VII of the Neighborhood Connections grant program was last night. I didn’t have to haul ass out to Mt. Pleasant this time, since my group was meeting at St. Ignatius. We were supplied with coffee and tea which was great since I was fighting some sinus stuff. We had six interviews to cover in three hours, from stray animal care to beautification to school reading programs. One fledgling block club had a grant written for beautification, but the person who wrote the grant from Clark Metro Development, didn’t show up to the interview, and the woman who came in his place had never seen the grant and had no idea what it was about.

I felt sorry for her because it was obvious that her block club had started something good that wasn’t being served by the CDC. One of the other members of my committee wanted to call the person who wrote the grant and give him the what for. The grant was hand-written and dashed off in about ten minutes. Typically we choose to interview this kind of grant because it indicates that the people applying for it are first-time grant-seekers and truly grassroots. That explains our surprise and indignation when we realized that an employee of a community development corporation had written it. The reasons Clark Metro has lost its funding are becoming self-evident.

Another grant was for a good project but the funds being requested, all $5000 are essentially going to a middle-man non-profit that has been backing the same program city-wide and applying to NC under the guise of PTAs from different schools. They’ve received funding from NC at least 4 times, which could be up to $20k in funding that they’ve garnered from us using engaged parents and teachers as a proxy. This non-profit gets all the money and the parents and teachers do all the work as volunteers. The tough part is that if we don’t fund it, the program dies at those schools. So who gets hurt? The children of course. At the next meeting of the full committee we’re definitely going to be discussing this type of disingenuousness.

I tried to stop at Dave’s because we got out at a 8:45, but they were locked up tight, despite their store hours until 9. So instead of getting bananas and some oranges, I stopped at Tremont Convenience and got potato chips and oreos. I got home, popped a Sudafed, and my nose slowly stopped running. This is community meeting week for me. Tuesday was a Tremont Strategic Investment meeting [another 3 hour tour], yesterday was grant interviews and tonight is the Auburn Block Club meeting and ice cream social.

Fall Grant-Making

Thursday, 7 September 2006

The Neighborhood Connections grant-making committee met again last night to start the fall round of grant discernment. We had delicious food from Luchita’s. This round only had about 60% the number of proposals compared to the spring round. This is, apparently, typical. But it means that you have a better chance of being funded if you apply for a grant in August.

I’m reviewing proposals from Clark-Metro, Detroit-Shoreway and Old Brooklyn this time ’round. The grants were good for the most part, we only culled three from our group, one had a couple hundred thousand in funding already, so they got the axe even though the project was a good idea.