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.