>Western Tribune Column September 10…Community Organizers

>Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin made sarcastic, demeaning remarks about community organizers last week at their party’s national convention, and the Republican crowd loved it, cheering for several minutes as they realized a new way to belittle Barack Obama, because of work he did soon after college.

The Republicans ‘comments inaccurately portray the work done by legions of volunteers and paid organizers who work to improve the lives of others in their communities.

People like Elvira Kidd. Elvira has been involved in community activities for decades, and is an advocate for education. Most recently she is leading the Bessemer Neighborhood Association whose latest project involves getting dangerous trucks off of Dartmouth Avenue.

Or Erica Young. Erica has led a successful effort to transform an abandoned school yard into a community garden by bringing individuals, civic groups, institutions and corporations together. Jonesboro Community Garden can be used as a site for education as well as a place for a relaxing stroll.

And a local woman who shall remain nameless who helps find housing for abused or other women (and men) who need shelter and a little time to get back on their feet.

There’s Isabelle Rubio, who works with the Hispanic community and who, because of the trust she has gained, was able to work as a liaison between cautious Hispanics and law enforcement officials in the investigation of a gruesome murder scene recently in which five men were tortured and murdered.

And David Nicholls who is trying his best to save Arlington School in Bessemer, and is assembling a team of people to complete a project started a decade ago; the designation of Bessemer’s south side as a historic district.

These are the people who, in most cases without government assistance, make our communities a better place to live. None of these people hold the title of community organizer, yet that is the role they are playing.

To listen to the Republicans, the services these people provide are worthless. But as citizens of this and surrounding communities know, they are priceless. And while no one says their experiences alone would qualify them to be president, the organizational skills and compassion required are qualities that we need to see in our leaders.

What we don’t need is a president and vice president who offer little help and even less support to those who are less fortunate than themselves.

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