Volunteers are the lifeblood of community organizing, but there is no reason we should not take advantage of available resources to help us grow the resistance here in Seattle. In full disclosure, I’ve granted the community a year of my unemployment checks to sustain my own volunteer work to help build the movement. It was my choice and my sacrifice to walk away from two careers to do so and I now have the honor and privilege of saying I had a hand in bringing to life the critical grassroots organization in Seattle that we’ve come to call SAFE (Standing Against Foreclosure & Eviction).
SAFE exists today and is growing because many people like myself saw how important it was to organize, cared, and volunteered our time to make it happen. SAFE is a classic grassroots organization that was built from nothing save our rich history of struggle. People have volunteered to do everything from being present at our meetings, speaking out, bringing coalitions together, showing up at actions, stepping forward to draft SAFE’s literature and framework, planning strategy, doing work to present SAFE online, making calls, addressing letters, and spreading the word. This is something to be proud of.
I will never make the fifty to seventy thousand dollars a year I could have made as a school teacher or commercial electrician, but I’m okay with that knowing what we’re building. I first approached the two careers to begin with, because I wanted to make a difference in a union and working with other people. I found that both left me wanting some more direct and radical way to make an impact.
My experience serving in the morally corrosive occupation of Iraq left me with a deep need to be a part of the creation of a more just and humane world that would remain here for our posterity. I’ve dealt with my experience through my activism and feel that it is the most effective way for anyone to deal with the shame and oppression imposed on us by a world ruled by graft, greed, and shortsighted gambles with the future.
As the tiny unemployment checks I got to pay my rent ended in December, I’ve decided to embrace a creative, imaginative, and innovative concept Bill Moyer proposed to me this summer. This was the new Community Supported Organizer (CSO) project, of which yours truly will be the pilot program for. In this way I’ll be able to continue to work as much as the more than 60 hours a week I often put into organizing with SAFE. I’ll maintain my flexibility and remain an autonomous organizer only accountable to the community of people he works with. SAFE will continue to be a bottom-up volunteer organization, but I will be supported at the grassroots to continue to do the work at my current level of engagement.
My old friend Darnell has offered to throw a small house party for me on Sunday evening this January 20th. He’s inviting some of his friends from the tech industry to come, listen, and possibly make small donations to fund my pilot program. Backbone Campaign is going to donate up to $3000 as part of a two-to-one matching fund. The goal of this night will be to raise a salary that might be able to sustain me for a while longer and eventually lead to a sustained project that we can replicate in other cities and with other like minded grassroots organizers working for the people. We want to create an army of CSOs to help organize local communities and deal with the current crisis from the bottom-up.
The last thing I want to do is to take most of my organizing time away from SAFE because I’m broke and have to eat. We need to keep growing our capacity so we can help build a mass movement that radically changes the way things are. We need people that can volunteer any amount that they can, but we also need people like myself that are on call. I continue to believe that leadership should come from within the communities we are organizing and from the courageous people directly taking a stand, but we need to have a strong platform from which to organize and build the movement to support their leadership.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this CSO program I will be a part of.
Joshua Farris - CSO
Backbone Campaign Lumbar Club Cookout & Sing-along
At the Annual Localize This! Action Camp
Wednesday August 1, 6:30-10PM
(Lumbar Club members make the artful activism of Backbone Campaign possible through automated, recurring monthly donations)
Order of Fun:
1. Grilled Salmon or Portobellos and Vashon-grown sides.
2. Presentations from Bill Moyer, allies and activists
4. Sing-along and skits 'round the campfire
5. More S'mores!
Dinner is $20, but...
Space and food limited - please RSVP by July 21.
In your message, please give your full name and indicate your entree choice (salmon or Portobello) and number of folks in your party (up to two per Lumbar Club membership).
Your tickets will be at the door and we'll settle up there-no need to pay in advance.
In your message, please give your full name.
For information about Localize This! Action Camp go to www.localizethis.org
The Backbone Campaign has always been about visibility. From our Backbone Awards to our giant Spine puppet to our Shared Ass puppet, we have been creating visual and visible tools for activists for the past several years.
Join us in Tacoma, WA on April 28 & 29, 2012 for an Eviction Free Zone training. Register HERE.
#83 in Backbone Campaign's Conversations with the Cabinet podcast series
Thursday, December 8, 2011 we hosted a report from and conversation between some of America's leading housing defenders. With almost 30% of American mortgages "under-water," it is possible that no other economic issue in American politics can equal this one for its potential appeal and the substantive impacts a victory would deliver to millions of families.
This conversation was inspiring and filled with useful information for propelling our movement of movements forward. Download the Podcast, explore the valuable and inspiring organizing tools and educational resources below. Please share this with your local Occupy, social networks, friends and family members, and then ORGANIZE!
|Intro text by Bill Moyer below. Guests and resource links in order of appearance:
Occupy Our Homes activists Arturo de los Santos and Peggy Mears:
For years we have featured our most effective organizers, activists and policy leaders and engaged them in inspiring conversations to help grow a more powerful community-based and nationally-networked progressive social movement. A few weeks ago I read a quote from a Morgan Stanley analyst proclaiming that a "The Rentership Society is upon us" - the article outlined a frightening effort to bundle a quarter million foreclosed properties currently owned Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA - all agencies currently under the public control of the Federal Housing Finance administration and sell them to Wall Street.
Backbone Campaign's first Bail Out America "dress rehearsal" action at FHFA, White House and Treasury photos and video: