Barrack Obama To Sarah Palin: What’s Wrong With Being A Community Organizer?

 community organizer

Obama To Palin: What's Wrong With Being A Community Organizer?

"Sarah Palin to Obama: What does a community organizer do?"


President Barrack Obama, started out as a community organizer in Chicago. Organizing a community is noble. It means giving people a voice, it means developing natural community leadership. Back in the 1970's and 80's I was a community organizer. I was working at Manhattan Legal Services and met a young, dynamic and charismatic lawyer whose name was Ramon Jimenez. In those days, the East Harlem Community was in total disarray, it was a community in transition. Prior to 1970 the community was still predominately a mixed Caucasian community, Italian, Irish, German and even some Jews. Growing up I got beat up a lot of times by those people. As previously stated the community was is total disarray and it was so because of a term that was coined back then, white flight, that's when all the white people leave or flee from a city community to go live in the suburbs.

In 1972 the East Harlem community had a new majority group, it was us Puerto Ricans. Here I am not accusing anyone but, when the whites left, the community was inundated with heroin. It was very bad, many people became addicted to heroin, many died of drug over does. People with money do not understand poverty and everything that comes along with it. Those people vote, and get the services they need. Impoverished communities like East Harlem, are often neglected. For example, in the summer of 1972 in New York City there was a strike by the workers of the New York City Department of sanitation. We understand strikes and are not strike breakers. However, just a few blocks away is the Community of Yorkville. This is an affluent community, it is the community where the Mayor's mansion sits. So trash was being picked as usual. The community of Yorkville had sanitation service almost as normal as before the strike. In East Harlem, the trash was not being picked up at all. The garbage cans were all filled to the rim, so much so that people started leaving there thrash bags on the floor adjacent to the thrash cans. Since this strike occurred in the summer, the trash was smelling awful. It began to attract flies and rats. A group of young, college educated Puerto Rican students banded together and formed The Young Lords. Whenever a minority group of color organizes, the media is quick to label them a gang. The same thing was happening in California within the black community. Over there it was really bad because of J. Edgar Hoover's own bias, and prejudiced the FBI infiltrated the "Black panther Party". People, rather young black men were being gunned down on the streets by the police, (nothing changes this is still going on today). Using the law, members of the Black Panthers began carrying rifles. I believe the law was that as long as the weapon was not a gun or pistol and was carried out in the open it was legal, that is barring one did not have a criminal record. It was a constant struggle. Confrontation between the Panthers and the police were daily. As stated above the media loves labeling groups. So now they were calling the Panthers "Black Militants. When in reality all they were doing was organizing the community, giving a voice to the voiceless. They ran day care and fed the hungry. They educated the community about sanitation and health. So back in East Harlem, during that sanitation strike residents of the community observed that the thrash was getting picked up in Yorkville but not in East Harlem. The Young Lords began sweeping and moving the thrash cans into the middle of the street. Of course this disrupted the flow of traffic and confrontation between the Lords and the police ensued. Soon the media was covering the story and eventually the strike was over and sanitation began again.

Puerto Rican young men were being arrested at a very disproportionate rate. To make matters worst many of these young men were ending up dead. The department of corrections claimed that they committed suicide but everyone that knew them said they were not the kind of kids that would commit suicide, they were happy and had many friends. Something was going on Rikers Island. One person turns up dead its possible that he committed suicide. But it was not one, it was many Puerto Ricans that were turning up dead.

Many people do it, I'm sure you've probably seen it yourself. When the weather outside is freezing some folks would get a metal drum or thrash can and light a bon fire to keep themselves warm. I do not know all of the facts Iwas not there, but this is what occurred to the best of my recollection. It was a cold winters day in East Harlem and a group of young [Puerto Rican] men were standing around there little bon fire when a police officer walks by and tells them to put out the fire. One of these young men, Julio Roldan, tells the officer that they are not doing anything wrong but keeping warm. The officer became belligerent and an argument ensued between he and Julio. For whatever the, I have no idea, but for the eye witnesses that were there they all said the same thing. After the arguing started the officer pulled out his gun and shot Julio dead right there on the spot. There was massive community outcry but as usual nothing happened. No investigation, no hearing, nothing. The Young Lords, the voice of the people, then decide to make a mock coffin and parading it throughout the community. Every block they walked through they'd pickup more followers. By the time they got back to their headquarters it was massive. Then it became a rally, very similar to what is going on today with the Black Lives Matter movement. A charismatic and vociferous young man, a founding member of the East Harlem Young Lords becan to speak. This guy, Felipe Luciano who was a member of the last poets, had his own radio program and whom would go on to become a televsion newsman, was eloguently articulating the community's needs.

The thing that lit the fire in the East Harlem residents was an incident that occured in church. The mass was held in the church as usual, but the Puerto Ricans had a seperate mass down in the basement. It felt like even god allowed class differances. Upper class in the "church" lower class (Puerto Ricans) dow n in the celler. Today the church where the incident occured is calleed the peoples church. When the parents of some members of the Young Lords brought the situation to light, they took action. At first they tried negotiating with the church, but when the church refused to correct the situation or to just listen to the concerns, the Lords went into action. They took over the church and held a few people hostage, or so the media would have you believe. They did occupy the church but it was to invite the community in, to give lunch to those that were hungry, They emulated the Black Panthers in many ways. They ran a free day care center for those single working moms. They'd read stories and watch movies. The church became a festive, welcoming place one that embraced the community. That was until the stand off came to an end. The church did eventually come around and became a part of the community and not just another institution that neglected those that need the most.

I could go on forever, this is called life experience, but I'd rather bring it back to the topic at hand, Community Organizing. When people do not come from an impovished neighborhood, have not suffered the humiliation of having to ask for assistence (welfare), have not lived in a building were the landlord goes to Florida for the winter and neglects to buy oil for the furance so several families have to live with no heat or hot water. Since they are blessed enough to not have had to experrtience any of this they mock community organizing efforts. But community organizing is a time honored tool, it's one of social works greatest tools. It goes way back to when social work began. When Jane Adams started the settlement movcement. When Doratia Dix organized to get mental health facilities built. Prior to Doratia's efforts the mentally ill lived in squalor, on the cold dam lower floor of hospitals. They were treated with digust and disdain. In fact, the word bedlam, that is commonly was to explain pandimonium actually comes from a hospital in England named Bedlam. This is where people would pay an admssion fee to watch the "crazy" people.

Empower the community and change happens. Its a long process, it does not happen over night. Sometimes it takes decades but as they say, the Struggle continues or as is said in Spanish "en La Lucha".


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East Harlem

East Harlem, USA

Born in Mother Cabrini hospital New York, NY. First 2 years of life lived on West 103rd Street. At the age of 2 my family moved into the Thomas Jefferson Houses in East Harlem, part of the NYC Housing Authority and soon thereafter referred to as "the projects."

This was a mixed  community where we, Puerto Ricans were the minority. I attended public schools beginning with grade school, PS 102, then on to Thomas Jefferson Junior High School 117, and finally Benjamin Franklin High. At the time, Franklin was the worst school in the city. In fact the year prior to my entering, the principal was murdered and hung from the flag pole in front of the school.

The community was in turmoil. As more Puerto Ricans moved into the community, more of the white residents began moving out. This is why the term "white flight" was coined. The community was inundated with heroin, and I saw a generation of people I grew up with and attended school with become addicted. Then it happened, both East Harlem and the South Bronx became blighted. Landlords began paying thugs to set their properties on fire. After a while both of these communities looked like war torn Beirut.

This blight spread to all the urban areas in New York City. This was the 1960's and into the 1970's. The country was undergoing a social revolution. Men started wearing long hair, the "Afro" was in style. Blaxploitation films were in vogue. Superfly, Shaft, Dolemite, Foxy Brown, Cotton Comes to Harlem and many others.

East HarlemThe white college kids began a movement that was dubbed the flower power movement. This movement birthed a subset called the Hippies. White kids were rioting on college campuses and many were shot and killed by the police and/or National Guard. Five white kids killed at Kent State. These white kids were protesting the war in Viet Nam.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles a group of African American college kids, tired of the deplorable conditions minorities were forced to live in and of being harassed by the police formed a militant group called the Black Panther Party. This was a political organization but because they wore black berets and were outspoken at a time when blacks were second class citizens, the media made them out to be anti american. This was so far from the truth. The black panthers set up day care centers and provided free lunch and vaccinations to the community. J. Edgar Hoover was still the head of the FBI and had black agents infiltrate the panthers.Black Panther Party J Edgar Hoover

On the East Coast a group of Puerto Rican college kids formed their own political party called the Young Lord Party. Again because this was a group of minorities wearing red berets, they to were branded radical, anti american. The lords, following the format laid out by the Black Panther's began clothing drives, feeding the community, setting up day care centers and providing vaccinations.

Young Lords Party

The political structure in New York City consisted of a Board of Estimates. This was a very exclusive club made up of a very small group, the President of each Borough. Corruption was rampant. After much struggle and several of the Borough Presidents getting arrested the system was changed. With this change came the ability for minorities to finally play a role in City Government. The first Black Borough President was a native Harlemite named Percy Sutton.

The first Puerto Rican Deputy Mayor was Hernan Badillo; in Harlem Charles Rangel was elected to the congressional seat vacated by Adam Clayton Powell; and in East Harlem a vociferous Puerto Rican woman was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the New York State Senate, while Angelo Del Toro was the Assemblyman.


Their were riots on college campuses but the State of New York was shaken when a riot erupted in the State Prison named Attica.

Son of Sam
"Sam Made Me Do It" David Berkowicz, Son of Sam

The 1960's and 1970's was a time of massive change and disruption in America. It was the time of Drugs, Sex and Rock n Roll. Also during this Period of time Charles Mason and his "family" murdered 5 innocent people in California, one of which was a pregnant Bianca Folger. This was the era of Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, the Young Lords and Son of Sam the insane man that when caught said that a dog named Sam told him to go on his murderous spree.

My life in East Harlem, now referred to as "El Barrio" was not all bad though. I went to many house party's, had my share of girl friends, and enjoyed good friends. I remember how exciting it was when the Planet of the Apes movie was released. My life long friend, Ruben M. and I saw every one of the Planet of the Apes movies. I also remember seeing my first Woodie Allen movie "Bananas". Of course, who could forget Psycho, Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist and the Omen. While I was to young to see any of them, but this is the ear of the X rated movie. Linda Lovelace was the first super star PornStar. Another x rated movie I was to young to see was The Devil in Miss Jones.

In music, it was Diana Ross and the Supremes, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Temptations, and Smokey Robinson. We Puerto Ricans had our own music to. There was what came to be known as Latin Soul with singers like Jimmy Sabater, and Joe Bataan. It was also the time of the Latin Music Explosion. This music was so hot that it was dubbed "Salsa" a name that continues to denote this hot, funky Afro- Carribean music. Then there was another music explosion, it was called Disco. Clubs like studio 54 put this era on the map. Disco music was so popular that movies were made about it. The most famous being "Saturday Night Fever" staring John Travolta with music by the Bee Gees "Stay'n alive"and the Trammps singing "Disco Inferno."

Saturday Night Fever

The very first discotheque I ever went to was called "The Steps" it was on 14th Street between First and Second Avenues. I was 14 years old. Back then they were still not called disco's. They were called juice bars because they did not have a liquor license and all they served was fruit juice and soda. Shortly thereafter discos began popping up all over the place, the rest, as they say, is all history.

That's a snapshot of my life in East Harlem.


History of Social Work

National Association of Social Work (NASW)


History of Social Work
History of Social Work Jane Adams founder of the Settlement Movement in America

History of Social Work:: Since the first social work class was offered in the summer of 1898 at Columbia University, social workers have led the way developing private and charitable organizations to serve people in need. Social workers continue to address the needs of society and bring our nation’s social problems to the public’s attention.
Today, Americans enjoy many privileges because early social workers saw miseries and injustices and took action, inspiring others along the way. Many of the benefits we take for granted came about because social workers—working with families and institutions—spoke out against abuse and neglect.
The civil rights of all people regardless of gender, race, faith, or sexual orientation are protected.
Workers enjoy unemployment insurance, disability pay, worker’s compensation and Social Security.
People with mental illness and developmental disabilities are now afforded humane treatment.
Medicaid and Medicare give poor, disabled and elderly people access to health care.
Society seeks to prevent child abuse and neglect.

History of Social Work settlement-house-movement
Treatment for mental illness and substance abuse is gradually losing its stigma.
The social work profession celebrated its Centennial in 1998. That year, several important artifacts from across the country were donated to the Smithsonian Institution to commemorate 100 years of professional social work in the United States.
Social work pioneer Jane Addams was one of the first women to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded in 1931. Known best for establishing settlement houses in Chicago for immigrants in the early 1900s, Addams was a dedicated community organizer and peace activist.
• Frances Perkins, a social worker, was the first woman to be appointed to the cabinet of a U.S. President. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, Perkins drafted much of the New Deal legislation in the 1940s.
Social worker and civil rights trailblazer Whitney M. Young, Jr. became the executive director of the National Urban League while serving as dean for the Atlanta School of Social Work. He also served as president of NASW in the late 1960s. A noted expert in American race relations, Time Magazine acknowledged Young as a key inspiration for President Johnson’s War on Poverty.
Other famous social workers include Harry Hopkins (Works Progress Administration), Dorothy Height (National Council of Negro Women), and Jeanette Rankin (the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress).

History of Social Work Hull-house-first-settlement-house
Hull House, One of the first settlement houses founded by Jame Adams.


Video: Legacies of Social Change: 100 Years of Professional Social Work in the United States available from NASW Press at

Barker, Robert L. (1998) Milestones in the Development of Social Work and Social Welfare Washington, DC NASW Press.
Edwards, Richard L. (Ed.-in-Chief) (1995) Encyclopedia of Social Work, 19th Edition
Washington, DC NASW Press.

Trenton New Jersey My New Hometown

Mayor Eric Jackson Announces A New Initiative

Trenton NJ is now my new home. I moved In November 2015. I have moved around a lot in my life and have found that the best way to acclimate into a new environment is by Trenton, NJ Mayor Eric Jackson getting involved. As a citizen of this country it my civic duty, I call it protecting my stake in the neighborhood I live in. With that said, I attended a press conference called by Mayor Eric Jackson at which he announced Trenton's involvement in President Obama's initiative, "My Brothers Keeper".
The basic premise is to network various entities in the community, Education, Social, Business, Civic to work toward one goal coming up with a sound strategy for keeping young men of color out of the penal system.

 Maytor Jackson Trenton On The Rise