Thursday, August 12, 2010

John Atlas, Can Community Organizing make a come back in America? Seeds of Change, The ACORN Story

Talk Nation Radio for August 12, 2010
John Atlas, Can Community Organizing make a come back in America?

New book, Seeds of Change about ACORN story
Part One of a Two Part Special on ACORN

Produced by Dori Smith
TRT: 29:00
Download at Pacifica's Audioport here and at and

John Atlas joins us for a two part series on his new book, Seeds of Change, the Story of ACORN, America's most Controversial Anti Poverty Organizing Group. We’ll hear about the history of ACORN as members work to try to restart the organization.

The results of August 10, 2010 midterm primary elections in four states were informative in that there was record low turn out in three of the states. We decided to air this special on ACORN as a way of reflecting on the state of America’s electoral system, the media, and community organizing.

MidTerm Races: California hit a 90 year low for voter turn out. In 2008 we saw a 90-year high for voter turn out in California. Are these low voter turn out rates indicative of what the actual Midterm Elections 2010 will be like? Can community organizing make a come back in time to make a difference?

The State of Colorado was an exception with some 40% of voters turning out to vote in races that did have lots of interest due to community organizing for candidates with a populist message. (We’ll consider the Colorado race and the fact that they used mail in ballots in upcoming programs on the elections.)

John Atlas also outlines the story of fraud committed against ACORN in various states including Florida, as he tracks down the truth behind the sensational headlines about allegations of vote fraud by ACORN. In the end when ACORN was cleared the media never covered that part of the story.

We tend to think of ACORN as a group that organized poor voters, in many cases African Americans, who were disproportionately limited in their ability to vote. But if you were a victim of mortgage fraud, and if you are now facing soaring rental costs, ACORN's model was designed to benefit you. Fair housing has been a big part of what ACORN did over the many years before it was brought down according to our guest, by high powered political figures like Karl Rove, some fake video and a willing media.

All of this makes John Atlas a suitable person to tell the ACORN story. He is the founder and current president of the National Housing Institute, which publishes the magazine, Shelterforce. A long time public interest lawyer, writer, and organizer, John Atlas takes us through the history of an organization created by people inspired by the civil rights movement.

ACORN's roots date back to the 1960s, when the organization was working to help poor Americans organize themselves and build a political voice in their own communities.

The goals of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, have been to strengthen US democracy through voter registration drives in poor neighborhoods. They were all about getting the poor to organize themselves for a living wage, representation at banks and mortgage lending institutions, and for a wide range of projects to improve communities including better police protection.

Stories by or about John Atlas here here and here.

Related HEADLINE News

Thirty thousand people lined up for housing assistance in Georgia, several were injured in some incidents of overcrowding. (Atlanta Journal Constitution writes: "Felecia McGhee, who came in search of her own Section 8 assistance, saw two small children trampled when people rushed the building that held the applications. When a group of people who had been waiting hours in a line were told to move to another line, people started pushing, shoving and cursing, witnesses said".)

The White House has announced additional funds to help distressed homeowners pay their mortgages. The added $3 billion will bring the total amount allocated to the fund to $4.1 billion. There are several other existing programs. For information on which states are eligible for the funds click here.

More information on America's housing crisis here.

Underwriting Underwriting for this program was brought to you by, political analysis from outside the standard framework. Jeremy R. Hammond has been a guest on the show. He is founder and editor of and a recipient of the Project Censored 2010 Award. In this month’s issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Jeremy discusses the impact of the war on Iraq with Mike Otterman, author of the new book “Erasing Iraq, The Human Costs of Carnage”.

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