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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Tawana Belinda Wilson-Allen, May 11, 2006. Interview U-0098. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Critical influence of one effective grassroots organizer

Wilson-Allen recalls the powerful role her mentor, Ron Charity, had on her beliefs about grassroots organizing, illuminating the impact strong leaders have on organizing work. Wilson-Allen remembers how Charity's death halted continued work among other organizers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Tawana Belinda Wilson-Allen, May 11, 2006. Interview U-0098. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

TAWANA BELINDA WILSON-ALLEN:
Ron and I did that too. That was about, you know what that was about--the Institute work went on maybe eight months to a year prior to his death. That was between '90 and '91.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Did that organization continue?
TAWANA BELINDA WILSON-ALLEN:
After he passed away. He intended for me to be the executive director. But instead I went in, worked Mel's campaign, and it was sort of hard because you saw the people's names on, the other organizer's names on that list. We all care about him. He was so much a part of our lives. It was just, I mean we could've gone one way or the other. [We?] could've blown it out of the water and really worked it and kept it up or do nothing. All of us had other jobs, and it was hard for us to get moving with his death and all. It was just really hard. He was trying to plan--. He knew something ahead of time, but never told us, never told us. He was still playing tennis right before his--as a matter of fact, I was taking my daughter and Don Baker's who was director here, I was taking his children over to get tennis lessons, and we discovered him in his bed.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
You discovered him.
TAWANA BELINDA WILSON-ALLEN:
Yeah, in his bed.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Oh how sad.
TAWANA BELINDA WILSON-ALLEN:
It was. I had to be the one to call his wife.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Oh that's sad.
TAWANA BELINDA WILSON-ALLEN:
She was in Virginia. But he never once complained. He always had that same smile on his face. When I would say "can't," he said organizers don't have that word as a part of vocabulary.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
What do you mean? Oh can't.
TAWANA BELINDA WILSON-ALLEN:
There's no such thing as can't. There is always a way. There is always the way, and every time I do a leadership development workshop or whatever, he sits on my shoulder and guides me through. A lot of times I like to give the students or whoevera suggestion. He says don't tell them everything. This is part of the process. You give them the main parts, and then let them do some creative thinking on their own.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Figure it out.
TAWANA BELINDA WILSON-ALLEN:
He was a big part of our life. He was the main mentor I had especially for political organizing and leadership development kind of work.