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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 >>

Differences between community and political organizing

Wilson-Allen highlights the differences between community and political organizing. While political organizing offers a measure of training, the sustained efforts involved with community organizing allows people to "work through the system." Wilson-Allen goes on to point out the major issues community organizers face.

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

Sure. If you could talk just a little bit about the differences between the community and the political organizing.
The basic difference that I see: most of the community organizing issues are long term, long term. The political, if you're doing nonpartisan political organizing, you have a finite time frame to work from: say, [the] primary through that election to do your voter education issues. Working with those targeted areas constantly until time to get out the vote. You don't go any further and voter education you can't--. You can tell them who all the candidates are, but you can't say vote for a specific candidate or anything like that. But it was, it made a huge difference, people were a lot more informed. When they went to the polls, they could choose for themselves if they knew how to get information. So with the community organizing, I mean the only thing I can think of that's really, really short term, for instance if there was a neighborhood that had a very, very busy intersection. A lot of times it was hard for people to get stop signs and stop lights in particular because in this area there had to be at least five fatalities before they would put a light up in some areas. So that was critical and to teach people--. That was like teaching them to work through the system. Thus it's kind of, it could be a short-term kind of thing. But when you're talking about landlord/tenant issues, [you] are also with trying to figure out who the allies are and who are the targets, who are you actually going after. Sometimes it takes a lot more behind the scenes work, and it's like the issue is, it doesn't have a finite time. There may be more appropriate times than others to really quicken the pace to get something done about it. But it's not like doing voter participation at all. It's over and done. Actually [voter registration?] is a good short [activity?] to start with when you're building a new group because they can see success almost immediately, and that will give them the strength and courage to go on and do something more long term.
What are some of the major issues with community organizing?
Around here it was like well, this strictly in terms of a lot of groups but primarily seniors. CHOP took on the utility increases. We were for a while with Duke Power. Still goes on today, but [there is] not a lot of mention of [it] is the redlining by banks, servicing in some areas and not in others. We had what we call the Community Reinvestment Alliance going on. As a matter of fact my husband was chair of that when he was on the board of CHOP, and they worked on those issues, and then the last set of issues were around landlord tenant rights that CHOP did here. So those were the community organizing pieces primarily.