Sharing resources between organizations includes putting people on the ground, side-by-side.
It gave me a sense that whether the work we do is statewide or on a federal level, the challenges we face are the same. My name is Alain Nahimana and I am an organizer with Maine People’s Alliance. A community organizer can work in all environments, not only in his/her community.
I was joined by a MPA member Sonia Irambona and Grady Burns, canvasser. The three of us were set down in some of Virginia’s toughest turf to canvass for immigration reform. Harold Folley of Virginia Organizing even made sure we had the number for the police handy. These were towns considered hostile, right in the middle of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s district. (Virginia’s 7th District)
As part of the exchange, Joe Szakos, Executive Director Virginia Organizing introduced us Mainers to the organizing climate in this district, and we were accompanied by national organizer, David Fleishman, from the Alliance as we hit the streets of Culpeper, Louisa, Orange, Gordonsville and Goochland.
Speaking to business owners in a district deemed hostile, the team was surprised when we actually met with support. Business owners even placed pro-immigration reform signs in their windows. It became clear to me that one should always take the time to educate people on an issue if your want their support or to get them engaged in a campaign.
Assumptions don’t work. You have to go into the field and make new assessments on your own.
Virginia Organizing will continue contacting these business owners in their efforts to pass immigration reform.
During our time in Virginia we also participated in a forum on the ACA and listened to the discussion about challenges that VA has with passing Medicaid Expansion. Challenges the group recognized within our own efforts in Maine.
Organizing exchanges between Alliance affiliates are creating a greater camaraderie among the network and in developing the skills and perspectives needed to fight for social and racial justice.