So what did Barack Obama do as a “community organizer” anyhow?

Part of the mythos of the Obama campaign is that Obama was a “community organizer” in Chicago.  What does a “community organizer” do anyhow?  I mean, the streets are already there, the water and sewer pipes, the schools, churches, PTA’s, girl scouts and boy scouts.  What’s left? And who would pay someone to organize more stuff?

Well, I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, but I do have a family story about Barack Obama. It’s a short story and an incomplete one, but a true one and one that touched my family, and for that reason I find it intriguing.

Once upon a time, a neighborhood was changing.  In Chicago, when a neighborhood changes, it always changes from white to black, not the other way around.  I have lived in a “changing” neighborhood, on one of the  11 “integrated” blocks that are the real demographic of Chicago’s “racially mixed” neighborhoods. Yes, there were incidents, on both sides, and there is no point in pretending that one particular race has a lock on moral purity and does not engage in race-based violence and intimidation.

I have heard stories from whites who lost their homes, everything, when blacks moved into the neighborhood.  Unscrupulous real estate agencies engaged in “panic peddling” to pinch them between the emerging racial violence and a crashing housing market.  It wasn’t the personal financial catastrophe they talked about, though.  It was leaving the neighborhood cemeteries where their parents were buried.

Enter Barack Obama.


In this story, a southside Chicago neighborhood is changing and there is a meeting set up between church members of different races. Eight people show up at the meeting, and Barack Obama shows up.  He is the community organizer. As a result of the meeting, the people who showed up invite each other to their homes.  My family member in this story (black–we’re not ALL Swedish)  invited a white woman to visit.  When the white woman got there, she cried.  End of story.


Not much of a story.  No punchline, or big moral conclusion.  But it doesn’t dovetail with anything I know about Obama, and it opens up a lot more questions. When Obama has talked about his days as a community organizer in his campaign speeches, he has talked about not being able to draw a big following.  What was he trying to get people to follow? (It was mentioned in his Super Tuesday speech if anyone wants to track down an exact quotation.) He talks about telling his coworkers to look at a little black boy and think about that boy’s future and not give up. What does a black boy’s future have to do with interracial church groups in changing neighborhoods?

And why did the white woman cry when she visited the black woman’s house?


9 Responses to “So what did Barack Obama do as a “community organizer” anyhow?”

  1. Jody V Says:

    Here ae some real reason why you should not Vote Obama
    Fact about him, people love ignoring,

    Did any catch the forum with obama and McCain, what a crock obama, when they talked about religion Obama wanted to still say like he did 7 months ago, and in his book Rev, Wright, was his Mentor and spiritual advisor,
    but like alway Obama fliped floped again and again,

    Obama showed today he is not ready for the 3am phone call,, he would get scared, and start stammering again,

    When Obama and McCain when they really debate, is Obama going to agree with everything McCain says, like he did with Hillary Clinton, and him give Obama all the answers ,,, and take him as his own later,,,
    Just like Hillary,, Even CNN News claims Obama Adopted all of Hillary’s Agendas, Why so many Obama supporter can not think for them self, the love the reality TV crap, Rock star image, Boy is this country going to suffer if Obama elected,,, I am a Hillary Supporter, this will be the first year I vote Republican because I don’t believe in throwing alway my Vote, and to me it still best for the job,

  2. Johanna Says:

    Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

    We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960. ….Caroline Kennedy 2008

  3. Nijma Says:

    My “highest ideals” do not include playing a song with the B-word at an official political function or calling women by crude anatomical terms.

    I find a huge disconnect between the “believing” and “imagining” rhetoric and the contempt for women so widely accepted inside the Obama campaign.

  4. Robert Says:

    I think the tears came because the factor of hope was introduced by Obama. He KNEW that he had an “actual responsibility” to the people he served with an authentic “servant’s heart” as opposed to a “pit bull’s heart.”

  5. Nijma Says:

    A white woman cries after seeing a black woman’s kitchen and it’s all because of because what’s secretly in Obama’s heart, Robert? That makes no sense whatsoever.

    Obama and Palin are both pragmatic and competitive politicians. I don’t buy the “hope” brand and I don’t buy the “pitbull” brand. It’s all the same.

    Here’s a Hope rant from a thread on another blog from someone named Ralph:

    I’m sick and tired of hearing about frickin’ “hope.” Blah, blah, blah, hope blah blah. Blah blah blah faith blah blah. Blah blah blah change blah blah.

    What good does “hope” do you anyway? Can’t eat it, can’t burn it for heat, can’t take it to the bank.

    The corporate lobbyists and corrupt fatcats milking us all dry don’t have “hope.” They don’t need it. They’ve got power and a plan, and that’s good enough for them. They’re not “hoping” for change, they’re clearly identified what they want to the people who can give it to them, and they’re bringing carefully applied leverage to get it.

    No, it’s us little people who’s s’posed to have hope. It makes us more amusing as we dance for the man. Listen to them singing as they toil. They’re happy. They have hope. They have faith. They believe.

    Fat lot of good it does us. Here’s a multiple choice question for you.

    Complete the following sentence: “Gosh,” said the senator, “we’d really better take public opinion seriously with regard to this legislation; the people are really___.”

    a. hopeful
    b. faithful
    c. pissed off
    d. inspired

    If you answered anything but c., you’ve been drinking the damn Obama Koolaid. Legal immunity for the telecoms and “hope” for us little folks. Golly gosh, Mister Obama, thanks for saving me from my apathy by giving me hope!

    Legal immunity for the telecom criminals and “hope” for us little folks? Pardon me while I drink rancid milk and puke to get a better taste in my mouth.

    The choice between hope and apathy is a bogus dichotomy. How about anger?

    I’m not saying violence, I’m not saying destruction, but how about good ol’ fashioned outrage?

    I live down the street from that neighborhood (Altgeld Gardens) where Obama did his organizing, whatever it was, and the place is still a pit. I’ve been there in the daytime, when they look suspiciously at anyone white driving past, and I’ve taken the last night bus through Roseland and Calumet to there, when every one is dressed up and in suits taking the bus home from work exhausted and trying not to sleep past their stop. If they ever did have hope, it sure hasn’t done them any good.

  6. Payne W Says:

    So now we know he wasn’t very effective as a community organizer what do we know about his effectiveness as a Senator?

    He claims many things but has very little evidence of any of it. I’d suspect with such a great leader, organizer, loving and caring man there would be tons of people coming out of the woodwork to tell their stories about how Obama has helped them personally.

  7. Sharon Says:

    Nimja and Jody V – You are both so right. Who are all these people that are taken in by this black man’s drivel? You must read the article by Byron York at the national review website entitled”What Did Obama Do as a Community Organizer?” The bottome line is: He’ll be the biggest, strongest organizer in the world, he’ll dazzle the country with his message of hope and possibility, but we shouldn’t expect much to get done. He may speak eloquently and move people to follow him, but so did Hitler!! Obama will do nothing for this country but bring it to its knees. My family and I were Hillary supporters, and we would never vote for Obama. McCain and Palin in 2008!

  8. Kim Says:

    If any of you have ever seen, lived, or taught in Altgeld Gardens you would understand what he was trying to do. He was a community activist to make a change. A Change for the people who live there. People who can not make a change by themselves. If you do not know what Altgeld Gardens is like you can wiki it or better yet drive through the biggest low income housing projects left in the country.

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