ACORN was the nation's largest community organization of low and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities. From 1970 to its end in 2010, ACORN had grown to more than 175,000 member families, organized in 850 neighborhood chapters in 75 cities across the U.S. and in cities in Canada, the Dominican Republic and Peru.
ACORN's accomplishments included successful campaigns for better housing, schools, neighborhood safety, health care, job conditions, and more. ACORN members would participate in local meetings and actively work on campaigns, elect leadership from the neighborhood level up, and pay the organization's core expenses through membership dues and grassroots fundraisers.
Every year since 2009, Congress has added language to must-pass spending bills that prohibits funds from ACORN. For the past four years, ACORN has not existed. Journalists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, who ran a hidden-camera sting of the community group, succeeded in killing it, which makes the annual "ban" a strange, vestigial bit of language that's largely just joke fodder for liberals.
"Great empires rise and fall, rise again,"wrote the Huffington Post's Zach Carter in a representatively are-you-kidding-me story about the ACORN language. "Byzantium survives in splendor as Rome collapses before the barbarian hordes. So it has been with ACORN."
There's more to the joke. The language is clear: "None of the funds made available under this or any other Act, or any prior Appropriations Act, may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors." As conservative watchdogs will tell you, plenty of community groups have risen from the graveyard of ACORN.
The Sixties were an important time in the history of American politics. The decade witnessed struggles for freedom for low-income people and minorities across the nation as well as a war that deeply divided all Americans. Amid the confusion and conflict, some important lessons were learned by those who cared deeply about America and her people - lessons that would endure and make a lasting impact on the nation.
One of the groups that took risks, explored new ideas and developed a unique formula for a politics of justice in America was the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), led by George Wiley. Wiley developed and led the National Welfare Rights Organization in the mid-sixties to become a national force for the needs and rights of low-income people. By 1966, the NWRO had 170 groups in sixty cities across the nation. Despite the very real needs of its members, the NWRO was destined to remain a small minority with limited power in American politics unless it could build a network of friends and allies. When this reality became clear, Wiley began an experiment that would explore the possibilities of a larger constituency for economic justice. He sent Wade Rathke, his young and highly talented organizer, to Little Rock, Arkansas to apply his creativity to the problem.
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