Columbus It has been a long day, but a good one in Columbus, Ohio. I had met for hours with my colleague and partner in the Voter Purge Project, Steve Tingley-Hock, in Marysville, a bit more than 30 miles out of town, and then at the Lincoln Café in town with Barbara Clark, the former head organizer for ACORN in the city with some of her old members about starting ACORN again. I was staying in a bedroom off the 3rd floor library in the home of the multii-dimensional activists, Bob Fitrakis and Suzanne Patzer, who were teachers, lawyers, editors, film, radio and video impresarios, and more. They had been my hosts at the Columbus Film Festival 18 months ago when “The Organizer” was the social justice film of the year, and Bob and I had crossed paths in Detroit in the 70s. Subsequently, I had contributed an almost every month column on organizing to the Columbus Free Press that they own and edit. I reached out for Suzanne at the last minute and asked if they had room for me in the attic for my quickly scheduled trip to meet with Steve. She’d said, of course, but mentioned the Free Press crowd was getting together that Saturday night from 7pm on, and I was welcome to attend as well, since it was going to be in the house.
Little did I know? The event turned out to be the Second Saturday Salon, which they have hosted ever second Saturday since 2004! It’s impossible not to appreciate the value of such a gathering of the tribes in Columbus, ostensibly in the name of the paper.
It was advertised as an open house salon from 630pm to midnight. I went down a bit after 7pm not wanting to interrupt the festivities by checking my phone too often in Ohio State’s backyard in the last minutes of what looked like the end of a long drought with LSU beating Alabama. I was wrong for that, since it turned out the game was on in one of the rooms with a crowd. People were everywhere. Food and drink were laid out in several rooms. It was a diverse crowd,skewing a bit towards the elderly, but not too ridiculously.
With the game over and people well fed, there was an effort to share a program for those interested. The first speaker was Morgan Harper, a dynamic 36-year old African-American woman who was running as a Democrat against a long established incumbent black woman. She was endorsed by the Justice Democrats, the upstart group pushing a more left Congressional program in the shadow of some of the 2018 midterm upsets. I was lavishly introduced by Bob for some brief remarks about ACORN’s current work around housing and tenant rights as well as an update on the brand new Voter Purge Project and its impact on Ohio. Harvey Wasserman, a longtime anti-nuke activist from the area spoke at some length with two canvassers, one a former ACORN worker, on their recent effort to get a referendum on the ballot and the intimidation their teams had faced from blockers paid by the utility company and a competitive fake petition that paid them $8 per signature. Quite a story!
Regardless, what a wonderful way to gather people, update and let them meet and greet, network and exchange information, old and new. I picked up a volunteer who was game to help on the data crunching and another who said she would help raise money for us to acquire voter files. Harper, whose great signs encouraged people to be “morganizers,” got some signatures on her filing petition. I snuck out before ten to my resting place, but it was still going strong with about 15 or 20 people milling about.
Every city should be lucky enough to have such a salon! Why not yours?