What could be more patriotic than being an outspoken American and taking part in the democratic process?
When Rosa Parks got sick of being treated like a second class citizen…when she got good and tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, she didn’t stop and file legal papers, recruit board members, draw up by-laws and design a logo. She didn’t sit back and start a not-for-profit organization. She took action. Miss Rosa Parks was an American patriot in every sense of the word.
Think about the people who have been pivotal in getting the ball rolling, when it comes to civil and human rights: Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Susan B. Anthony, Ed Roberts….they didn’t sit around and wait until The Powers That Be decided the time had come for change. Quite the opposite: these pioneers - patriots, really - looked around, saw that the time for change was long overdue, and recognized that they had the power to effect change, themselves. They tapped into that valuable natural resource known as community.
The civil rights movement owes a huge debt to the these folks, and to the revolutionary idea that a grassroots effort can be the seedling from which to effect significant and lasting change that impacts a whole community, a nation, the world. During the last presidential election, the term “community organizer” was bandied around about Obama, as if it should be preceded with the qualifier “only.” His only significant experience, some people said, was as a community organizer. Now, I’m not a big fan of our president, but I hardly think a background in community organizing can be anything but an asset to a leader. For Obama, it means he understands the power of the individual, and the importance of participation in the democratic process.
I work for a small, not-for-profit organization that focuses on disability rights advocacy. Our former Executive Director, who retired just last week, after 30 years with the organization, is a pretty remarkable person. Herb Levine is a staunch believer in community organizing, in the power of the individual, and in the value of grassroots efforts to effect change. With the support of a long-time donor, the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco decided the best retirement gift they could offer Herb would be to dedicate a fund in his honor. The Herb Levine Legacy Fund is all about supporting grassroots efforts in California. Community organizing. Projects. You don’t have to have 501C(3) status to apply. All you need to have is a good idea that fits in with ILRCSF’s mission to “to ensure that people with disabilities are full social and economic partners…” Maybe you’re trying to get your town to make the local garden wheelchair accessible. Or you and a group of neighbors want curb cuts, so that seniors and people with disabilities can get around and have full access to the neighborhood. Maybe you’d like to take a group of people to Sacramento for the next Disability Capital Action Day to meet with legislators, and all you need is money to rent a bus. ALL YOU NEED IS A GOOD IDEA.
Rosa Parks, patriot, had a good idea, and she pounced on it. Look where it took her. Look where it took all of us. The first Herb Levine Legacy Fund grants will be announced on July 26th, 2011, as part of the celebration to mark the 21st anniversary of the signing of The Americans with Disabilities Act. There’s still time to apply, and the application process is incredibly simple. Don’t wait: do something.