Using neighborhood newsletters like the one that circulates through Nashville’s hipster Sylvan Park, progressive activists are advertising a full day of Alinsky-styled community organizing with speakers answering the question “what kind of neighborhood are YOU building?” The inaugural 2018 Conference for Neighborhoods will convene at the Tennessee Bankers Association Barrett Conference Center on Saturday, April 14th.
The conference is sponsored by the Neighborhoods Resource Center (NRC) which describes itself as a local non-profit, non-governmental, and non-partisan organization “created by local residents.” The organization offers three services to residents and neighborhood associations – Training and Mentoring, Networking and Consultation.
This year’s conferees will learn how involved leaders at the neighborhood level can find their way to an elected position on the Metro Nashville Council:
From Neighborhood Leader to Metro Council Member
Panel Moderator: Ronald Douglas, Jr., and Panelists: Angie Henderson, Jeff Syracuse, and Brett A. Withers
Increasingly, neighborhood leaders are running for Metro Council. This panel discussion will welcome three neighborhood leaders who were recently elected to the Metro Council. They will share what motivated them to run, what the campaign was like, and what it is like now that they are in office.
Speakers in the conference break-out sessions include veteran community organizer Mike Hodge who has been the Organizing Director for NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) since September 2014.
Background information posted about Hodge on the conference website describes NOAH as “an interfaith, multi-racial organization that unites 60 congregations, labor unions, and associations, engaging ordinary people in shaping political & economic decisions that affect their lives.”
NOAH’s style of community organizing in Nashville was preceded by a similar interfaith effort launched in 1989.
A 1996 paper recounted how the Saul Alinsky style of community organizing was started in Nashville by an interfaith group called The Nashville Sponsoring Committee (NSC) that had contracted with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) to train the them in community organizing.
Michael Byrd, a Vanderbilt Ph.D candidate who described himself as a “participant-observer” in the Alinsky-organized follow-on group to the NSC, authored the paper.
The groups financially supporting the NSC included the Catholic Archdiocese of Nashville, the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, USA, the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee and the Jewish Fund for Justice.
Saul Alinsky, a Chicago socialist and political radical is best known for his manifesto Rules for Radicals and the Industrial Areas Foundation, an institute designed as a “school for professional radicals” to train them in community organizing with an overarching goal of redistributing wealth and power from the “haves” and transfer it to the have-nots.
In 1993 the NSC paid IAF $50,000 for professional community organizing services that helped the NSC mutate into another interfaith, “broad-based citizen” driven organization called Tying Nashville Together (TNT) which it appears was folded into NOAH.
Mike Hodge, a Conference workshop speaker, is the connective tissue between TNT, NOAH and the Neighborhoods Resource Center (NRC). Hodge was a lead organizer for both TNT and NOAH and has a long history organizing for the NRC.
The self-described “non-partisan” NRC’s Neighborhoods Conference will also include participation from the Executive Director of Metro Nashville’s Human Relations Commissioner Mel Fowler-Green who was appointed by Karl Dean during his last term as Nashville’s mayor.
Fowler-Green’s resume is full of progressive social justice credentials including providing legal services for the TN ACLU and clients of Southern Migrant Legal Services.
Fowler-Green, who has publicly opposed Tennessee’s voter ID law, is listed as an Advisory Council member of the “Our Muslim Neighbor” project of the Faith & Culture Center whose director, Daoud Abudiab co-founded the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) and recently finished a two year term as board president of the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition.
Under Fowler-Green’s leadership the Metro Human Rights Commission has established relationships with politically progressive organizations including the American Constitution Society (ACS) whose mission and projects target political conservatives and conservative policies. She is listed as a member of the ACS advisory board.
The Neighborhoods Resource Center and the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance are conducting a census of neighborhoods in an effort to create a super-database providing a means to communicate and organize with all neighborhood groups including associations, watches, HOAs, and resident and/or condo associations that operate in Metro Nashville and Davidson County.
Nashville Mayor David Briley will speak at the Conference for Neighborhoods.