Friday Jul 19

NORTHERN LIGHTS - The ACORN Convention Assures A Lifelong Memory

The upcoming ACORN convention in Oshawa, Ontario will mark the 20th anniversary of ACORN Canada. The bi-annual gathering of ACORN’s membership is a culmination of all the collective work and effort on display.

Members absolutely love conventions. For new members, it opens their eyes to what the organization is—something much more powerful than they could see at their local chapter actions. For long-time members, it is a reprieve from the everyday, a chance to catch up with old ACORN friends from other cities, get up to date on all things ACORN, and a chance to kick some butt. For the leadership, the convention enables them to lead what they have built, meet with prominent allies, lead large actions, and help guide the organization into bigger things in the future.

This will be my ninth ACORN convention. For most of the years, my role has been managing turnout—ensuring members are safe, sound, and prepared to travel by bus or airplane. At the Canadian conventions, national staff, led by ACORN Canada’s own super-human head organizer Judy Duncan, have things ready to go once you get there. Months of effort all come down to fateful early morning pick-ups. Whether you had the satisfaction of a full bus or the shame of a half-empty bus, you always had fun with the members, as you rolled down the highway practicing chants, singing songs, and getting to know each other even better. Once we got there, we were all sure Judy would provide direction and give us the privilege of going with the fast flow of the convention. That meant, once you are there, you just have to keep up!

Things were even more well-organizer at the two USA conventions I attended.  1,500 ACORN members were at the 2006 convention in Columbus, Ohio. Once I was there with the Toronto members, I was able to stand in awe of the organization I was working for. I coordinated the bus's first pick-up in Scarborough, which I wisely positioned in front of now ACORN International President Mara Burnett’s complex. Sure, there were some groggy eyes at 5:30 a.m., and one member no-showed, but we all jumped on the bus led by Marva. The border was a large worry for us. Judy had smartly arranged for a trailing car to pick up anyone who might not be allowed to cross the Peace Bridge into Buffalo, NY. No time for details here about what IDs we all had, but after we pulled away from customs, there were high-fives when the guard did a quick sweep through, thought we looked legit, and gave us the go-ahead!

We sat right near the front and centre at the 2006 convention, with a big Canada sign making sure everyone knew. We were making eye contact with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards (remember him?!) as they spoke to the delegates. Everyone got a large kick out of Al Sharpton and Roseanne Barr hosting the big gala dinner. It was a two-hour comedy routine from two people who seemed to get ACORN so well. It should be noted that this was years before Roseanne lost touch with reality.

The demise of USA ACORN compelled us to start holding our own convention. While no good came from the downfall of ACORN in the states, one small positive outcome was that it led to the creation of our own convention, which might not have happened otherwise.

There is a lot to look forward to at the upcoming convention, which we have branded "20 for the Many," borrowing the slogan from the 1990 convention in the USA, the original 20-year anniversary. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is coming to speak again. Jagmeet has been to more ACORN conventions than many of the leaders and almost all of our staff. Alberta ACORN will make its first appearance at a convention, joining delegates from both coasts and a massive delegation from Ontario.

The actions are always the highlight of the convention. We shut down Justin Trudeau’s first ministers' meeting in 2017 in Ottawa, as well as the original and ornate BMO branch in Montreal in 2015. Bell Canada decided to shut down its own corporate headquarters in response to the launch of our Internet for All campaign in 2013.

The board will be determining the action at this convention in the next week or so. As Field Director, I get some intel from the big ups in the organization, but I would be a fool to guess what the action will be. No matter who the target is, it's a guarantee to be a lifelong memory for anyone who is there.