Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Organizing 103: Recruting the Next Wave of Leaders & Activists With the Volunteer Card

Organizing 103: The Volunteer Card

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

It's not a movement unless it's organized, and it might never happen unless YOU organize it.

Here's the part 3 of Black Agenda Report's ongoing series of organizing primers. It's Organizing 103... the volunteer card.

In Organizing 101 we counseled those who call meetings, flash mobs, demonstrations and gatherings of all kinds to always, always always pass a written sign-in list and gather the essential direct digits of participants, their names, phone numbers and email addresses. This is especially important if social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or broadcast radio were used in your initial outreach, since none of these corporate “social media” platforms allow you to recontact anybody except through them, and you wanna be the organizer, not them.

In the second installment, Organizing 102, we stressed that every single somebody whose name and digits you collect must, must, must be personally recontacted by phone within a week, and recontacted regularly at least every other week or you risk losing them. New friends you fail to talk to do not remain your friends for long, they may conclude that either they, or you or your cause, are just not serious enough to bother with.

So Organizing 103, today's byte is about identifying and following up the most energetic, the most engaged, the most enthusiastic of your new contacts at meetings, flash mobs, leafleting or other encounters. These are the people, if you spot and engage them promptly and properly whose participation will enable your organizing project to advance to the next level. You're looking for people who will take a piece of ownership, of leadership of your cause, your project, the hands who'll help make that next round of follow-up calls, the heads who'll assist in evaluating what went right and wrong at your last event, and who will help plan the next one. Your job as an organizer is to identify these individuals on the fly at the same time you're doing your meeting, demonstration, courthouse or other leafleting, and collecting the individual digits of those on the spot.

Which of them are the most enthusiastic and ably committed to your proposition? The most obvious of these will approach YOU, asking what else can they do, telling how excited they are and wanting to know what they can do to further the cause. Some others express their enthusiasm but require you to ask them. Do it. Your job as the organizer is to lock down the commitment of those most willing to help. You do this with an instrument we call THE VOLUNTEER CARD.

A freely downloadable example of a VOLUNTEER CARD can be found with the online version of this commentary at Black Agenda Report dot com.

To be maximally effective, the topmost line of your volunteer card must contain a very explicit commitment to help out, something like “YES, I want to help end mass incarceration, or YES, I want to send so-and-so to City Hall, or YES, I want to stop the evictions, privatization of the water, the schools, the atmosphere or whatever. This way the person filling the thing out understands she is making a commitment to help DO something.

Beneath that the volunteer card contains the standard digits, and additionally what the best times to call might be, and asks for some extra relevant yes/no or checkoff options that all the prospective volunteer to tell you how her talents can be matched up with the tasks at hand. Thank the person, collect the volunteer card, and now it is on you the organizer to organize. You must promptly recontact the and activate the volunteer, optimally within 2 or 3 days, with a constructive conversation inviting them into your planning, your outreach and callback efforts, your evaluation or whatever you've got. These volunteers are your next wave of activists and leaders.

Fail to identify them, fail to recontact and engage them, and you fail to be an organizer.

This is Bruce Dixon for Black Agenda Report. This was organizing 103, be sure to download and adapt our volunteer card for your own purposes, and subscribe to Black Agenda Report's free weekly email updates at That's

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA, where he is a member of the state commitee of the GA Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page or by email at bruce.dixon(at)
Direct download: 20141005_bd_organizing103.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:17am EDT

Rev. Pinkney Convicted, Threatened with Life in Priso

Rev. Pinkney Convicted, Threatened with Life in Prison

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Prosecutor Mike Sepic is calling for a life prison.”

Rev. Edward Pinkney, the 66-year-old community activist who has battled for decades on behalf of the mostly Black population of Benton Harbor, Michigan, was this week convicted on five counts of forging the dates of some signatures on a petition to recall the town’s mayor. The Berrien County jury was all-white. So was the judge and the prosecutor. Each of the felony counts carries a maximum five year sentence, but prosecutor Mike Sepic is calling for a life prison term on the grounds that Rev. Pinkney “has at least three prior felony convictions” – all of them stemming from his nonviolent resistance to white supremacy and the rule of the rich.

Rev. Pinkney’s nemesis – the rich entity that rules in Berrien County – is Whirlpool, the giant corporation that once employed lots of Black people in low-wage positions at its Benton Harbor headquarters, but now wants them gone, so that the land on which the town sits on the shores of Lake Michigan can be put to more luxurious and profitable uses. In better times, a park was set aside for community use. But, what Whirlpool giveth, Whirlpool taketh away. The park was privatized and then turned into a golf course where Whirlpool can entertain its executives and visiting operatives of the ruling class. Whirlpool’s money buys local politicians, like the city commissioners that Rev. Pinkney and others sought to recall, back in 2007, a campaign that led to Pinkney’s conviction on charges of “buying votes” – as if a poor Black preacher would try to compete with a multi-billion-dollar corporation in the game of vote-buying. As the legal battle wore on, Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to a year in state prison for the “crime” of quoting the Bible. A white judge claimed that, in Rev. Pinkney’s mouth, the holy scripture becomes a lethal threat. This is how a Black man-of-the-cloth earns a felony record in southeast Michigan.

Back in May, Rev. Pinkney was trying to recall the current mayor, James Hightower – who he calls a flunky of Whirlpool – when a county SWAT team surrounded his house, to arrest the Reverend on new charges.

“Whirlpool’s money buys local politicians, like the city commissioners that Rev. Pinkney and others sought to recall.”

The white corporate fathers’ vendetta against voting rights advocates like Pinkney seems like overkill, since the people of Benton Harbor and more than half the Black population of Michigan have been effectively disenfranchised by an Emergency Manager law that covers every majority Black city in the state. The people can vote for a mayor and city council, but a state appointee holds all the power, and his job is to turn over public assets to private corporations. But, even when the rich effectively hold total power, they still feel it necessary to crush those who question their right to rule – especially if the questioners are Black. Rev. Pinkney calls it a “class war.” In the United States, that has always also meant a race war, in which the full weight of the racist capitalist state is brought to bear. The state piles on multiple unjust felony convictions so that a Bible-quoting community leader is made to appear to be a criminal, deserving of life in prison.

But felony counts are like boxing rounds. Rev. Pinkney is still on his feet, fist in the air. Right on, Reverend.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and sign up for free email notification of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20141005_gf_PinkneyConvicted.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:59am EDT