This has been a very busy time for me, filled with lots of travel some vacation but mostly work related travel. Two of my most recent travels included two conferences that will enrich my work with immigration, especially as it pertains to Alabama’s HB 56 and HB 658.
I was able to attend Spin Academy which teaches organizers how to shape our message and work with various forms of media. It is important, for example, for our messaging to parallel the values of the community. That seems like common sense but sometimes there is a misalignment there.
Not to pick on Mitt Romney’s campaign but only to use his campaign as an example of this point. He recently spoke at the NAACP’s meeting. His message was that he was supportive of the African American community. His message was that he was in touch with their needs. And then he stated he was going to repeal Obamacare and received boos from the audience. There was a mismatch between the message and the values he was aiming to resonate with in the African American community.
The African American community has strong child centered values. Many children in the African American community are experiencing the benefits from this legislation. To repeal legislation that supports their children’s well being is a brutal attack on their community. The message of being in touch with the needs of the African American Community did not mesh with the values that repealing Obamacare expresses. He would have done better had he simply stated that his platform is not in sync and what could he do to make his platform reflect their needs. If we are trying to win the hearts and minds of others then we have to be able tap into the values of the community with our message.
An example of this being done well is also in the conservative camp. The emphasis on family values resonates with many Americans regardless of political allegiance. The conservative messengers have been able to tie their message to family values. We need to be able to be as successful in tying our message for immigration reform to the values we honor and respect in this country.
The rest of Spin Academy was focused on technical skills that would enable such messaging to occur such as how to use social media, print, radio and television venues to get our message across. It was an excellent event.
This event was then paired with my attending the Southeast Immigrants Rights Network (SEIRN) conference in Raleigh, NC. What struck me as unique about this conference from any other conference, on any other issue, I attended before was the depth of skills being taught to a majority of grass roots organizers. We are behind the eight ball in the immigration struggle for justice in the south east. Many of us thought, perhaps naively, that such blatant codification of racism against any group would not happen here in the heart of the civil rights movement.
So we are on a steep learning curve. How to develop a strong base. How to develop strong coalitions. How to develop campaigns that are strategic and concise in its message for repeal and for justice. These were met head on in the SEIRN conference. One full day of workshops and sharing stories of success by other allies in other justice fronts and then one day of deep dialog on four topics: Strong campaigns, Power building, Integrative change models, and Alliance and Relationship building. These were interactive dialogs integrating and processing all that we had learned the day before.
We ended the day with developing an action plan for developing a regional strategy for immigrant rights. This was exciting, albeit exhausting, work. I have renewed hope that we can and will make a difference in the struggle for immigrant rights in this country.