Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Organizations’ Category

826 Seattle Works To Help Kids Build Writing Skills

by Matt Rosenberg March 3rd, 2010

Here’s a non-profit mission I can really get behind, one that draws on social capital in the Seattle community to help ensure young students develop a love of learning, and in particular, writing.

826 Seattle is a nonprofit writing and tutoring center dedicated to helping youth, ages six to 18, improve their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

Ain’t it the truth. “Strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.” Good writing provides not only marvelous entertainment and intellectual enrichment, it also fosters clear and compelling communication, which is essential to building bridges across divides to solve problems facing our society.

826 Seattle offers a range of programs. Trained volunteers provide in-class support for writing projects designed by teachers. For drop-ins, there’s homework assistance and tutoring in writing, math, science, foreign language and other subject at 826 Seattle’s north side headquarters from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday during the school year. There are a variety of writing workshops for students. The Spring 2010 offerings seem guaranteed to help unlock creative writing potential and excitement about writing. The creative piece is crucial not only as a tool of expression, but can help build mastery of syntax, grammar, vocabulary, and organization.

The 826 Seattle experience begins with passage through a mysterious portal, as public television station KCTS-9 reports:

826 Seattle volunteer applications are here. You may also be able to help provide items on their wish list. The organization is profiled in a Seattle’s Child article by Cheryl Murfin, “826 Seattle: Where Young Writers Grow.”

Coffee Party, With A Taste For Civic Participation, Is Added To The Political Menu

by Administrator March 3rd, 2010

By Kate Zernike

Fed up with government gridlock, but put off by the flavor of the Tea Party, people in cities across the country are offering an alternative: the Coffee Party.

The Coffee Party began on Facebook as a Tea Party alternative.

Growing through a Facebook page, the party pledges to “support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.”

It had nearly 40,000 members as of Monday afternoon, but the numbers were growing quickly “” about 11,000 people had signed on as fans since the morning.

“I’m in shock, just the level of energy here,” said the founder, Annabel Park, a documentary filmmaker who lives outside Washington. “In the beginning, I was actively saying, ‘Get in touch with us, start a chapter.’ Now I can’t keep up. We have 300 requests to start a chapter that I have not been able to respond to.”

The slogan is “Wake Up and Stand Up.” The mission statement declares that the federal government is “not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges we face as Americans.”

Local chapters are planning meetings in cities from Washington to San Antonio to Los Angeles (where there have been four in the last month.) The party (coffeepartyusa.org) is planning nationwide coffee houses for March 13, where people can gather to decide which issues they want to take on and even which candidates they want to support.

This summer, Ms. Park said, the party will hold a convention in the Midwest, with a slogan along the lines of “Meet Me in the Middle.” The party has inspired the requisite jokes: why not a latte party, a chai party, a Red Bull party? But Ms. Park said that while the Coffee Party “” and certainly the name “” was formed in reaction to the Tea Party, the two agree on some things, like a desire for fiscal responsibility and a frustration with Congress.

“We’re not the opposite of the Tea Party,” Ms. Park, 41, said. “We’re a different model of civic participation, but in the end we may want some of the same things.”

The Tea Party argues for stripping the federal government of many of its roles, and that if government has to be involved, it should be mostly state governments.

“The way I see it,” Ms. Park said, “our government is diseased, but you don’t abandon it because it’s ill. It’s the only body we have to address collective problems. You can’t bound government according to state borders when companies don’t do that, air doesn’t. It just doesn’t fit with the world.”

Still, she said, “we’ve got to send a message to people in Washington that you have to learn how to work together, you have to learn how to talk about these issues without acting like you’re in an ultimate fighting session.”

Ms. Park and chapter organizers said they would invite Tea Party members to join their Coffee counterparts in discussions. “We need to roll up our sleeves, put our heads together and work it out,” she said. “That’s, to me, an American way of doing this.”

Born in South Korea, Ms. Park moved to Houston when she was 9 and worked in the taco stand her parents bought there, which she said helps her understand average Americans.

“We encountered racism, yes, but the majority of people were kind, they were good people, they were like our family,” she said. “I understand where they are coming from.”

Eileen Cabiling, who founded the Los Angeles chapter, said she had campaigned for President Obama, but paid little attention to politics until the Tea Party convention and Mr. Obama’s State of the Union speech, where he rebuked Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike for their inability to move on legislation.

“I had withdrawn in campaign fatigue,” Ms. Cabiling said. “I was like, what happened?”

Only 2 people came to the first meeting, she said, but 30 came Sunday, including some Tea Party members, who she said could agree with their more caffeinated counterparts on some things.

“This is about recognizing that the government represents us,” Ms. Cabiling said, “so we need to step to the plate and start having a voice and start acting like bosses.”

Unlikely Activist Who Got To The Tea Party Early

by Administrator March 3rd, 2010

By Kate Zernike

SEATTLE “” Keli Carender has a pierced nose, performs improv on weekends and lives here in a neighborhood with more Mexican grocers than coffeehouses. You might mistake her for the kind of young person whose vote powered President Obama to the White House. You probably would not think of her as a Tea Party type.

But leaders of the Tea Party movement credit her with being the first.

A year ago, frustrated that every time she called her senators to urge them to vote against the $787 billion stimulus bill their mailboxes were full, and tired of wearing out the ear of her Obama-voting fiancé, Ms. Carender decided to hold a protest against what she called the “porkulus.”

“I basically thought to myself: ‘I have two courses. I can give up, go home, crawl into bed and be really depressed and let it happen,’ “ she said this month while driving home from a protest at the State Capitol in Olympia. “Or I can do something different, and I can find a new avenue to have my voice get out.”

This weekend, as Tea Party members observe the anniversary of the first mass protests nationwide, Ms. Carender’s path to activism offers a lens into how the movement has grown, taking many people who were not politically active “” it is not uncommon to meet Tea Party advocates who say they have never voted “” and turning them into a force that is rattling both parties as they look toward the midterm elections in the fall.

Ms. Carender’s first rally drew only 120 people. A week later, she had 300, and six weeks later, 1,200 people gathered for a Tax Day Tea Party. Last month, she was among about 60 Tea Party leaders flown to Washington to be trained in election activism by FreedomWorks, the conservative advocacy organization led by Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader.

This month, a year to the day of her first protest, Ms. Carender stood among a crowd of about 600 on the steps of the State Capitol, acknowledging the thanks from a speaker who cited her as the original Tea Party advocate. Around her were the now-familiar signs: “Can you hear us now?” “Is it 2012 yet?” “Tea Party: the party of now.”

Jenny Beth Martin, a national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella organization of local groups that Ms. Carender has joined, calls her an unlikely avatar of the movement but an ideal one. She puts a fresh, idealistic face on a movement often dismissed as a bunch of angry extremists.

“She’s not your typical conservative,” she said. “She’s an actress. She’s got a nose ring. I think it’s the thing that’s so amazing about our movement.”

The daughter of Democrats who became disaffected in the Clinton years, Ms. Carender, 30, began paying attention to politics during the 2008 campaign, but none of the candidates appealed to her. She had studied math at Western Washington University before earning a teaching certificate at Oxford “” she teaches basic math to adult learners “” and began reading more on economics, particularly the writings of Thomas Sowell, the libertarian economist, and National Review.

Reading about the stimulus, she said, “it didn’t make any sense to me to be spending all this money when we don’t have it.”

“It seems more logical to me that we create an atmosphere where private industry can start to grow again and create jobs,” she said.

Her fiancé, Conor McNassar, urged her to channel her complaints into a blog, which she called Liberty Belle.

“He didn’t mind hearing it,” she said. “He just couldn’t hear it all the time.”

It was not enough.

So she called the city parks department, which suggested a location and gave her a permit. She still did not know if any other protesters would show up.

She put out the word to some friends from the Young Republicans, which she had joined in late 2008, but it was not a big group. She called Michael Medved, the Seattle-based conservative radio host, but he did not put her on the air. She scanned a list of economics professors who had signed a Cato Institute letter opposing the stimulus and found two locally, but they could not make it.

She also called someone she had met at an election results watch party, who agreed to spread the word among Republicans. She called a conservative local radio host, who put in a plug. And she sent an e-mail message to the conservative writer Michelle Malkin, who agreed to announce the protest on her blog and even sent some pulled pork to feed the crowd.

The porkulus protest did not draw enough people to finish the pulled pork, which Ms. Carender took to a homeless shelter. But she collected e-mail addresses, remembering that Senator Barack Obama had done that at events as he prepared to run for president.

The “tea party” label came three days later, from a rant the CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli delivered from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and the nationwide protests followed.

Six weeks later, Ms. Carender’s e-mail list had grown to 1,000 “” it is now 1,500 “” allowing her to summon protesters on short notice and making her the model child of the Tea Party Patriots, which has since become a driving force for advocates nationwide with its weekly conference calls to coordinate Tea Party activity.

In her activism, Ms. Carender has also drawn on her theatrical experience. Discovering that advocates of a health care overhaul were marching in the city last summer, she staged a “funeral for health care,” with protesters wearing black and bagpipers playing. For her first Tea Party event, she dressed as Liberty Belle (newspaper accounts mistook her for Little Bo Peep).

In a video viewed 68,000 times on YouTube, she confronted Representative Norm Dicks, Democrat of Washington, at a town-hall-style meeting on health care. “If you believe that it is absolutely moral to take my money and give it to someone else based on their supposed needs,” she said, waving a $20 bill to boos and cheers, “then you come and take this $20 and use it as a down payment on this health care plan.”

Ms. Carender is less certain when it comes to explaining, for instance, how to cut the deficit without cutting Medicaid and Medicare.

“Well,” she said, thinking for a long time and then sighing. “Let’s see. Some days I’m very Randian. I feel like there shouldn’t be any of those programs, that it should all be charitable organizations. Sometimes I think, well, maybe it really should be just state, and there should be no federal part in it at all. I bounce around in my solutions to the problem.”

She, like many Tea Party members, resists the idea of a Tea Party leader “” “there are a thousand leaders,” she says.

Glenn Beck? “He can be a Tea Partier, but it’s not like the movement bends to him.”

Sarah Palin? She will have to campaign on Tea Party ideas if she wants Tea Party support, Ms. Carender said, adding, “And if she were elected, she’d have to govern on those principles or be fired.”

Ms. Carender herself has become a Tea Party leader, even a celebrity.

At the Olympia rally, she did a television interview and accepted a hug from Kirby Wilbur, the radio host who first publicized her porkulus protest. “This is the future of the conservative movement!” he declared upon seeing her.

Her biggest goal now, Ms. Carender said, is replacing Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat elected three times by wide margins, in November.

So Ms. Carender held a small anniversary rally on Saturday at a local mall. But her focus is on vetting candidates and using the contacts she has established over the last year to get out the vote.

“There is no way we will out-fund-raise the liberals,” she said. “The only weapon we have is energy and time.”