Dry Bones Rattling

Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy

Mark R. Warren
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  • Book Info
    Dry Bones Rattling
    Book Description:

    Dry Bones Rattlingoffers the first in-depth treatment of how to rebuild the social capital of America's communities while promoting racially inclusive, democratic participation. The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network in Texas and the Southwest is gaining national attention as a model for reviving democratic life in the inner city--and beyond. This richly drawn study shows how the IAF network works with religious congregations and other community-based institutions to cultivate the participation and leadership of Americans most left out of our elite-centered politics. Interfaith leaders from poor communities of color collaborate with those from more affluent communities to build organizations with the power to construct affordable housing, create job-training programs, improve schools, expand public services, and increase neighborhood safety.

    In clear and accessible prose, Mark Warren argues that the key to revitalizing democracy lies in connecting politics to community institutions and the values that sustain them. By doing so, the IAF network builds an organized, multiracial constituency with the power to advance desperately needed social policies. While Americans are most aware of the religious right, Warren documents the growth of progressive faith-based politics in America. He offers a realistic yet hopeful account of how this rising trend can transform the lives of people in our most troubled neighborhoods. Drawing upon six years of original fieldwork,Dry Bones Rattlingproposes new answers to the problems of American democracy, community life, race relations, and the urban crisis.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3204-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: Dry Bones Rattling
    (pp. 3-14)

    Scholars and activists used to looking to the east or west coasts for bellwether progressive initiatives may be surprised to find in Texas a group of deeply committed people of faith at the forefront of efforts to revitalize democracy in America. Many Americans think of Texas as a politically conservative state and view the involvement of religion in politics with deep suspicion. Yet anyone concerned with the future of American democracy cannot afford to ignore the work of the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), an interfaith and multiracial network of community organizers. In the twenty-five years since Ernesto Cortes, Jr.,...

  5. One Community Building and Political Renewal
    (pp. 15-39)

    This chapter argues that the key to reinvigorating democracy in the United States can be found in efforts to engage people in politics through their participation in the stable institutions of community life. It draws from recent scholarly work on social capital to help us understand why a strong community foundation is necessary for a vibrant political life. Yet I argue that strong communities can often be isolated and politically weak. Or they can be narrowly protectionist, working against the interests of communities different from their own. Therefore, the chapter elaborates a framework for understanding the challenges to be faced...

  6. Two A Theology of Organizing: From Alinsky to the Modern IAF
    (pp. 40-71)

    On a winter’s day in 1975 George Ozuna’s grandmother asked him to accompany her shopping in downtown San Antonio.¹ The high school senior got his shoes and began the long walk from the Hispanic south side of town to Joske’s Department Store, the largest retail establishment in the city. When the pair arrived, George immediately realized something was going on. Hundreds of Hispanic grandmothers, housewives, and churchgoers had gathered outside the store. They entered en masse and began trying on clothes. And they didn’t stop. They continued to try on clothes all day, grinding store operations to a halt. The...

  7. Three Beyond Local Organizing: Statewide Power and a Regional Network
    (pp. 72-97)

    The IAF had long felt the need for greater political power than could be amassed by one local organization. Many local problems required greater resources and more complex programs that could only come from a higher governmental level. Saul Alinsky was never able to build a network that was more than a very loose collection of independent local organizing projects. Similarly, community-based efforts across the country have been hampered by their restriction to the local level. Advocacy groups often operate at state and national levels. But they lack the participatory base that comes from active local chapters, the kind of...

  8. Four Bridging Communities across Racial Lines
    (pp. 98-123)

    Americans committed to revitalizing our democracy face perhaps no greater challenge than overcoming the racial and class divisions that fragment the polity and undermine the nation’s commitment to combating poverty and racial oppression. Community building within the inner city empowers residents to achieve a measure of control over their communities, but is insufficient to overcome these divisions. We need to find a way to bring communities together across the lines of race and class. Building such “bridging social capital,” as this process was called in chapter 1, can create allies for inner-city efforts to combat poverty. And it can also...

  9. Five Deepening Multiracial Collaboration
    (pp. 124-161)

    Efforts to forge multiracial cooperation for the pursuit of common interests in America have often collapsed in the face of continued patterns of racial discrimination and oppression.¹ Finding common interests on the basis of shared values does provide the necessary foundation for multiracial collaboration, as the IAF’s experience in Fort Worth suggests. Moreover, working together in a common organizational form offers a basis for deepening understanding and trust over time. But it does not guarantee that a deep appreciation for the experiences of different groups will develop across racial lines. Such an appreciation, and an effort to address internal problems...

  10. Six Effective Power: Campaigning for Community-Based Policy Initiatives
    (pp. 162-190)

    The challenge of generating effective power for community-based efforts has proved difficult for American community builders and political activists to meet. Issue advocacy groups, on the one hand, excel at insider lobbying centered around state capitals and in Washington, but most lack deep roots in low-income communities.² Community building and community development efforts, on the other hand, grow out of grassroots efforts to address the problems of poor communities. Many have deep roots and genuine support from their residents. Few, however, have been able to generate and sustain active participation from their base. And most have shunned direct political action,...

  11. Seven Congregational Bases for Political Action
    (pp. 191-210)

    The ultimate foundation for the IAF’s political power rests in its member institutions most of which are religious. Congregations pay the dues that supply the independent financial base for local IAF organizations, to pay to hire organizers for example. They supply the pool of clergy and lay leaders out of which IAF organizers recruit and train leaders. The IAF’s ability to train hundreds of indigenous community leaders to develop issue campaigns—to hold house meetings, conduct research, develop policy, lobby public officials, and negotiate with business representatives—rests in those congregations. And congregations provide a stable base for the mobilization...

  12. Eight Leadership Development: Participation and Authority in Consensual Democracies
    (pp. 211-238)

    Americans have become suspicious of authority, a term which now has negative connotations for most citizens.² Instead, an ultrademocratic ideal pervades, where each member of an organization is supposed to contribute equally and hold an equal share of power. Participatory democratic forms seek to provide an antidote to the unresponsive or biased authority of government officials and corporate elites. Perhaps as a consequence, many such organizations are uncomfortable with internal discussions of authority within their own ranks. Scholars, for their part, have rarely studied leadership and decision making within participatory democratic organizations, and less often theorized these processes. In fact,...

  13. Nine Conclusion: Restoring Faith in Politics
    (pp. 239-264)

    Six thousand supporters packed San Antonio’s municipal auditorium on November 7, 1999, to observe COPS’ twenty-fifth anniversary. Billed also as an occasion to celebrate “25 Years of Organizing in the Southwest,” IAF organizations from across the region sent large delegations to the convention. The network took the occasion to unveil its human development program, a new initiative that attempts to place a unifying umbrella over the impressive range of issues the IAF was now addressing across the region: job training, living wage ordinances, school reform and after-school programs, citizenship classes and voter registration, health care and neighborhood safety. Once again,...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 265-308)
  15. Index
    (pp. 309-322)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 323-324)