San Francisco-based community organizer, Sarah Turbow, transformed a Jewish community center on the Upper West Side, Manhattan, into an interactive classroom for hundreds of New Yorkers eager to learn how to become effective activists under a Trump presidency.
The event, on the evening of November 28, billed as ‘Good Guys NYC: Organizing for Non-Organizers’ attracted 395 sign-ups on Facebook and at least 200 people filled the B’nai Jeshurun Community House for the three-hour session.
Turbow launched the ‘Good Guys at the Barricades’ blog in October as “a playground for some thoughts and feelings” on community organizing in 2016. Following the election, she hosted an organizer training workshop under the ‘Good Guys’ brand in San Francisco and then two in New York City, on November 27 and 28.
Opening the Monday session, Turbow said: “Even if we don’t know what is coming down the pike, how bad it is going to be and what form Trump’s administration is going to take…what we do know is we need power [and] we need infrastructure to be able to react to whatever it is…My analysis in the two months before Trump takes office…[is] we need to do everything we can to build infrastructure. A lot of this [session] is for all of you to think about how you want to go about helping to build that infrastructure.”
The meeting focused on getting attendees to think about how they could uniquely contribute to the upsurge in activism post-election, connecting them with one another and to opportunities where they could have the most impact, and building a community across backgrounds and contexts.
“[With] electoral organizing what you’re really trying to do is get more people than the other guy to the polls…[whereas] in community organizing who those people are and what their unique contribution is, and what’s at stake for them, becomes central to the work you do,” said Turbow.
She also taught attendees the importance of strategy for community organizers: “Strategy is turning what you have, into what you need, to get what you want,” she said.
Attendees discussed their private fears of what could happen under a Trump presidency in pairs to identify ‘wants’ – achievements they aspired to as organizers – and then in small groups listed their ‘haves’ – the skills and networks they possess that can help fulfill these ‘wants’.
Turbow explained that an organizer’s ‘need’ is a form of infrastructure or power – “the ability to act” – which can be deployed to fulfill ‘wants’ using ‘haves’. Power can be accrued by organizing people and organizing money, she said.
Attendees were invited to gather into groups that reflected shared ‘haves’ – whether they be professional networks, religious affiliation, or another form of identity group – and discuss ways in which they could leverage these ‘haves’ to generate power.
Turbow is a trained organizer and former director of J Street U, the college and university outreach arm of J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group, according to LinkedIn. She gained experience of electoral politics during the Obama for America campaign in New Hampshire in 2007 and the Al Franken for Senate campaign in Minnesota in 2008.