Archive for January, 2008

Today was certainly a highlight of the weekend for me! At 9:00am, we arrived at the Columbia HQ to take park of a large faith-based mobilization hosted by Obama’s campaign. As an organizer, I remember how important, yet challenging and nuanced, organizing the churches can be. And as a buddhist practicioner, there was only so much I felt like I could accomplish, outside of building relationships with congregations that were open to inter-faith alliances. Obama’s “Call to Chapel” was exciting to me because 1) my partner is Christian and has helped me better understand the Christian faith, and 2) the mobilization was about simply meeting people where they were, rather than aggressive campaigning.

At the headquarters, I was happy to see a large crowd gathering and a charter bus pulling into the parking lot. Outside of some logistical delays, everyone that showed up was assigned a church to attend. My partner and I chose to go to Antioch A.M.E Church in Eastover which was located about 40 minutes outside of Columbia. During the drive, I saw how this part of South Carolina was truly rural, without much infrastructure between population centers.

 

I had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Antioch A.M.E. This was the kind of church that had a grave next to the building, with an address named after itself. How well would they receive us? Would they let us read Senator Obama’s letter? Did I look okay? All went well — Reverend Benton and his congregation welcomed us with open arms, and this Sunday happened to be dedicated to the youth members of the church, so we were lucky to have one of the children read Obama’s letter.

As an observer, I think that the “Call to Chapel” action was successful. Over the weekend, I had overheard many people who had qualms about taking part in this action, or who thought it was not for them. But I don’t think one needs to be Christian to take part in something like this. What better way to earn trust and build bridges than to go to the place that is the foundation of so many people?

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(Please excuse the shakiness of the video I took off my digital camera video function. I was really excited!)

A couple of hours later, we left Florence and drove 1.5 hours south to Columbia, where the state headquarters were located. There was a very different vibe here — there were a lot more people and a lot of them were from out of town. I overheard a conversation about a Danish couple and someone from Peru, who travelled here to help out because they believed that Obama would be a better ambassador of the U.S. to the world. It’s true, I’m finding that Obama really draws in people from a broad cross section of the country. People from all walks of life are entering the doors to offer their time, energy, money, cars, sofas, cell phones, and smiles for the campaign.

We made ourselves useful and made more phone calls, crunched canvassing numbers, and then called it a night at 3am.

I’m very excited about going to church tomorrow morning — it’s part of a church mobilization called “Call to Chapel” where Obama supporters are invited to attend church with South Carolinians, truly meeting folks where they are. I’m particularly interested at how the intersection and expression of activism and spirituality. This event has great potential, and I’m excited about seeing how the Obama campaign pulls it off.

Obama logoToday was the first day of our great South Carolina Democratic Primary Elections adventure. Our first stop was at rainy Florence, South Carolina after a tasty meal at Waffle House (one of my favorite southern establishments). In Florence, we headed to the regional headquarters and stepped into a hub of activity and excitement. Most volunteers at this location were young African Americans, and I soon found out that many of them came from Howard University and Hampton. Folks were friendly, and everyone was eager to help out. I immediately received a list of phone numbers to call and happily agreed to use my own cell phone to make these calls.

For MLK Weekend, my partner and I took a road trip down to South Carolina to volunteer for Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. It’s been a minute since I’ve thought about electoral politics and even the prospect of electoral organizing. To say the least, I had become a bit disillusioned with the process. But we had some prospects of doing some interesting work since one of our college friends is the deputy field director in South Carolina. The 8-hour drive seemed worth it to me and I’ve never been excited about a presidential candidate before.

For a long time, I didn’t put my hat in for any candidate. Then a friend handed me Obama’s book “Dreams from my Father” to read and I was instantly hooked. I realized I knew little of Obama at that point, and was pleasantly surprised to read that he worked as a community organizer in south Chicago.

I’m going to try my best to do some live blogging while I’m here at the Obama Headquarters in Columbia, SC. Keep checking for more updates.

Some links about Obama’s campaign that are of interest to me:

The New Year has arrived, bringing in 2008. Last night in Michigan, we finally saw some decent snow, nearly a foot of it. When I sit to write, I still find myself scribbling the date “11/07”. My mind is still in past and last year has been a whirlwind was changes.
In lieu of new year’s resolutions, I want to commit myself to deepening my spiritual practice in the new year.

In October 2006 I had attended an incredible buddhist retreat for people of color offered by monastics of Deer Park Monastery practicing in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Sitting with over 100 people of color was one of the most affirming experiences I have had. Since then, I have been trying to maintain a consistent spiritual practice in my daily life. Continue Reading »