Say the words “community organizing” and many people conjure up images of canvassers pounding the pavement with flyers and clipboards in hand during an election season. While this image certainly is part of the community-organizing landscape, it masks the greater complexity and growth of this field, spurred on not only by social media but also by our ever-changing communities and interests.
Anthonine Pierre, Lead Community Organizer at Brooklyn Movement Center (BMC), is at the forefront of this shift. BMC is a nonprofit that combines grassroots organizing, public policy, and communications to engage the central Brooklyn community and change the narrative about what happens in Brooklyn. Instead of focusing on one key issue—say, housing or education—BMC leverages online and offline communications strategies to listen to the issues of Brooklyn residents and amplify the solutions. In her role as Lead Community Organizer, she’s involved with development and execution of all of BMC’s projects.
Anthonine’s interest in community organizing started in high school when she attended a meeting about the Amadou Diallo case. Though she didn’t want to be a community organizer—and planned on becoming a doctor—those moments in school encouraged her to pursue a career in social justice, leading her to community organizing roles the Children’s Defense Fund and, prior to BMC, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.
Do you want to develop a career as a community organizer?
Here are Anthonine’s tips:
- Volunteer: “A lot of people who are organizers got into this work by volunteering. They joined a group and worked hard to make a difference while also learning about the field. I believe in volunteering on principle, but strongly recommend it for people interested in community organizing. You have to learn to navigate the various organizations working on policy and on-the-ground change and you have to learn how to connect with the people you serve.”
- Don’t be afraid to be the harasser: “I have to be all the things that people don’t like rolled into one: The bill collector. The harasser. The agitator. But it’s about persistence, which involves irritating people. I’m calling you up and trying to get you to buy into something that is worth your time and money. If you want people to buy in, you have to keep going.”
- Embrace the spectrum of organizing: “Community organizing is huge. There are so many places to plug in: governments, nonprofits, communications roles, etc. Figure out what works for you. Community organizing is not just going door to door with a clipboard. Take a position that seems a little off to you—it’ll be a learning experience.”
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by Allison Jones