October 2008 Field Hands of the Month: Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire

By Al Giordano


Yes, I'm late again with this monthly feature. The good news is there were many tempting candidates for this month's honored Field Hands (readers of this page that have your own organizing network online, sign up here if you haven't already).

This month, I draw your attention to two role models for us all: Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire, both members of the Badgers Field Hands Group in Wisconsin. And, yes, they're also so very cute but, ladies and gentlemen, they're married, and not only that, but to each other, and are busy raising a future Field Hand of the Month for sometime in the 2020s. Stay tuned!

Back in the olden days (that is, October), Kurt, a professor at  the Games + Learning + Society Project at the University of Wisconsin had organized the first of "The Organizing of the President" talks in Madison. (If you haven't seen the video newsreels from that event, and those that it subsequently spurred, check them out here.)

And then, beyond the call of duty, Constance and he organized a fantastic after-talk party at their home, where some real community organizing got to happening.

Just a month later, the Wisconsin Field Hands and they are well into the first stages of a promising community organizing campaign to halt the home mortgage foreclosures in their region. (This was an idea first floated by historian Howard Zinn that I talked about in Madison and later in Chicago, and is now being forged into action.)

Constance started a Field Hands organizing discussion page, complete with the text of an email I had sent in reply to some questions by Kurt, thinking aloud about how, step by step, such a campaign might be planned, organized and executed.

Most impressive is that they've already begun poring over the want ad pages in local newspapers where banks and lending companies, by law, must post public notices of pending home foreclosures, and have entered them onto a handy online Google Map, of Dane County, Wisconsin, which will offer a sense of which neighborhoods are hardest hit and perhaps most ripe for organizing. Check it out.

(If you use the zoom feature on that map you can begin to see some geographical clusters of homes being pulled out from under the families that live in them.)

So if you want to get in on the ground floor of what is likely to be one of the first textbook community organizing campaigns during the Obama presidency (and one that, if it continues on track, may just shake national and international attention and change, from below, the context by which the administration will have to govern), head on over to the Wisconsin Field Hands site, volunteer to share in the workload, and be a part of history you can believe in.

What? You don't live in Greater Madison? Well, one of the best things about organizing at the local level is you also create models that others can replicate, apply and expand upon according to their own local needs.

To wit: Field Hand Alexandra H. in Chicago has begun a similar process in Cook County, Illinois (which is not only ground zero of the national power-shift, but home to a county sheriff that has already demonstrated his reluctance to carry out the eviction of some tenants in foreclosed buildings).

Chicago Field Hands: Here's some inside information. Alexandra H. is a noted, fast and successful organizer whose work I've watched for years now. I have no doubt that great things can be made to happen there if you jump in and collaborate with her.

While those up above cause us, alternately, pride and grief over the steps being taken in transition to a new government - they're making their moves, many of which will have lasting impact on our daily lives - it's time for us to get busy and return the favor, reminding with action from below who is the real boss in an authentic democracy.

I really have great hopes for the anti-foreclosure campaigns underway, and when the first county sheriff finds himself confronted by neighbors surrounding a home to stop him from evicting the foreclosed-upon residents without a big national fight, I may not be able to resist hopping on a plane to go up and report it.

There are now 616 members of Field Hands. Don't dawdle in becoming number 617.

Also: To those Field Hands that haven't posted a photo or an image to go with your membership, please do so. I'm sure you can come up with something nicer looking than those robot-like silhouettes that are imposed in absence of your own.


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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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