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Creative Community Organizing by Si Kahn
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Creative Community Organizing

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Creative Community Organizing by Si Kahn
Paperback $22.95
Feb 15, 2010 | ISBN 9781605094441

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  • Feb 15, 2010 | ISBN 9781605094441

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“Make room, Howard Zinn! Si Kahn’s Creative Community Organizing deserves a place on the must-read shelf next to A People's History of the United States. Warm, cheerful, candid, and wise—just like the man himself—Si's book is more than a how-to for justice seekers, more than a gripping memoir from the front lines of bodacious modern activism. It's the up-close and creative story of how the ‘people’s history' gets made.”
—Jay Harris, Publisher, Mother Jones

“Si Kahn’s latest book is a great addition to strategic community organizing, offering nuanced insights into the difficult and often life saving fights organizers wage on a daily basis for social justice, human rights, and progressive change.”
—Rinku Sen, President and Executive Director, Applied Research Center; Publisher, ColorLines; and coauthor of The Accidental American

Creative Community Organizing reminds us of the power of music and storytelling for deep transformation.  Magic happens when we bring together creativity with strategy. Si gives us the recipe for moving to a future where human rights for all can become possible.”
—Mallika Dutt, Executive Director, Breakthrough

“Si Kahn is a Renaissance man for the social movements of our generation. He is a troubadour, a poet, and a lyricist; a thoughtful and reflective writer; a committed organizer and institution builder; and a carrier of his family’s and his faith’s deepest values. Most of all, he is a passionate believer in social justice and the power of ordinary people to stand up and determine their destinies. Reading this beautifully written and uplifting narrative will give faith and hope to all who read it and take it to heart.”
—Miles Rapoport, President, Demos

“Creative Community Organizing documents Si Kahn's career of working for justice in ways that are deeply affecting, personally and culturally. Si is truly Democracy's Troubadour, bringing us not just the songs and stories of democracy and justice but also the practical strategies to deepen our democratic roots.”
—Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

“Si Kahn is an organizer and an activist. He's also a poet, a songwriter, a preservationist, a historian, a documentarian in song. He's a stark realist and simultaneously an unflinching optimist. The tender reverence he holds for the people whose struggles he has facilitated spills over into his writing, keeping their stories alive, connecting us to them—and ultimately, ourselves.”
—Kathy Mattea, Grammy-winning singer

“Over a lifetime of social justice activism—much of it spent on the front lines—Si  has kept the faith with courage, creativity, and humor. His bedrock belief in the power of people working together to create a just world is the spirit that guides this remarkable book.”
—Alan Jenkins, Executive Director, The Opportunity Agenda

“The true moxie of Creative Community Organizing comes from Si Kahn’s brilliant storytelling and his own distinguished career as an organizer, folksinger, and all-around rabble-rouser—exemplifying all that is great about fighting for justice and working for progressive social change. This book is a great primer for organizers, activists, and those dedicated to movement building.”
—Pronita Gupta, Director of Programs, Women Donors Network

“Si Kahn has been my mentor, song leader, and conscience since I started organizing two decades ago. From his strategic wisdom, I've learned about organizing smart campaigns, about winning and losing and never giving up. From his songs and stories, I've been connected to the beauty and pain and shared vision that make it possible to keep on fighting. Si combines the brass tacks of organizing with the soulful, collective, creative yearning for the world-as-it-should-be.”
—Brad Lander, New York City Councilmember, 39th District (Brooklyn)

“In this marvelous book, Si Kahn leads us through his own history as an organizer for progressive social change and in the process provides an education for future generations to get involved in bringing justice to more of the world's people. His insights on the importance of integrating artistic expression into strategies for change are invaluable.”
—John Stocks, Deputy Executive Director, National Education Association

“Classic recipe: Mix classic storytelling with 2 cups autobiography, 3/4 cup textured folk/movement/gospel poetry set to music, 1/2 cup U.S. history, 2 spoons tested advice, a dash of nostalgia, and a smidgen of medieval history and literature. Blend well with love, encouragement, rejuvenation, faith, and a lifetime of commitment. Get Si Kahn's classic book, Creative Community Organizing: a great lesson plan for teaching organizers but also a must-read for anyone who cares about progress and how to make it happen.”
—Congressman Mel Watt

“Si Kahn has the heart of a poet, the wit of a comedian, the hands of a seasoned political operative, and the ability to explain to the rest of us how to translate dreams into day-to-day reality. This is one of the most illuminating and personal books ever written by a real-life progressive hero.”
—Danny Goldberg, author of Bumping into Geniuses

“There is so much hope in Si Kahn's new book: it is filled with stories spanning four decades of his creativity tackling some of our country's toughest problems. He may not have invented the term ‘creative community organizing,’ but he has certainly shaped its past and future.”
—Geraldine Laybourne, founder, Oxygen Media

“In Creative Community Organizing, Si distills forty-five years of experience for another generation that is already picking up the fight for a just and democratic future. Poet, songwriter, and storyteller par excellence, he weaves memoir and organizing manual into a unique and inspiring tapestry. This book is a gift to the rest of us, a challenge never to lose faith in human possibility or to back off from doing the work of joining with others to build a better world.”
—Sara M. Evans, author of Born for Liberty

“My union brother Si Kahn and I have been friends for over thirty years. His first book, How People Get Power, was my introduction to organizing and my initial inspiration for what has been a wonderful life working to build collective action and to struggle together for the common good. What better hope for Creative Community Organizing than that it will help create that dynamic in the lives of others.”
—Stewart Acuff, Assistant to the President, AFL-CIO

“Si Kahn’s compelling portraits remind us that creative community organizing is all about people – real-life individuals who use their skills to take on enormous challenges and those whose lives are made better as a result. This is an inspiring and instructive read.”
—Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

“Si writes with a calm passion. This book is a kind, caring friend and mentor for we who are engaged in the struggle to help our country live up to the promise of what America was meant to be.”
—Ben Cohen, cofounder, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream

“Si Kahn's powerful, stirring story of his lifelong journey for justice and lessons learned will captivate and energize all who care about equal justice. This is the handbook for rabble-rousers everywhere!
—Ada Deer, Distinguished Lecturer Emerita, School of Social Work and American Indian Studies Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison; former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs; past chair, Menominee Tribe

“In his forty-five years as a labor, civil right,s and community organizer, Si Kahn has maintained his unshakeable faith in the capacity of working people to shape their own destiny and his passionate belief that what this country needs more than anything else is a strong progressive labor movement. His work and his songs are a testimony to the power of the union.”
—John McCutcheon, President, Local 1000, American Federation of Musicians, AFL-CIO

“Organizing is not simply a toolbox of strategies, charts, and tactics. Organizing for social and economic justice demands deep relationships, core unshakeable values, humility born of experience, and appreciation of the creative spirit in all of us. Si Kahn, a marathon runner for justice, crams a lifetime of experience and wisdom into this highly readable and inspirational book—a must read for anyone in the trenches or thinking about joining the struggle for justice.”
—Kim Bobo, Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

“Si Kahn’s unique combination of folk songs and prose provides a riveting memoir and analysis of class struggle as well as an inspirational organizing tool. This book will become a cornerstone of the movement for social justice.”
—Stephen Nathan, editor, Prison Privatisation Report International, London, England

“Reading a Si Kahn book is like listening to his music—organizing stories come alive and we learn while listening and imagining. This is an equally great read for community and workplace organizers.”
—Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America

“Si Kahn, the grandchild of immigrants, is a gifted storyteller who conveys the story of community organizing in a way it’s never been told. His account of the campaign to abolish so-called immigrant family detention leaves the reader with hope and inspiration.”
—Daranee Petsod, Executive Director, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees

“Creative Community Organizing provides the reader with an opportunity to listen and learn from one of the field's legendary practitioners. As someone who has benefited firsthand from Si's insight and inspiration, first as an organizer and more recently as the CEO of the Jewish Funds for Justice—the foundation Si helped create to fund community organizing—I commend this book to anyone seeking to understand what organizing at its best can look like.”
—Simon Greer, President and CEO, Jewish Funds for Justice

“Si, master organizer, storyteller, and musician, uses his poetic, lyrical prose to teach and inspire. This is a book you’ll read in one sitting and remember the lessons because the stories will stay with you forever.”
—Jackie Kendall, Executive Director, Midwest Academy

“Si Kahn beautifully weaves poetry, song, stories, remembrances, analysis, and prescriptions into a rich tapestry. He transports the reader through forty-five years of community and labor organizing, from roots with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1965 through recent decades as founder and executive director of Grassroots Leadership. This is a deeply personal book, firmly planted in his religious Jewish upbringing by his father, a very musical rabbi, and his mother, who taught him the love of poetry. Read this book to learn from a consummate organizer, educator, and cultural worker.”
—Neil Tudiver, Assistant Executive Director, Canadian Association of University Teachers/

“If ‘the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice’, as Martin Luther King said, then Si Kahn has devoted his life to riding that arc. His powerful impulse to service, combined with deep compassion, is a force of nature.  I put Si in the same category as Woody Guthrie, as Pete Seeger, and in a strange way, as my dad, who shared his righteous sense of humanity and his love of the ‘meek,’ who he truly believed would 'inherit the earth.'”
—Rosanne Cash, writer and musician

Table Of Contents

Foreword by Jim Hightower
Foreword by Angela Davis
1: United the Divided, Divide the United
2: If You Don’t Fight, You Lose Every Time
3: Check Your Stereotypes at the Door
4: Don’t Just Study History—Make It .
5: Recognize Risks
6: Lift Every Voice
7: Strengthen the Story
8: Start at the Finish Line
9: Be For, Not Just Against
10: Find the Glue
11: Learn Your Limits
12: Expect the Impossible
13: Know When to Raise the Stakes
14: Keep the Faith
Conclusion: Pull Your Shift
Creative Community Organizing’s Top 20 Resources
About the Author

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