If a community has a problem, like wanting to tear down a decrepit property or place a stop sign at an intersection, how do they unite to address it? The question intrigued Tamie Dramer.
“Unions help organize around union issues and political campaigns organize around a campaign, but nobody was helping communities organize around an issue,” she said.
Dramer and nine other community members started Organize Sacramento, where they all have years of experience in organizing and advocacy. Last month, the nonprofit held a launch party at Red Rabbit Kitchen Bar near J and 27th Streets, which attracted advocates, an assemblyman and a host of interested people excited to take part in the organization.
It was just in January when Dramer, the board chair with years of experience being involved with local and state political organizations, began recruiting people she knew who would be interested in helping others learn to organize for a cause. She funded Organize Sacramento with leftover monies from her husband, California Democratic Party region 3 director Eric Sunderland’s campaign for Sacramento City Unified School District board.
By May, the budding organization was training attendees at the Safe Ground Stake Down to advocate for issues surrounding homelessness. Most recently, members joined in the efforts of opposing the repeal of the big-box store ordinance by educating local grocers on the impacts and letting people know about the Aug. 20 city council meeting.
At the launch party, community members with a background in advocacy gathered to discover more about the new nonprofit. Russell Rawlings, 37, said he came out to the event because he actively advocates for disability rights in Sacramento as a part of the Disability Organizing Group For Initiating Total Equality, or DOGFITE.
“This seems to be the natural outgrowth from Occupy Sacramento,” he said of the movement, which he took a part in. “This group is an opportunity for those of us who are progressive to come together and join forces.”
Organize Sacramento is a mix of representatives from other nonprofits determined to address a myriad of issues, Dramer said. It will be run by the current ten board members as they plan to meet the first Monday of the month.
The nonprofit runs on four principles: educate, mobilize, influence and change, four verbs decorated on the back of the free red T-shirts distributed at the event. The board members plan to attend neighborhood association meetings and go to local businesses to connect with the community as well as encourage people to reach out to them when they have a community issue and need advice on how to solve it. Organize Sacramento will then outline a plan to fix the issue and assist the community throughout the plan.
“Residents don’t know what to do,” Dramer said. “We want to help them contact the right people for the problem in a lot of different situations.”
As board treasurer of Organize Sacramento, Omega Brewer, 37, has 16 years of experience organizing for schools and is passionate about social justice, housing issues and health care access. Her aim is to help the socioeconomically disadvantaged.
“People don’t know you can go to the city for things you need,” she said. “I don’t want to give them the fish. I want to teach them how to fish because that will be more sustainable for them.”
As a part of Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP), Nenick Vu, 27, said he focuses on issues mostly in South Sacramento, where a lot of community members aren’t engaged because many city, county and state departments are located in Midtown and East Sacramento.
“It’s unfortunate the South side doesn’t have influential power,” he said. “That’s some of the elements I would bring to the table, how to bring South Sacramento into the conversation.”
Addressing the major issues in the community resounded with Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician who has a background in community organizing for health issues.
“I wanted to help support a group of people who wanted to come together to help the community,” he said. “Nothing like grassroots organizing.”
Organize Sacramento, which has filed paperwork to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is active online through a Facebook page with a website in the works.
“We just love Sacramento,” Dramer said. “We want it to be a better place and give people the resources to help them.”
The nonprofit is currently connecting with neighborhood associations and community organizations to find which businesses are needed in their areas.
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