Obama mentor inspires Norwich community

ArnieGraf430A community activist, who was an early mentor of Barack Obama, and is now working with Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, has addressed community leaders in a meeting at a Norwich church. Keith Morris reports.

Arnie Graf, an American community organiser who has 50 years experience and cut his teeth during the civil rights movement, addressed 40 community leaders from across Norwich at the New Hope Christian Centre on Martineau Lane on Sunday (September 1).
In the USA, Arnie joined the Industrial Areas Foundation set up by church leaders and community groups to improve the quality of life in the Baltimore estate in Chicago introducing the world’s first living wage in 1994. 

It was during this time in Chicago that he met a young Barack Obama. While Arnie had little time for politics he saw the potential Obama possessed and took the time to act as his mentor.
Speaking in Norwich, Arnie compared the world as it is against the world as it should be and said that there is a big gap between these two. He also said that the world as it should be is not only about power, it is about love as well - we need to treat people with respect and to care for each other.
Quoting Martin Luther King, he said: “Love without power is mere sentimentality and power without love can turn into tyranny.
“Justice is the bridge between power and love,” he said, “and justice is about love. If you love someone, you treat them well.”
ArnieGraf430aIn the world as it is, justice is regulated by power. Therefore, Arnie said, it is vital to find the right relationship between power and love and apply it in our lives.
He also talked about community organising as trying to bridge the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be. To do this, there is the concept of power.
“Those who are able, get better things and are able to influence power,” said Arnie. “When you have power, you make what is unjust just and fix what is broken.”
He went on to get participants to identify problems they wanted fixed in the community, which included youth unemployment, poor housing, poverty and inequality, lack of community cohesion, lack of education and training for young people.
Arnie concluded by asking every individual to commit themselves to coming to a follow-up meeting on September 18 to identify ways of solving the identified problems. Each individual was asked to bring three or more people to the event.
The New Hope meeting was organised by the Christian Norwich-based Widows and Orphans Relief and Development Trust (WORD Trust).
International Director, Everjoice Makuve, said: “We organised it because for us at WORD it is about learning, sharing experiences and influencing change in the international community. We believed that Arnie was going to share knowledge and experience vital to our work. We also believed that the community leaders in Norwich shared the same vision with Arnie - that of making a difference in our community - and that they would learn from his experience of community organising. As community leaders, we share the same vision, that of love, equality and justice.”
Arnie has recently been appointed as Ed Miliband’s community organising lead and has conducted a review of the Labour Party. He believes that getting members active in the community is key to opening up the party to non-members and improving its electoral prospects.
For more information on the September 18 meeting contact Everjoice Makuve on 07588 487957, Mathew Fulton on 07772 371682, email. wordorphan2003@yahoo.co.uk or visit www.wordtrustinternational.com

Pictured above is Arnie Graf addressing Norwich community leaders at the New Hope Christian Centre.

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