Without Structure, Formation and Organizational Purpose there's Chaos

There is no doubt, when you consider yourself a people expert; you are often reminded there is no such person. People surprise you with certain actions on a daily basis. In other words, you think you know what is going on and then someone, or in my case a few people, flip the script.Just to provide a little background here, last year, my wife and I were invited to attend a…let’s call it a community activist group meeting. Keep in mind those are my words, not the groups’ description of themselves. There lies the problem. In hindsight, I’m not so sure the nucleus members, who are the initial people who formed the group, were exactly sure of their own expectations. Or better yet, I don’t think they were aware of how something like this could take off.

This group formation took place right after the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, MO police officer.  They were a group (two or three couples) of concerned professional people with high school children, young cousins, and other family members who fit the Michael Brown profile. That exact description being a young black male. I believe my wife and I attended one of the first meetings. It was a nice close-knit group of friends and family members, mostly talking about what happened in Ferguson and other places in this country. Naturally the question came up; suppose another incident happened in the Bay Area?  How should we, as a community, respond and what could we do to prevent these types of occurrences?  It was a nice little venting session; everybody took part in talking about the lack of organization in the black community. The food was great, with everyone feeling comfortable contributing their concern or remedies.  Bottom line, we all agreed we could no longer stand by while our young black men and woman become targets for what seemed to be rogue policemen. In the end, everyone was asked to bring in other interested people at the next monthly meeting in an attempt to grow this little body.

The second meeting was just a lively, attending by a couple more people, with lots of venting because there had been a few more national incidents. That is when I started calling for forming an organization in which we could specifically legitimize our group. Most people understand that you have safety and power in numbers. Yet to be effective, your group not only has to have a name, but certain individuals within should be responsible for completing the group's task and business.
Fast forward to what was probably our second best attending meeting (4th meeting) with an impressive number of professional people, but may turn out to be the last meeting I will attend. At least that is the way I felt after leaving the meeting. It’s not that the meeting was unproductive. Our host had a couple of interesting guest speakers, a young man who is the head of a local youth group and a newly elected city councilwoman from the host city.  It was that the pre-distributed agenda I sent out was not following and even worse, not brought-up. We did have a member stand up, bringing us up to speed as what went on during the last meeting. Yet in the end the meeting lasted too long, getting off track of our groups initial interest.  Why, partially because there were new people and they wanted to offer their comments or their concerns. The pre-distributed emailed agenda was not even introduced so the gathering turned into a free fall. And finally with the meeting lasting so long, people who had other Saturday night plans began to leave. While even others broke off into their own one or two person conversations about issues of concern.
By now you can see where this is headed which is why, my first thought, wait a minute. I don’t have the time or the patience for these kinds of meetings. I had flashbacks of our early nineties Procurement meetings at Oakland Naval Supply Center. The type of assembly where some employees, wise to our attempt at solving issues, would call a meeting just to vent or take a break away from their duties. They would bring up all kinds of issues that had nothing to do with the purpose of that particular meeting. Sometimes we would meet and throw out complaints of whatever, against whomever, whereas the meeting would last hours over the initial schedule time. Yet, not so surprising as soon as it was time for those who were extending the meetings with so-called concerns suddenly realized it was time for them to leave for the day. Now they’d abruptly call for the meeting to end. I have been in those type meetings and even some meetings with managers and union personnel where the only thing decided was to have another meeting on the same subject in the near future. Talk about a waste of time. This type of behavior was stopped cold with the implementation of a Quality Program for our Naval Base. Production, communications, and cooperation between warring factions, so to speak, improved a hundred and sometimes two hundred percent. That “Q” program turned the entire Base operations around and allowed us win awards for productivity and ability to solve problems between the union, employees, and management.
So you see, I’ve seen both sides (as employee and manager) of a non-functional body. I could see chaos beginning to become the norm in our little group. The good news, after I fired off a comment about the group drifting, I met with one of the founders. He in fact had mentioned the same thing when I saw him in church the following day after the Saturday meeting. “I think we have lost our focus.”  He said as I agreed and told him about the email I’d written at 4:00am that Sunday Morning. In short we met again that following Wednesday. We talked about regaining the focus and following the agenda was the primary reason we always got so far off track. In all, we agreed, as had other attendees he’d spoken with. It was also the major concern for one particular member who texted me after I sent the email. Yes, we needed to regain the purpose of our organization. So I agreed to continue and we will see where we go from here.

I didn’t write this blog to out my little group.  I wanted to highlight how the good intentions of good people can go astray, possible dissolving before it accomplishes anything. There is a dire need for us as people of color to be more proactive than reactive to incidents in our communities. When a tragedy happens, say an unarmed black youth gets shot and killed by the police. Nine times out of ten, police departments and police unions circle the wagon to protect that officer. Often before they really understand what happened. The community gets upset, hit the streets with signs, there are confrontations with the police who really has a personal interest in protecting one of their own. The fine line between serving the public and the big “blue line” so to speak is tenuous at best. If we already have a community activist organization(s) in place, no time is wasted. Such a body can immediately move to insist on an independent and thorough investigation. That type of push back can avert these confrontational scenes we see on the nightly news. People, we have to get organize now, not later on after an event.    
The lesson here that newly formed groups or organization should take from this blog is developing a Mission Statement and never deviate too far from the meeting’s agenda. By all means make sure you have an agenda and everyone is aware of the topics scheduled. Designate time on the agenda for members to bring up subjects of interest for group discussion and action.  

Social issues, especially those in our communities hit close to home for members because it affects them directly or indirectly. There is a passionate concern; therefore they want to be heard while commenting on those issues. We all want to solve these problems and make no mistake about it. They are our community problems and no one else is really interested as they have their own problems requiring attention in their neighborhoods. So…people are bringing up these subjects because they are emotionally and financially (Property value, safety, of any cost involved) invested.  You do not want to discourage anyone who is willing to participate as evidenced by their attendance at your meeting.
This is a time when that participation is sorely needed at the Parent Teachers Associate, City Council, Church business, and all Community Activist meetings. These are the forums in which you can voice your opinion and facilitate changes in the way your local officials go about their daily business. Go to the meeting where school curriculums are decided, police training is discussed. If these meetings are not opened to the public,  form an Activist group to legitimately and formally address those concerns to the Responsible Parties. Let’s, as is the mantra for our little community group; let’s make those people in a position of authority accountable for their actions or inactions. If we do this on a grand scale by cooperating with other organizations in our communities, you will be surprised at how that affects some of the society ills.  And just as important it will let those in power as well as the media know, we are not going to take this preferential treatment of one community over another anymore.    
  Peace, make it a day in which Jesus Christ would be proud of you,
Codis Hampton II
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Copyright 2011 Codis Hampton II, all rights reserved. A bi-weekly blog for your enjoyment

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