The scene- an abandoned charter school, purchased by one Captain J’s chicken franchise, leased for one week at market value to an insurgent progressive campaign. A huge cafeteria with basketball hoops and chairs build for first graders. Three floors of newly carpeted classroom.
The action – a canvassing launch with Linda Sarsour, Nina Turner, Shailene Woodley, and Kendrick Sampson. There are at least 50 people here, and staff are shouting every which way to direct the flow of the crowd through hastily made assembly line orientations. First, they check in, they pledge to vote. Second, they receive turf packets. Next, orientation on the apps they need to use. The staff use bullhorns to rally the crowd, and a ten year old boy stands atop a chair holding a large poster in the air. “Do’s and Don’ts of Canvassing,” it reads.
What I’ve described above seems surreal now, but it really did happen in my own office, an office I set up and helped run for my new job. The insanity of those canvass launches in that large cafeteria that we so meticulously cleaned, rearranged, and stocked–they were nothing compared to the insanity of having regulars.
That ten year old I described was there for every canvass launch. His name was Saleh, and he made sure to partner with non-Arabic speaking folks so that he could translate for them on the doors. He vowed to run for office. We had 12 in-office volunteers from New York, Texas, DC, and California that lived and worked from the space, and every morning I got to make sure that their lives, from breakfast to organizing to door-knocking, went smoothly.
This office went up in three days, and it is as if it had always existed. I think that’s what impresses me most about this campaign–it’s not risk averse in the slightest, but it makes things work. We said this office existed before it did, planned events before we’d even figured out how to legally sign the lease, were cleaning up until an hour before our first volunteer arrived. But that’s what life has to be when you need action, fast. You put up the front and then you furiously build the back. A lesson I need to apply to other projects in my own life–because often, it takes longer to build the front (the advertisement, the connections, the name recognition) than the back, for which all you need, after all, is a fire under your feet–and some good, reliable people.