Introduction to Deep Canvassing: The Proven Method to Change Hearts and Minds Are you an organizer, community leader, or just someone looking to engage with your community around deeply polarizing issues? Learn how to have compassionate, non-judgmental conversations across lines of difference with this powerful technique.

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People & Planet First

Most of us want the same things: a good life for ourselves and our children, a better future that we can look forward to, and to be treated fairly.

But right now, corporations are profiting from damaging our climate and dividing people based on race, background, or where we live, harming our communities–and hurting Black and brown, and indigenous people the most. 

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1964

Freedom Summer

In high school, Heather Tobis (who later marries Paul Booth, a founder of Students for a Democratic Society and the Chicago Citizens Action Program) joins the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) to protest racial discrimination. As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, she travels to Mississippi to register Black voters and set up freedom schools and libraries with Mary Lou Hamer and other organizers for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

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I don’t know why I should be intimidated.
— Gale Cincotta
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1967

Gale and Shel Forge Their Relationship

In high school, Heather Tobis (who later marries Paul Booth, a founder of Students for a Democratic Society and the Chicago Citizens Action Program) joins the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) to protest racial discrimination. As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, she travels to Mississippi to register Black voters and set up freedom schools and libraries with Mary Lou Hamer and other organizers for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

When we organize, we can change the world.
— Shel Trapp
1969

Expanded Housing Organizing

Gale and Shel, together with thousands of community leaders at OBA, Northwest Community Organization, and Our Lady of Angels founded the West Site Coalition to deal with redlining, blockbusting and panic peddling happening across neighborhoods.

Now is the time for the knock-out punch. The bankers are on the ropes.
— Shel Trapp
Shel with organizers
The First Conference convened at St. Sylvester’s Church in Chicago.
We’ve found the enemy and it’s not us.
— Gale Cincotta
1972

The First Conference

368 community groups from 38 states sent 1,600 delegates to the First National Housing conference in Chicago. Senator Charles Percy, Mayor Richard J. Daley, and presidential candidate George McGovern all attend. Follow-up meeting in Baltimore forms the National People’s Action on Housing and Housing Training and Information Center. HTIC board votes to hire Cincotta as Executive Director, Trapp as Training Director, and Anne-Marie Douglas as secretary.

NPAH and the HTIC’s first national action in Washington, DC targets HUB Secretary George Romney.

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1973

Midwest Academy Founded

Fired for organizing clerical workers in Chicago, Heather Booth uses money from her NLRB settlement to found the Midwest Academy, to mix lessons of the freedom schools and civil rights struggle with the skills of community organizing, and put training and strategic planning at the center of the movement for social justice. The academy’s founding goals are to combine the vision and spirit of progressive movements with the practical skills of grassroots organizing, to elevate the role of women in organizing, forge a path to progressive change through multi-state organizations for the emerging labor, women’s rights, and environmental movements, and create a comprehensive training program that provides organizers with the fundamental skills needed to build and sustain power.

Midwest Academy provides training to Citizen Action groups and many others and helps initiate multi-issue statewide organizing groups, a unique coalition approach with an emphasis on deeper organizing and community labor alliances.

1975

Passing the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA)

Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) holds committee hearings on S1281, HMDA. Cincotta testified before Representative St Germain’s sub-committee in favor of HMDA. Cincotta is the only Community person invited to testify on FHA abuses before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Banking & Urban Affairs and U.S. House Committee on Banking Operations Sub-committee on Manpower & Housing. HMDA passes Senate 45 to 37, and a December 12th Joint committee resolves HMDA bill which passes the Senate again on December 15th and the House on December 18th. President Ford signed the HMDA on January 3, 1976. For good measure, Illinois passed the Fairness and Lending Bill making redlining illegal in the State of Illinois; legislation requires disclosure of savings and lending data and limits relocation of savings and loan associations.

1973-75

Winning the FHA Payback Program and Enacting Anti-Redlining Laws

Fired for organizing clerical workers in Chicago, Heather Booth uses money from her NLRB settlement to found the Midwest Academy, to mix lessons of the freedom schools and civil rights struggle with the skills of community organizing, and put training and strategic planning at the center of the movement for social justice. The academy’s founding goals are to combine the vision and spirit of progressive movements with the practical skills of grassroots organizing, to elevate the role of women in organizing, forge a path to progressive change through multi-state organizations for the emerging labor, women’s rights, and environmental movements, and create a comprehensive training program that provides organizers with the fundamental skills needed to build and sustain power.

Midwest Academy provides training to Citizen Action groups and many others and helps initiate multi-issue statewide organizing groups, a unique coalition approach with an emphasis on deeper organizing and community labor alliances.

Neighborhood organizing is the alive and well and operating at a national level to boot. And at the other end of that boot are the politicians, speculators, and bankers who have been kicking us around for so long.
— Gale Cincotta
Cincotta testifies before Congress on the need for CRA
1977

Midwest Academy Founded

CRA legislation in Congress with hearings held in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and New York. Sixth Annual “State of the Neighborhoods” Conference held in D.C. with 2,500 people from 109 cities; delegates are angry that HUD has made no new appointments to regional/area offices after President Carter calls HUD “biggest slumlord” in country; “action” taken to occupy office of Patricia Roberts Harris, Secretary of HUD. Cincotta supports passage of a bill to create the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation that will expand the Urban Reinvestment Task Force’s Neighborhood Housing Services program nationally campaigns to prod and entice the private sector to invest in communities. October 12th, CRA S. 406 passes as Title VIII of Housing and Community Development Act, effective November 6th, 1978. CRA is the 15! national structural reform to be won through neighborhood organizing that ties back to the work of Saul Alinsky.

1978

Love Canal

The story of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) starts with Lois Gibbs in Niagara Falls, New York. In 1978, Lois was struggling to raise a family that included two children suffering from a variety of rare illnesses. Nearly every family in the now-infamous Love Canal neighborhood was facing its own medical nightmare. When Lois discovered that her home and those of her neighbors sat beside 21,000 tons of toxic chemicals, she led her community in a three-year struggle to protect their families from the hazardous waste buried in their backyards. Lois and her neighbors developed strategies and methods to educate and organize the community, assess the impacts of toxic wastes on their health, and challenge corporate and government policies on the dumping of hazardous materials. 833 Love Canal households were relocated but 20,000 tons of waste are still buried there. 

I wanted to be the best mom possible. Then I discovered the dump. The government wouldn’t help me, so I decided to do it myself.
— Gale Cincotta
The Battle of New Orleans at the ABA Conference
1978-79

Midwest Academy Founded

CRA legislation in Congress with hearings held in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and New York. Sixth Annual “State of the Neighborhoods” Conference held in D.C. with 2,500 people from 109 cities; delegates are angry that HUD has made no new appointments to regional/area offices after President Carter calls HUD “biggest slumlord” in country; “action” taken to occupy office of Patricia Roberts Harris, Secretary of HUD. Cincotta supports passage of a bill to create the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation that will expand the Urban Reinvestment Task Force’s Neighborhood Housing Services program nationally campaigns to prod and entice the private sector to invest in communities. October 12th, CRA S. 406 passes as Title VIII of Housing and Community Development Act, effective November 6th, 1978. CRA is the 15! national structural reform to be won through neighborhood organizing that ties back to the work of Saul Alinsky.

1979

Citizen Action Founded

In December 1979, organizers from five state organizations came together with Midwest Academy, C/LEC, and the Cooperative Alliance to found Citizen Action. Citizen Action organizers and leaders came out of the civil rights, women’s movements, student movements, consumer rights, community organizing, the anti-war movement, and feminist movements of the previous two decades. A national strategy was needed to advance a progressive populist economic agenda that could unite majorities and address white backlash to civil rights. The focus of the founding state coalitions was multiracial working-class organizing on majoritarian economic issues. The founding groups are Massachusetts Fair Share, Illinois Public Action Council, Ohio Public Interest Campaign, Oregon Fair Share, and Indiana Citizen Action Coalition. Others soon joined as well: New Hampshire People’s Alliance, Pennsylvania Public Interest Campaign, and Minnesota COACT, eventually reaching 36 statewide groups at its peak.

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