Monday, July 02, 2007


TOTI: A Success Story

For several weeks, you have heard about our first ever "TCASK Organizer Training Institute" or (TOTI), developed to train activists to become effective community organizers in their hometowns. This past Friday, activists from Jackson, Nashville, Knoxville, Murfreesboro, and Houston County gathered in Cookeville at Hidden Springs Organic Farm to spend a weekend learning the nuts and bolts of organizing as well as developing strategies to more fully harnass the power of the people of Tennessee.

Led by our team of trainers--Alex Wiesendanger, Isaac Kimes, and Stacy Rector--participants left the retreat with a list of goals for their home chapters as well as a set of skills and tools or "skools" (term created during the weekend) for achieving these goals. The group even spent several hours on Saturday creating and implementing a mock campaign from beginning to end, including mock meetings with local groups, council people, as well as the mayor of the town of "Cashville." I debuted in my role as Cashville's city mayor, who was not as easily swayed as the team would have liked! Nevertheless, the exercise gave folks a taste of the ebb and flow of a campaign to change public policy and ways to deal with the expected or unexpected resistance along the way.

Not only did we work hard and accomplish much over the weekend, but we found a few moments to relax as well. A few of us splashed around in the swimming hole on Saturday afternoon, and the whole group played an intense game of Scruples that evening. The weekend provided time to learn important organizing skills but also to focus on another crucial aspect of organizing: developing relationships. We all learned more about one another and the various communities from which we all come. These relationships are essential in our work to make abolition a reality in Tennessee.

Our hope is that next year's TOTI can include even more of you who want to empower activists in your local areas to join in the work of TCASK. With the creation of the Death Penalty Study Commission by the state legislature, Tennessee is entering a pivotal time in its history for finally addressing the brokenness of the death penalty. Every citizen of our state has a stake in the outcome of the study, and we must make every effort to include as many Tennesseans as possible in our work. If you didn't make the event this year, mark your calendars now for TOTI Summer 2008!
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