BOOKS & THE CULTURE In Your Face In San Antonio BY JEANNE RUSSELL Dry Bones Rattling By Mark. R. Warren Princeton University Press 322 pages, $17.95. Dry Bones Rattling was written to explain a Texas phenomenon to Yankees. But for Texans, and especially San Antonians, it offers something better: a peek into the inner workings of a home-grown organization copied elsewhere yet unappreciated and often disliked in its hometown. Communities Organized ed more than 25 years ago in the barrios of San Antonio’s South and West Sides. It was the first of many organizations in the Industrial Areas Foundations network, a coalition of highly organized, effective activist organizations representing the poor. That in itself should be noteworthy, Mark R. Warren points out in a book that draws on several years spent with members and leaders from the Texas network. \(The IAF takes its name from the group founded in Chicago in the 1930s by legendary community organThe book opens with a vignette. An Anglo Catholic priest is telling the story of Ezekiel’s prophecy in the valley of the a symbol of a community without hope. The bones began to rattle, sinews formed, and flesh and blood grew, symbolizing the community’s renewed vigor. The priest uses an Old Testament story that resonates with African American Protestants to inspire Hispanic Catholics, rousing them before a rally that resulted in substantial pledges for community assistance from then Governor Ann Richards and also from bank executives. Warren’s heady theory is that an organization that began in San best national model for lobbying for low-income families and communities, and as such has the potential to re-energize American democracy. A non native, he doesn’t note the irony for a city with such a severe insecurity complex to discover that what “put it on the map”a popular phrase herewas not the PGA golf complex, or Fiesta Texas, or \(fill-inorganization that gets in people’s faces on behalf of the poor. Warren’s book recounts a history previously unwritten, one that needed to be told. He draws on newspaper accounts and other primary sources, but the events and insights from participants makes Dry Bones Rattling a new window into the role of groups that have not been effectively covered by the media, a problem exacerbated by mutual distrust. But be forewarned, this is an academic book. The author doesn’t capture the colorful characters or stories that make this organization fun to watch. Many elected officials and left-leaning organizations in San Antonio have long grown weary of COPS and their sister organization here, Metro Alliance. It is easy to move from appreciation to annoyance with their staged political theater, to resent what appears from the outside as rigid hierarchy and control over information, and perhaps most damningly, to see them as a part of the entrenched establishment they were formed to fight against. COPS and Metro have become so much a part of the equation here that it is hard to see them in a new light. But their formidable role in San Antonio politics is more evident Than ever in the fast-moving current debate over whether the city should give unprecedented financial support to a golf resort over the Edwards Aquifer in exchange for agreed-upon environmental regulations. This year, COPS faced a choice of principles: Stand up against the PGA golf resort, and face the potential of losing more ground on a sales tax initiative for many of their cherished programs. They risked alienating key business allies and reminding people that they are loud and uncivil. Yet they stood strong, perhaps damaging “Better Jobs,” as that initiative is now known, surprising those who had begun to view them as mere defenders of their piece of the pie. The PGA fight may end up reinvigorating the organization, giving them an altered image with the middle class and on the North Side, where environmental issues traditionally have resonated but COPS and Metro Alliance have not. Warren offers a behind-the-scenes look at their tactics and strategizing through interviews with members who work to keep the agenda focused on the needs of low-income communities, paired with unusual access to founder 12th _ REF BOOKS .itar-e idolovi e r out a Adia 827 West 12th Street Austin, TX 2 blocks east of Lamar Monday-Saturday 10-6 512.499.8828 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 6121102
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