George Goehl: What I Love About the New Director of People’s Action
For those who believe the primary challenge is not that the choir is unorganized, but that the choir is too damn small, we bring good news! Our Board of Directors has chosen Sulma Arias to be the next director of People’s Action.
I’ve always kept a short list of my favorite organizers. When I think about who is on that list, two traits come to mind. They are people of deep integrity. You can feel their authenticity in every encounter. They are also natural organizers. They could one day wake up in any community – regardless of racial makeup, language, or geography – and they would figure out how to organize the people with the least. They are just that good at the craft of organizing.
Since I first witnessed her organizing in neighborhoods in Wichita or tiny Kansas towns like Liberal and Dodge City, Sulma Arias has been one of those organizers for me.
As if in a series of oil paintings about organizing, I remember Sulma in a room with dozens of immigrant members of the National People’s Action family. We were planning a big and risky action. While Sulma could easily have been the one in front of the room rallying the troops, she had prepared a member for that role.
Instead, she’s moving through the room, from table to table, huddled up with a handful of members at a time, a knee on the ground, listening, reflecting back, and sharing her take. Then off to another table, processing and bringing people along – the iterative work of developing leaders and building power. The exact kind of organizing that we need to model if we are in fact going to defeat fascism and build a multi-racial democracy.
I have spent 25 years in the People’s Action family, and nearly 15 years as Director of National People’s Action and People’s Action. With Sulma as the next Director I am certain this storied organization is in the best of hands.
Here’s my take on why Sulma is the perfect next Director of People’s Action.
- Sulma is one of the most inquisitive people I have ever known. Always hungry to learn and get sharper.
- She then turns that insight into vision. As just one example, she was tracking, naming, and taking on Trumpism years before it became a thing.
- She is an organizer. Not a progressive who appreciates organizing, but an honest-to-goodness organizer who can organize people, ideas, and money to win.
- She is willing to take great risk to deliver those wins, having literally gone toe to toe with powerful actors ranging from Kris Kobach to the CEO of Wells Fargo to Karl Rove.
- She is a campaigner – she has a track record of running strategic and hard-hitting campaigns at the local, state, and national level. Get ready for some winning people!
Meet the leader who will spur an organizing revival that reaches beyond the converted, and inspires new believers to join the fight. For People’s Action and for organizing, the best is yet to come.
George Goehl, out-going Executive Director, People’s Action