September 25, 2003, Episode 46:  Working for Women

This week we have done something a little different.   

In the spirit of Radio Diaries, we share excerpts from a diary kept by Carl between January and July of 1995 when he interned with the Tampa, Florida Chapter of the National Organization for Women

In 1994, this particular chapter was radicalized by a committed group of women, most of whom were poor themselves, who decided that their chapter should fight for economic justice, making poverty an issue.  Carl's internship coincided with a time when the struggle to make this a reality translated into a lot of hard work with little resources.  His diary gives insights into what such a struggle means for both individuals and organisations in practical, everyday terms. 

The internship was also a time of clarification for Carl.  His work during 1995 started his quest to change how media is done and to be committed to being a media producer and not just a consumer.  In the true spirit of the women's movement, this was a time for him and for the members of Tampa NOW when the personal became political

Eight years later, Tampa NOW has survived its transition with some of the same activists still working to build and maintain coalitions that are meaningful in the lives of poor women and their families, addressing the political and the personal.



One of the reasons for keeping a diary is to be able to revisit it years later.  In 1995, from January to July, Carl kept an official diary of activities he did as an intern, working for the Tampa, Florida chapter of the US National Organization for Women.  The internship began with the goal of providing a high-level statistical analysis comparing the status of women in Florida to the remaining 49 states and the rest of the world.  This turned out to be an ambitious project that was more worthy of a doctoral dissertation than an internship.  But the volumes of data and the lack of a cohesive source of data to use for comparisons were not the only reasons that the scope of the original project narrowed.  What started out to be a research project that Tampa NOW could use but could never have afforded from a consultant ended up being a journey into the world of political organisation, protest and burn-out that shaped Carl’s views of political action, most especially the role that media plays in determining who gets heard and who does not.

 In the year before this internship, the NOW chapter went through a major upheaval with the ousting of the previous board of directors in favour of a group that was determined to connect the chapter to social justice issues that affected the lives of impoverished women.  The members who achieved this change in leadership were mostly poor themselves.  Carl’s internship coincided with a period of time during which many of the members were discovering how difficult it was to put issues of poverty and social justice on popular agendas.  It was a time when the US Congress’s newly elected Republican majority was flexing its muscle with the so-called Contract with America.  The political rhetoric at both the federal level and the state level was backing poor women and men into corners from which they could not return.  Unlike the recent worldwide protests against the war in Iraq and against globalisation, protests during this period were small and largely ignored by mainstream press.  The Internet was young and no quote, alternative media, close quote, existed beyond a few local newspapers here or there.

 Today on First Person, Plural, we are sharing excerpts from the seven-month diary in chronological order.  The diary, in many ways, speaks for itself as we follow the course of both intern and organisation during a difficult period of transition away from social justice in Florida and in the United States.  Carl shares his experience, his analyses and his insights in an episode we call Working for Women.

copyright by Pattie Thomas and Carl Wilkerson 2003


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