[COMM-ORG] Passing of Shel Trapp

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Mon Oct 25 13:58:58 CDT 2010


You may all want to take a look at, and contribute to, NPA's page 
remembering Shel Trapp.  Jolly good reading:  

Randy Stoecker
moderator/editor, COMM-ORG

On 10/20/2010 8:30 PM, Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
> --------
> This is a COMM-ORG 'colist' message.
> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
> --------
>    [ed: here is a more formal obituary.]
> From: Gordon Mayer<gordon at npa-us.org>
> October 20, 2010
> For more information contact NPA at 312-243-3035
> Shel Trapp passed away at 2 p.m. Monday, October 18 after an illness
> that had sent him to the hospital with pneumonia the week before. His
> wife and children were with him when he died. He was 75.
> Among the first organizers to successfully apply Alinsky-style tactics
> of direct action and confronting people with power to elites and
> decision makers at a national level, Trapp is widely credited with
> quarterbacking community groups’ drive to pass the Community
> Reinvestment Act in the 1970s and continuing that work through the
> initial phases of organizing against subprime lending in the late 1990s.
> As an author of manuals and trainer of organizers he’s credited with
> motivating literally thousands to choose organizing as a career.
> “You’d be hard pressed to find an organizer that more consistently
> organized busloads of everyday Americans to powerfully confront the
> nation’s corporate and political elite. Trapp challenged thousands of us
> to push beyond our comfort zone and take risks in the name of justice.
> We often call this being fearless, but Trapp taught us it is not about
> being without fear, but actually having the guts to push beyond our fears..”
> Born in rural Minnesota, all of Trapp’s hair dropped out from alopecia
> areata around the age of 13. This early experience of injustice, and the
> death of his father on a camping trip≤ sensitized him to injustice and
> what he referred to in training sessions he led for literally thousands
> of community organizers throughout his life as “the dignity of wounds.”
> Trapp attended North Central College in Naperville, where he was known
> as both a football player and a practical joker, and where he met his
> wife Anne, the daughter of a Methodist bishop. After school, he
> ministered to mostly German-American parishes on Chicago’s North Side.
> In 1963 he was one of the first ministers to be arrested in Mississippi
> in support of Civil Rights. He seemed poised to go further in the
> Methodist hierarchy but felt something missing. In the mid-1960s Trapp
> attended a seminar led by Tom Gaudette, who had been trained in
> community organizing by Saul Alinsky, and found his calling.
> Trapp went to work at Gaudette’s new project, the Organization for a
> Better Austin, where blockbusting and racial-inspired panic peddling
> quickly became the most important issues he worked on. There he honed
> his direct-action technique – the 1971 Supreme Court case Organization
> for a Better Austin vs. Keefe settled the legality of whether protesters
> could picket in front of a real estate broker’s home. Also at OBA, Trapp
> met Gale Cincotta, the West Side mother of six with whom he went on to
> found the first citywide community organizing group in Chicago, the
> Metropolitan Area Housing Alliance.
> The two went on to foster the growth of a national coalition of
> neighborhood groups called National People’s Action on Housing, the
> predecessor of today’s NPA network of community organizing groups from
> coast to coast.
> The NPA attained its first national victory in 1975, winning legislation
> that mandated disclosure of lending data from banks across the country.
> Don Elmer, a board member of National People’s Action, recalled in 2008
> the jolt that Trapp helped to deliver to community organizing with this
> work: “The organizing field was shocked (One famous network said we
> should wait 20 years until we had the capacity before we went national!)
> and to tell the truth so were we.”
> Using the data that thereby became available, Trapp and Cincotta’s band
> of community organizations demonstrated the existence of redlining, in
> which banks took deposits from older urban-core communities and lent the
> money in the form of mortgages in other, often suburban, areas. That led
> to passage of the Community Reinvestment Act, which generated billions
> of dollars for neighborhoods across the country. The NPA coalition
> continued to work on housing and banking issues as well as a
> constellation of other community concerns throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
> As organizer-in-chief to the network of groups across the country, Trapp
> wrote numerous training manuals with titles such as “Who Me Organize?
> Yes You!” and “Blessed Be the Fighters.” Organizers whom Trapp mentored
> from this period recall that in addition to confronting power and
> inciting grassroots groups to direct action, Trapp excelled at breaking
> issues down to their simplest parts.
> Among his proudest achievements was his work to help create ADAPT, the
> national disability-rights organization, with whom he consulted from the
> beginning of their work to free people from nursing homes through the
> campaign to win accessible public transport and ultimately pass the
> Americans with Disabilities Act.
> At the age of 65 in September 2000 Trapp retired from his position as
> organizing director, having mentored and helped to create or
> strengthening hundreds of community organizations across the country. He
> continued to be involved in organizing, serving on the board of NPA and
> playing a key role in organizer-training sessions for the group. He led
> sessions on how to negotiate with people in power and other topics as
> recently as the end of August at the NPA Power School organizer training.
> Organizers loved Trapp for his colorful language as well as his simple
> and direct take on life, “My dad was blessed to do what he loved, and
> what he was passionate about,” said his daughter, Kathy Dzielak. They
> also recalled that his gruff demeanor belied a gentle soul. Anne-Marie
> Douglas, who worked with Trapp and Cincotta for 30 years “He was a tough
> guy, and still so gentle.”
> He leaves behind his loving family, wife Anne, daughter Kathy, son
> Rollie, son-in-law Dennis, daughter-in-law Becky and 4 beautiful
> grandchildren, Chloe, Ben, Jake and Ellen, along with so many friends.
> Please share your stories or comments with the family and the larger
> community here: http://showdowninamerica.org/your-legacy-lives#comment-136
> Donations may be sent to National People's Action, 810 N. Milwaukee
> Ave., Chicago, IL 60642 (or made online at NPA's satellite website,
> http://www.showdowninamerica.org).
> A memorial is planned for early December in Chicago -- stay tuned for
> details.
> -30-
> --
> Gordon Mayer, operations director
> National People's Action
> 810 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60642
> www.npa-us.org
> 312-676-2818 direct 312-307-0133 cell
> On 10/19/2010 8:29 PM, Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
>> --------
>> This is a COMM-ORG 'colist' message.
>> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
>> --------
>>     [ed: the news is coming in from many corners of the passing of Shel
>> Trapp. As always, we mourn the loss and celebrate the legacy. All
>> comments, stories, and remembrances are welcome.]
>> From: Dave Beckwith<dbeckwith at needmorfund.org>
>> A giant is gone…
>> From: George Goehl [mailto:george at npa-us.org]
>> Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 2:19 PM
>> Friends of NPA – wanted to share the tough news that NPA Co-Founder Shel
>> Trapp passed away yesterday. Below is a note to the npa network.
>> ------ Forwarded Message
>> From: George Goehl<george at npa-us.org>
>> Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2010 12:51:20 -0500
>> Subject: NPAction Shel Trapp 1935-2010
>> Dear NPA Family,
>> NPA co-founder and agitator-extraordinaire Shel Trapp passed away from
>> complications with pneumonia yesterday. He was 75. He leaves behind his
>> loving family, wife Anne, daughter Kathy, son Rollie, son-in-law Dennis,
>> daugter-in-law Becky and 4 beautiful grandchildren, Chloe, Ben, Jake and
>> Ellen.
>> We all have the honor and responsibility of being part of National
>> People’s Action, a rare organization in America. There is no other
>> entity in this country that has had the guts to consistently and
>> directly confront corporate and political elites in the way that NPA has
>> over the last 38 years. The courage and fight that it takes to do
>> hard-hitting direct action is part of our DNA, deeply engrained in the
>> culture of National People’s Action. And without question, this DNA can
>> be traced back to a preacher turned organizer named Shel Trap.
>> One of the organizational values of NPA is “To push beyond the edge of
>> what’s possible.” For Trapp, that meant pushing beyond our own personal
>> edge, beyond what was comfortable. We often call this being fearless,
>> but Trapp would tell us it is not about being without fear, but actually
>> having the guts to push beyond those fears. That’s why he saw direct
>> action as such a powerful tactic – because it not only transforms
>> relations of power, but also transforms the human spirit.
>> Trapp had the unique ability to see something inside each of us that we
>> didn’t see in ourselves. And through this insight, and his ability and
>> willingness to agitate, he helped untold organizers and community
>> leaders brush past insecurities, cultural norms, or whatever was
>> standing in our way of tapping into our fullest potential.
>> Joe Hill, the great labor agitator and songwriter, wrote before his
>> execution in 1915, “Don’t mourn for me, but organize.” I know Trapp
>> would say the same thing to us now. Our economy and our democracy are in
>> rough shape. People are hurting and looking for hope. We can best bring
>> people hope, and honor Trapp, by actualizing a favorite quote of his -
>> “In the face of injustice there is only one correct response, ATTACK!”
>> Nothing would make him happier than knowing his passing prompted each of
>> us to move more people to engage in powerful direct action at this
>> tenuous moment in our nation’s history. As I write this, the Alliance to
>> Develop Power is doing just that – paying a surprise visit to the
>> American Bankers Association Convention in Boston. Somewhere Trapp is
>> smiling.
>> Trapp did not want a funeral, but this Friday his family will be having
>> a gathering at the NPA office from 7-9 pm. Any and all are welcome
>> (except bankers).
>> The Trapp family and NPA will be holding a big party in Chicago later
>> this year to celebrate his incredible life and the impact he had on so
>> many. We’ll get details to all of you as they become clear.
>> In solidarity,
>> George
>> National People’s Action

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