New book honors Austin mom

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A group of veteran Chicago community organizers gathered late last week in a classroom at DePaul University’s downtown campus to pay tribute to a late-neighborhood activist who tried to Occupy Wall Street three decades ago, reported Sun-Times writer Mark Brown

The occasion was a newly published book about Gale Cincotta, the Austin mom with a 10th grade education, who through force of will and clarity of vision helped shape the national debate over — and legislative solutions to — discriminatory bank lending.

But what lent the occasion a sense of immediacy were the echoes of Cincotta’s past crusades in the current Occupy Wall Street movement.

It was Cincotta who tried to lead a grassroots movement called Reclaim America in the early 1980s that railed against big banks and big corporations.

She even took her supporters to demonstrate on Wall Street, as her old associates were reminded in a video of the event. “Wall to Wall on Wall Street,” she called it.

“We are reclaiming America because this is our country,” declared Cincotta, who shared the underlying outrage if not the demographic of today’s Wall Street occupiers.

For Cincotta’s old friends and allies, seeing the Occupy protests has brought mixed feelings, summed up by this woman:

“Here we go again with Occupy Wall Street. Isn’t it exciting? And, oh damn, we haven’t made any progress.”

“The tragedy here is that nothing of consequence has changed because the signs Gale carried could still be used today,” said another.

Brown wrote he sensed frustration, admiration and maybe a touch of envy in the room that the Occupy folks in so short a time have claimed national attention that Reclaim America never could. Not lost on them is that the Occupy movement has mostly been middle class and white as opposed to the poor and minority groups most often involved in their own community organizing efforts.

As professional organizers who have watched a non-professional organizing effort catch fire, a part of them stands back in awe and thinks, “Wow, how did they do that?” while another part says, “They could do so much more if they had our know-how.”

But all agreed that if Cincotta, founder of National People’s Action, were here — she died in 2001— she’d be a supporter.

To read the complete Chicago Sun-Times story, click here.

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