Last evening while walking through Mount Pleasant, I stumbled across some authentic community organizing.
I spotted a woman dancing on the corner of East Broadway and Kingsway wearing a sandwich-board-size sign shaped like a giant tooth. It said: "Dental Care Is a Human Right."
The street dancer, Melanie Spence, was attracting attention so that people would approach the corner. Her compatriots in the campaign, Azar Mehrabadi and Jannie Leung, were collecting people's stories about their oral health and lack of access to dental care. They're also getting people to sign petitions.
I even shared my tale of not going to the dentist for many years in my late teens and early to mid-20s because it seemed too expensive.
Spence told me that their "Smile With Dignity" campaign is aimed at having both basic preventive and restorative care covered under medicare.
She said that they launched this after conducting a "community-diagnosis session" in Mount Pleasant. That's when people kept telling them that a lack of dental care was a huge health concern.
"It's an issue that affects not just your oral health, but your physical health," Spence noted. "The reason why we call it our 'Smile With Dignity' campaign is because it also affects your sense of human dignity and belongingness. People who don't have all their teeth or who feel badly about their teeth have told us that they can't get a job, feel embarrassed in a lot of social situations, and, in addition, they can't get the proper nutrition that they need. So it does lead to a lot of other health problems."
This is where the community organizing enters the picture. People who share stories have the option of allowing them to be posted online.
Spence said that members of the alliance want to know the issues well so that "when we do take that message to the government, we know that we have a lot of popular support."
If he were alive today, the great American community organizer, Saul Alinsky, would be impressed.