Through local control and guidance, a project that has been years in the making came to fruition last February in a small, rural town in Uganda. The Tat Sat Community Academy opened to much fanfare one year ago in Uganda’s Kyotera district. The academy includes a secondary school, a savings and credit cooperative organization, and the Institute of Indigenous Cultures and Performing Arts. The community has also built and is operating a maize mill for local farmers as well as a medical facility to serve students and the community at large, which will begin operations this year.
Around a dozen communities across the country have launched campaigns to get rid of their investor-owned electric utilities — the for-profit companies that distribute electricity to three-quarters of U.S. households — and replace them with publicly owned ones. Calling their goal “public power,” advocates argue that existing utilities have saddled customers with high rates and frequent outages, while lobbying to delay rooftop solar and other climate policies. Advocates say local ownership of the power grid would lead to lower electric bills, a quicker transition to renewables, and greater accountability to customers.
Our current wealth-building system is based on individualism and therefore elitism. We’re totally focused on this idea of competition, on “beating” the opponents and gaining leverage against others to “win”. Those who outrun their competitors “lead” the race and therefore become the “leaders”. Society envies those who “made it”, who, through gaining competitive advantage, made a fortune and can now enjoy status, power, and independence points that seem almost unreachable for the ordinary person who feels stuck in the daily rat race. “The dominant narrative around leadership in many areas of the world centers individualism over solidarity.
Minneapolis, Minnesota — It’s been a long road to ownership of the hotly contested Roof Depot site for the residents of the East Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis, and they recently cleared one more hurdle in their way. On November 8, the City of Minneapolis accepted a guarantee from East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) of their contribution of $3.7 million, effectively sealing EPNI’s end of the deal to purchase the Roof Depot from the city and launch next steps toward their vision for the site. The battle over the Roof Depot began nearly eight years ago in the Minneapolis city government as residents and activists fought to stop the city from demolishing the existing building to construct a new water distribution facility.
To many of us, thinking about climate change brings about existential dread, panic, or even climate anxiety. The largest ever U.N. climate change conference of the parties, COP 28, will occur this week — and many of us are hoping against hope that the world’s leaders come up with a solution for us all. Climate change, though, is hyperlocal. So, too, are many of the solutions. And cities are tackling climate change with an inspiring vigor that, alongside global leadership, could help to reduce emissions and foster a healthier planet. Ordinary people have been at the heart of these local movements. Among these solutions are citizens’ assemblies, which bring together a randomly selected group of people in a community to deliberate on a societal challenge and identify policy solutions.
Earlier this year, in January, I had the privilege of spending ten days on the Women In Nicaragua: Power and Protagonism delegation which was organized by the Jubilee House Community – Casa Benjamin Linder and Alliance for Global Justice. This was nothing short of a life changing trip. This opportunity came by way of a sponsorship so I want to encourage you all in donating to allow another person this same opportunity. Because I promise you, I have not been the same since I’ve returned. I’ve often described my trip in January as nothing short of life changing. So when given the chance to return in July leading a BAP delegation to talk about the Zone of Peace campaign [that we] launched in April of this year, I took that opportunity.
When the longtime owner of Hometown Foods in tiny Conrad, Iowa announced in 2019 that he was closing the community’s only grocery store, some residents quickly mobilized to buy the business and keep it open. A few of them pooled their money to buy the building; one bought the fixtures; another bought the store’s inventory. They then approached Andy Havens, who owns two small grocery markets in nearby towns, about managing the store. He agreed to do so – and he is now gradually buying out the initial investors. Like Conrad, a growing number of towns and cities recognize that access to fresh, healthy food is a basic human right – and a civic responsibility.
Police have their sights set on every surveillance camera in every business, on every porch, in all the cities and counties of the country. Grocery store trips, walks down the street, and otherwise minding your own business when outside your home could soon come under the ever-present eye of the government. In a quiet but rapid expansion of law enforcement surveillance, U.S. cities are buying and promoting products from Georgia-based company Fusus in order to access on-demand, live video from public and private camera networks. The company sells police a cloud-based platform for creating real-time crime centers and a streamlined way for officers to interface with their various surveillance streams, including predictive policing, gunshot detection, license plate readers, and drones.
Minneapolis - East Phillips neighborhood activists, including residents of the Little Earth of United Tribes housing complex for Native Americans, snipped the fence barring public access to a city-owned vacant building Tuesday morning and set up more than a dozen tents. But by late evening, police had swarmed the site, clearing the camp, fortifying the fence and arresting at least two of the activists. The activists were protesting plans to raze the former Roof Depot warehouse and build a new Public Works facility for water maintenance staff, their equipment and vehicles that include a new diesel fuel station and roughly 800 parking spaces.
New Orleans, Louisiana - Geoff Coats still remembers how he felt when, in May 2020, all 1,350 bicycles in New Orleans’s popular bike-share program vanished. “It was horrible,” says Coats, who managed the service, called Blue Bikes, for its owner, Uber. “For a lot of people, it was a little bit of PTSD from Hurricane Katrina, when the national chains could have reopened weeks after the storm but stayed away. It felt like, once again, when we’re down, we get kicked.” Blue Bikes, which New Orleans launched in 2017 to reduce emissions and offer reliable transportation to low-income residents, was flourishing before COVID shut down the city.
Chicago, Illinois - 60 people observed the latest meeting of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA), January 26 at Olive Harvey College. The agenda included a proposed policy stopping the Chicago Police Department from creating a new gang database; selecting members for the Non-citizens Advisory Council established by the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance; and setting goals for the Chicago PD, the Police Board, and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. A dozen Police District Council candidates were in attendance. Two, Cherli Montgomery from the 7th District and Eric Russell from the 6th, spoke in the public comments section of the meeting. "This day is historic because someone voted early for District Councils today," Russell exclaimed.
Chicago, IL - The first meeting of the Interim Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) took place on the evening of Thursday September 29 at Malcolm X College. The meeting was attended by almost 200 people, most of who were members or supporters of the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) coalition. The CCPSA introduced itself to the community, set up committees to do its work, and elected Anthony Driver and Oswaldo Gomez as its president and vice president. The public comments were filled with support for the CCPSA and demands that the mayor and city council give the Interim Commission the staff and budget necessary to transform the city’s public safety system.
Last week, Ofelia Fernández, a member of the Buenos Aires legislature, announced on her social media the launch of a Map of the City’s Police, a collaborative webpage whose objective is to highlight, identify, and denounce situations of police violence within the territory of Buenos Aires; consequently allowing citizens to hold local security forces to account. This tool of citizen participation was designed in conjunction with a network of individuals and organizations. Those behind the initiative include Fernández, the representative from Frente Patria Grande alliance of the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, the Center for Legal and Social Studies, the Association Against Institutional Violence, The Shout from the South, and the magazine Crisis, who are all looking to construct novel strategies in the fight for human rights.
Elnora Gavin is a lifelong Benton Harbor resident and currently works as the West Michigan organizer with We the People Michigan. In this interview, she talks about her love for Benton Harbor, the challenges facing ordinary people there, and how they’re fighting to address everything from school closures to a disastrous human-made water crisis, and ultimately create a Benton Harbor where everyone flourishes. Eli Day, a Detroit-based writer and We the People Michigan communications director, interviewed Gavin for Convergence.
For decades, rooftop solar has allowed homeowners to generate their own renewable electricity — reducing their dependence on monopoly utilities and lowering their energy bills. However, solar rooftops are not a viable option for many people. What about those who can’t afford one? What about renters? Plus, only a portion of buildings have roofs that are large enough, facing the right direction, and sunny enough for solar. Community solar picks up where traditional rooftop solar fails. Through community solar, individuals subscribe to a portion of a nearby solar garden and get credits on their energy bill for the electricity it produces. This way, people without the financial means for solar on their rooftops and people who don’t own suitable rooftops can still reap the benefits of renewable energy.