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Community organizing

Participatory Defense Hubs Shift The Power Dynamics In The Carceral System

When Monica Allison’s son was facing charges and awaiting trial incarcerated on Philadelphia’s State Road, she had no idea what to do. She didn’t know what to expect from the legal process — what the steps were and in what order or what she could expect from her son’s defense attorney, to name a few questions. “Being new to the system and trying to navigate it on your own — that’s the reason for the hub,” Allison says. She’s referring to Philly’s Haddington Participatory Defense Hub, one of over 40 hubs across the country that work with folks facing charges and incarceration, as well as their families.

Answering The Call

First, what is strategy, and why does anyone need it? Aren’t social movements all about taking action to create change? Deepak Bhargava and Stephanie Luce, who teach at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, tackle this question head-on. “How do oppressed people, facing far stronger opponents, sometimes win?” The key to an underdog’s success, they argue, is strategy. While long-term planning comes naturally to the wealthy and powerful, strategy is even more important for the dispossessed to achieve their goals. Yet if the stories of the less powerful are rarely told, their strategies are even harder to trace.

Chicago: Grassroots Organizing Wins Decisive Police Accountability Victory

In July of 2021, after decades of grassroots organizing and pressure, the city of Chicago passed the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance. As designated by the ordinance, 66 people were elected to represent 22 police districts in the council elections this year. They were inaugurated on May 2. The new council will oversee the police in Chicago. Clearing the FOG speaks with Frank Chapman, executive director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, about how they built the grassroots power to win the ordinance, what it will do and the police response to it. Chapman said NAARPR was formed after the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark and that Hampton's vision is finally beginning to be realized more than 50 years later.

Organizers Of Bronx Wide Plan Are Building A Movement Behind It

The Bronx, New York City - Even if all goes well, backers of the Bronx Wide Plan may not get everything they want all at once. But starting next year, budget bills at all levels of government will start citing the community-developed plan. Over the next few years, local banks will start funding some of the plan’s sundry proposals or initiatives, demonstrating their compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act. Philanthropic foundations of all sizes will begin making grants and other investments directly in alignment with the plan, and they won’t be shy about seeking credit for doing so. After three years of canvassing, workshopping, community listening and feedback sessions, the Bronx Wide Plan’s Leadership Team gathered a few hundred members in the South Bronx on April 5 to launch a public campaign in support of the plan, which is nearing its final form.

The Buy Nothing Movement Is Restitching Our Social Fabric

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Fresh out of an abusive relationship, Andrea O’Reilly was ready to give her twin boys a new life. But facing a cost of living crisis atop a personal crisis, the prospect of buying the basics they would need — clothes, bottles, bouncers, a changing table, a baby monitor, car seats, strollers and more — was daunting. That’s when the Philadelphia mom decided to try her neighborhood Buy Nothing group, where hundreds of locals gave away and exchanged items for free. “I went to the Buy Nothing [Facebook] page and the compassion and generosity of everyone was amazing,” says O’Reilly, who asked to be quoted under a pseudonym amid a legal battle for custody of her children.

Design Principles For Radically Unorthodox Movement-Building

The networks, organizations, and movements that we generate reflect the quality of our own consciousness in the moment. What does the global state of human consciousness tell us then about the movements that we're capable of building? If you find the answer to that question frightening, you're invited to explore a radically unorthodox approach to movement-building. Welcome to the work of the Community Supported Enlightenment (CSE) network.  The CSE network, like so many change agent groups over time, has discovered the  secret sauce recipe. The answer has been hidden in plain sight for eons.

Set Up A Power Station; Retrofit A Neighbourhood

Newspapers and social media are awash with top tips for cost cutting, but there’s another way of looking at it. What if, instead of putting the pressure on each person, we explored what communities can do together to get through this and be stronger in future crises? After all, the cost of living crisis has complex and systemic causes – it should not be left to individuals to solve it for themselves. Governments need to act, and many are calling for measures from policy-makers to ensure no one goes cold and hungry in one of the wealthiest countries on earth, and to address the root causes of the crises we face, so we are more resilient to future shocks. Warmer this Winter, End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Energy for All and Enough is Enough are among those which have recently sprung up. Meanwhile, we don’t have to sit passively by and wait for solutions to come from above.

Portland 4 The Planet Sow Seeds Of Local Change

Portland, United Kingdom - As one of the recipients of Transition Bounce Forward’s Seed Funding in 2020, Portland 4 the Planet is a beautiful example of what dynamic community action, when combined with little pots of funding, can unlock. Laura started the initiative in March 2019 as “my response to finding out about the climate and ecological emergency and thinking ‘what can we do to help our community try and resolve the situation?’”. Having realised the scale of the challenge, read everything she could, changed her diet, cut out plastic, transitioned to a vegan diet, her focus turned to what her community could do. She lobbied her local council to declare a climate emergency, which they did. However, her interactions with local government made her realise that given the speed at which bureaucracies move, however willing and supportive they might be, it was best to not wait for them and to get started.

Four Takeaways From Rural Resilience Gathering In North West France

When you encounter a rural, farming and food community as the one encountered in Loire-Atlantique, one which to some extent is actively seeking out opportunities to work together and to share, this resonates with an old idea – that of mutual aid. Each of the four main sections above displayed this – community wellbeing, institutional relationships, systemic cooperation, engagement and alliance building. Each can be seen as an iteration of the spirit of mutual aid as a strategy for building solidarity economies. This community and institutional engagement work also chimes with ideas as developed in the English speaking world in Cleveland and Preston (UK). With these models, community wellbeing means institutions are asked to step up to the plate, as it were, and be a reliable, core, not-for-profit hub in the region, helping drive the required transition via local circular economic activity where possible.

Sri Lanka’s Untold Story Of Resilience

Over the past six months, Sri Lanka has been in the news. You have likely read accounts or seen videos of a civil revolution sparked by government corruption and shortages of both food and fuel. Amidst this uprising — involving all religions, ethnicities, and classes of the population with a call for systems change — thousands of protestors stormed and occupied the presidential palace, forcing the president to flee in July. In a world beset by supply chain issues, where the war in Ukraine is one of the multiple factors compromising the world’s food supply, it seems that Sri Lanka is the proverbial “canary in the coal mine.” It’s the first domino to fall, as a worldwide globalized economy based on large-scale, corporate monoculture and shipping food halfway across the planet wobbles toward collapse.

Settlement House As A Time-Tested Model For Community Resilience

How can we best equip our communities as we transition to a new normal? This question is driving resilience researchers and practitioners across the nation to seek out new models that support local adaptation to a variety of crises. Recently, the climate crisis has increased the challenges faced by our communities, making the future even more uncertain and community resilience all the more necessary. Scholar Kristen Magis describes resilience as “the existence, development, and engagement of community resources by community members to thrive in an environment characterized by change, uncertainty, unpredictability, and surprise.” Importantly, resilience is the human ability to recover, and even thrive, after crises. However, communities need a supportive model to respond well to the accelerating environmental challenges.

Revolutionary Organizing: An Interview With Ahjamu Umi

My very first recollection of becoming aware of the need to do something to change this society happened when I was 11 years old. I was on a city bus in San Francisco traveling from school back to my neighborhood.  The bus was extremely crowded.  At one point, four teenage African (Black) young men rapidly boarded the crowded bus.  They were each carrying firearms and I recognized all of them immediately as hell raisers from the neighborhood.  They proceeded to force the riders to empty their wallets, purses, jewelry, etc., into garbage bags.  They didn’t waste any time with me.  They didn’t even look in my direction, or at least that’s what I thought.  When they started to disembark the bus, one of them reached over towards me, slapped me across the face, and yelled towards me “don’t say s - - !”  Then they were gone.  Like the other traumatized passengers, I sat there frozen in fear. 

How Grocery Co-Ops Across New England Thrived Despite The Pandemic

Though a global pandemic and ease of technology has sent millions of grocery shoppers online to order from Instacart and Amazon, the most grassroots and socially connected form of grocery shopping has been surprisingly untouched. In fact, grocery co-ops have grown during the pandemic, with overall sales increasing 10% during 2020, a year full of supply and social disruptions.

Farmers Reject Nicor’s Pipe Dream

Pembroke Township, Illinois - At the end of a maze of dirt roads lies a 40-acre teaching farm called Black Oaks Center, where local residents gathered on a Sunday in November 2021 for a farmland restoration workshop and community gathering. “If you all want to bust wood again, they’re out there,” said Dr. Jifunza Wright-Carter — who runs the center with her husband, Fred Carter — to the newest arrivals. Some joined the group clearing felled trees for off-grid homesteading, while others stayed inside to warm up and chat. In addition to raising food and hosting classes, Black Oaks has become a hub for organizing against a proposed natural gas pipeline some locals say threatens the area’s farming way of life, which is rooted in environmental stewardship.

Abandoned Indianapolis School Reclaimed

Indianapolis, IN – A pastor is leading the charge of reclaiming an abandoned school and creating a community-and-trades center on the east side of Indianapolis. Pastor Denell Howard’s vision of The Evolve Education Center is slowly coming to fruition after years of planning, praying and a community effort to fix the building up. Requiring about a half million dollars to get the lights turned on, the center needs the help of the broader community to generate enough resources together. A volunteer named Stan, who spent months cleaning up the building, gave Unicorn Riot a tour of the reclaimed school in July 2021. We heard from Stan and Pastor Howard about their vision for the center and the work they’ve done up to that point.
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