An urban area, or a borough, can be perceived as an organism and the communities that constitute it can be considered its active living cells. Depending on their passive or dynamic stances, communities can act as catalysts to the quality and direction of urban development in the area. A very good example lies in Tottenham, which aside from its globally known football / soccer team the Tottenham Hotspur, is also known for the Latin Village. In the borough of Haringey in north London, about half of Tottenham’s 130,000 people are white, and half of those are immigrants from Eastern Europe. A big Latin American community mostly of Colombian ancestry thrives among the very diverse other half.
Informality often makes something beautiful. A rapper freestyling. A jazz musician improvising. A drag queen lip-syncing. Their organic, in-the-moment, uncodified nature is a huge reason they captivate and excite. Street vending is supposed to be the informal version of commerce. In this country, lawmakers and law enforcement have made attempts to codify street vending, and usually it gets pretty ugly, pretty quickly. Maybe this summer in Washington, D.C. will be the start of something different. After years of street vendor-led organizing, earlier this year D.C. Council Members unanimously passed legislation overhauling the District’s street vendor regulations.
On June 29, the air quality in Detroit was among the worst in the world. “Outside it smelled like burnt plastic, almost like trash,” said UAW member Cody Zaremba, who works at a General Motors plant in Lansing, Michigan. He and his co-workers were experiencing coughing, runny noses, watery eyes, and trouble breathing. But GM didn’t even acknowledge the smoke, Zaremba said, much less offer any protection. “Everybody just had to go about it their own way,” he said. “We can all see it and smell it. But what are we going to do about it?” As wildfires, drought, floods, and scorching heat disrupt the supply chain, the logistics industry is starting to worry about the impact of climate change…on profits.
A celebration with guests, volunteers and partners sharing conversation, hugs, love and laughter isn’t what most people associate with programs for unhoused people. But joyous gatherings may be the secret to creating trusted relationships that restore dignity, rekindle optimism and fuel a sense of opportunity for community members experiencing homelessness. Local government agencies years ago recognized the need to bring services for unhoused people together in a central location. One solution in use across the country is periodic Homeless Connect events, like the Los Angeles County series organized by council members.
Smoke from wildfires raging up north in Canada blew down to engulf many major U.S. cities in an apocalyptic glow that left New York City with the worst air quality in the world. For those of us in California, seeing the apocalyptic images from the east coast going viral brought us back to the many times over the last decade that we experienced the same thing — wildfires raging from northern parts of the state like the Camp Fire in Butte County that completely incinerated the town of Paradise, or the fires in southern California, or Sonoma County, or the Santa Cruz Mountains — there’s too many to really keep track of. Here in California, one of the many impacts of wildfires that we know all too well has been the loss of power — of electricity.
Wildfire smoke muddled the New York City skyline on Tuesday. Many people experienced the eerie threat mainly by scrolling through social media. But others experienced it in their bodies. “My eyes were burning,” said UPS package driver Matt Leichenger, who was making deliveries in Brooklyn. “My throat was scratchy. By lunchtime, I was feeling dizzy and nauseous.” Eventually, he got himself a surgical mask, he said, pausing momentarily to cough while we spoke on the phone. “It got a little bit better, but I was still blowing snot.” News stories showed a veil of smoke stretching from Wisconsin to Alabama—but UPS didn’t say anything to its workers.
For all of human history, societies have depended on communal work to sustain themselves into the (often unpredictable) future. However, at a certain point, that all changed. Market forces took over, and communal projects ceased to have the same significance. The individual took precedence over the community, and large public works became the purview of burgeoning states. The classic North American example of such communal work projects is the Amish tradition of barn-raising, wherein the community gathers to help a neighbor erect their barn without remuneration or any expectation of reciprocity because, as we’ll see, these acts of generosity benefited everyone, not just the barn owner.
In front of a mural that reads “Only the people save the people,” Marisel Robles Gutiérrez stood before a group of elderly adults, to make an announcement: the non-profit organization Comedores Sociales had gained ownership of the abandoned property that they occupied in 2017 by negotiating with a real estate investment company. With a slightly cracked voice and smiling, she said: “We rescued this building… we gave it life, and thanks to all these years, to all the people who have participated,” —she interrupted and placed her hands to her chest— “finally, we can announce today that it is ours.”
In this episode, we speak with someone involved with El Comedor, an autonomous mutual aid hub and organizing center in so-called Tijuana, Mexico, which was founded by anarchists and asylum seekers in 2018. From a previous report: El Comedor is currently one of the only places, if not the only place, serving hot meals everyday in Tijuana. Though “the caravan” is out of the news, thousands still pass through Tijuana on their way north hoping to escape violence. During our discussion, we speak about autonomous, mutual aid, and anarchist projects in Tijuana, Mexico as well as the rapidly militarizing borderlands. Under Biden, the US, and by extension, the Mexican and Canadian borders have continued to crack-down on refugees.
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.
Baker Yolfer Pabade arrived at the Hot Bread Kitchen Incubator each day at 4 p.m. He had already worked a nine-hour shift in another bakery, but would work on testing and improving his recipes for another six hours. He was dreaming of launching his own bakery business based on his Colombian-Venezuelan roots and worked this schedule—with no days off—to make it a reality. After three years, he was finally ready to leave his day job and focus on his own business. One month later, in March 2020, all of New York’s food businesses ground to a halt. Yolfer took a week to make a plan of action.
Each time a fire breaks out in Northern California, local activist Quinn Redwoods and their collaborators spring into action. Walking through Oakland, Redwoods distributes masks to as many people as they can. They hand out masks in places where no one else is paying attention, like crowded underpasses where unhoused people have no options to escape the smoke. They’ll even stop UPS drivers to offer them a mask. Redwoods describes the activity as “organically emerging.” It all started back in 2017 during the Tubbs Fire, when it was so smoky in the San Francisco Bay Area it wasn’t safe to be outside.
If you’re one of the people who’s been following the Warrior Met Coal strike over the past 23 months, it’s almost certain that you’ve heard the name Haeden Wright. The 35-year-old mother of two is a teacher, an activist, an elected official, a coal miner’s daughter and a boss’s worst nightmare. She’s a vocal presence on social media, has given countless interviews, and has participated in panels and other public events in an effort to direct attention to the strike. But the first time I met Wright was before all that. It was April 2021 and we were standing in a forest clearing in Alabama’s Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, surrounded by 1,000 striking coal miners and their families.
The U.S. Peace Council (USPC) and the World Peace Council (WPC) have started a joint international fundraising campaign in support of the victims of the recent catastrophic earthquake in Syria, who are facing the consequences of a destructive earthquake without the much needed supplies of food, medicine and shelter as a result of debilitating economic sanctions. The purpose of this fund drive is to raise the necessary funds for the purchase and shipment of medical supplies and equipment to the victims of earthquake in Syria, in direct coordination and cooperation with the Syrian Red Crescent, in accordance with the General License No. 23 of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Authorizing Transactions Related to Earthquake Relief Efforts to Syria.”
Three years ago this month, the City University of New York (CUNY) pivoted to remote operations during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. When the university began to gradually reopen in-person operations after vaccines were widely available, dining services on many campuses — which students rely on for affordable meals — remained closed. At the same time, wages have not kept up with inflation, and budget cuts from the city and the state are gutting many of CUNY’s other services. Not only are affordable campus dining options important, but students and workers are struggling more than ever to afford basic needs.