The birthplace of bluegrass and home to the oldest mountain range east of the Mississippi River, Southern Appalachia is not only fertile soil for the sharing economy, but a co-op-driven movement known as the solidarity economy. Aimed at generating locally rooted wealth and ensuring its equitable distribution, the solidarity economy is fiercely democratic. For Sara Chester, co-executive director and founder of The Industrial Commons (TIC), a 501(c)3 organization that fosters employee ownership, in a solidarity economy “workers are appreciated not just for their labor but their ideas, insights, and innovations. Workers are not just a piece of the business, they are the reason the business exists.” Sometimes referred to as the co-op model, this approach is about creating prosperous and resilient communities by emphasizing worker agency and ownership, environmental sustainability, and the value of place.
Alamance County, North Carolina, is probably best known for its defense of Confederate monuments and backing Republicans in every presidential campaign since Jimmy Carter. But an important grassroots fight for racial and economic justice is currently unfolding there. One of the leaders of that fight is Dreama Caldwell, a Black working mother who, in 2015, faced a $40,000 bail for a crime she didn’t commit—now she is working to organize across racial and class lines to build grassroots power in rural areas that have been abandoned by the major political parties. In the latest installment of his investigative series “Defending Democracy in the 2022 Midterm Elections,” supported by the Solutions Journalism Network, TRNN’s Jaisal Noor speaks with Caldwell about her story and her organizing work with Down Home North Carolina.
Sherri White-Williamson lives about three miles from a pork processing plant in Clinton, North Carolina. On a good day, the air smells fresh, tainted by a minor whiff of rotten egg and sewage. On a bad day, the odor from the plant is so strong, she has to keep her windows closed. The smell wafts into a local elementary school, nearby restaurants, churches, and the county history museum. Those who live and work in the area say they have to keep fans, candles, and air fresheners running at all hours to make the air tolerable. The problem is even worse for people living down the road in rural Sampson County, near large hog farms, where they must endure more potent odors and pollution coming from the lagoons filled with waste, and the systems that spray waste onto fields as fertilizer.
North Carolina - After a number of delays and questionable prosecutorial behavior in their attempts to force a plea-deal because of the weakness of their case, Dedan Waciuri, a resident of Greenville, North Carolina is scheduled to be tried December 7th in the city of Greenville on two charges: “damage to government property” and “inciting a riot.” These charges stem from a protest organized in Greenville on May 31, 2020, in relation to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and police violence directed at members of the Black community in general. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP), a national anti-war and human rights organization believes that the charges against Dedan, a member of BAP’s Coordinating Committee, are a blatant attempt to send a message to the Black communities in Eastern North Carolina that resistance to oppression and the fight for human rights will result in confronting the full weight of the power of the state.
Asheville, NC - Community members, including tenants and precariously housed people, have come together on November 4th to resist an eviction in support of a multi-generational family experiencing forced displacement by Buncombe County. A number of people have occupied the property and have refused to leave until the city and county enact real solutions to the widely experienced housing crisis. Dressed as woodland creatures, the group brought a banner that says “Everyone needs a home”. The family being evicted—a mother, grandmother and two children under 5, who wish to remain unnamed due to fear of finding suitable housing in the future—has been living in their home in the Sweeten Creek area for six years in good standing, with part of their rent covered by the Section 8 program.
Raleigh, NC — Tens of thousands of North Carolina residents convicted of felonies but whose current punishments don’t include prison time can register to vote and cast ballots, a judicial panel declared Monday. Several civil rights groups and ex-offenders who sued legislative leaders and state officials in 2019 argue the current 1973 law is unconstitutional by denying the right vote to people who have completed their active sentences or received no such sentence, such as people on probation. They said the rules disproportionately affect Black residents and originated from an era of white supremacy in the 19th century. In a brief hearing following a trial last week challenging the state’s voting restrictions upon felons, Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell said two judges on the three-judge panel have agreed they would issue a formal order soon allowing more felony offenders to register.
On Sundays, Edith Alas Ortega travels 20 minutes from her home to a farm field in Henderson County, North Carolina, and takes a deep breath. “There’s a mental and physical healing that happens out here,” she said in Spanish. Ortega is one of five members of Tierra Fértil Coop—“fertile ground” in English—an agricultural, worker-owned cooperative for and by Latinx immigrants. The group—three Salvadoran and three Mexican immigrants—meet every week on their one-acre parcel in Hendersonville that provides vegetables for the families involved as well as enough for resale, with a focus on culturally appropriate ingredients for the Latinx market. Ortega marvels at the first strawberries of the season on a recent morning in June—just 40 for now.
Reported from a community where protesting is restricted and violence feels imminent, “Sound of Judgment” provides a rare view into the fight for justice in small-town America.
Graham, North Carolina - Amy Cooper said she and a handful of other activists came together at Court Square in Graham on Wednesday for an event touting tenants' rights while decrying evictions. "A lot of landlords take advantage of people not knowing their rights, so one of the things we want to do is push tenants' rights so people know what they can and can't do as a tenant," Cooper said. Cooper's thoughts echo criticism from housing advocates across the country. Last Wednesday, housing rights advocates held simultaneous nationwide demonstrations in the hopes of sparking a paradigm shift away from the current system of landlords using evictions as a threat against tenants. Many argue housing is a human right and the system should reflect that.
Greensborough, NC - Public accountability for their actions often awaits evildoers who hurt people. For many who spilled onto the streets in a mood of relief, jubilation and celebration at the election news of a soon-to-be outgoing president, a day of reckoning for the nation had come. Only weeks earlier, a Southern city cautiously enacted its overdue moral reckoning with an apology for a massacre. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous proclamation, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” is an applicable lens for these events. On November 3, 1979, in Greensboro, North Carolina, at approximately 11:20 on a bright Saturday morning, nine carloads of Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis drove into the...
Durham, NC - In early September, Jamila Allen led a group of 18 co-workers out the front doors of Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers to protest the lack of safety measures taken by management in dealing with COVID-19. A coworker had tested positive for COVID-19, but the restaurant had refused to pay workers for time to quarantine. The strikers demanded a professional deep cleaning of the store, two weeks paid leave to self-quarantine, and $15 per hour hazard pay. Outside the eatery in West Durham, workers at the national fast-food chain were joined by dozens of supporters from the Fight for $15, the Poor People’s Campaign, and other local groups, who joined in chants of “I believe that we will win” and “Put some respect on my check.”
Demonstrators gathered outside the Executive Mansion on Sunday to demand that Gov. Roy Cooper use his powers of pardon and clemency to protect people who are incarcerated during the pandemic. Members of Decarcerate Now NC, a coalition of organizations which say they’re working to end to mass incarceration, have been holding daily vigils outside the governor’s mansion since Election Day and plan to continue through Jan. 1, when Cooper begins his second term. That’s a total of 58 days. “We stand vigil to bring attention to your Administration’s ongoing failure to prioritize and appropriately protect Black lives — indeed, any lives incarcerated in state prisons — from Covid-19.
Right now, our nation is in a moment of reckoning with our criminal punishment system. We are finally seeing clearly what should have been obvious long ago: The system has its knee on the necks of Black people. In North Carolina, as we begin a long-overdue conversation about the future of police and prisons, we must confront the punishment that sits at the top of that system, condoning all its other cruelties — the death penalty. When citizens have acclimated to the state strapping a person to a gurney and killing them in front of an audience, it becomes harder to shock them.
The UNC-Chapel Hill administration’s communications team finally acknowledged the spread of infection half an hour later and issued a campus alert. The administrators had spent months fighting students, workers, local and state governments, the N.C. Department of Health, virtually every local community group — and the very concept of human dignity — to push forward an in-person reopening. The University of North Carolina, a statewide system of 16 colleges and universities, wields considerable indirect power over the entire higher education sector in the state. This is reflected in the in-person openings underway at nearby private schools Duke University and Elon College. All around North Carolina, workers united are saying, “Safe Jobs Save Lives!”
North Carolina university employees are suing the UNC System, saying working conditions are unsafe as tens of thousands of students return to campuses during the coronavirus pandemic. “Essential workers across UNC System campuses continue to report to work with inadequate protective equipment to ensure their safety,” the UE150, NC Public Service Workers Union said in a statement Monday. Some university employees, including housekeepers and other campus workers, are provided one or two masks per week and many don’t have access to face shields or gowns, according to the union.