Ed Whitfield gave the opening keynote address to the New Economy Coalition’s 2014 CommonBound conference.
Ed Whitfield speaks at the Jackson Rising Conference about low-income earners working together, job creation, shared funding, and the resources necessary to sustain the co-operative labor movement. His opening remarks touch on the idea that economic strategies must stay rooted within the community. Therefore, surplus can be shared amongst the people who need it most. Whitfield uses the cathedral metaphor for this idea, believing that building a democratic local economy is much like building a great cathedral – stone by stone.
Our friend and colleague Jessica Gordon Nembhard will publish her new book, “Collective Courage: A History of African-American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice” in May. She spoke to Colorlines.com about this critical, but often overlooked, part of the Civil Rights Movement.
Everyone at the Fund for Democratic Communities joins in remembering Chokwe Lumumba, the Mayor of Jackson Mississippi and longtime activist, civil rights attorney, and visionary leader. Here’s Mayor Lumumba on Democracy Now! in June of last year.
Going out to Metacom’s Chair, which sits overlooking Mouth Hope Bay, the City of Fall River, Massachusetts, and what was once all land that my Pokanoket and Pocasset Wampanoag ancestors inhabited, was a frequent occurrence throughout my childhood. It’s been over 400 years since Metacom, the Sachem of the Pokanoket tribe and also known as King Phillip, sat in that chair to see the land and bay. Over the past 400 years the landscape has shifted drastically, much of it due to the colonization that has taken place, which also impacts the increased shifts in climate change. If one is to sit in that chair today the current view is something like this.
People from across North Carolina are headed to Greensboro this weekend for the ReWeaving NC conference. This event brings together people interested in building a new economy based on solidarity, cooperation, and sustainability.
Several staff of the Fund for Democratic Communities are presenting, along with our friends from PB Greensboro and the Renaissance Community Coop. It will be a great space to think and dream and plan together about the North Carolina we want, and have already begun, to build.
Ed Whitfield spoke on the opening panel of the reRoute conference in Boston a few weeks ago. He used his “water holes and fishin’ poles” metaphor to discuss how the current economic system we operate within is fundamentally designed to prevent communities from developing their own wealth and directing their own future.
Thanks to Eli Feghali of the New Economics Institute for editing this piece out of the longer panel discussion from reRoute.
Many more people are members of cooperatives than you might think. There are energy cooperatives providing electricity to people across the country, there are health care cooperatives providing more affordable insurance, and if you bank at a credit union, you are a member of a cooperative! Credit unions in the United States are created as non-profit organizations “owned” by their members, who generally receive better services and lending rates than traditional banks. There is an effort underway in Congress to end the tax exempt status credit unions enjoy. The Credit Union National Association writes:
The bankers want to use the tax reform process – still going on behind the scene, with bills scheduled to be introduced in September or October – as a means to raise your taxes and tax credit unions out of existence in the process.
The American Banker Association has even launched a website and grassroots campaign asking Congress to tell credit unions, “It’s Time 2 Pay.”
Well, we think the 96 million Americans who rely on their credit union every day pay enough already. We know that a tax on credit unions is just another tax on those same 96 million credit union members.
Find out more about this effort at the Don’t Tax My Credit Union website set up by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Credit unions play an invaluable role in protecting individual and community wealth – particularly in a period of economic instability. These community-based financial institutions are beginning to invest more heavily in small businesses, competing with bigger for-profit banks. Learn more about this from CUNA at their website, here.
Ed Whitfield spoke to the New Economy Coalition’s CommonBound conference on why the old parable about “teaching a man to fish” is a lie.
One thing I do a lot is think about urban planning, place-making, and public space. Something I do just as much is ask questions. So the question I’ve got on my mind as of late is:
“Who is a city for?”
Are cities meant for people? Are they meant for businesses? Are they meant for young people, or old people, or the wealthy, for houseless people, renters, recent immigrants, generational residents, artists, people of specific or varied racial identities, or any of the many different kinds of people?
Here in Greensboro we must ask ourselves this very question. Who is Greensboro made for? Who is it currently being made and envisioned for? Who is Greensboro? Part of the answer is connected to whom we ask this question, and who is allowed to answer.
We are in a critical place in the development of Greensboro’s identity, which will be formed and reformed whether intentionally, haphazardly, or with little consideration for all those it will affect.
Recently in Greensboro the city council voted to impose a curfew on people under the age of 18 when they are in the downtown of the city. This is an example of several things; the shaping of Greensboro’s identity without everyone’s input; of closing off the commons, an already scarce resource in Greensboro; and the permission for police profiling. This curfew answers the question of who this city is for, as it seems to indicate a lack of trust in young people. This is occurring at the same time that young people are championed as the “future”. The curfew is a tool to perpetuate the villainization of and in turn criminalization of youth, specifically black youth, brown youth and working class youth. Holding onto young people in this city is something that Greensboro claims it wants to do. But which young people do we want? Is it only young professionals, middle class folks, and mostly white folks that are valued and invested in, that the city is conceived for?
This curfew also runs the risk of creating a Greensboro brain drain. If young people aren’t allowed to participate in the use of a city, in the creation of a city, then it only makes sense that we’ll feel unwelcome and policed, and keep to certain parts of the city; parts of the city that aren’t being invested in the same way as downtown, lest we forget that the city is not confined to just the downtown. Or we leave the city all together and contribute our creativity, energy, and passion in other places where there is opportunity and where we are welcome and encouraged to create. This will inevitably affect the face of our city.
When thinking about who a city is for, it is critical that we understand that we all have a right to the city, both in its physical space, but also in its creation. So I challenge each of us to go further, to demand of the city, and enact in our daily lives what it would look like to draw young people in, to draw all sorts of people in to the conversation and creation of what we each want the city to look like. We’re all responsible, but as I said everyone has to be allowed to answer these questions, to have their voice heard, instead of being pushed out by such exclusive practices like the curfew. Greensboro, what will we do?