By Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Director of Economic Democracy, Ricardo Nuñez
There has been a constant stream of depressing and demoralizing news this summer. A dysfunctional political system, continuing police violence against our black and brown brothers and sisters, and an economic system that continues to exacerbate income inequality. At times like these, we only need to look within our own communities to find hope and renewal. SELC Summer Institute interns teamed up with interns from Project Equity and the Community Economic Justice Clinic at EBCLC to take a day to visit spaces of an economy that redirects wealth and control back to communities; an economy based on solidarity. Below, our summer interns share their reflections on the spaces we visited, spaces where individuals are taking collective action to live out the solidarity economy SELC and our allies are working to build.
Thank you to Design Action Collective, the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, Mandela Food Cooperative, Arizmendi Lakeshore Cooperative, the Addison Court Housing Cooperative and land trust, and Phat Beets for sharing your stories of resilience and solidarity!
"What does it mean to participate in the Solidarity Economy? The tour delivered a diverse set of answers. Participation is an active choice." - Ryan Gladych
"There is a whole world out there, a reality where people are working together to build a new economy. A world where cooperation, human and community development, racial justice and economic justice are the drivers of business instead of capital accumulation. I have had limited exposure to cooperatives before my internship with the Sustainable Economies Law Center, and even that exposure has mostly been theoretical, reading about cooperatives, having a vague understanding of them, but not having ever really interfaced with a coop in my own life." - Adrien Salazar
"Design Action Collective has a great business model. I love that through a collective work environment they stay very true to their mission and make their services as accessible as possible." - Jenna Shelton
"I have been fortunate to be able to travel to other countries and experience their cultures. The value of traveling was encountering familiar landscapes, buildings, and institutions that nonetheless “felt” quite different, such that the physical space and the social practices became disentangled and you see them for what they are. When you come back home the social practices and use of space that formerly felt normal now feels odd and distanced. That is how I felt during the Solidarity Economy Tour." - Jorge Tena
"It was amazing to survey the different ways that Bay Area worker and housing coops are developing self-determination. From Design Action Collective, which produces so much of the movement graphics we see around the country, to Phat Beets, which teaches community farming and control of food systems in the tradition of the Black Panther Party that started in their neighborhood, these coops are all working toward our collective social liberation." - Geoff Gilbert
"Mandela cooperative stood as an example of how a cooperative grocery store should be-- supporting worker-owners while also uplifting the Oakland community." - Jenna Shelton
"The tour really inspired me to think about how I can start a co-op in my own community. Arizmendi Bakery was a great example of how people have the opportunity to diversify their skill sets and thrive in a democratic work environment." - Jenna Shelton
"No matter what work you do, no matter what food you eat, no matter where you live, time in and time out with every choice you make in everyday of your life, you can sustain and build up the Solidarity Economy, or you can tear it down and sustain an economic system which perpetuates oppression, exploitation of people and environment, and racism." - Ryan Gladych
"The relationship between individual coop members to each other and to their communal resource, (whether pizza at Arizmendi Bakery, or graphic designs at Design Active Collective), had a familiar yet different feel. Phat Beets, for example, appears as a park, but where the relationship of the individual to the community is mediated by their communal support of the edible gardens. The organic, trust-based nature of the association is a refreshing and inspiring vision of how to manage communal spaces that feel more rooted to their localities than their conventional counterparts." - Jorge Tena
"Visiting cooperatives like Design Action Collective, Arizmendi Bakery, and the Mandela Marketplace made this new economy real for me. The new economy is not in some distant future, the new economy, the solidarity economy, the just economy exists today. Cooperatives in the Bay Area and everywhere are doing amazing work creating value for workers, fighting for racial justice, and promoting economic development for communities. Seeing cooperatives in action reminds of Arundhati Roy’s words: 'Another world is not only possible, she's on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.'" - Adrien Salazar
"Participation means providing services to movements and organization that inspire and animate your work. Participation means creating sustainable businesses which provide workers a sense of place, purpose, security, and community. Participation means finding solutions to social, political and economic injustice by taking stock of what strengths and resources exist within a suffering community in order to develop solutions that works for everybody. Participation means taking the power back. Participation means continually evaluating one's own actions in the context of solidarity with others. Participation means growing, developing, and sustaining communities rooted in solidarity." - Ryan Gladych
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