U.S. diversity push for lawyers, agents to tackle housing crisis

By: Carey L. Biron, Thomson Reuters Foundation News

Excerpt:

Over the next five years, Hernandez and her family went through a period of unstable housing, including nearly three years squatting. Then, last year, the landlord of the multi-unit house they were living in tried to push tenants out.

As Hernandez researched ways to fight back, she found the Radical Real Estate Law School, a new initiative helping people become housing lawyers by having them apprentice with practicing attorneys and eventually take the bar exam, bypassing traditional, expensive law programs.

Started by the nonprofit Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) last year, the initiative aims to create lawyers versed in nontraditional tools such as land trusts and cooperatives to help address the country's affordable housing crisis.

Read full article here.

(Originally published December 14, 2021.)

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Lessons Guiding Legal Support for the Mutual Aid Movement

Mutual Aid Group stick figures

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, people instantly recognized that government aid and charity would be insufficient to support their communities. Within weeks, communities all over the country began organizing, at a scale unseen since the Great Depression, to build mutual aid networks. Many of these groups adopt an explicit lens of racial justice, as they grow in parallel with national uprisings. Transfers of money, food, and favors radically reconfigured the flow of resources in communities and reshaped how households could meet their needs. Now, a year and a half later, how have these groups evolved?

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Farewell tribute: Charlotte Tsui and Yassi Eskandari-Qajar

Charlotte and Yassi farewell tribute

Our colleagues Charlotte and Yassi will be moving on to their next adventures in 2022. Both of them have shaped our organization in countless ways, guiding us with their unique leadership styles and innovative ways of approaching the work. Here are a few ways we appreciate them.

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Lessons Learned from "How to Rematriate the Land" Webinar

Over 100 people attended the webinar we hosted with Sogorea Te’ Land Trust on practical considerations for how to rematriate Lisjan Ohlone land to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. See the full webinar here and the slides here!

Inés Ixierda of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust opened with an overview of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust’s history and vision for rematriation. As Inés shared, rematriation is “not just signing over land,” but a “transformative” process. “It's powerful to see the work people are doing internally...People are making new choices that have generational impacts.”

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Webinar Resources: Intro to Cooperative Governance & Management

Berkeley Coop Governance Management

How do you spread ownership and control across a group of people? On November 9th, 2021, our Director of Economic Democracy, Ricardo Nuñez, sped through a very short introduction to the principles and practices of democratic governance and management for worker cooperatives and worker self-directed nonprofits in this 30 minute teach-in! Below, you'll find the recording and follow up resources that we shared with attendees.

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Oaxxanda: An Afro-Futuristic Vision for East Oakland

By: Mwende Hinojosa, Nonprofit Quarterly

Excerpt:

Tired of ongoing black disenfranchisement and gentrification, this community group came together in the spirit of Black and Brown power. They were made up of members from groups that were already trying to make an impact in Deep East Oakland—Repaired NationsBlack Cultural ZoneThe Deep Grocery Coop, Feed the Village, Sustainable Economies Law Center—as well as unaffiliated community members who were artists, healers, organizers, activists, and entrepreneurs. At the tail end of a second Black out-migration from the Bay, the group felt the name of their collective needed to send a clear message to their families, neighbors, and future collective members: Oaxxanda.

Read full article here.

(Originally published November 11, 2021.)

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October 2021 Newsletter: Did you miss #Coopalooza? Here's all the recordings + resources!

Thank you to all who attended #Coopalooza week last month! We had nearly 300 people participate in our workshops, hosted more than a dozen partners and collaborators in conversations, discussions, and panels, and learned so much from all the great questions you all had throughout the week. And thanks to your support, we made our $20,000 grassroots fundraising goal! We couldn’t do this work without support from people like you. If you’re feeling extra generous, you can still donate here :-)

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#Coopalooza Recap & Resources

LONG LIVE WORKPLACE DEMOCRACY. LONG LIVE WORKER POWER.

#Coopalooza was a week of events held the last week of September 2021, exploring our vision to redistribute wealth and power and dismantle the oppressive dominant economic system by creating more worker controlled enterprises. Nearly 300 people came to our events; we hosted over a dozen partners, collaborators, and panelists; and we grew our imagination as to what a world where work is governed and controlled by workers might look like.

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How community control of housing and land can help solve the housing crisis

By: Jessica Kutz , High Country News

Excerpt:

"One such organization is the Sustainable Economies Law Center, based in Oakland, California. The nonprofit has been around for more than a decade, providing legal tools to worker and housing cooperatives in the region, among other initiatives. 

High Country News recently spoke with Chris Tittle, the center’s director of land and housing justice, and Dorian Payán, co-director of the Radical Real Estate Law School, about their work, and about the possible housing and land futures that can exist under these alternative models."

Read full article here.

(Originally published October 5, 2021.)

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Nonprofit run by homeless people says it was unfairly taxed for trying to build housing

by Natalie Orenstein, The Oaklandside

Our inspiring friends at Homefulness/POOR Magazine have encountered every legal barrier imaginable as they work to build housing for Oakland's unhoused community. The Law Center has partnered with them to address the latest

Read full article here.

(Originally published October 20, 2021.)

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Comprehensive Planning Sucks. These Oaklanders Want to Make It Better.

By: OSCAR PERRY ABELLO, Next City

Excerpt: “We’re trying to hold our ground by not defining the entire process up front or acting like it’s our job to do that,” says Janelle Orsi, staff attorney and co-founder at the Sustainable Economies Law Center, which helped convene the collective starting in May. “What we’re defining instead is a participatory process we’re going to facilitate, giving a lot of examples on how it might play out. We’re treating the budget more like a menu that we could all order off of, as opposed to a budget of exactly what we’re going to do.”

Read full article here.

(Originally published August 24, 2021.)

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Grandmas4Housing: How a Tenant-Led Community Land Trust Came to Be

By: Mwende Hinojosa and Jocelyn Foreman, Nonprofit Quarterly

Excerpt: My mother had just died, and I was being retraumatized by seeing the foreclosure notices. Christine [Hernandez of Sustainable Economies Law Center] was telling me I had more options than cash for keys. But then I realized I had to tell people my situation and be naked. I had to know my rights and stand in my power.

Read full article here.

(Originally published August 18, 2021.)

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August 2021 Newsletter: We must expand the definition of "democracy"

To the vast majority of people, the word “democracy” evokes electoral politics and voting booths. But what about our day to day experience living in a democratic society? Maurice Mitchell sums up the limitations of our current understanding of democracy in this Nonprofit Quarterly article:

“If most of our waking hours are spent in a hierarchical workplace at work, that isn’t democracy. That is the definition of capitalism. And there should be a tension there between a democratic society and capitalism.” - Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party

The tension is at a breaking point: Amazon warehouse worker organizing squashed; worker unionization on a decline; income inequality at an all time high. And still, what we see across popular culture continues to deify billionaires and grind culture

Democratic values must permeate every layer of society because we can’t simply wait for election season to vote our way to liberation. Because bosses control so much of our lives, the most impactful place to start is in the workplace. Worker control and power is a way for people to practice democracy every day.

#Coopaloza Week events

We’re spending the last week of September questioning workplace hierarchies, discussing shared leadership in the workplace, and more! We’re calling it #Coopalooza Week and we hope you’ll join! 

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Our Interdependence Bookshelf

What are some of the invisible forces activating the hearts and minds of staff and interns of Sustainable Economies Law Center? Recently, several staff found simultaneous resonance around the word interdependence, and we planned a month of events to deepen our understanding of interdependence. Below, a few of us share sources of our inspiration: the books that helped us each recognize the truth of our interdependence and live into it more fully.

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July 2021 Newsletter: July is Interdependence Month!

In the opening to her book “Braiding Sweetgrass”, Robin Wall Kimmerer invites us into the mythic Potawatomi story of Sky Woman. She accidentally falls from Sky World towards dark water below, animals witnessing her distress and offering help in whatever way they could. The result of her fall is the co-creation of our world; a place where the interdependence of humans, plants, and animals could flourish.

Recently, Wall Kimmerer revisited this story and offered different perspectives: 

“In one version, she was pushed. In another she was thrown—not from malice but because she was needed for the sacred task and needed ‘help’ in leaving her beloved home for the next...

What does it take to abandon what does not work and take the risks of uncertainty? We’ll need courage; we’ll need each other’s hands to hold…”

Is our society flailing in free fall or actively jumping into the unknown, agents of our own future? Whether or not Sky Woman jumped or fell, her future might have ended terribly if not for the assistance and care the animals gave her in that moment of crisis. We at the Law Center choose to imagine ourselves as courageously jumping towards a future we choose, despite the uncertainty, because we are “Living the uncertainty, together” as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke once said. Part of our intention with Interdependence Month is to bring our interdependence into wider focus so we can live into the uncertainty of the future, with the possibility of co-creating a better one.

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