intentions of a fellow

last night i landed for the first night of this 18 month process of being a BALLE fellow, continuing my work with the detroit food justice task force.

this opportunity came to me from someone who had been aware of my work and my love of detroit, and saw a connection i didn’t see. BALLE is a network of networks focused on growing ‘local living economies’, encouraging businesses and organizations to deepen and center the value on life, health, place and sustainability in their idea of business success. with this fellowship, i get to work with the task force to build skills around growing a local living food economy in detroit.

i am going on four years of living in detroit, seven years of loving what is and could be in the city. the initial awe and rush has passed, and more and more i see the scale of healing and work really needed. this work needs to be done with intention. here are my intentions as i begin this part of the journey:

to attend to the body. this effort is a way to nourish the living bodies of detroit – the baby bodies, elder bodies, activist bodies, mama bodies, worker bodies, wounded bodies. i intend that we who are constantly made aware of the toxic environment are given nourishment, and to begin that, that i do this work in a way that nourishes me.

to be creative. so much of our work in detroit is defensive, with communities, individuals and land under constant attack. being creative in those conditions can seem impossible, and yet it is precisely the reason why communities have survived in detroit these past few decades. fortunately i work with immensely creative and hardworking people. i will bring back the skills i learn and figure out creative ways to apply that to the brilliance already afoot in the city.

to be undaunted by the idea of citywide success. i dream of 700k people with access to and desire for healthy local food, one block, one neighborhood, one school at a time. i believe it is young people who will make this desirable.

to document everything so this can be a model in practice for other cities, and so other folks in detroit can see what we are attempting and learning.

to reach beyond the choirs. there are choirs everywhere – activist choirs, entrepreneur choirs, worker choirs, artist choirs. i hope this work allows people to see that there are so many pieces of the solution for the city, that we must learn to heal together, work together, have tension with each other, be honest with each other, grow together – that where we can bring together sweat, analysis, vision and justice, we can begin to inhabit a future that is abundant, that serves us all.

to be interconnected. food is a beginning place for me, a thriving place for detroit, and it connects to every other aspect of survival, depends on so many other shifts. i will stay complex.

to be accountable. the task force has done beautiful work of naming assumptions, growing vision, constantly returning to the focus on community rather than organization, movement rather than program. i see myself as a part of that whole in this process, bringing my learnings back to be integrated into the efforts and vision and work of the task force.

wish me luck, and please continue connecting me with folks who share these passions!

webs from my palms

today i had good meetings. this isn’t always the case, although i daresay i enjoy most of the meetings i am in, because i surround myself by effective people who don’t like to waste time or be bogged down in repeat convos and the like.

but today i met with someone on ruckus staff who felt blessed to work here, and was just feeling excited that in this moment when we could be panicking, we’re instead being non-conformist, living our dreams, loving our network and doing more and better work than ever.

then i met with a big thinker and mover of resources, talking about the work of the us social forum and international climate movement and where direct action fits into the bigger picture. was reminding said thinker that especially in times of empty pockets, direct action can be the most effective low-budget people powered strategy. if done with a long-term strategic lens, it can shift local, state, federal policy; and more importantly, advance the cultural understanding of a needed change. ie, making green cool.

then i met with this woman who does cool technology organizing and she was talking so tangibly about the work they are doing, and was excited to hear about our recent organizational shifts and the recent victories we’ve experienced.

it was like walking up a feeling of goodness and alignment with my work. also had that flying feeling i experience watching spiderman movies, like all of these conversations are webs from my palms and i am learning to spin my web towards my destination with more and more accuracy.

i stopped by forest books on 16th near valencia and grabbed Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers, because i want to have more of those ideas within reach of my current brain, and a Le Guin book, and a new-to-me Philip Dick book. the bookstore keeps paper sales ledgers, which just made me feel nostalgia for books, paper, handwriting.

tomorrow i begin the second session of somatics and social justice work. am excited to see the people again, and think more about the big work of healing (the movement, our species, myself).

what’s the new-old?

you know i often hear forrest gump in my head. “i may not be a smart man, but i know what love is.”

this economic moment has been crystallizing that phrase to me. i’ve been thinking a lot about what love is, and what it is not. in the face of the fall of wall street, the fall of our mega-corporate banking systems and the crumbling of the faith of american people in false wealth, it seems imperative to point towards the light, to remind ourselves how to love.

problem is, the actual situation we’re in is so murky to the masses that we feel collectively stupid and angry, and we have contracted our love muscles.

now i have always had a difficult time understanding the american economy, because it all seems made up. for a long time, money had to be associated with gold, a tangible resource that the paper money represented. i would argue that seeds or water should be seen as more valuable than gold (when stranded on a desert planet), but whatever, at least that made some sense. when you spent money to buy something you were literally giving them a certificate for some gold. that was already a delightful bit of imagination, since for most folks you were never gonna see your gold, just believe in it. but we’re a country of faith, aren’t we?

that said, the majority of resources that move now are too intangible to me – promises, ideas, stuff we print and trade and sell. there’s no real gold, seed, or land behind it. people live their lives dreaming of their perfect home – physical and spiritual – where they will have everything they need and be able to take care of their loved ones, where others will know them and think well of them. and it’s literally people’s dreams and perceptions that fund our economy. one peek behind the curtain shows us the fat wizards laughing at us, clicking away on our yellow brick roads. i’ve often felt like the kid on the side pointing out that the empire has no money.

the wizards succeeded in creating something real, and its called a recession. all the charts i have seen show that it could be the longest recession we’ve ever experienced. our dependence on credit and debt makes it hard to feel this yet. we keep stacking up that paper that’s tied to nothing, that debt that accumulates like body fat, easy to gain, hard to lose.

our response to the naughty wizards was a bailout. taxpayers didn’t decide to prioritize AIG bonuses over our retirement funds, our mortgages, our employment and health care, our kids schools; those who allowed the situation to come into being developed a solution that doesn’t actually change anything. but we did turn to corporate restorative solutions to stabilize an irrational system. and this is the question we should be asking ourselves…do we want to restore a system that does not love us? do we want to restore a system that does not value human life and the power of relationship and community? you know my answer is a big hell no. from an action perspective, i think its time for massive public spankings, and guerilla solutions.

there is another way already emerging, i’m thinking of it as the new-old, (a specific economic component of the Great Turning). tons of people my age are out of work, and are turning to each other, cooking with and for each other, turning their roofs into secret gardens. single income homes are becoming multi-generational homes. we have all done this before, every people on the planet have ancestral experience (and many have current experience) of getting by as a community.

this isn’t to say we shouldn’t fight for our monetary resources. wall street has stolen the shoes we saved up our whole lives to buy, they stole them before we got to wear them, and now they are dancing in them, scuffing the soles.

there is a day of action that has come to my attention (thanks Miguel) called Take Back The Economy. there are actions happening all over the country on March 19th – check it out and get involved! there’s another day of action April 11 (thanks Kat!) called a New Way Forward which i am learning more about and will keep you posted. i am looking for folks interested in engaging in this fight!

at the same time as we protest, we must remember there is another way to demonstrate our desire for an alternative. that is, we know a way to be barefoot and happy. and now we have technology to link us together in ever larger networks of skill and shared value, to supplement the knowledge we may not have, to show us what to grow, when, where, how; to teach us about jobs we could do that would feed our families and replenish our home planet. we’ve been right all along that vast inequality leads to no good end, so this is a time to rejoice in the better elements of our humanity, and to understand the thinking of wall street as something akin to gills…a survival mechanism for a world we’ve evolved past. let’s stop trying to run backwards through time – let’s walk on our two feet, with dignity, in community, towards the next phase of history.