“We, the people of ONE DC, envision the nation's capital as a place where low income, people of color, and immigrant, communities are organized, educated, and trained to take action to create and preserve racial and economic equity."
ONE DC has a big vision for what is possible in Washington, DC. This vision will not be realized overnight or without struggle. As ONE DC strives to realize vision and live our values, we recognize that the road to transformation is not without twist and turns, and bumps and bruises. We acknowledge these things as part of the fodder for social change, and commit to dealing with them head on.
As with any transformative work, we know people will come along and leave handprints on ONE DC, and then transition to other organizational endeavors. We recognize that we cannot make people stay with us past where their story is complete. We know most people view transition as a negative thing, and see it as weakness. So much of the damage of capitalism and racism in the District tells us relationships are disposable. We reject these notions and strive to be a place where change and growth are embraced, and community is valued. We value the contributions of staff both past and present and members both active and not. All these people are instrumental to our growth, and teach us, as we teach them.
Clearly, no organization is perfect. We know that there are no easy or straight paths on the way to liberation, but at ONE DC we try to live out our values. And we understand that ONE DC exists within an imperfect city. DC’s structural and interconnected forces of racism, capitalism, and patriarchy under-value certain populations, challenge the city’s Black working class, prioritize profit over people, and mistreat Black women leaders. To change that, we have to collectively build power through both an alternative vision and the relationships to carry that vision out. As an organization, we choose time and time again to see the possibilities in people, and help to develop them.
As with any organization, we are shifting and changing; and although some of these growing pains may seem scary, WE INVITE THEM. We know that because of the work we are doing now we will be stronger and bolder to handle all of the changes that come with living in and loving this imperfect city.
Two of our full-time staff, Marybeth Onyeukwu and Jennifer Bryant, are voluntarily leaving ONE DC employment. At ONE DC, we have valued every member or staff person who walked through ONE DC’s doors and gifted us with their time, energy, and passion. Ms. Onyeukwu and Ms. Bryant are no exception to this ONE DC ethic. While we will miss having them employed with us, we know our organization is stronger because of their work and efforts. They have been instrumental to ONE DC’s growth. For their many great deeds at ONE DC, we thank them! Please check our next newsletter for highlights of their contributions and accomplishments.
The People’s Platform Coordinating Committee and our Shared Leadership Team are also going through some leadership shifts, as is common. To both bodies, we thank everyone for their hard work. ONE DC is stronger because of their leadership! Even in the midst of these transitions, former staff and members/volunteers should know that ONE DC is committed to their ongoing growth and development, and looks forward to the ways they stay involved.
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No matter what, our deep love and commitment to low and moderate income people in the District and our commitment to organizing for racial equity and social change remain. We hope our members and supporters will also see the BEAUTY IN OUR GROWTH and accompany us as we give birth to new and exciting possibilities.
ONE DC Shared Leadership Team
Join us for Part 3 of the Collective Courage Wisdom Circle at the Potter's House on Thursday, May 5th from 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm. For the first hour, Jennifer Bryant will interview author Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard. The second hour will be reserved for community dialogue, introspection, and visioning. Below is a link to the Potter's House. We look forward to a lively discussion for the last section of Collective Courage!
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In Collective Courage, ONE DC Shared Leadership Team member Jessica Gordon Nembhard chronicles African American cooperative business ownership and its place in the movements for Black civil rights and economic equality. Not since W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1907 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans has there been a full-length, nationwide study of African American cooperatives. Collective Courage extends that story into the twenty-first century. Many of the players are well known in the history of the African American experience: Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph and the Ladies' Auxiliary to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Jo Baker, George Schuyler and the Young Negroes’ Co-operative League, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panther Party. Adding the cooperative movement to Black history results in a retelling of the African American experience, with an increased understanding of African American collective economic agency and grassroots economic organizing.
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Jessica Gordon Nembhard is Associate Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay College, City University of New York.
Looking for cooperative housing in Northwest DC?
The housing co-op of 1417 N Street NW is currently offering affordable living spaces with a variety of features. By owning a share in this co-op, you can have affordable long-term housing while managing your building.
Centrally located in Logan Circle, amenities include HVAC, remodeled bathrooms, a laundry room, bike storage, and more. Units available include the small studio (225 square feet) and the studio (330 square feet); respectively valued at approximately $950/month and $1,144/month, costs cover maintenance, insurance, water, and payments to the co-op blanket mortgages.
To qualify for the apartment, you must undergo credit and background checks, demonstrate an interest in co-op participation, and have income between the minimum and maximum values. For more information, contact Hernan Sotomarino at 1.202.630.1417 (fluent in both English and Spanish).
Black workers are one of the primary social forces in the Black Liberation Movement in the US. Historically and today, they experience racism on the job, in labor unions, and the most negative effects of ‘neoliberal globalization.’ At several points throughout their history, Black workers have analyzed their own conditions and concluded self-organization was key to gaining power over their own lives. In the tradition of autonomous Black worker organizing, the 2nd annual Black Workers Center (BWC) National Convening met on November 12-14 in Oakland, CA to strategize for Black Workers Power. The theme of the convening was “Black Freedom Dreams.”
The history and current conditions of Black people demonstrate the necessity of spaces like BWCs where Black workers can conduct popular education, organize campaigns, and create Black worker-owned cooperatives. The exploitation of Black workers and the ideological justification to maintain control of their labor is foundational to the US settler colonial project. In a workshop titled “Black Worker Centers Meet Organized Labor” respected labor organizer Bill Fletcher discussed how Black radicals and anti-racist Whites were excluded from the newly formed AFL-CIO in 1955 due to segregation in the labor movement and McCarthyism. Around the same time in 1951, Black workers created the National Negro Labor Council to fight job discrimination, racism in labor unions, and build what we today call Black Workers Power.
BWCs are slowly proving themselves to be spaces where Black workers can organize for power to overcome structural inequalities such as having twice the white unemployment rate, receiving 60% the white income, and Black median wealth 20 times less than that of whites. For example, the inaugural BWC in Los Angeles, in coalition with community groups, organized to win a project labor agreement (PLA) that requires 40% of workers hired onto Metro Construction projects come from ‘disadvantaged areas.’ The convening allowed all of us to compare notes and learn from each other so that we can infuse the concerns of Black workers into the emergent Movement for Black Lives.
Click here to view photos from the Convening.
A few months ago a report and hashtag called #BlackWorkersMatter was created in order to highlight the numerous challenges confronting Black labor in the context of #BlackLivesMatter. At the National Convening, a presentation called “A Glimpse at the Moment” by Bill Fletcher discussed ‘neoliberal globalization’ as one of the fundamental issues impacting Black workers. He described it as “a transformation in the regime of capitalism placing more emphasis on deregulation, privatization, subcontracting, casualization, and anti-unionism. It emphasizes the elimination of trade barriers and the unrestricted flow of capital.” This process comes in the form of relocation of industry away from large concentrations of Black folk or privatization of the public sector. Manufacturing and the public sector were two sectors where Black people traditionally could attain upward mobility.
Furthermore, over 50 years ago, radical Black worker James Boggs identified automation as a major threat to Black working people. This is why Kali Akuno, in an article called “Until We Win,” asserted that in US society the value of Black life is connected to how much profit we produce for the capitalists. In short, in the era of ‘neoliberal globalization,’ Black Lives don’t matter because unlike in the period of chattel slavery or segregation, Black labor produces less profits. The importance of self-organization and advancing our own initiatives could never be greater.
Steven Pitts, the founder of the National BWC project, presented a new National campaign that will be promoted by BWCs across the country called Working While Black. The title is a play on the common refrains ‘driving while Black’ or ‘walking while Black.' Central to the initiative is building coalitions or united fronts on local and national campaigns. The current approach of most US labor unions is business unionism or a narrow focus on gaining better wages or benefits. The initiative rejects this restrictive approach in favor of social justice unionism wherein workers organize around wider human rights issues such as mass incarceration, reproductive justice, and more. Black workers, like all workers, problems extend outside of the workplace and into their communities and day-to-day lives. BWCs have the potential to begin the process of building Black Workers Power in the work place and wider community so that we can confidently say that BlackLivesMatter AND BlackWorkersMatter.
In Shapeshifters, Aimee Meredith Cox explores how young Black women in a Detroit homeless shelter contest stereotypes, critique their status as partial citizens, and negotiate poverty, racism, and gender violence to create and imagine lives for themselves. Based on eight years of fieldwork at the Fresh Start shelter, Cox shows how the shelter's residents—who range in age from fifteen to twenty-two—employ strategic methods she characterizes as choreography to disrupt the social hierarchies and prescriptive narratives that work to marginalize them. With Shapeshifters Cox gives a voice to young Black women who find creative and non-normative solutions to the problems that come with being young, Black, and female in America.
Join ONE DC at the Potter's House on Saturday, November 21 from 2:00 - 4:00 PM for a book event & author talk.
Aimee Meredith Cox is Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Fordham University.
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