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Right to Housing Freedom School Photo Story

 

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Long-time DC residents gathered at Thurgood Marshall Academy on October 5th to tackle the issues of landlord neglect and displacement by force in the District.
 
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Facilitator and Right to Housing Committee member Rosemary Ndubuizu kicks off the Freedom School by introducing attendees to ONE DC and to the issues raised at the Mini-Assembly held in July.
 
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Attendees get to know each other in a buddy exercise. Participants ask each other two questions: “How long have you been in DC?” and “Have you experienced landlord neglect or displacement by force?”
 
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A round of applause after three sets of “buddies” roleplay different scenarios of landlord neglect or displacement by force.
 
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Landlord neglect is not a new phenomenon. Statistics from a 1950 survey of homes in a majority Black SW neighborhood first targeted for “urban renewal” demonstrate how intentional neglect is used to justify displacement of Black families from their homes.
 
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Facilitators break attendees into three groups for an exercise. Each group represents a different neighborhood in D.C.: Kalorama, a mainly white, wealthy neighborhood; Deanwood, a low-income neighborhood composed of mainly Black renters and homeowners; and Brookland, a low-income neighborhood with a mixture of Black renters and Black and white homeowners.
 
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In the exercise, each group drew out the current composition of their neighborhood. Facilitators then played the roles of urban planner, developer, and politician to expose different displacement tactics, and the way capital and the state work together.
 
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Next, the groups envisioned their “Beloved Communities” and developed a strategy to defend them. Each group was encouraged to dream BIG in their shared vision of a truly affordable, accessible neighborhood.
 
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Groups present their visions for their dream neighborhoods, designed by the people for the people.
 
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Groups then developed and presented strategies to protect their neighborhoods. They focused on three areas: outreach, to recruit community members to their movement; political action, to identify decision makers that need to be challenged; and neighborhood defense, to plan community building activities that preserve the practices and values of their neighborhood.
 
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Everyone came together at the end to discuss pluses (what went well) and deltas (what would we change for next time) from the Freedom School. A lot of pluses!
 
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ONE DC Right to Housing Organizer Patrick Gregoire finishes the Freedom School by inviting everyone to join ONE DC’s Right to Housing Committee in preparation for the upcoming People’s Assembly. In the words of Ella Jo Baker: “If you have strong people, you don’t need strong leaders.”

Collective Work & Cooperation

Co-Familia: Bilingual Childcare Development Center
By Silvia Inez Salazar

Organizing and buying our rent-controlled building in 2011 was a huge accomplishment that took 7 years. Our building used to be called the Norwood Apartments and today it is called 1417 N Street NW Co-operative. We converted our 84-unit building into affordable housing and no longer had to worry about being pushed out because of gentrification.

In 2015, we began to think about the need to have stable and dignified work with livable wages and benefits. Many people in our co-operative work two or three jobs in the service sector and they have no potential to be promoted or gain stable employment. We soon realized that a worker owned co-operative was the solution. A group of 16 women from the DMV area and our housing co-operative were interested in launching their own worker owned co-operative business that would provide childcare services in DC.

Although I had experience organizing my building into a co-operative, I did not know how to organize a worker-owned co-op. The support and collaboration provided by ONE DC was instrumental in getting started. Emily Sladek, Bryant Sewell, Tania Guerrero, Katharine Richardson, and Erin Kessler volunteered their time and expertise with the early phases of business planning. Luther Place Memorial Church lent their support and provided a place to meet. Professor Louise A. Howells, Clinical Instructors Jerome Hughes and Eva Seidelman and a team of law students with the UDC School of Law provided expertise with formulating bylaws and governance. The DC Childcare Collective continues to provide childcare during organizing meetings.

We worked collectively to share the basic concepts of a cooperatively owned business and more importantly, we set aside time for the women to transition from seeing themselves as employees and changing into owners of their own business. By 2018, Co-Familia Childcare Co-operative had evolved into a core group of women leaders with a vision of how their business would function. ONE DC interns Citlalli Velasquez and Esmi Huerta worked with the leaders to create visual illustrations of services to be provided. A grant from the Meyer Foundation provided funding for the worker-owners to take childcare development classes at Montgomery College.

In spite of our collective accomplishments, I was not sure about what direction to take or where we were along the co-op development lifecycle. ONE DC provided support to me and Emily Sladek with applying for a training provided by CooperationWorks! at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The training was focused on implementation and providing practical tools and skills for co-op developers. The courses and case studies presented during the training provided perspective on where Co-Familia is towards launching and what steps to follow. Learning the viewpoints of fellow co-op developers helped us understand the challenges we are facing and how common they are. As a result of the training, we can now provide Co-Familia with the support and direction they need to establish their business.

Co-Familia worker-owners are currently taking child development courses at Montgomery College and are scheduled to graduate this coming July. We plan to celebrate and move forward with renting a locale that will house the co-operative.

Dulce Hogar Cleaning Cooperative

Dulce Hogar Cleaning Cooperative, a worker-owned cleaning cooperative, became operational in February of 2019. Dulce Hogar is being supported by ONE DC, Beloved Community Incubator, and Luther Place Memorial Church.The seven worker-owners participated in a year long training process, which included logo and brand development, governance, financial literacy, and cooperative principals. Dulce Hogar has now begun taking on clients across DC and in the immediate Virginia suburbs.
Check them out or request an estimate at dulcehogarcleaning.com


ONE DC Learning Circle
The ONE DC learning circle has started study groups focused on specific types of co-ops.  As Jessica Gordon Nembhard remarks in her seminal book, Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, "[e]very African-American-owned cooperative of the past that I have researched, and almost every contemporary cooperative I have studied, began as the result of a study group or depended on purposive training and orientation of members."  We are taking this guidance, and starting study groups.
 
The Housing Co-Op study group will meet on Wednesday, June 26, from 6:30-8pm at the ONE DC office. At our first meeting, we'll set goals, decide how often we want to meet, etc. Contact Eric Fullilove (eric.fullilove@ri.org) or Gabrielle Newell (gnewell14@gmail.com) if you're interested in being part of this group moving forward. 
 
Kim Lee (klsourceinc@gmail.com) will convene the Health Co-op Study Group! Reach out to her if you want to join in this effort or learn more.
 
The monthly Learning Circle explores the principles and legacies that ONE DC moves forward. The Learning Circle continues to meet on the first Wednesday of every month, from 6-8pm at the Black Workers and Wellness Center. The next session on June 5th (6-8pm at the BWWC) will explore 400 Years of Inequality. Click here to RSVP

Contact Gabrielle Newell (gnewell14@gmail.com) for more information about the Learning Circle or to join the Learning Circle email list

Commemorating Emancipation Day 2019

Tuesday, April 16th marked the 157th anniversary of the day that slavery was legally abolished in D.C., freeing over 3,000 enslaved people living in the District - a crucial turning point in the history of American slavery. 

To commemorate the date, this year ONE DC, in collaboration with We Act Radio, held a Freedom School in Southeast, focusing on elements of D.C. history not taught in our public schools. Residents of all ages participated in lively discussions and educational workshops throughout the day. We were joined by special guests historian Dr. C.R. Gibbs, who spoke on the history of slavery in the District; breathologist Ayo Handy-Kendi, who lead a community meditation session to honor our ancestors and find peace with their memory; and director Mignotae Kebede, who discussed her new documentary "What Happened 2 Chocolate City", which was screened at the event.

Read The Washington Informer coverage here

Participants reflect on issues of education and housing

 

Historian C.R. Gibbs leads a lesson on D.C. history

 

Participants hold small group discussions

Building Our Base

At ONE DC, our vision of community organizing is cooking up! Its hearty base derives from Ella Baker’s approach to organizing. Ella Baker understood that for far too long, those who were directly affected by the issues (poverty, homelessness, racism, displacement) were rarely integrated into their own liberation struggle.

In her praxis as an organizer, Ella Baker practiced participatory democracy. This concept meant that people within movements for social change, those directly affected by the issues, make the decisions related to the campaign or movement; minimize hierarchy within their organization to maximize shared power and equity of voice; and utilize direct action as an effective means to compel decision-makers to implement demands made by the community. ONE DC infuses this concept of organizing and leadership development within our community organizing model as we build our base of long-time DC residents.

Building a base can be chaotic and takes many turns and dips. Organizing and educating the base is exciting, but a slow cooking type of work. Gumbo comes to mind when we realize all the gifts and skills members bring to the organizing dinner table. ONE DC's role is to blend all this talent into a delicious menu of social and political change organizing in DC. Here are some of our ingredients:

1. Leadership Education Action & Power (LEAP)

A people’s vision at ONE DC consists of a membership education program called Leadership Education Action and Power (LEAP). LEAP facilitators use popular education methods to deconstruct the US economy and social issues. Members teach members. With the global understanding of the problems faced by members, members effectively organize their communities and offer comprehensive solutions to decision-makers.

A foundational tenet of ONE DC's vision is that we are organizing for a new system. Because ONE DC is a learning organization, we seek to identify the root causes of injustice and not to simply reform the system. We examine the interconnection of issues like capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, as well as the need for personal and community healing and wellness.

Throwback! Created at a LEAP workshop in 2009

To build power, we must also consistently work to develop our skills as organizers. Over the past several years, our members and staff have participated in the Center for Third World Organizing's (CTWO) Community Action Trainings. Through these trainings, ONE DC members, as well as other local organizers, activists, and tenants studied different types of organizational structures; the power of symbols and framing a narrative to convey a message; campaign frameworks and strategy; and methods of nonviolent action.

GET INVOLVED: The first LEAP session will take place on Saturday, April 27 starting at 11AM. To learn more, contact Claire at ccook@onedconline.org or call 202-232-2915.

2. Grassroots Fundraising

In 2014, the Resource Development Committee of ONE DC began focusing on our grassroots fundraising strategy after attending a session of the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT). We developed a long-term grassroots fundraising strategy with the goal of having a greater percentage of our funding come from our strong base of long-time supporters, so as to be less dependent on foundational support.

Resource Development Committee retreat in 2017

The base of our funding is a combination of small and major donations from individual community members, and grants won through the efforts of our committed grant-writing team made up of members, interns, and staff.  We believe that how an organization approaches fundraising is political, and we strive to create a fundraising structure in line with our principles of shared leadership. Click here to view our 5-year Grassroots Fundraising Strategy Report.

GET INVOLVED: The next workshop in our 2019 Resource Development training series is scheduled to take place Wednesday, April 17 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Black Workers and Wellness Center. To learn more, contact Nawal at nrajeh@onedconline.org or call 202-232-2915.

3. Coalition Building

ONE DC is a homegrown, locally focused organization, but we embody a far-reaching perspective. We continually develop relationships with individuals and organizations who share our mission, vision, and values not only in Washington, D.C., but around the U.S. and the world. Our Black Workers & Wellness Center is D.C. is affiliated with the National Black Worker Center Project, which supports and incubates Black worker centers that build power with Black workers to advance their rights and improve the quality of jobs in key employment sectors. For the last five years, ONE DC members and staff have attended the National Black Workers Center Convening to expand our vision in coordination with other BWCs.

GET INVOLVED: Join the ONE DC Learning Circle on Sunday, April 14 at 3:00 PM for a special discussion with SLT member Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of "Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice" Click here to RSVP

From left: Maurice, Nawal, Kelly, Luci (kneeling) and ba at the 2018 National Black Workers Center Convening


Organizing for Our Right to Housing: July People's Platform

The cost of housing has reached frightening levels in the nation's capital. At our July People's Platform, we emphasized the importance of knowing your tenant rights and how to exercise collective power to protect our communities. Three tenant leaders joined us and shared their ongoing fight and wins to preserve affordable housing where they live. The event was held at the ONE DC Black Workers Center, located in Anacostia, with the goal of identifying more tenant leaders living East of the River who want to organize in their building.

ONE DC members talk about the first steps to forming a tenant association

During the panel, we heard from three tenant-leaders who have been organizing at their property to protect their right to affordable, safe, and decent housing:

The Hodge on 7th

Ms. Deborah Brown is a tenant leader from the Hodge on 7th, a 55 and older building in Shaw. Residents at the Hodge are dealing with poor property management, safety issues, and property management turnover. They are organizing a tenant association and taking steps to have their demands met by the building owners.

Barry Farm

Ms. Paulette Matthews has been living at Barry Farm for almost 22 years and has been fighting, along with other tenants and Empower DC, against the demolition of the public housing property, which would mean the displacement of hundreds of Black families. Barry Farms residents demand redevelopment without displacement and the preservation of truly affordable public housing that meets the needs for large families in Washington, D.C.

Congress Heights

Mr. Robert Green is a resident at Congress Heights, where residents have been organizing against slum conditions for over five years. Recently, they have achieved several major victories! 1) Sanford Capital, the slumlord responsible for creating uninhabitable conditions at the property where Mr. Green lives, has been banned from doing business in the District for the next seven years by Attorney General Karl Racine's office after the CH tenants brought Sanford's shady business practices to light. 2) On Friday, July 13, D.C. Superior Court Judge Mott ordered CityPartners to pay $900,000 in repairs to rehabilitate the property. CityPartners (owned by Geoff Griffis) took control of the property from Sanford Capital in a potentially illegitimate transfer in December 2017, which the tenants and the city continue to fight in court. For more info about the ongoing struggle at Congress Heights, visit JusticeFirst.org.

All of the stories shared by Ms. Brown, Ms. Matthews, and Mr. Green had common themes: the critical need for tenants to organize themselves; the importance of knowing your tenant rights and how to exercise collective power; and that the struggle must go beyond our individual needs toward building tenant solidarity not only in our own building, but across properties, the city, and the world!

The People’s Platform is a movement of low-income and working class DC residents of color and people who share our values and vision. We seek to organize, educate, fight for and win truly affordable housing, sustaining work, and wellness for all in DC. Our monthly People's Platform general body is a space where we work towards our goals by prioritizing political education and leadership development in our work.

Our August People's Platform will commemorate Black August by exploring the intersection of mass incarceration and gentrification. We will meet on August 23 at 6:00 PM at the ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center, located at 2500 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE.


ONE DC featured in "Right to the City" Exhibit at Anacostia Community Museum

By Angie Whitehurst

A Right to the City is a timely exhibition and comes at a pivotal moment for the nation's capital as our neighborhoods experience rapid and profound transformations. Developed under the direction of chief curator Dr. Samir Meghelli, the exhibition highlights the stories of six Washington neighborhoods and the unsung heroes that have shaped them. Using our renowned community documentation methods including recording nearly two hundred new oral histories and cutting-edge museum design, this exhibition transports visitors into moments that made our city's history. A Right to the City gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the evolution of our beloved D.C. and leaves us with important questions about its future. -from Anacostia Community Museum

On Friday, April 20, the Anacostia Community Museum held the opening night of the Right to the City exhibit. The exhibit is awesome because it shows the grassroots, as we the real people, and not just the symbolically famous. Topper Carew's photographs realistically captures the soulful emotions of everyday life, the painful struggles, the unity of standing together under duress, the joy of simple pleasures of just being together, and the inequity of urban designated zip codes called poverty, homelessness, and ethnically contained "ghettos." This is a silent theme left for the visitor to see, hear, and feel throughout the sensitively, beautifully designed exhibit.


My favorite exhibit is the wall with nostalgic flyers and poster from the years before the now 21st Century. It was a walk through memory lane. Flyers from ONE DC events and campaigns mixed with community event and campaign flyers of the late Marion Barry, Hilda Mason, Josephine Butler, and many others. ONE DC's Dominic Moulden is featured in a video speaking on organizing in the Shaw neighborhood. We will be planning a special ONE DC member visit to the exhibit. Stay tuned for more details!


A D.C. Neighborhood’s Transformation From “Chocolate” to “Cappuccino”

By Claire Cook

To longtime residents of Washington, D.C., the findings presented in Derek Hyra’s Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City—that gentrifying neighborhoods’ racial and economic diversity does not translate into integration—is likely not surprising.

As an organizer with Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE DC), a grassroots community organization working for racial and economic equity, and based in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, I’ve witnessed firsthand how a community can be “diverse” in name only.

The Black patrons inside Wanda’s Hair Salon or chatting outside Sammy’s carry-out do not generally have meaningful interactions and relationships with the young white professionals who are lined up around the same block to patronize the Game of Thrones-themed bar. We might all be moving through the same space, but integrated we are not. Hyra’s findings in Cappuccino City present a needed challenge to the neo-liberal rhetoric that has dominated housing policy for the last few decades—that demolishing public and subsidized housing and replacing it with “mixed-income” privatized housing will combat the concentration of poverty through economic and racial integration.

Based on years of ethnographic research, Hyra’s Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City provides an in-depth look at gentrification in the Shaw neighborhood. For those new to either D.C. or to gentrification scholarship, the book should be required reading. The first three chapters lay out the historical and current conditions in D.C. that have contributed to the non-stop growth we see today. He explores the rise and fall of D.C.’s Black political machine, exposing the differences between the District’s Black mayors, their relationships with the Black community, and how they’ve represented (or more often not represented) the working-class community’s interests.

Hyra also presents the complexity of the District’s relationship to the federal government and how our lack of home rule and representation has left us to the whims of interfering members of Congress. Hyra documents the transition of Shaw from a “dark ghetto,” an inner-city, poor Black community marked by disinvestment, to a “gilded ghetto,” a transformed urban space where upscale restaurants, luxury apartment buildings, and trendy bars proliferate through gentrification and decades of pro-development urban policy.

Readers might find Hyra’s concept of “living the wire” controversial. A nod to HBO’s The Wire, a series set in impoverished, high-crime Black neighborhoods in Baltimore, Hyra finds through his interviews and observations that many white newcomers to Shaw were drawn to the neighborhood because of “Black branding” and its notorious past of prostitution, open-air drug markets, and drive-by shootings.

Wait a minute. Is Hyra really saying white people came to Shaw because they wanted to live in a violent neighborhood? No, of course not. But the motivations behind wealthier, whiter people fleeing the stagnant, “soulless” suburbs in a “return to the city” movement cannot be ignored.

Despite devaluing Black lives, white supremacy has always found a way to capitalize on Black culture. It is this attraction to living in a historically Black neighborhood—to “Black cool,” that has drawn residents to Shaw. But although new residents may be consuming Black cool at places like Busboys & Poets, a hip, politically progressive restaurant-cafe on 14th St., for the most part, Hyra finds, newcomers ignore the existence and struggle of their actual poor and working-class Black neighbors.

Click here to continue reading the review on Shelterforce.com


"Forewarned is Forearmed" - In the Face of Displacement, We Must Educate Ourselves

jourgette.JPGReflections from an Interview with Ms. Jourgette Reid-Sillah

"We get very comfortable in our lives, and it sometimes takes a tragedy to wake us up," Ms. Jourgette – a survivor of breast cancer and soon-to-be graduate of the University of DC – explains why she is striving to form a tenants association.  She is not waiting for the tragedy of displacement.

"I need to know what's happening. I want to be prepared. I need my community to be prepared," Ms. Jourgette expressed. In Congress Heights, she has heard rumors that the rent in the new developments is well above the current rates in her neighborhood. What will happen to her neighbors who have lived in her building for over 40 years?

Ms. Jourgette recognizes that the displacement happening at Brookland Manor, at Barry Farms, and in too many communities in DC is spreading to Congress Heights. And in response to this displacement, we must educate ourselves. As her mother used to say, "forewarned is forearmed." That's why Ms. Jourgette became a member of ONE DC: she sees the changes coming and is preparing her community to fight for their homes.

ONE DC stands on the principle that there is power in political education. We must understand the city policies, the laws, and the tools available to us, in order to ensure they work for us. For Ms. Jourgette, forming a tenants association in her apartment building in Congress Heights is an important step towards educating her community and preventing the tragedy of displacement.

In Ms. Jourgette's words: "It’s my duty to at least say that whatever happens, l did not let my community not be aware, and not be ready.”


What Is To Be Done?

By Colin Stragar-Rice

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule.” –Walter Benjamin Theses on the Philosophy of History, Thesis VIII

     Donald Trump is the leader of the free world. In his first week as president he has signed a disheartening number of executive orders: Reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, banning refugees and residents from seven Muslim nations, the authorization of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and banning federal funds to international groups that perform abortions or lobby to legalize or promote abortions.[1] The left, galvanized by an unmistakably white supremacist regime, have overwhelmingly refused the Trump administration’s sovereignty. There have been marches, mass protests, and, in a few instances, the destruction of corporate property.

     However, there are two broad tendencies on the left that, if unresolved, threaten to stifle the revolutionary potential of the moment. One desires a world free from the systems of oppression that constitute the American political system. The other merely wants to return to a less tumultuous time. It is this second tendency that refuses to acknowledge the violent core of American politics. They refuse to acknowledge the rising tide of fascism beyond the figure of Donald Trump.
     
     Leon Trotsky, in opposition to the Stalinists and their theory of ‘social fascism’, insisted on fascism’s specific political role: “The historical function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties.”[2] Trotsky’s analysis, however, situates fascism within an economic crisis rather than a general function of State repression. It is precisely during a crisis that the democratic process breaks down and capitalism is at its most vulnerable. Here the material conditions of the masses are a breeding ground for malcontent but also a germinating class-consciousness. In response, capitalism organizes fascist cells to dismantle anti-capitalist resistance. Thus, fascism appears during periods of “deep social crisis” by default.[3]
     
     Today, economic crises are bound to the material conditions of the middle class. The financial crisis of 2008 devastated the wealth of middle class Americans (albeit disproportionately amongst African Americans).[4] Now, income inequality has widened to such a degree that the middle class “may no longer be the economic majority in the U.S.”[5] Of those who voted, Trump won the majority of both white college graduates and white non-college graduates.[6] Other demographics reveal that Trump’s largest support came from those with salaries ranging from $50,000 – $99,000 as well as those living in the suburbs, small cities, and rural areas.[7] If fascism is capitalism in decay then it is also as much a crisis of whiteness. Yet everyone knows that Hilary Clinton won the popular vote (despite voter turnout plummeting to a 20-year low).[8] The issue is that the Electoral College, by its very nature, tends towards reifying white supremacy.
     
     We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Alt-right aligning their movement with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign or the significance of Trump naming Stephen K. Bannon, former executive chair of Breitbart News, as his chief strategist and senior counselor. However, it’s a mystification to claim that Trump’s election is normalizing white supremacy. The truth is it was here long before January 20th. The Clinton administration built the carceral state; Barack Obama expanded George W. Bush’s clandestine drone war while also authorizing over 2.4 million deportations as President.[9] Trump’s policies and appointees are intensifications, not aberrations, of American politics.
     
     The ‘Great American Experiment’ has always been an experiment of white supremacy. Our nation grew by enslaving generations while thieving untold wealth from their labor. Modern medicine owes its status as a science to the ghastly tampering of black bodies.[10] We recoil in horror at the eugenics programs of the 19th and 20th centuries yet most forget that America forcibly sterilized Black and Indian women up through the 1970s.[11] Still, we risk erasing the struggles of marginalized people when we merely equate fascism with white supremacy. Trotsky’s analysis, as it was made from his historical position, fails only insofar as we maintain that fascism manifests during a period of crisis rather than as a phase in a larger coherent system of violence and oppression.
     
     From within San Quentin State Prison, George Jackson argued that fascism’s most advanced form was here in America.[12] For George, fascism went through three phases: 1) Out of power 2) In power but not secure 3) In power and securely so.[13] With each phase come varying modes of political violence from Mussolini’s Black Shirts to America’s expansive policing and prison apparatuses. However, binding the fascist mode of violence is its intolerance of any “valid revolutionary activity.”[14] In the late 60s, the FBI used COIINTELPRO to wage war against the Black Panther Party. Today, the State mobilized the National Guard and local police precincts to brutally repress water protectors in North Dakota. What we are beginning to experience is fascism’s shift from the exterior of the American political system to engaging the entire social body.
     
     So what is to be done? It is not enough to only engage in critique or to be anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-racist, or anti-Trump. Negative concepts have never been strong enough to hold together revolutionary movements. The general strike, mass protest, and other forms of direct action are all useful tactics for waging revolution. However, their use is secondary to the community and values that drive them. We must refuse the call for a return to American politics and the white subjectivity it privileges. We cannot content ourselves with only pushing fascism back underground, back to only policing low-income communities, back to only terrorizing our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and beyond. We must begin to practice a politics of solidarity, inclusion, and radical egalitarianism. We must center the struggles of marginalized people and listen to their voices. We must prioritize political education. We must build alternative institutions. We must remember, “The essence of politics is dissensus.”[15] Our enemies will try to convince us that “we are insufficient, scarce, waiting in pockets of resistance, in stairwells, in alleys, in vain” but the demonstrations this past week have proven the contrary: “We’re already here, moving.”[16]

[2] https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm See: The Collapse of the Bourgeois Democracy.

[3] https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm See: The Fascist Danger Looms in Germany.

[11] See Reproductive Rights from Angela Davis’s Women, Race, & Class.

[12] Jackson, George. Blood in My Eye. New York: Random House, 1972. Print.

[13] Blood in My Eye. Page 123.

[14] Blood in My Eye. Page 118.

[15] Ranciere, Jacques, and Steve Corcoran. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. London: Continuum, 2010. Page 38. Print.

[16] Harney, Stefano, and Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Wivenhoe: Minor Compositions, 2013. Page 19. Print.


Learning from the Past to Promote Our Future

Wisdom Circle: Collective Courage

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 21, a dozen ONE DC, Cooperation DC, and Black Workers Center members and organizers gathered to discuss Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, written by ONE DC and Shared Leadership Team member Jessica Gordon Nembhard.

The group discussion, centered around Part I of Collective Courage, highlighted inspiring examples of cooperative groups working toward collective ownership. These examples demonstrate the resiliency of Black communities to build together in the face of extreme prejudice and threats to undermine that collective strength. The group discussion emphasized the importance of political organizing and action in building economic power.

Multiple groups highlighted in the book experienced active attempts to derail or discredit them, and therefore encountered higher incidences of failure than white ventures. The Wisdom Circle posited that without political or legal backing, economic development initiatives today would also encounter similar roadblocks. However, the Wisdom Circle also discussed that by building economic power for ourselves, we might free resources and time to be able to contribute more substantially to critical political efforts to change the structures that create macro-level inequality. There was hope expressed that ONE DC and the Wisdom Circle itself will continue to foster an environment that links politics and economics in critical ways to build Black economic power and dismantle inequitable economic structures.

Overall, through learning examples of cooperative strength, we can both motivate ourselves to strive for success while applying the principles of what works best to achieve longevity in collective economic power. As education is a core element of this cooperative strength, learning of past collective efforts will help us develop better cooperative projects moving forward.

To buy your own copy of Collective Courage, email organizer@onedconline.org. Sliding scale $25- $40. Proceeds go directly to fund the organizing work of ONE DC.

The Wisdom Circle will meet again for Part II of Collective Courage on Sunday, April 3, 2016.

For more on Collective Courage, Jessica Gordon Nembhard's interview with Laura Flanders can be found here