Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

Monthly Archives: April 2015

Fear, Guilt and Love: Reflections on the World Social Forum from a US Veteran

by Maggie Martin, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)

I’ve tried, pretty successfully, to live a life without too much fear. Growing up I didn’t follow the rules of stranger danger. I talked to everyone I met, picked up hitchhikers, went out to unfamiliar places alone, and I’m convinced it has enriched my life. I’ve been lucky; I’ve never had anything bad happen, at least not from someone I was supposed to be afraid of. After all my biggest source of trauma has come in the form of surprise attack from someone I was in a relationship with¾not a stranger lurking behind a bush.

My outgoing and trusting nature even translated to the war zone, where I was regularly reprimanded for trying to make friends with the Iraqis instead of treating them as a threat to our safety. When we were at the market or on our camp “guarding” local Iraqi workers my curiosity and desire for connection always outweighed my sense of fear and danger.

GGJ delegation to the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunisia.

GGJ delegation to the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunisia.

This attribute is so essential to my sense of self that I was really struggling with the nervousness and even fear that I felt while I was preparing to go to Tunis, Tunisia, as a Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) delegate at the 2015 World Social Forum. I was feeling reservations even before the attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, which killed 21 people. When the attacks occurred and then when a few days later ISIS or Daesh claimed responsibility I was feeling near panic, or maybe I just let myself more openly express this fear, which all of a sudden seemed more justified. I felt disappointed in myself and determined to examine if what I was feeling was my own internalized Islamophobia.

I knew since my flight was scheduled to leave within a few days that I had to make a decision about whether I would still attend or not. I was still worried but with the reports from Tunisia that security was under control and that we would have a very high likelihood of complete safety I decided not to let fear win.

I realized in a conversation with a friend that returning to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as a social justice advocate was bringing up a lot of feeling about my other visits to the region as a US soldier. I spent some time alone unpacking and examining those feelings. When I was finally in Tunisia my fear drifted away during the opening march as I joined thousands of strangers, all of us in a roar of excitement that couldn’t be dampened by the pouring rain. Floating in a sea of people from all over the world, speaking many different languages and observing each other, I marveled at the fact that we all had come from different places but had common causes.

My fear hadn’t vanished but it did subside and in the space came a flood of shame. I realized that I felt fear largely because I felt profound guilt. I felt like I was as legitimate of a target as anyone could be. I had been a US soldier; I had occupied Iraq; and our US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had led to the rise of ISIS. I mentally prepared to be called an imposter, a fraud and someone who had participated in great violence. How could I expect to be here searching for new friends?

Maggie at the Palestine March during the World Social Forum

Maggie at the Palestine March during the World Social Forum

The judgment I expected never came. When I nervously introduced myself to a woman from Iran who had searing criticism about the role western imperialism plays her home country, she embraced me as a friend. This was my experience over and over, and my most cherished connections were those I made with women dealing with the effects of war and occupation in Kurdish Iraq and Palestine. The most inviting and accepting of all the people I met must have been the young Tunisians.

I have to say a word about these brilliant and vibrant young people who carry on the revolutionary spirit of Tunisia, and especially the young Tunisian volunteers. They were there in the thousands from Tunis and all over the country and they were absolutely essential to the Forum. These young volunteers were spread across the huge campus at every corner and at every building to help attendees find our way around. Most of the volunteers worked for free in exchange for food and housing for those who came from out of town. It seemed clear about halfway through the Forum that these amazing volunteers had a hard time getting the small benefits they were promised but even when they came together to protest their own working conditions, they were still willing to assist in several languages to help attendees find workshops and event locations. One volunteer-translator turned into an active participant and translator of the Feminist Unite workshop that took place as the other volunteer workers met to plan out their strike.

Tunisians wanted to know how we found their country and to assure us that it is a very safe place. I felt that¾and I believed them. I couldn’t bring myself to apologize for my role in making it less safe because I didn’t know if people would understand my self-centered analysis, or maybe processing my own feelings was not the best use of energy in that space, or maybe I just wanted to remain in the sunshine of their acceptance. I did feel sorry but mostly I felt love and appreciation for the people I met and spoke with and for all the people who had come there together in hope.

I appreciated when another Iranian woman living in France brought up circumstances of oppression and sectarian violence that has led to the rise of extremism in the region. It dawned on me that recognizing the humanity of so-called terrorists is a difficult thing to do. When we talk about the oppression and state sponsored violence against Iraq’s Sunni minority does it mean we justify heinous ISIS attacks? I don’t think so; it’s just recognizing a more full reality. Like when I talked to fellow delegates about the fact that my ex, who had assaulted me, had spent over 20 years in the military, that he had deployed multiple times to dangerous missions, and that he likely suffers from trauma of his own. As my friend said it’s not a justification, it just is.

Being able to share my past experiences and my reflections on what I was feeling during the trip with fellow delegates made the experience more significant. Over the week I had been able to crack myself open and make an inventory and analysis of past and current emotions, I came to rely on the delegates I traveled with and the people I connected with there to help me heal and understand a little bit more about how my experiences shape who I am. I learned that the choice to not live in fear is as important in Tunisia as it is anywhere else, that I am connected to other people around the world in a variety of ways and that I don’t need to let my role as a US soldier stand as the primary way to realize this connection with others. I realized that I can’t change the past, but I’m certain the work that I chose to do to change the future matters.

The LGBT contingent joining GGJ and the World March of Women during the Palestine March in Tunisia.

The LGBT contingent joining GGJ and the World March of Women during the Palestine March in Tunisia.

The Forum ended with a solidarity march for Palestine. The day was gorgeous, the people were beautiful and I was so pleased to march amongst my GGJ delegation, the World March of Women, and an Arab LGBT contingent that found safety and support amongst us. I’m incredibly grateful to have had this experience and I will do it justice by carrying it with me. The struggle continues until all people can live with justice and in dignity and we need to be our full and complete selves to transform our own lives and our society.

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On the Road to #Paris2015: an interview with Mary Lou Malig and Cindy Wiesner

Max Rademacher of Alternatiba led GGJ's "up with the People" chant in French, alongside Cindy in English at Climate Convergence in Tunis.

Max Rademacher of Alternatiba led GGJ’s “up with the People” chant in French, alongside Cindy in English at Climate Convergence in Tunis.

UP with the People! Yeah, Yeah!

And DOWN with Corporate capture! Boom Boom!

Keep Our Fossil Fuels In the Earth! Yeah Yeah!

And Throw Out False Solutions! Boom Boom!

Chanting on that last day of the World Social Forum at the Climate convergence, hundreds packed the lecture hall of the University of Tunis El Manar demanding “System Change, Not Climate Change!” From the mix of activists, intellectuals, organizers and climate change champions, the goal was clear: stop the fossil fuel industry’s corporate control of our planet. Reporting back on the four days of lessons and strategies shared throughout the Climate Space*, paving the “Road to Paris” where COP 21 will happen in Paris on December 12th. As the 21st session of Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international inter-government agreement on climate solutions.

What has played out in the last 20 years, however, are regressive agreements and a convening “meant to protect the climate and commit to take action” says Mary Louise Malig, Campaigns Coordinator and Research Associate of the Global Forest Coalition, “but somehow, beginning with the Kyoto Protocol and all those carbon markets, that [purpose] was lost…to corporate interests and keeping business as usual.”

With such distrust in the system that is heavily dictated by corporate greed and extraction, why would we engage in this International process? What opportunity does this climate negotiation in Paris risk and offer? I got a chance to hear from Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) and Mary Louise Malig to understand what’s at stake, what can we expect, and what we can do both in the Global North and the Global South.

Interviewer: So what’s at stake with COP 21?

Cindy Wiesner, United States (CW): What’s at stake is really the future of humanity and the planet, there has been 20 years of these negotiations between heads of states trying to come to agreements that could actually roll back the impact we are having on the planet.

Mary Lou Malig speaking at the Climate Convergence at the 2015 World Social Forum.

Mary Lou Malig speaking at the Climate Convergence at the 2015 World Social Forum.

Mary Louise, Philippines (ML): At the forefront of climate change, [we are] suffering the very real impacts of climate change because science, evidence and reports all show that the weather is becoming more extreme, oceans are warming and there is more and more drought, more and more extreme typhoons. I think it’s really important that we, especially from the perspective of those who are at the forefront of climate change, that there is real systemic action taken to address climate crisis, to prevent marching into climate chaos. The danger with Paris is that it has the potential to lock us into a deal that will burn the planet.

CW: We’ve also been seeing corporate capture of the climate negotiations; we’ve seen that with the WTO, we’ve seen that with free trade agreements. We’ve seen that in the last few years with more and more influence of corporations into the climate negotiations. You have the World Bank, McDonalds, and Coca Cola, Monsanto talking about…being a part of the “green future” and we need to unmask what that really is: a cooptation of the current moment to make much more profit and to keep controlling issues of land, water and air.

ML: The UNFCCC, if they agree to a bad deal in Paris it’s going to have implications for years and years to come…the current text on the table shows that what they are proposing [are] not real emission cuts, they don’t want to touch the fossil fuel industry, what they want to do is to come up with more false solutions. And there are false solutions: carbon-markets, where they will create offsets, more carbon markets, more systems of cheating Mother Nature basically. And then you have REDD+, which is clearly a way to just sell off as much forest as they can until there are no more forests to sell. There’s a new one which they are proposing which is called climate-smart agriculture, which is basically a way to open a window for carbon markets to enter into agriculture.

Cindy Wiesner during the Climate Space meetings in Tunis.

Cindy Wiesner during the Climate Space meetings in Tunis. photo by Christian Losson of Libération Terre Fr.

CW: We’re seeing a blueprint of this agreement in the United States with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which has no clear commitments to emissions reduction, decentralized way [for] states to decide whether or not and how they want to implement, and no language around environmental justice principles or policies… Obama’s Clean Power plan is putting fracking as an option, nuclear as an option, and we know the devastating impacts in communities and worldwide. Earthquakes where there have never been earthquakes before, and the U.S. taking up water and precious resources and the devastating impacts it’s doing to communities. This is what the U.S. government is going to bring to the climate negotiations on an international level…new forms of advancing capitalism but painting it green.

ML: and then you have the technological fixes…like geo-engineering, which is the manipulation of the atmosphere, like [mimicking volcano eruptions], painting the desert white so it reflects more sun out into the atmosphere, or putting sulfur into the ocean, etc. It’s really crazy if you hear all these different proposals [like] industrial bio-energy, which they are calling “renewable” but is basically burning off forests in order to replace fossil fuels. If they open the door to all these carbon markets and false solutions we’re going to be locked into a decade of no real emission cuts, there going to keep burning fossil fuel, keep digging oil, and the way they are going to “address” it is they are going to offset, [carbon] trade, introduce all these genetically modified organisms, geo-engineering.

CW: So it’s clear, the battle this year is around what vision of humanity and which vision of the planet we want to have, it’s our job as social movements to really articulate that vision of those solutions that are coming from impacted peoples, impacted nations that are coming together to articulate a much more cohesive strategy around what to do…for that different vision and impact from the inside , outside and beyond these negotiations.

I: So what’s next? What can we expect?

CW: Right now there are plans for the Road to Paris that we’ve been mobilizing toward for years, such as a global mobilization that’s been called for May 30th and 31st to raise up our critique of the fossil fuel industry, and there’s a second date of action the week of September 26th to be able to lift up real solutions and alternatives. There have been mobilizations called for in November right before the COP 21 in Paris, and a call for decentralized actions all over the world in the different capitals to come together around sending that clear message to the UNFCCC, followed by an escalation of actions endings on December 12th in Paris.

I: Finally, what do you see as the role of those in the US and the Global North, and what leadership and coordination do we need with the Global South?

ML: We need to fight back, we need to push back, we need to really mobilize from now until Paris and beyond and really push for People’s solutions and People’s alternatives and really be supporting local struggles because it has to be multi-level. We are targeting international policies because that’s an important space and we don’t want to get locked into a bad deal, but we also need to be supporting, equally, all the local struggles that are also going on…because those victories will help us in pushing back these corporate interests.

Led by grassroots communities of color, over 400,000 people filled the streets of New York on Sept 21, 2014 to protest the UN 2014 Climate Summit.  Photographer: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg

Led by grassroots communities of color, over 400,000 people filled the streets of New York on Sept 21, 2014 to protest the UN 2014 Climate Summit. Photographer: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg

CW: From Idle No More to the fast food strikes to the solidarity of non-Black folks with Black Lives Matter movement. In the US we have an incredible reimagining and recapturing of our radical roots. And people are really beginning to think of things with a vision, a vision of an alternative economy a different way of living, a different system other than capitalism, and people really beginning to connect their issues, their day to day issues to something more systematic.

ML: The key thing is to maintain and strengthen the solidarity between all of our movements…[to] strengthen the solidarity and coordination of our struggles so we can support each other North and South, build on each other’s strength, learn from each other’s struggles, and share strategies. * The Climate Space began as a venue at the World Social Forum 2013 in Tunisia to discuss the causes and impacts of climate change as well as the struggles, alternatives and strategies to address climate change.

¡Mujeres Marchando el Mundo va Cambiando! * Women Are Marching, and the World is Changing!

By Jessica Guerrero

Jessica speaking at the 4th International WMW call to Action panel at the 2015 World Social Forum.

Jessica speaking at the 4th International WMW call to Action panel at the 2015 World Social Forum.

I am not accustomed to needing language interpretation or translation in my community, and it brought up a mixed bag of deep things for me to rely on this so heavily in Tunis.  There was something, though, about everyone’s vision for participating in the 2015 World Social Forum (WSF) that spoke beyond words, verbal cadence or body language –we were all there because we believe another world is possible and we consider ourselves to be players in the transition towards otro mundo | another world.  wherever we’re from and whatever language/s we speak, we also consider ourselves participants with a responsibility to people and the planet.

Our goal as GGJ (Grassroots Global Justice Alliance) delegates was to deepen our understanding of how we can better work in solidarity with the tireless efforts of so many resisters, defenders, and community leaders across the world and how we can continue to build connections from our local struggles to efforts of gente | people throughout the world.

GGJ’s participation in the World March of Women (WMW) came out of the last World Social Forum held in Tunisia, in 2013.  This year, our collective relationship with the WMW Coordinating Committee became more specifically strengthened as members of our GGJ U.S. delegation met these fierce mujeres from Brazil, Mozambique, Turkey, South Africa, and more.  We collaborated on the presentation of 2 sessions, “The 4th International Call to Action” and “Feminists Unite”.   Both workshops were offered to packed rooms, thirsting for and anticipating great things.  Mujeres delivered on both occasions…

The 4th International Call to Action session started off with some hitches that were overcome, in my opinion, WMW - logo-cropmerely because there was a collective will in the room to do so.  There were problems with providing interpretation, and yet, there was something at the center of this session that did not need much further explanation…. Marche Mondiale des Femmes | Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres | World March of Women.  The panel seated at the center of the room included women, speaking different languages and communicating a single message-–the time is now for a global movement to unplug from patriarchy and disconnect from capitalism through a feminist movement for all.

A majority of mujeres, and transgender gente, and men allies filled every chair and all corners of the room.  It was loud in there with the clamoring of women on the rise, of mujeres on the move!  the crowd heard from over 5 regions represented so far in the upcoming World March of Women –Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, Middle East. we heard the ways in which each region will participate in the April 24th march and on each of our commitments to continue to build throughout the March 8th – October 17th period of international movement assemblies.  the various proclamations and declarations of solidarity were met with fervor and a thrilling sense of pride and promise.  several times our voices rose into chants with drumbeats of solidarity as we envisioned justice in our communities.

GGJ leads the U.S. participation in the 2015 World March of Women, the 67th chapter to join this epic action.  We are grounded in the slogan, We Will March Until We Are All Free (Seguiremos en marcha hasta que todas seamos libres): Defending the Dignity of Our Bodies, Our Communities, and Mother Earth.  From the belly of the beast, GGJ delegates presented our slogan as a chant in French, Spanish, and English.  You could feel an almost tactile enthusiasm for what is to come from a movement grounded in the solidarity of women throughout the world.  wmw-ggj-together

The session closed with a resounding, “so-so-so…solidarity…avec les femmes…du monde entier!” (solidarity with women worldwide).  I think this chant became the unofficial slogan of the GGJ Delegation at the 2015 World Social Forum.

Our next collaboration between GGJ delegates and World March of Women Coordinating Committee members called for working together to build the workshop, “Feminists Unite”.  This session featured accounts of fierce women-led work building change in various parts of the world.  Our central goals included to make time for presenting workshop participants with the fire of mujeres in global resistance, while making enough time and adequate space for collective analysis, communal processing, and personal relationship building.  As I walked throughout the space and shared reflections later, I believe we met our goals and vision for this session.

Panel-WMW-crop

Feminists Unite, Take Action! panel at the World Social Forum.

We heard from women on the front lines of brutality in various forms.

  • Palestine women defending their land and the dignity of their families and generations of their community
  • Tunisian women organizing to continue building a movement for justice
  • Kurdish women taking up arms to defend themselves and their communities from violent raids by ISIS.
  • Women from Mozambique defending their communities against displacement by mega-developments.
  • S. immigrant communities and people of color in the U.S. surviving and working to end the impacts of extractive economies.

Participants broke into small groups and intensely discussed their perspectives on the 4 areas that the World March of Women elevates:

  • Women & Work, economic autonomy
  • Militarism, War, Peace
  • Nature, the Commons
  • Violence against Women from the State, within the family, etc

Women and workers from the U.S. found deep commonalities with women from Arab countries.  A Palestinian organizer exchanged views with a U.S. veteran of the Iraq war.  A discussion on climate justice met racial and gender-based tensions and clarities.  Mujeres whose communities lay separated by vast bodies of water and land, explored deep connections between their experiences of violence.

We closed this session reporting back on each group’s discussions, sharing complicated analysis based in common understandings.  The room reiterated our vision for and commitment to building a better world together.  At various moments, both of these workshops, alongside the intensities of sharing our stories, provoked ruckus laughter, applause, high fives and hugs among participants, attendees, and even passersby.  From the center of this encanto, of this joy, we were all affirmed of the fact that there is no end to the immense value of interactions between women.

In less than a month, on April 24, 2015, the World March of Women will commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the factory fires that devastated communities of Bangladesh, and cemented a global collective plea for an end to capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy.bangladesh1_AP

At 12pm, on April 24th, actions of defense, fierce resistance and celebration will ripple across the globe, touching communities that recognize the impact of solidarity.  In the United States, many communities will participate differently; collectively we will submit petitions demanding The Children’s Place to pay just compensation to the families of the victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, and to comply with safety regulations in the workplaces of their employees throughout the world.  From the belly of the beast, grassroots communities throughout the U.S. join our sisters and allies in coming together to end capitalism and colonialism, and to dismantle patriarchy, as we march, work, hustle, build, dance, revel and rebel until we are all free!

Defending the Commons

By Claire Flanagan

Claire Flanagan representing the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) as a GGJ delegate at the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunis.

Claire Flanagan representing the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) as a GGJ delegate at the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunis.

Over the past few days, here at the World Social Forum, many of us on the GGJ delegation have been attending and co-organizing events around the World March of Women. The World March of Women is a global, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal network that seeks to reclaim feminism, and fight for dignity and self-determination for women worldwide.

The World March of Women has four areas of focus: War and Militarism; Climate, Nature and The Commons; Violence Against Women; and Women and Work. But I want to explore one in particular–Climate, Nature and The Commons. We hear a lot about climate and nature in our everyday lives, but over the past few days I’ve heard a few people ask what is meant by “the commons.”

The commons often refers to communally held natural resources like land, air, water, forests, and seeds. Though it can also include things like the internet, music, the streets, our homes, and public parks and plazas. Looking at history, we can see that a critical aspect of the formation of capitalism was the division of commonly held resources, specifically land. And the expansion of capitalism, to this day, is accompanied by division of the commons–often through privatization and development projects.

In Europe in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the upper class was struggling to contend with resistance to and the breakdown of feudalism. An essential part of the early development of capitalism was the Enclosure Movement–a set of strategies of the upper class to re-establish control by increasing wealth and land holdings through eviction of peasant communities and coerced selling of what had been communal lands. Cutting communities off from communal land forced peasants from subsistence agriculture and into the gendered wage economy.

Simultaneously, Europeans were using ideas of private property and strategies of division of common lands to justify the seizure of territory, the theft of resources, and the genocide of peoples throughout Africa and the Americas. This particularly affected women, who faced new forms of patriarchy and gender violence under colonialism.

SWOP is in an active campaign to defend water rights against the proposed Santolina development in New Mexico.

SWOP is in an active campaign to defend water rights against the proposed Santolina development in New Mexico.

The destruction of the commons has continued over the past 500 years. In 1994, the North American Free Trade agreement required Mexico to change Article 27 of its’ constitution, eradicating the ejido system–a traditional system of commonly held land and the basis of many rural communities. This was a major factor in the devastation of corn farming in Mexico which forced millions off their lands and into a wage economy full of exploitation, poverty-wages, and unemployment.

Throughout this history, the division of the commons has had particularly devastating impacts on women, who are often excluded from the formal wage economy and whose contributions to the family and community are not seen as real ‘work’ under capitalism. Thus putting women in a position of increased poverty, dependence on men, isolation from other women, and alienation from themselves and nature.

As our communal lands have been forcefully divided and peoples are driven into the capitalist wage economy–it has been put on women to absorb the impacts and sustain our families and our communities. In this subordinate position, women in particular are expected to fill in the gaping holes left by the loss of communal land, and the community that was built around it, with their bodies, their hearts, and their labor.

Today, communities across the world continue the fight to defend the commons, with women at the forefront. In

World March of Women in Mozambique marching against the ProSavana mega-development.

World March of Women in Mozambique marching against the ProSavana mega-development.

New Mexico, GGJ member organization SouthWest Organizing Project is fighting a development project that would leach 20 million gallons of water per day of local water. And in Mozambique, the local World March of Women chapter is engaged with a campaign against a mega-development project called ProSavana which aims to turn 14.5 million hectares of land currently held by communities and small-scale farmers into industrial agriculture for export.

For over 500 years, debates and efforts to defend and expand the commons have been at the heart of our movements for justice, dignity and self-determination. The commons are both a site of struggle and a source of power. The division of community and community held resources has always been a central aspect of the development and expansion of capitalism. Thus the defence and reclamation of the commons must be a central part of the destruction of capitalism and our transition to an economy for people and the planet.

Our Power: Cooperation Jackson

by Adofo Minka

Adofo Minka of Cooperation Jackson facilitating the conversation around Pan Africanism in the 21st Century and giving context to the struggle and priorities of the United States with other Pan Africanist from around the world.

Adofo Minka of Cooperation Jackson facilitating the conversation around Pan Africanism in the 21st Century and giving context to the struggle and priorities of the United States with other Pan Africanist from around the world.

El-Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X) once said that travel helps to broaden one’s scope. I never exactly understood what he meant by that and this is likely attributable to the fact that until now, I had never traveled outside of the United States. Being a part of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance’s (GGJ) delegation to the World Social Forum has changed that reality and has helped me to understand, more than I did before, the importance of international travel and engaging with other people throughout the globe to grasp a better understanding of where the work you do fit into the world picture. Being a part of this delegation has shown me the difference in reading about various struggles globally and having the opportunity to actually meet, talk to, and strategize with various people who are engaged in these struggles. The difference is that you actually get to learn about the nuances, complexities, and challenges that people face in their struggles against various forms of oppression in a way that in many instances reading will not reveal to you.

This experience has helped me to better understand how Cooperation Jackson’s work is situated within the global struggle to eradicate capitalism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and the effect that these systems are having on our planet. Cooperation Jackson is an emerging network of worker-owned cooperatives and other democratically run enterprises based in Jackson, MS. Jackson’s long history of political struggles against white supremacy and capitalist exploitation, along with its’ current demographics and Mississippi’s long standing place at the bottom of the white settler colonial project of the United States make it a pivotal testing ground in the struggle to establish economic democracy. The work being done in Jackson, once it is fully realized, will serve as an important example of how a new economic paradigm premised on the principles of sharing, collective work, and self-determination can be a reality for working class peoples. Also, the fact that 85% of Jackson’s population is made up of people of African descent makes it a critical testing ground for economic strategies that may be applicable in other places throughout the African diaspora and help to challenge the misleadership of the neocolonial servants of capital and white supremacy. For all of the aforementioned reasons, Jackson, MS is a key pilot site for GGJ’s Our Power Campaign and the move toward a just transition.

Kali and Adofo representing Cooperation Jackson at the 2015 World Social Forum march for Palestine in Tunis

Kali and Adofo representing Cooperation Jackson at the 2015 World Social Forum march for Palestine in Tunis

GGJ’s Our Power Campaign focuses on the move away from capitalist exploitation and the extractive economy that is currently threatening our ecological stability, the very existence of various species on the Earth, and the desire of human beings to have basic necessities with out being exploited. One of the key components in making the move toward a just transition is to establish economic democracy where people make decisions around their economic destinies and controlling their labor. This is the central and primary focus of Cooperation Jackson’s work. Three major components of Cooperation Jackson’s work that is directly connected to GGJ’s Our Power Campaign and a just transition are (1) Establishing a network of interconnected and interrelated worker-owned cooperatives that will be an anchor in establishing a solidarity economy in Jackson, MS, (2) Building our Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) that provides affordable, environmentally friendly housing and (3) Making a Jackson a zero waste city by 2025.

 

Economic Democracy and Cooperatives

A part of Cooperation Jackson’s economic strategy is the development of various worker-owned and other democratic run enterprises. We understand the cooperative economic model is not the complete answer to addressing capitalist exploitation that the masses of working class people face in Jackson and in the state of Mississippi. However, we do believe that cooperatives are a key implement in helping to move away from the extractive capitalist economic model that is at the root of exploitation and underdevelopment of communities. This model is a viable alternative to offer to people in a context where most people have yet to begin to think outside of the capitalist box. Currently, Cooperation Jackson is developing three cooperatives: Urban Farming, Recycling and Waste, and Arts and Culture.

Sustainable Communities Initiative

The area that Cooperation Jackson has its base is West Jackson. This is an area that has suffered from urban decay, property crime, and governmental neglect since white flight took hold in the 1980’s. However, the area is strategically located near downtown Jackson and highways 220 and I-20 and has recently been eyed by developers as a place for development and ultimately gentrification. Along with providing affordable, ecologically friendly, and stable housing, the SCI will also play a major role in challenging gentrification and displacement of working class black families that have weathered the storms of living around dilapidated properties, crime, and economic neglect. To establish the SCI, Cooperation Jackson has developed a Community Land Trust (CLT) and begun purchasing vacant houses and lots from the city of Jackson and State of Mississippi. The properties purchased by Cooperation Jackson will be developed into an affordable housing cooperative. This strategy prevent speculators from purchasing the property, developing it, driving the prices up, and therefore making it impossible for black people that have lived in the area for the past 30 years to continue to do so. This strategy is essential in fighting against gentrification and ensuring that a critical mass of black people can remain in West Jackson.

Making Jackson a Zero Waste CityCooperation Jackson logo

Starting a recycling and waste co-op is a part of the strategic plan in making Jackson a zero waste city by 2025. The recycling and waste co-op will look to recycle the paper, aluminum, and plastics of businesses and residents in the Jackson Metropolitan Area as well as collecting organic food waste and yard waste to use for composting for the Freedom Farms Urban Farming Cooperative. An important part of the strategy to make Jackson a zero waste city is broad education around the importance of recycling and composting and the type of benefits doing so provides for the environment.

The ongoing work of Cooperation Jackson makes it a strategic pilot site in GGJ’s Our Power Campaign and the move toward a just transition to challenge the violence and hegemony of capitalism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and the climate crisis.

World Social forum 2015: Women Leading the Way

By Marcia Olivo

I attended the Women’s Assembly at the World Social Forum 2015, being held in Tunis, Tunisia. The assembly

Marcia Olivo representing the Miami Workers Center as a GGJ delegate at the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunis.

Marcia Olivo representing the Miami Workers Center as a GGJ delegate at the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunis.

began with powerful and inspiring speeches of women leaders from different countries. In the auditorium, an audience made of mostly women and some men, celebrating the fact that through our work, strategies and leadership, we have been able to create relevant spaces within the World Social Forum—spaces that are helping us to raise the visibility of the negative impact of capitalist, neoliberal, imperialist, racist and patriarchal policies and practices on our bodies, our families and our communities.

More importantly, we reaffirmed our commitment to create and move agendas to achieve gender equality and to end physical and structural violence against women and girls of all identities. We won’t stop fighting until our demands become the permanent structural changes that allow us to dismantle all mechanisms and practices of oppression that foresee the inclusion and visibility of all the issues that daily impact the dignity, security and safety and integrity of women and girls.

As part of the audience, my heart was beating fast. I was chanting “Yes we can! “Si Se Puede!” My hands were

GGJ Delegates at the opening Women's Assembly of the 2015 World Social Forum

GGJ Delegates at the opening Women’s Assembly of the 2015 World Social Forum

clapping!. At the same time, a miracle happened, my heart and my brain started working together. In unity, both my brain and my heart were internalizing the beautiful reality that women from all over the globe, from Miami to Tunisia, from Mexico to Palestine, from Nigeria to Trinidad are creating changes to dismantle systems of oppressions. Women are creating new and innovative possibilities of transformation by offering a leading way, not the way.

Suddenly something was interrupting such beauty. A group of people, men and women from a region in conflict, aggressively occupied the stage, claiming their right to inclusion and to enhance the visibility of their struggle. Suddenly, the harmony, synchronization and synergy that my body and soul were in, stop without any warning. Silence, sadness, anger and determination occupied my being.

That was the time when I really was able to appreciate and value some somatic techniques. I centered myself and as a result I was able to identify shared values: (1) We are fighting different forms of oppression that are preventing our full participation in all aspects of society. (2) We see the importance of inclusion and to lift up the visibility of issues impacting our lives.  The truth is that our gatherings and our movement will not be without conflict and contradictions.   Part of our work is to develop tools that allow us to meet our challenges with love, compassion, and integrity that will translate into transformation.

Then a question came to my mind: when dismantling all the obstacles that hinder our full participation in a democratic society, and raising visibility and creating inclusion are shared values, then what becomes possible?

From my seat at the auditorium where the Women’s Assembly was taking place, despite all the contradictions, I

GGJ delegates marching with the World March of Women in Tunis.

GGJ delegates marching with the World March of Women in Tunis.

saw and imagined many possibilities: A unified, strong movement, aiming to dismantle all forms of oppression based on love and humanity; an analysis and intersectional framework of social conditions and obstacles that prevent people from living with dignity and respect; a movement that includes all the voices, experiences, gender identities, culture and values ​​of the full demographics of our communities. Crystal clear I imagined a better world with women’s voices, leadership and Influence leading a way to defend the dignity of our bodies, our communities and mother earth.