Jackson, Mississippi is Rising: An Interview with Organizer Kali Akuno on Sustainability, Race, Class and Solidarity Economics
By Dara Cooper, Contributing Editor, Environment, Food, & Sustainability
Contributing Editor’s Note:
“Doing alternative economics was dangerous. Especially in the south, you could get lynched, your stuff could get burned. Why? Because you were being either too uppity by trying to do something on your own or because you were actually challenging the white economic structure and you weren’t supposed to do that.”
–Jessica Gordan Nembhard, PhD via Grit TV
The communities in which I work and live are overwhelmingly engulfed in poverty; hyper criminalization of Black and Brown bodies and, consequently, gross disenfranchisement; a high saturation of unhealthful junk and fried “food” chemicals and a lack of accessible good food options for our families; some of the highest homeless and unemployment rates of all time; and a deficit of community-owned wealth or resources. In other words, the system as we know it is not working for our people.
When those who are exploited, on the margins, or suffering from the heinous violations of basic human rights mentioned above, can find ways to garner collective power and actually create means to control food, housing and opportunities for work, I get excited. When people can create space to think of new ways of being, dreaming, and co-existing with each other and the planet, I get excited. When communities who have been massively disempowered can challenge ourselves and our culture to think deeper about true liberation—about shifting values, reconsidering our consumption habits, and truly thinking about ways to consider the needs of the collective community and sustainability of the planet—I get excited. And that is why I’m excited about the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference. Continue reading →
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What’s a Family?
By Jaime Grant, Contributing Editor, Genders and Sexualities
As recently as a generation ago, conventional wisdom held that LGBTQ people had no family. The story told was this: cast out of our families of origin, social pariahs “incapable” of creating our own families, LGBTQ people led lonely, singular, queer lives.
The truth is that despite powerful obstacles and a modern movement for LGBTQ liberation that is only 50 years old, LGBTQ people have always formed families – working against institutions and attitudes that often prompted their more traditional families to deny them; creating new families out of extended kinship networks of friends, lovers and life-long beloveds; and finally, for some, choosing to parent in creative and multi-faceted ways against myriad social, legal and medical prohibitions.
Once a barely visible “wing” in the LGBTQ movement, the struggle to secure the rights of LGBTQ families has grown into a vibrant part of the larger LGBTQ movement. In 1979, a group of gay fathers came together to form what became the first national LGBTQ parents’ organization; at the same time, the first LGBTQ families programs were emerging at larger city-based community centers. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force founded its families program in the early ‘90s, launching a census education campaign to record same-sex partnerships and creating seminal coalitions with organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Association of Social Workers.
In November of 2008, I had the privilege of organizing a gathering of LGBTQ activists involved in organizing for family policy and services within the LGBTQ movement. Continue reading →
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Freedom through Exile: The Unfolding Stories of Cambodian Son
By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights
Three years after a meeting in the bustling streets of Phnom Phen when the co-founders of Studio Revolt, Masahiro Sugano and Anida Yoeu Ali, first “experienced” Kosal Khiev’s poetry, a documentary about his life is coming to the big screens throughout America – a country Kosal calls home but is barred from returning. Khiev was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after his family had escaped from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. At the age of one he began his new life, resettled in Southern California growing up eating fried chicken and enjoying pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. As a teenager Khiev got involved in street life and when he was 15 years old he was charged with attempted murder and tried and convicted as an adult. Khiev served 16 years in prison, including solitary confinement. Through a prison writing program he found his voice and power, and spoken word poetry became his means of redemption.
After serving his sentence, when he was thirty-two years old, Khiev was released from prison and deported to the Kingdom of Cambodia: a country he had never known. He became one of the thousands of people who, after doing their time, were exiled from America. And this is where the worlds of Studio Revolt and Kosal Khiev came together. Khiev became an artist in residence with Studio Revolt offering his time and talent in return for their mentorship and management in the world of art. Although Sugano identifies as an experimental filmmaker who had never previously considered documentary, he “decided to take on the responsibility to do it.” Continue reading →
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