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Our Common Wealth

Our Common Wealth: Fall 2020 Edition

Wave art by Sarah Jacqz!

 a newsletter by and for the solidarity economy in Massachusetts and beyond, brought to you by:
The Center for Economic Democracy (CED)
Massachusetts Solidarity Economy Network (MASEN)
and the Coalition for Worker Ownership and Power (CoWOP)

Questions, comments, or resources to share? Write to us at 
ourcommonwealthnews@gmail.com


Letter from the Editors

Edition #2
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Dear friends,

Since we wrote to you last, almost six months ago, the crises we face have intensified. We find ourselves in a time of world-ending suffering and world-making possibility. Racial capitalism, ecological crisis, indigenous dispossession, and the oppressive nature of the state are being discussed and debated in mainstream media. In this moment of reckoning, we must move beyond a politics that seeks a return to an imagined kinder, gentler capitalism. Business as usual is what has brought us here, and we cannot go back.

Across Massachusetts, our movement for other economies and other ways of being has been gaining traction in rural, urban and suburban areas of the state. Amidst widespread precarity, police violence, homelessness, and dream-killing debt-loads, initiatives continue to emerge that put people and planet over profit: community controlled economiesdecommodified land and housingcooperatives of all kinds, and forms of exchange that center community and care.  This moment calls for our movement to keep fighting and building solidarity economies, led by front-line communities, who have long survived and thrived through mutual aid and deep relationality.

We note that we are still growing our capacity to publish a fully bilingual newsletter, one that goes beyond English/Spanish translation and captures the wide range of culture, knowledge and experiences within our solidarity economy ecosystem. We aren’t there yet, but are grateful to be working with folks who are guiding us there.

Questions, comments, or resources to share? Write to us at 
ourcommonwealthnews@gmail.com


Amethyst Carey and Boone Shear
on behalf of the Our Common Wealth editorial board


Table of Contents

  1. Statewide Network Updates from MA Solidarity Economy Network (MASEN) and Coalition for Worker Ownership and Power (CoWOP)
  2. Sneak Peak! Illustrations on the centrality of prison abolition in our efforts to build just worlds, by Sarah Jacqz
  3. Readers’ Poll: What does mutual aid mean to you?
  4. Snapshots: Western Mass’s Worker Cooperatives During the Pandemic, by Emily Kawano
  5. Interviews in Solidarity with leaders from the River Valley Co-op and Springfield Community Land Trust
  6. A conversation with Cooperation Jackson’s Kali Akuno on how mutual aid practices might offer a path towards revolutionary transformation
  7. Upcoming Events and Trainings
  8. Wisdom on the Web 
  9. Books We’re Reading

Statewide Network Updates

Massachusetts Solidarity Economy Network (MASEN) is rolling! 

We have active groups of volunteers working on mapping solidarity economy around the state, policy, convenings and long term vision for the network. Our interview outreach is allowing us to connect with potential solidarity economy businesses, initiatives, organizations and communities and to build relationships on an individual level, while continuing to learn about the movement landscape within the Commonwealth.

A recent win was getting all five of the US Solidarity Economy Network’s policy priority areas into the Green New England Deal policy platform, and getting positive responses from the Markey and Kennedy campaigns for US Senate. The five key solidarity economy initiatives outlined are:

1) worker-owned cooperatives
2) public banking
3) participatory budgeting
4) community land trusts, and
5) community-owned, local energy production/distribution. 

Stay tuned for a series of upcoming online convenings and the launch of our website! Please reach out to Hendrix Berry (hendrix.berry@gmail.com) if you’re interested in joining a volunteer working group.

Coalition for Worker Ownership & Power (CoWOP) will share an update in our next edition of the newsletter. Stay tuned! Exciting things are brewing!


Narrative Illustration, SNEAK PEAK!

by Sarah Jacqz

What are connections between abolition and solidarity economy?  
(Part 1 of 3)

These images offer a sneak peak of a narrative illustration exploring the possibilities abolition and solidarity economy offer for dismantling systems of harm and creating new worlds now. Featuring wisdom from abolition and solidarity economy scholar-practitioners like Angela Davis, Charlene Carruthers and USSEN members Emily Kawano and Julie Matthei, the full illustration will come out this Fall!


Readers’ Poll: What is Mutual Aid?

Send us stories, articles, movies, and/or experiences that have shaped your perspective. We’ll publish a selection of your responses in our next edition.
1. What does mutual aid mean to you and your people?

2. How is mutual aid different from charity?

3. What’s the difference between mutual aid and solidarity economy?

4. What needs to happen for mutual aid to be more than a temporary response to a crisis, but a long-term part of infrastructure and movement-building? Do you see this happening already? Reply to this email or send responses to ourcommonwealthnews@gmail.com
We look forward to hearing from you!


Snapshots: Western MA’s 
Worker Co-ops During the Pandemic 

By Emily Kawano, co-director Wellspring Cooperative

Images of Real Pickles ingredients and products, worker cooperative based in Greenfield

The pandemic has hit small businesses hard. A MassInc survey of 1,869 small businesses found that 52 percent are partially closed and 13 percent are completely closed. Of businesses with revenues less than $24,000, 26 percent were closed. Meanwhile, 46 percent laid off or furloughed workers, and those with more than 5 workers on average shed 60 percent of their workers.

Worker cooperatives are facing the same challenges. How are they faring and how have they responded to this crisis?  

These stories from four co-ops in western Massachusetts — Real Pickles in Greenfield, MA; Wellspring Upholstery Cooperative and Wellspring Harvest in Springfield, MA; and GreenLove Ecocleaning, in Pioneer Valley — illustrate not only the hardships experienced by many small businesses, but also the ways in which the co-ops have prioritized the welfare of the workers, their customers and their communities.

Read the full story here.


What are connections between abolition and solidarity economy
(Part 2 of 3) Illustrations by Sarah Jacqz

Interviews in Solidarity 

This issue of the newsletter begins our regular feature Interviews in Solidarity, where we talk to solidarity economy businesses and organizations across the state of Massachusetts about their efforts, challenges, and aspirations.

To be featured in future editions, write to us at ourcommonwealthnews@gmail.com

Interview with Dorian Gregory and Rochelle Prunty of the River Valley Coop

by Jess Slattery and Allyson Brauns

Q: What are some of the benefits of having a co-op model?

Rochelle Prunty:  In the current system, the food system that we have, the giant corporations control nearly everything — they control the land, they control the production, they control the grocery store chains. It is the manufacturers that decide what gets put on the grocery store shelves, the stores sell shelf space to the manufacturers for them to sell what they want to the customers. This food system is like a big machine that sucks the money out of our communities and into big oil, chemical, and agriculture corporations which basically use our grocery dollars to fund destroying the land and the environment with chemical use, monoculture, and oil extraction to produce and sell us food that mostly isn’t even very healthy for us and uses exploitive labor practices for food production.

This system of huge corporations producing relatively inexpensive food for us has huge costs to the health of our planet and people. When we own a grocery store, together, with our community for the purpose of serving our community, we can divert some of that funding that’s going into that big food system that is doing all these bad things — into our own community to support our local farmers and support our community. Retail co-op grocery stores offer a way to break the chain of all our food dollars flowing into the corporate food system.

Read the full interview here.

Interview with Zaida Govan of the Springfield Community Land Trust

by Nellie Marshall-Torres

Q: How do you see your work fitting into a larger vision or movement for social transformation?

Zaida Govan: Social justice has so many arms to it. We have so many different systems that are affecting our population. The housing system, the financial system, the health system– all of that has to be worked on. No one person can do everything. So I think the land trust is one piece of the larger piece of the social justice movement that is going on in our country right now. And as we know, as history has taught us, racism is ingrained in all of that, so it’s at the root. So anytime that we can address an issue in an anti-racist way, that will be able to impact hopefully all of the other stuff going on.

Read the full interview here.


From Mutual Aid to Revolutionary Transformation

A conversation with Kali Akuno 

The following is a short excerpt of an interview Conjunctural Politics, Cultural, Struggle, and Solidarity Economy with Kali Akuno. Kali is a cofounder and codirector of Cooperation Jackson, a revolutionary project that is building a solidarity economy in Jackson, Mississippi. He is co-editor of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, MS. 
Boone Shear: …it’s pretty clear that liberals and progressives are winning the cultural struggle over the Left, for the moment. At the same time, it is still pretty remarkable how public discourse has changed in the past few weeks with systemic racism, racial capitalism, abolition, and even defunding the police—these are all new narratives and discourses to struggle over in the broad public arena. And then things like mutual-aid relationships and projects have exploded, some movements have become quite militant, acts of solidarity large and small are widespread. How might the Left engage in a struggle that doesn’t just create progressive reforms that shore up liberalism and white supremacy but that begins to work towards and assemble other ways of being in the world?

Kali Akuno: I think that there is a path already in the present, I really do. I’ve been trying to look at what already exists, particularly since COVID-19, in the level of mutual-aid response. We haven’t seen that since the Great Depression. It’s gotten hardly any attention, and it’s a remarkable development. To me it’s demonstrated that there is still something left of a deeper humanity in this empire, a humanity that neoliberalism as a cultural project has tried to do away with—this is actually the most successful dimension of the neoliberal project, but it hasn’t broken that down completely. That’s a deeply encouraging sign. And I think in some respects, mutual aid and care really are the bedrock on which we need to be thinking about how we construct the alternatives….

If we’re able to politicize this and then organize it to reach 40 or 50 or 60 million people, if we do that, we can take the best practices of the Unemployed Councils work, and, you know, there are people out there talking about a Poor People’s Army. And if we can do that, we have it. Like, we could objectively have it, and have it working in such a way that it is building the alternative outside of the state, outside the established capitalist market. And then it might be able to build enough strength to make a real go at it, a real challenge to not just make demands on the state, which are set up in a way in which we’re asking the businesses and the managers to implement some things on our behalf, but are really chipping away and building direct governance and control.

We have that ability to get us there.

Read the full interview here.

Events and Trainings

Click here to submit jobs, events or trainings for the next edition of Our Common Wealth.


Rooted & Ready: Eviction Defense for the Renter NationFrom Right to the City Alliance

The Rooted & Ready Training Series will review the basics of the eviction process and share helpful tips you can use to stop evictions in your neighborhoods. We will hear from on-the-ground experts and learn the tactics and tools we need to prepare ourselves mentally, emotionally and tactically to defend our homes. Every Wednesday, September 2nd – 30th, there will be live interpretation from English to Vietnamese, Spanish, Haitian Kreyol, & Cantonese.Every Thursday, September 3rd – 24th there will be live interpretation from Spanish to English.

2020 Reframe Mentorship
Four Part Strategic Communications Virtual Training Series

Reframe Mentorship with Kairos

Wisdom on the Web

We feed and clothe each other, handle medical emergencies, reclaim empty housing for our unhoused neighbors and talk to each other about safety. We know what we need, and we keep us safe.
– Kayla Reed and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

A New World Is Possible: Defund Police And Fund Black Lives
Essence Magazine



Mariame Kaba
Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police. The New York Times


United Frontline Table
A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative EconomyToolkit 

Books We’re Reading

What we practice changes what we read and what we read changes what we practice. Tell us what you’re reading! 
 ourcommonwealthnews@gmail.com
 “What are you reading these days?” Below is a short list of titles shared by Judy Diamondstone, Nia Evans, Penn Loh, Amrita Wassan, Libbie Cohn, and Addison Turner. 
From Robin D.G. Kelley’s Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
“The vestiges of slavery were everywhere in the Jim Crow South. More important than the memory of slavery, however, was the memory of freedom. The two generations that preceded Thelonious’s lived through one of the greatest revolutions and counterrevolutions in the history of the modern world. Thelonious, his sister Marion, and brother Thomas were raised by people for whom freedom had tangible meaning. They heard first-hand stories of emancipation from their parents; stories of black men going to the polls and running for office, of former slaves founding churches and schools, and helping to build a new democracy in the Southern states.

“For any Southern black person living between 1865 and 1900, freedom wasn’t a word taken for granted or used abstractly. As Thelonious’s parents in turn passed to him, freedom meant more than breaking the “rules” of musical harmony or bending tempos. His grandparents were part of freedom’s first generation of African-Americans, a generation that could dream of a good life under a hopeful democracy. Yet his parents watched that democracy–and their freedom–burn, sometimes literally, under assault by white supremacists as Jim Crow laws descended across the South. The disenfranchisement of black folk and the restoration of power to the old planter class was rapid and violent. Like many families, the Monks never lost their memory of post-Civil War freedom, or their determination to possess it once again.”
The passage above, from Kelley (2010) stood out to Nia Evans, Executive Director of the Boston Ujima Project, and served as inspiration for a week of events Ujima hosted last month. They called the week “To Possess Freedom Once Again.” “I was struck by the notion of having once intimately known what we’re striving for and creating today. A remembrance and excavation of history that I think is important in our work,”  said Nia. 

In my own community I have been taught that to put something in the improper place is oppression, and the right place for knowledge is in people, not in books. Endless gratitude to these authors and the members of the Massachusetts Solidarity Economy whose feet touch the ground, who have the patience to reach back and retrieve what was left behind, and inherit the practice and wisdom of Resistance. -Addison Turner, Worcester Roots
Rest in power, David Graeber (1961-2020)
Radical anthropologist and activist
Read reflections from his friends and colleagues at the New York Review of Books

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