The Saturday before I left for Madison and XGM 2018, I spent the day (April 28th), learning from inspiring organizations and people, working on issues of
#foodjustice and #gentrification in; Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver and Longmont.
As the program explained “Both food and gentrification bring our focus to issues of justice/equity and demonstrate the historical experiences of many communities with institutionalized systems of oppression“.
The day was billed as an unconference. Besides thematic panel sessions, guest (welcoming, closing and keynote) talks and performances, the event included parallel/simultaneous; community mapping, walking/biking tours, and other, kid friendly, activities throughout the day.
Interestingly, last weekend, I ran into a neighbor who works in the environmental/food-justice space locally, who also attended the event. One of the first things we discussed was each other’s impression of/reaction to the Summit. The main point she argued, was the “lameness” of the experts/panelist on a stage, format. That in today’s day and age or political climate, people want a more bottom up, dialogic, interactive format. Certainly, given the billing as an “unconference”, not what the organizers intended. Though, I wondered, given neither of us attended/participated in the mapping, walks etc., if that was the “unconference” component?
The crowd was mixed, but skewed young(er). Perhaps the result of it’s location (a neighborhood school) or connection(s) to Regis University? Appearances were made by at least two City Council candidates and I believe I saw, a Mayoral candidate, (Kavyan).
The event opened, with a suggestion from one of the organizers, “Step Up / Step Back“. The idea being, those who don’t normally speak up, should and those who do, should not. Rev. Tyler of Shorter A.M.E., then provided an excellent kickstart to the day. With an exhortation to “put your privilege at the door.”
The keynote was given by Dr. Damien Thompson who laid out his vision for the “Right to the City“. I had actually met him previously, when he facilitated a joint, SEED Institute and The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, three-night event on gentrification in Denver. In 2017.
Dr. Thompson’s keynote, explained gentrification as simply one form of displacement. A chain, going back at least as far, as indigenous, dispossession. Another violence. Importantly it is, an economic process. The solution, is therefore economic development/mobilization, with democratic control, at neighborhood level.
The group, in the face of “class warfare“, proposes a wide-ranging platform. For housing CLTs, among other solutions. Presently, three homes/units, eventually, up to 150 in Globeville-Swansea and beyond. More local and rent, control. Currently outlawed, at the state level. Along with other co-operative housing and land models.
One intriguing proposal; equity or strategic zoning, addressing saturation of business types. The intended target being, to keep focus on developing housing, and reduce (in some neighborhoods at least) food and beverage or hospitality developments. Or, in the case of north Denver, industrial warehouse grows. Is the idea too reminiscent of single-use / Euclidean, NIMBY approaches to zoning, for urbanist YIMBY types?
Other members of the group, made the case for more systemic accountability in local politics. Ultimately, for why we need a “new progressive party“, a working families, Party.
Whether in the lessons offered by Mickki Langston or the words of Ara Cruz, an “Xicano/Indigenous (Nahua/Genizaro Tiwa) spoken word artist“, indigenous experiences were foregrounded throughout.
One panel featured three women from the Colorado Springs, region. The moderator began by noting that Redfin had recently ranked Colorado Springs # 2 “Worst Access to Fresh Food (Food Deserts)“. Yet the city, had just been ranked number two “Best Place to Live” in America, according to the 2018 rankings released by U.S. News & World Report. Luckily, the city is in the midst of the PlanCOS process.
One common challenge, is participation. The organization of community action. As Councilwoman Avila urged, although some in the community may take her presence as a sign to rest, they shouldn’t. As, the only way the big ship of government changes, is as a result of the pressure of citizens from the outside.
First, on Twitter
“I liked the old tunes, properly darkside like finding a body in a lift shaft: dank moody tunes, suburban tunes. I want to go back to that hardcore era of darkside someday, which would be rugged, film samples just pitched up and down with strings. It wasn’t just that pure monochrome thing, it was something else, it sounded like tearing through an empty building…I always liked deeper nighttime tunes, a bit more rolling – garage, dubstep is half pulse, half sway, so it sounds good in a car at night. I wanted to make a half euphoric record…In London, there’s a kind of atmosphere that everyone knows about but if you talk about it, it just sort of disappears. London’s part of me, I’m proud of it but it can be dark, sometimes recently I don’t even recognize it. It’s about being on a night bus, or with your mates, walking home across your city on your own late at night”
Via an old Mark Fisher interview
Again: the single most useful training you can give an adult is how to run a meeting and how to participate in someone else’s. The world is mostly run by lawyers, MBAs, and military officers because they’re taught this as a first-class skill.
1. Decide if there actually needs to be a meeting. If the only purpose is to share information, send a brief email instead.
2. Write and circulate an agenda. If nobody cares enough to do this, the meeting doesn’t need to happen.
3. Include timings in the agenda to help you keep the meeting moving.
4. Prioritize. Things that will have high impact but take little time should be done first.
5. Put someone in charge. This doesn’t mean doing all the talking, any more than being a referee means kicking the ball the most.
6. Require politeness. No one gets to be rude and no one gets to ramble (because the purest form of politeness is respecting others’ time).
7. No technology. Insist that everyone put their phones, tablets, and laptops into politeness mode (i.e., closes them).
8. No interruptions. Participants should raise a finger or put up a sticky note if they want to speak, and the chair should handle sequencing.
9. Record minutes. Write down the most important pieces of information that were shared, every decision that was made, and every task that was assigned to someone.
10. Take notes. While other people are talking, participants should take notes of questions they want to ask or points they want to make. (You’ll be surprised how smart it makes you look when it’s your turn to speak.)
11. End early. If your meeting is scheduled for 10:00-11:00, you should aim to end at 10:55 to give people time to get where they need to go next.
As soon as the meeting is over, the minutes should be circulated so that people who weren’t at the meeting can keep track of what’s going on.
This also lets everyone check what was actually said or promised. More than once, I’ve looked at minutes and thought, “Wait a minute, I didn’t promise to have it ready then.”
And circulating minutes means people can be held accountable at subsequent meetings.
There can be no success in “right to the city” struggles that is not, simultaneously, a success in democratically decarbonizing urban life. Once we realize that several core stakes of right-to-the-city struggles—especially housing, transit, and land use—are the also the core stakes of low-carbon urbanism, we see that it is no longer possible (or desirable) to deeply distinguish social from environmental politics
From ‘American Modernism’ an exhibit of 156 paintings, sculptures and photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.