GLOVER ESSAYS: community
control of food, fuel, housing, health care,
planning, education, finance.
Speech at Tuskegee Institute
Paul Glover * April 2016
I was asked to speak at the National Forum on Race:
THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET WITH YOU AND TO EXPLORE TOGETHER SOLUTIONS to America's chronic racial divide. To celebrate the centennial of Booker T. Washington's passing, to uproot the causes of racism, and replant a healthy society.
MY LAST VISIT TO ALABAMA was May 15, 1972, when I was hitchhiking. South of Montgomery I was offered a ride by a good ol' boy in his pickup truck, rifle on board. He let me know right away that Governor Wallace had just been shot.
44 YEARS LATER, it seems presumptuous of me to fly in today from Philadelphia to speak, before having listened to you and gained your wisdom. Even though I've become an elder, without intending to, I feel tonight like a leprechaun amid giants--those of you who have taken risks to assert racial balance, during intense decades. You represent the endless parade of negotiation and confrontation that navigates intolerable circumstances.
WE ARE ACCOMPANIED IN THIS MARCH by Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T.Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, Tuskegee Airmen, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, The Black Panthers, Angela Davis, Minister Farrakhan, Black Lives Matter; by musicians, athletes, and actors.
WHETHER LAW-ABIDING OR LAW-DEFYING, all have acted as they best understood their situation. They have often disagreed with one another, but every voice has contributed, by trial and error, to the menu of possibilities for reform, revolution, and revival.
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON PROMOTED AND MODELED HARMONY AMONG RACES, seeking to calm racial fears so all could advance.
HE BELIEVED THAT POLITICAL RIGHTS COULD NEVER BE ACHIEVED THROUGH EXTERNAL FORCE. But 50 years after his death the right to vote and share schools and jobs and buses and hotels was achieved by external force-- boycotts, freedom rides, marches, the spotlight of national news, the national guard, and the Supreme Court. National excellence in music, dance, literature, sports and film also led to greater acceptance in politics.
TODAY THE OLD GUARD STILL STANDS AGAINST FURTHER PROGRESS. The police, courts, and prison industry feed on division and fear. So there will continue to be need for sharp interventions.
Still, BOOKER WASHINGTON WAS PROFOUNDLY RIGHT about the need for education and local action, to create healthy cultures. The deepest plowing for justice is the creation of practical models that teach us all to be pleased by our human variety rather than threatened.
I'VE BEEN INVITED TO SPEAK WITH YOU BECAUSE I'VE LONG SOUGHT TO CONTRIBUTE, in this spirit. And because I have some suggestions that build on our collected experience.
In 1967 I WAS LITERALLY A FOLLOWER of MARTIN LUTHER KING as he led our New York City march to his speech against the Vietnam War.
By 1970 I WAS EMPLOYED by SOUTHERN CONSUMERS COOPERATIVE, a Louisiana affiliate of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.
SINCE THEN I'VE STARTED SOME 18 ORGANIZATIONS AND CAMPAIGNS which seek to model grassroots authority over land, law, money, and media. Four of these have become national movements.
FOR EXAMPLE, in 1978 I founded CITIZEN PLANNERS, rallying neighborhoods to control their futures. CITIZEN PLANNERS OF LOS ANGELES began in 1983.
In 1991 I started ITHACA HOURS, a community currency traded by thousands of residents of Ithaca NY and 500 businesses there. Millions of dollars of our colorful paper money were transacted, including the Beverly J. Martin commemorative note, the first paper money in the United States to honor an African-American woman. We made loans of our local money without charging interest, and grants to over 100 community organizations.
In 1997 I launched the ITHACA HEALTH ALLIANCE, a co-op which competed with commercial insurers by covering our members for 12 categories of common emergency, like broken bones, emergency stitches, and burns, for just $100/YEAR.
|WHEN CREATING AN
ORGANIZATION, I AM OFFERING THE LEADERSHIP TO FIND THE PEOPLE I WANT TO
In 2007 I started the PHILADELPHIA ORCHARD PROJECT (POP), which has planted 52 orchards citywide-- fruit trees, nut trees and berry bushes in the hungriest neighborhoods.
Starting 2008 I broadcast GREEN JOBS PHILLY NEWS, a monthly collage of information about the greening of the local economy, with the book Green Jobs Philly., which detailed the creation of 100,000 green collar jobs in the city.
WHEN THE POLICE CAN'T POLICE THE POLICE, the public needs to take direct control of hiring, firing and standards. Therefore, in 2014 I proposed formation of the Police Integrity Commission, replacing the Police Review Board.
Last year I drafted plans for the LOGAN ORCHARD AND MARKET (LOAM), a permaculture village on a 40 acre vacant lot in a low-income Philadelphia neighborhood. It would consist of 100 greenhouses, 300 tiny houses, parks, playgrounds, orchards, market pavilion, and the Patch Adams free clinic.
THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF SUCH INITIATIVES NATIONWIDE.
LINKED TOGETHER, SUCH ORGANIZATIONS EXEMPLIFY WHAT I CALL THE TRANSITION from the Middle Class to the Mutual Class.
MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE DECLINE of the Middle Class, due to globalization and capital flight.
BUT THE MIDDLE CLASS HAS LONG BEEN BUILT ON SHIFTING SAND.
* First, Middle Class status supposes that every household will sink or swim based on job security.
* Second, Middle Class status requires that people purchase and display as many consumer goods as possible.
* Third, Middle Class membership depends on the existence of a Lower Class by which to contrast themselves and fear.
* Fourth, Middle Class status enforces dependence upon the very corporate, governmental and financial institutions which confine us.
MIDDLE CLASS DECLINE WILL CONTINUE REGARDLESS who becomes president. But where many have seen a dead end, I see a prosperous future. The Middle Class will be gradually replaced by what I call the Mutual Class, whose motto is "Getting Ahead by Getting Together."
THE MUTUAL CLASS EXPANDS ON AMERICA'S HISTORY OF MUTUAL AID ORGANIZATIONS and fraternal benefit societies.--the funny-handshake people like Moose, Elks, Odd Fellows and Shriners. Hundreds of these organizations became powerful between 1880 and 1930. They built hospitals, orphanages, old folks' homes, schools, sanitaria, then paid sickness and death benefits. They served as hiring halls and loan funds.
THUS, ON A MEMBER-OWNERSHIP BASIS they provided food, fuel, housing, health care, and finance. Democracy escaped the voting booth, when members gathered to take direct control of their lives.
THESE ORGANIZATIONS WERE OFTEN RACIALLY SEGREGATED. But when restored and woven together locally, regionally and nationally, on the Mutual Class charter of racial, religious, and gender inclusion, they'll enable the Middle Class to escape the financial treadmills of mortgage, medical insurance, consumer debt and student debt. They become the nonprofit core of the Mutual Class. Their incubators are churches, synagogues, mosques, barbershops, social clubs, bars, street fairs, stadiums and parks, wherever people gather.
THE FOR-PROFIT ARMS OF THE MUTUAL CLASS are small local businesses that respect community and nature. They are the "Mutual Enterprises" that help build an economy of generosity. Mutual Enterprise is neither bloodthirsty capitalism nor bleeding-heart socialism. Mutual enterprise systems are constellations of regional businesses which profit for the sake of community, allied with member-owned nonprofits.
Through them, good jobs are generated by average people who work, who raise children, and who depend on the health of neighborhoods.
Taken together, the foundations of sustainable wealth are energy efficiencies, local food and fuel, water conservation, holistic healing, alternatives to the automobile, nonprofit housing, local manufacture and trade. The prime tools for this conversion include earth-bermed coop dwellings and superinsulation, solar and wind energy, urban agriculture, treefree paper, compost toilets, bicycles and trains, farmers' markets, coop health care and local currency.
The Mutual Class, both nonprofit and for-profit, moves beyond charity toward ownership. And ownership as a class can be more reliable than ownership as a consumer.
Even so, the MUTUAL CLASS WILL ALWAYS NEED TO DEFEND ITSELF against attacks by those who prefer to dominate rather than celebrate. The destruction of Tulsa's Black Wall Street, and the Black Panther breakfast program, are strong reminders. Our best defense, ultimately, will be creation of the broadest culture of solidarity, which inspires the loyalty of the former Middle Class.
Since the DECLINE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS MAY BE PERMANENT, the time for this transition has arrived. Even those whose home and job appear stable may be prudent to hedge their bet and build a new safety net. One that's neither governmental nor corporate, but mutual.
WE CAN CREATE TENS OF MILLIONS OF MUTUAL CLASS JOBS rebuilding our civilization so that it is energy efficient and secure against climate change. YET THIS LABOR WILL PAY MORE THAN A PAYCHECK. I'd like to conclude by suggesting that the ultimate purpose of the Mutual Class, beyond securing the dignity of every person, is beauty. Our finest destiny as humans may be to rise to labor daily to APPRECIATE BEAUTY, DEFEND BEAUTY, EXPAND BEAUTY. This is a fresh definition of personal and national success.
AMERICAN CITIES CAN BECOME BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS upon the planet, rather than open sores. Our cities are full of beautiful children, of all colors. They deserve cities as beautiful as they are.
THIS WEEKEND I LOOK FORWARD to conversations that lead to actions that open these doors. [email protected]