Small Percentages

by Raven Cotyledon

I wanted to entitle this post “Communes are Only a Very Small Percentage of Communities, and Communities are Only a Very Small Percentage of the Ways People Live,” but I figured that title was way too long to fit.

High and low rates of interest on the white background

In the nineteen-eighties, I was involved with a radical group and lived in a house with a bunch of folks including a woman also involved with this group. She said that one of the purposes of being so radical was not to expect that everyone would be radical but that we would push the dialogue left, helping moderates become liberal and liberals become progressive.

I do not expect everyone to live in a commune or even some form of community, but I want as many people as possible to know that communes and communities exist. I realize how small a percentage of the population lives in communities, let alone communes, but I think that everyone can learn important things about sharing, in fact radical sharing, from the communes.

Diana Leafe Christian, in her book Finding Community, briefly complains about how well known the communes are, given how small a percentage they make up of the communities movement. She says, “The first reason for this prominence, I think, is because income-sharing communitarians tend to be activists, if not enthusiastic proselytizers, for their radically non-competitive way of life.  For them, having a close-knit and intimate group (in the smaller communes), pooling incomes, taking care of each other financially, and being on a level playing field with fellow members financially is a form of political activism, and they’re proud of it.”
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Well, it’s true. I don’t think communards actually proselytize, but many of us (myself included) see living this way as a challenge to our competitive, capitalist society. I don’t expect everyone to do it but I want it known that it’s possible.  That’s the reason for this blog. That’s the reason that I talk with people, go to events (like the panel on sharing in communities that I was on Thursday, 2/7), and help start things like the meetup group in Manhattan on Communes and Communities that I am a co-organizer for.

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In a time when life in this society is only becoming more stressful, when inequality is increasing, and when people are feeling more and more isolated, our tiny number of communities, point to a different way.  And while I doubt we will ever include a large or even medium percentage of the population, I certainly want to grow our movement. I see us as the seed for something bigger. And I hope that this blog helps water that seed.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

Small Percentages

East Wind’s Path to Membership

Living in an intentional community can be a deeply rewarding experience. Many people are realizing the shortcomings of consumer culture and are searching for a better way to live. Living at East Wind offers the opportunity to be your own boss and pursue work that truly interests you, to develop a deeper connection with the natural world, to share your day-to-day life with an extended family of like-minded people, and to be a part of a movement to create a better quality of life for everyone in your community. East Wind isn’t the place for everyone, but some of our current members consider moving to community to be one of the best decisions of their lives. If we desire something better than ‘the American dream’ for ourselves and for future generations, we must develop alternatives and set an example for others to follow. So take some advice from Mohandas Gandhi and “be the change you want to see in the world.” That’s what East Winders do every single day.  Leading an autonomous life is an incredibly empowering experience.  You will certainly be amazed as your innate potential reveals itself.

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Those interested in joining East Wind are welcome to inquire about arranging a visit. Contact us first at ew.membership@gmail.com, as dropping in unannounced is not accepted. After completing a three week visitor period, visitors can apply for either provisional membership or associate status at East Wind. Provisional membership is somewhat of a trial membership, and is a year-long process to becoming a full member. You can click here to read all legislation pertaining to membership and visitors.

East Wind is self-governed through direct democracy. All members and visitors are welcome to participate in our political processes and speak in community meetings. However, visitors, provisional members (those during their first year of membership), and those with associate status are not granted a full vote. Provisional members receive a half vote in community ballots after three months of membership, and can vote on all issues except for those that deal with membership. Visitors and individuals with associate status have no voting rights, but may still attend community meetings and share their opinions. All full members have an equal vote and equal access to utilize the established processes. Only full members can sign and pass petitions.

After one year, provisional members are subject to a vote on their membership—if they receive a simple majority of yes votes, they are awarded full membership, full medical coverage, and a full vote in future ballots. However, if they receive a majority of no votes, they will be asked to either extend their provisional membership by six months before undergoing a second vote or to leave community. If this sounds like a lot of pressure, please keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of membership votes are in favor of the new member. This process is designed primarily to keep out individuals who do not do their fair share of work or make current members feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

All full members are equal owners of our land, our businesses, and our assets. Full members can only be expelled from community by the action of two-thirds of full members through petition or vote. Expellable offenses include failure to do fair share, physical violence, theft, violating the community’s property and income codes, and deliberate attempts to destroy or disband the community. The decision to expel a member for these or other offenses is made by full members of the community on a case-by-case basis. Though problems do occasionally arise, we are usually able to resolve issues amongst ourselves and expulsion is extremely uncommon.

East Wind offers a home to those who want to help us in our mission to create a sustainable and egalitarian communal lifestyle. If these values are important to you, please consider visiting us in the Ozarks and getting involved.

 

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East Wind’s Path to Membership

A Bit about Oran Mór

by Raven Cotyledon

Oran Mór means ‘Great Song’.  It comes from the Celtic creation myth of the melody that sang the world into existence and continues to co-create it.

Oran Mór community was founded in 2003 by two couples from East Wind who wanted to live a more sustainable life.  Both couples are gone, but the community continues.

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The Catbox, where the kitchen is

I visited Oran Mór in December when the Federation of Egalitarian Communities held their assembly there.  It seemed a sweet place.

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Ish and Desiree

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Carlos

Current residents include Desiree, Carlos, Opa, Chris, and April, as well as goats, ducks, chicken, geese, guinea fowl, cats, and dogs, and a deer who has adopted them.  Ish lives nearby and visits frequently.

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Opa

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Chris and April

Oran Mór community is still committed to living harmoniously with the land and each other.   It’s very apparent if you spend any time there. I’m glad that I got to spend time with them.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

 

A Bit about Oran Mór

Raising children in egalitarian communities: An inspiration

by  Katarzyna Gajewska

from the Post Growth Institute 

9th of October, 2017

I interviewed dozens of members of two egalitarian communities, rural Acorn community in Virginia, US (30 adults and one child at the time of research in 2014) and suburban Kummune Niederkaufungen near to Kassel in Germany (60 adults and 20 teens and children in 2016). You can find links to my four articles on Acorn community below this text. I share observations and insights from interviews that I conducted with some members of these communes. I will demonstrate the similarities between childhood in such communities and the conditions for optimal child development derived from research and theories based on ethnographic studies of indigenous societies.

Egalitarian communities constitute a more advanced version of experimenting with alternative economy than ecovillages. They share labor, land, and resources according to one’s needs and everyone contributes in a chosen way. In Kommune Niederkaufungen, one usually needs to integrate into one of the work collectives to be accepted. Members can spend money according to their needs but in Acorn community there is a monthly pocket money to cover extra expenses such as alcohol or cigarettes, whereas in Niederkaufungen expenses of above 150 Euros need to be announced. Both communities operate enterprises. In Kommune Niederkaufungen, some members are employed outside. In Acorn community, weekly 42-hour work contribution is required but each member decides what activities to do and no checks are in place.

Basic needs

In both communities where I conducted interviews raising children is considered to be a work contribution and is valued in the same way as activities that earn money. Recognition for care and reproductive work is part of the feminist philosophy of these communes and their pursuit of egalitarianism. In this way parents do not need to choose between making a living or raising children. Since work arrangement is quite flexible and many members work in the same place where they live (in Acorn community this is the case for majority of activities), it is easier to combine work with child care. Also non-parents can choose to participate in child care as a work contribution.

Thanks to these conditions parents can respond to a child’s needs without the stress of economic survival. The first three years of life define emotional development and negligence can lead to trauma and behavioural or emotional disorders. Research examining physiology and theories of child development underline the need for constant availability of an adult and touch in early childhood (see articles by such authors as Darcia Narvaez and Jean Liedloff). This is more difficult to organize in the mainstream society.

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Free play in nature is important for children

Learning environment

Communes provide an environment that makes it easier to pursue homeschooling or unschooling because of the close availability of many adults with diverse skills and knowledge. For example, a member of East Wind, a commune in Missouri, teaches French to one of the children by taking a walk and talking to them in this language. Children in Kommune Niederkaufungen go to school, either a public one in their neighborhood or an alternative school in the city center. However, they can tap on a vast expertise at home having access to many adults with diverse knowledge.  (In Niederkaufungen, some members work in education).

Community skills and multi-age group

Children need multiple attachments, according to Peter Gray, and this is how children have been raised in indigenous communities.1 In the book “Free to Learn,” Peter Gray points to the advantages of being part of a multi-age group and engaging in free play with other children for learning and emotional development. Furthermore, he elaborates on the importance of unstructured play time with other children. Citing survey date, he mentions that one of the main obstacles for limiting such free activities with children in the neighborhood is the concern for safety. Parents prefer to occupy children with extracurricular activities because they are sure that they are taken care of. In a commune, it is easier to establish conditions for children to have free play. The children and their parents know each other and there are many trusted adults around so that children can play in safety.

Peter Gray shows that children learn skills that they observe are crucial in the adults’ world by playing. Growing up in an environment where a lot of discussions and decision-making takes place, this may encourage them to develop related skills. One of the members of Kommune Niederkaufungen said that there is a practice of exercising patience and letting someone express oneself in conflicts, which contrasts with the way his friends treated each other in his life before joining commune. This may also be an example for children.

Disputes among parents

Living in a commune requires a lot more discussions and collective decision-making than living an individualized life. For example, what parents allow to their children may affect other children more directly than in mainstream living. It can become a source of conflict. A father left the commune Niederkaufungen because of the decision of other parents to have satellite television. It was impossible to isolate this child from mainstream media influence. In this commune, at least four people needed to make a veto to block community decision. Parents in this commune gather regularly to talk about their children.

The impact on the society

Certainly the way children are raised shapes their personalities. Aggregated, it results in the human relations and values of society. Jean Liedloff considers touch deprivation in early infancy to be responsible for insatiable wants and searching for solace in consumerism. Narvaez asks what impact depriving babies of their basic human needs will have on the entire society. Peter Gray observes that inter-age education contributes to the development of empathy and compassion. Communities provide conditions to raise emotionally healthy and cooperative individuals. Hopefully, they will inspire mainstream society to create conditions that resemble communal child care.


Articles on Acorn community

Gajewska, Katarzyna (September 2016): Egalitarian alternative to the US mainstream: study of Acorn community in Virginia, US. Bronislaw Magazine and reposted on PostGrowth.org.

Gajewska, Katarzyna (21 July 2016): An intentional egalitarian community as a small-scale implementation of Post-Capitalism. P2P Foundation Blog.

Gajewska, Katarzyna (10 January 2016): Case study: Creating use value while making a living in egalitarian communitiesP2P Foundation Blog.

Gajewska, Katarzyna (27 December 2014): An intentional egalitarian community as a small-scale implementation of postcapitalist, peer production model of economy. Part I : Work as a spontanous, voluntary contributionP2P Foundation Blog.

You can support Katarzyna’s independent research and writing here.

Photo credit: Jamie Taylor, Unsplash. (Creative Commons).

Katarzyna Gajewska, PhD, is an independent scholar and futurist writer (Facebook: Katarzyna Gajewska – Independent Scholar). She has been publishing on alternative economy, non-digital peer production, universal basic income and collective autonomy since 2013 and is mainly interested in psychological and emotional aspects of transition to a postcapitalist society.

Katarzyna has written 2 posts on Post Growth Institute

This article was originally published on Post-Growth Institute Blog, under a Creative Commons License. 

 

 

Raising children in egalitarian communities: An inspiration

A Detailed FEC History: Part One, the ’60s and ’70s

by Raven Cotyledon

This is for commune geeks.  

Maximus put out a video of The Phylogenetic History of the FEC.  It was surprisingly popular. My one complaint was that it left out so many details.

Maximus shared with me the spreadsheet that his video was based on.  Using that, Kat Kinkade’s books, Laird’s blog, the Communities Directory, and my own memory of events in the 1960s, 1990s, and recently, I intend to put out a detailed description of the history of the communes and the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.

I will break it up by decades and publish one a month to keep it from getting too long and boring.  This part covers the 1960s and 1970s.

The 1960s

1967  Twin Oaks is founded.  That was fifty-two years ago and Twin Oaks is still going strong with nearly a hundred members. To put it in context, there were hundreds of ‘communes’ formed in the late sixties.  Very, very few of them are still around. Kat Kinkade attributed Twin Oaks survival to a combination of hard work, structure, and freedom, and getting big fast enough. She thought thirty people was “the minimum for security” and said that TO reached that in their third year.

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Signing up for labor in the early days at Twin Oaks

 

The 1970s

1970  East Wind was started. Kat Kinkade claimed that she “left Twin Oaks, taking two members and some visitors with me, and we set out to form a community that would be just like Twin Oaks in every way except one: We would never close our doors!”  East Wind is also still around with about sixty members.

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REIM, one of the original structures at East Wind

1974  Sandhill Farm founded.   Laird Schaub described its founding this way: “In February 1973 I was in a public library and happened across the current issue of Psychology Today. It included an excerpt from a new book by Kat Kinkade, A Walden Two Experiment. It described the first five years of Twin Oaks Community, and it changed my life. …

“By the following spring, we had founded Sandhill Farm: four people willing to try to make that happen.
“Because Twin Oaks was the inspiration and because I’d already done a fair amount of work to reject materialism, we set up Sandhill as an income-sharing community, where all earnings would be pooled. The community still operates that way today.”

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Sandhill

1976  The Federation of Egalitarian Communities was formed.  Laird’s description: “…five North American communities shared a dream of cooperation. As a result, representatives of these communities got together and founded the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.”  The first Assembly was in November of that year. Attending communities were Twin Oaks, East Wind, Aliya, Aloe, Dandelion, Genesis, North Mountain, and Springtree.

1977  There seemed to have been three Assemblies that year, one in February, one in October, and one in November. (At least, that’s what was listed.)   Aliya and Springtree seemed to have already dropped out. The February Assembly lists the population of the other communities at the time, Twin Oaks (72), East Wind (55), Aloe (6), Dandelion (13), and North Mountain (12).

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Undated picture of an Assembly at Twin Oaks

1978   On the other hand, there only appeared to be one Assembly in 1978, in July, with the same five communities.

1979   There were two Assemblies in 1979, one in January and one in August, and a new community, Los Horcones, came to the January Assembly, and the August Assembly saw Sandhill attending for the first time.   The August Assembly also listed community populations at Twin Oaks (75), East Wind (55?) [yes, that’s how it’s listed], Aloe (10), Dandelion (10), Los Horcones (12), and North Mountain (12). There was no population listed for Sandhill.

That was the beginning.  Only Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Sandhill are still around today and right now, Sandhill is struggling. But the FEC continues to this day, with new communities and new energy.

Next month, I will detail the FEC through the eighties with communities coming in while others leave or disband. It will probably have too much detail for most folks, but I find it fascinating to watch the communities and the organization as it grows and struggles. This is how we change the world folks, one small step at a time.

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Kat Kinkade and others harvesting corn at Twin Oaks around 1969 or 1970

(If you have any information about the early days of the FEC or its history at any period, please add it in the comments.)

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

A Detailed FEC History: Part One, the ’60s and ’70s

THE LAUNCHING OF SOLIDARITY HOUSE COOPERATIVE, AND OUR COMMUNAL SPACE

by Matt

from Cowboys on the Commons

September 14, 2018

In July of this year, the Solidarity Collective acquired, through a personal loan and the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time, the property known as Holliday Mansion, consisting of the large house shown in the picture (11-12 rooms in the main house depending on how you count them, a tower room, and a 3-bedroom basement apartment), a large Quonset hut, four additional apartments (one adjoining and three adjacent) and some small storage sheds. The house was built in 1878 and was a neglected (and over time, abused) historical treasure. Beyond the significance of its acquisition for our mission, its restoration will be a service to Laramie and Wyoming.

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Those who have been following our progress in the last two years via our Facebook page and my earlier post here know that the purpose of getting this property was to create an egalitarian intentional community–a commune for shared living space and cooperative work space, food production, and a place where people could ground their activism and creativity in promotion of a better world.

It is significant that we’re doing this in Wyoming. As far as we know and as far as the Fellowship for Intentional Community reads, we are the only egalitarian/left community in the state. Two other intentional communities in early stages of formation, one in Cheyenne and one in Casper, are non-egalitarian; still, it’s interesting to see them cropping up at a time when Wyoming’s fossil fuel economy is in near-freefall and the political culture of the state is becoming more heterogeneous. We think there is a place for our radical cooperative model in Wyoming, but recognize that it needs to be materialized and lived so that people may see its possibility.

Although we’re pluralist about this cooperative economics and culture thing, we bring some basic agreements into Solidarity Collective:

  • we’re committed to cooperation and resource sharing, are practicing partial income-sharing now with a commitment to full income-sharing when all the elements are in place for it
  • we’re feminist, queer- and trans-positive, supportive of everyone’s gender and sexual identities
  • we’re committed to anti-racism and anti-fascism and we also incorporate our own reading of the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism (and the proposed 8th Principle on anti-oppression), although only some of our members are UUs.

There are about twelve people working high-gear on restoration and the financial maintenance of the property–these include core members, family of core members, active supporters who intend to become core members, and active supporters who are just really happy to know we’ve materially actualized a commune here.

That work is formidable and will be a long-term project. The large house has been through many cycles of ups and downs over the past 130 years, and to put it diplomatically, the previous owners and residents left us much work to do. The entire property needs to be re-painted, there is a long list of carpentry work to be done, individual rooms need detail work, parts of the plumbing system need replacement, and even the dirt on the grounds (there is a large pasture are in back) needs to be cleaned of years of being treated like a waste disposal facility.

Until we can do some soil remediation, our food growing systems will have to be independent of the pasture. Planning for vegetable operations and a greenhouse is underway. We have six laying hens now, and hope to raise as many as 40 more next spring, with other animals joining the farm as opportunity grows.

The end goal is a thriving collective, likely through conversion to a trust, but in any case the house and structures and land will exist to provide low- and no-cost, ecologically sustainable living and work space for as many people as it makes sense to live here.

We’ve also launched Solidarity House Cooperative, a worker-democratically-owned and operated production company. Support for our work through this production cooperative is one of the foundational structures of the communal system we are building.

The purpose of Solidarity House Cooperative is to create content, and help others create content, for the promotion of cooperative economics, law, policy and culture. We have initially created three separate podcasts, between which we will produce 8-10 new episodes every month.

Solidarity House: Besides interviewing advocates and activists from all over, we also let the audience into the house to hear about our restoration, governance, and commune-building efforts, our day to day life in an intentional community, and our music! Pilot episode is here and on Podbean.

Cowboys on the Commons: In-depth interviews on cooperative law, economics, policy, and culture. Pilot episode will be released in four days and will be updated here.

Solidarity Wyoming: News and interviews about Wyoming politics and culture. This isn’t your parents’ Wyoming. Pilot episode is here and on Podbean.

We emphasize cooperative economics, law, policy, and culture, through research- and interview-based content. We produce and record original music, and have the capacity to produce podcasts for other organizations and individuals (I have been doing this on contract for three different organizations over the past three years), and seek collaborative relationships with other cooperative content producers and organizations.

There are many ways to support Solidarity Collective, but the easiest and most mutually beneficial way is to subscribe to Solidarity House on Patreonfor $5.00 or more per month. Subscriptions directly support the restoration of the house and land and its conversion into an egalitarian ecovillage whose facilities will be available to all cooperative activists regardless of what personal resources people have.

For those wanting to take a deeper dive into support for our group, mission, and principles, Yana Ludwig offers courses and workshops on many of the principles that guide us: conflict resolution, guerrilla consensus, cooperative economics and culture (I lend a hand with the classism stuff), and starting an intentional community. Both in-person and, in some form, remote options exist for these workshops, so if you’re interested, contact Yana, who’s been doing this stuff for a long time. Her book Together Resilient: Building Community in the Age of Climate Disruption was the Communal Studies Association’s 2017 Book of the Year and is available here.

Please consider this my personal ask. Producing, and helping others produce, content promoting cooperative policy and culture is my life work. When I’m not doing it, I don’t feel right. When I am doing it, I can work all day with a smile on my face. My job is to help show that humans can share their stuff, take care of one another, and take care of the earth. After several years of doing this work for other organizations, I think I’ve found a way to turn it into a democratically-owned enterprise, and support many people’s work. I would love your help!

This post is also a call for interested people to send us inquiries about membership in Solidarity Collective and residency on our communal land. The easiest way to connect with us to that end is to join our Facebook group, but if you don’t Facebook, we are still pretty easy to find.

Beyond all that, this post heralds the news that we are landed, active, and unstoppable. It’s time to create an alternative system in the middle of a place that desperately needs one. We’re here and we’re doing it.

 

THE LAUNCHING OF SOLIDARITY HOUSE COOPERATIVE, AND OUR COMMUNAL SPACE