Building Urban Communes: A Point A Report

by Raven

Point A was started by folks who realized that income sharing communities were flourishing in rural areas (there are now five in Virginia and four in Missouri), most people in the US live in cities and communal situations were not doing as well there.

The few urban communes have been struggling. Seattle’s Emma Goldman Finishing School stopped income sharing several years ago. The Midden, in Columbus, Ohio, just transitioned to being a co-op rather than an income sharing community. Quercus, in Richmond, Virginia, lasted less than a year. The Baltimore Free Farm currently doesn’t have an income sharing group (although there are people there that would like to have one again).

 

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Poster by Reynaldo

Point A started in 2013. I’ve reported on its history elsewhere. Here’s what I see happening now.

Washington, DC, is our big success story. Compersia has been up and running for over a year and folks are strategizing on what to do next.

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Compersia’s house

I think that New York (where I’m working) is on the cusp of something. I’m hoping I’ll have more to report very soon.

Even though there isn’t an income sharing community in Baltimore, there seems to be a lot of folks there talking about it. I’ve heard of people from four different groups that are discussing the possibility and I’m not sure why they aren’t co-ordinating with one another.

As I’ve said, Quercus in Richmond is gone. I’m not sure what next steps, if any, can be taken there.

We also had a try at getting a co-op house in Binghamton, NY, to move toward income sharing, although that didn’t happen.

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Sign at the old Genome Collective in Binghamton

And there is a group in Newark, NJ, that is working toward creating a two fold community that would contain an urban portion and a rural farm portion. (An idea that always seems interesting to folks but seems very difficult to pull off.)

In addition, Point A has been going up to the Boston area (the place I’ve lived most of my life) and been giving workshops (as we will be doing this upcoming week), hopefully seeding the area for future commune building.

One US East Coast city (at least in the northeast US) that we haven’t done work in is Philadelphia. I think that it has great potential (New York and Boston are becoming increasingly unaffordable where I’ve heard that Philly still has a lot of lower cost housing stock–and the city has a history of movement organizing, including the group Movement for a New Society, which had a bunch of communal houses called the Life Center). Unfortunately, Point A’s resources seemed stretched to the limit these days, so it’s unlikely that there will be a project in Philadelphia anytime soon unless there are people there who want it.

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Smiling Hogshead Ranch in Queens, which we are trying to build an NYC community around.

If we can get a commune in NYC up and running, I think this could be a starting place for building more income sharing communities in urban areas. (I call this the Frank Sinatra theory of commune building from his line, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…”.) Hopefully if we can make it in New York, we can begin to build more urban communes. There’s a lot of cities on the East Coast alone, never mind in the country and the world.

I’ll keep you up to date.

 

 

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Building Urban Communes: A Point A Report

Binghamton Hello and Goodbye

by Paxus

We got to Binghamton via MIT.    It was one of the first presentations of the Communities in Crisis materials.  It was a  small crowd, perhaps half a dozen people not affiliated with the Point A project in the room.

“But they are the right people,” Raven said, and not knowing much about the Boston coop scene, I was happy to defer to him.  Turned out he was right.

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Emily and Eddy in the Genome Kitchen

Rachael from the audience said we had to talk with Maximus and put Genome Collective on our agenda.  And with Genome came our growing connection to Binghamton university and David Sloan Wilson.

It is from these connections that we have started seriously exploring the thesis that living in community is more sane than not and that people who join heal with time.  A radical, if not obvious, notion.  There is quite some chance that Maximus’s PhD thesis will be working with the income sharing communities in an effort to prove this.  Which would be wonderful for us.

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Maximus and Rachel – right people, right place.

We have been working with Genome Collective in Binghamton for over a year, with several Point A visits.  We did some strong group process work in our early visits to Genome and, at one point, even hoped they would morph from being a group house into being an income sharing community.

The house itself has a number of positive attributes.  A large separate meeting space over the garage called “the temple” is ideal for workshops, meditation or yoga classes.  The house has the beginnings of a thriving culinary mushroom business.  Genome has both numerous bedrooms and a top floor which can host several sleepover guests.

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Lion’s mane mushroom growing in Genome Mushroom farm

Maximus gave us a full schedule of classes and workshops while we were there.  We presented on a number of topics including climate change, polyamory, income sharing communities and sustainability.  Our classes spanned the range from large freshman lectures to small grad student seminars.  What was universal was that we got thoughtful and insightful questions from every group of students and several students interested in visiting and/or studying our cultures.

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It is also clear that, while we are welcome in Binghamton to do more speaking gigs at the university and to stay at Genome, the house has decided that they will be a group house instead of an income sharing community, and will not be needing the services of Point A to help them go in that direction.  Our future visits will be more connected to the Twin Oaks Academic Speaking Tour (TOAST) instead of Point A work.

Binghamton Hello and Goodbye

Craft House and Tufts

 


By Paxus

It’s been too long since we have organized a Point A trip, and it’s fun to be on the road again. Tufts University, outside of Boston is proving a worthy first stop on our adventure.  I am lucky to have a capable fun group of people to be presenting with:

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Nina on site

Long experienced communard and construction wizard, Nina is not the chatty type, but what she says is more than worth listening to. She was the principal presenter of the Community as the Solution to Climate Change workshop on Saturday.

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Kristen with this unlikely couple

Skylar is Nina’s strongly bonded partner. Twin Oaks brought  them together and they are enjoying a long honeymoon.  Most people who meet Skylar don’t believe she can actually be as happy as she appears, but I know better.  Optimistic, fanciful, quick to comment and engage, Skylar is, in a positive way, Nina’s mirror image.  Skylar navigated the workshop on Transcending Jealousy and Building Compersion that we did at the Tufts LGBTQ center.

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Skylar at some unidentified beautiful location

Raven is my steady ally on the prolonged roller coaster ride of the Point A.  He tries, with some success, to catch all the flying pieces of wreckage hurling from my poorly organized multi-city trips.  He is making sure our crew gets fed (me: people need food?) and that local organizers know what to expect from our small invasion of commune activists.  When I neglected to secure housing in Somerville, Raven tapped his deep Boston co-op roots and found us all places to sleep.  He is the wrangler in chief for the commune life blog.

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Rare picture of Raven at William St Coop, Somerville

Maximus from the Genome Collective in Binghamton, NY has been the godfather of this trip.  Getting dates months in advance so they fit into the several classes we are doing at Binghamton; finding us honorariums for presenting; finding us amazing venues and local support at Tufts (where he went to school). Specifically, he hooked us up with the fine folks from Crafts House, who have an adorable college collective living situation, combined with stewardship of the well stocked student art space at Tufts, the Craft Center.

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GQ revolutionary poster person – Maximus

Telos did not think he was going on this trip.  He made the mistake of calling me for advice on rides to Virginia, after he was disqualified at the last minute from a medical study that his community, Cambia, was doing in Baltimore.  He ended up going North instead, where he joined this intrepid crew with his organizing and writing skills, and experience from previous Point A trips with the Genome collective, who we are advising later in the trip. Moral: I am happy to help find you a ride, it just might not be to where you think you were going.

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Telos at the TO greenhouse – Photo by Wren

 

The way these trips work, ideally, is we work with a group house (Craft House in the case of Tufts, or the Genome Collective in the case of Binghamton) and give them a collection of workshops to choose from.

Elise from Craft House consulted with her coop and choose three:

Craft House itself has been supportive and hospitable.  When our team grew in size with Telos arrival and needed another place for someone to sleep, Craft House gave us a luxurious closet to sleep in.  It is currently their small costume commie clothes.  I jumped at the chance to sleep in their fine closet, even before i found out it’s august history.   It also turns out to be the closet the be off the room where Tracy Chapman lived while she went to Tufts in 1987.

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Finally out of the closet – Skylar and Paxus

The audiences to our workshops have been growing steadily since we started presenting at Tufts.  A number of people are interested in coming to the Virginia communes to visit and dozens of fingerbooks have been distributed on various topics.  We have several solid offer to host us when we return next semester and well as Tufts students and area residents who want to explore the path from dorm to student coop and then from coop to egalitarian community.  It feels like important beginnings.

On to Binghamton.

 

Craft House and Tufts

Uninauguration

Photos by Steve and GPaul of Compersia

Folks from the DC and Virginia communes were very involved with the protests:

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Christian and Paxus of Twin Oaks appreciate PETA’s big fuzzy suits.

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Vegans GPaul of Compersia and Christian of Twin Oaks pose with PETA people.

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Paxus of Twin Oaks and GPaul of Compersia rest after the disruption protests, while Steve of Compersia (only hand seen in picture) appreciates a good pun.

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Residents and guests of the Keep, a cooperative house in Washington, DC, make signs in preparation for the Women’s March on Washington.

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Steve of Compersia and Caroline formerly of Twin Oaks march in the Women’s March.  Also Bryan Cahall of the http://extraordinaryrenditionband.com band marching to draw attention to Prison Liberation. Compersia hosted 3 from the band and it was delightful!

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Residents, guests, and friends of the Keep, a cooperative house in DC, tell stories over food during a bunch following the Women’s March.

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Residents, guests, and friends of the Keep join in a large post-protest Sunday brunch.

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James of Point A NYC takes in the crowd at the Festival of Resistance Against Trump

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A gaggle of Twin Oakers rest and eat dinner at Compersia after the Women’s March

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More of Twin Oakers resting and eating dinner at Compersia after the Women’s March

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One more photo of Twin Oakers at Compersia
protest13Twin Oakers and Compersians participate in a blockade at the inauguration in solidarity with communities threatened by Trump and his administration.

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Compersia and friends let loose after the inspiring Women’s March on Washington.

protest15Kathryn of Compersia protests at Trump’s inauguration in solidarity with communities threatened by his administration.

 

 

Uninauguration