It’s Martin Luther King day in the US and I don’t want this to be lost amidst the pandemic, the storming of the Capitol, the inauguration, etc. Racial injustice is still a major problem in the US (and world) and most communities (especially the communes) are overwhelmingly white.
The Foundation for Intentional Communities decided that something needed to be done about it and this past summer decided to put money into creating change. In November they sent out this email:
None of these links work because these are photocopies of the letter, but if you are interested in exploring this more, here is a link that does work and you can find out more info and ways to donate.
If you believe that communal living has something to offer the world (as I do) then here is a way to make it more accessible to the people who are usually left out of the process.
There have also been several attempts to support the creation of income-sharing communities led by folks of color, but as of the moment, I don’t know that any of these has actually started. It’s very hard to start communes in general and when there’s folks from a less privileged group trying to start it, it seems nearly impossible. Still, I want to credit the FIC for forming a fund to at least remove some of the financial barriers, both to starting communities and to joining communities. I truly hope that this results in more alternatives opening up in the communities movement for Black and Indigenous folks and other People of Color.
Welcome to 2021! The year 2020 is officially over. One of my commune mates pointed out that nothing really changes as the calendar year rolls over, but there’s a lot of symbolism, especially this past year when so many (mostly not good things) happened all at once.
I will try to focus on commune related things in listing my hopes, but the coronavirus has had a major impact on the communes, and will need to be dealt with. My first and biggest hope for this year is that, with folks getting vaccinated, we may be able to move somewhat beyond having to deal with the repercussions of the pandemic. In terms of this happening, I’ve heard everything from late spring, to the summer, to sometime in the fall. This will mean a lot for the communes.
The only good thing out of all this is that I think that the pandemic has increased interest in communal living. It’s also made it hard to join communities. So when some of the pandemic restrictions are lifted, I am very hopeful that many of the communes, which are at low populations now, will be able to bring in some good folks and increase their membership.
I also hope that this encourages some folks to decide to actually create communities. There’s certainly enough interest in it–maybe with restrictions being lifted, some folks will decide to just do it. I know that I am often discouraging of people simply starting communities, but if someone is really willing to begin the work (and a lot of this work is outlined on the blog) and reaches out and knows others who are also interested–and especially if they have some communal living experience, goodness knows we need more communes. And I believe that if 90% of new communes fail, and we want to get at least ten new communes up and running, we’re going to need to start a hundred communes to get there, so I am actually in favor of folks starting communes, particularly if they are willing to do the research and networking they will need to do.
A big, pandemic related, hope for this year is that if the restrictions can be eased on time, there can be the usual August gatherings at Twin Oaks this summer. I have never been to the Queer Gathering and I was planning to go last year but TO canceled all three gatherings. My hope for this summer is that the Queer Gathering and the Women’s Gathering and the Communities Conference can all happen again. I mentioned networking earlier and these are all great networking events. If they happen (I hope, I hope, I hope they do) I would strongly encourage anyone interested in communal living to attend at least the Communities Conference, and if you identify as queer, the Queer Gathering, and if you identify as a woman, the Women’s Gathering.
Another hope for this year is that the communes continue to look at and figure out how to embrace racial justice, whether that’s by figuring out how to become more diverse or by figuring out how to support communities of color. For horrible reasons, there was a large upswelling of interest in this over the course of 2020. My hope is that this wasn’t another political phase but the beginning of some sustained work in all of our communities.
And my final hope for this new year is that folks find fun in all of this. A lot of 2020 was grim and we have a lot of work to do, building back community membership, creating new communities, and continuing to work on racism (and classism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and creating access for people with disabilities and…) and that we find a way to be joyful and even playful in all this because we will never attract anyone if we are all too damn serious.
Crystal Bird Farmer has not actually “lived in community” but she serves as a board member for the Foundation for Intentional Community and an Editorial Review Board member for Communities Magazine. She begins her book, The Token, with a story about visiting Twin Oaks and attending the Communities Conference. She then announces that she’s your “new Black friend”. She’s here because you claim that you want diversity–and this book is all about how to actually work for diversity.
The program she recommends is divided into three parts: first, preparing your community; second, doing The Work; and third, creating culture conscious spaces. The Work (those are her capitals) is anti-racism/anti-oppression work, which is not easy work. The first step is preparation and that includes figuring who the team is that is going to lead this work and figuring out how to deal with the resistance that will inevitably come up.The Work includes looking at identity and privilege, implicit bias, microaggressions, and majority culture and there are mini ‘workbooks’ at the end of each section devoted to one of these topics that give the format for a group discussion on the topic. The book then focuses on “creating culture conscious meetings” in ways that make them feel more inclusive. Crystal Bird Farmer ends the book by exploring what she calls “limits to inclusion”–creating separate space when needed and “how not to recruit leaders”. There is a very useful section on “tools and resources” that includes many powerful books on racism and anti-racist work for those who want to go deeper.
By now, you may be thinking that this is probably a very thick book and wondering where you will get the time to read all this. Well, I have some good news for you–this is a very short book (86 pages, 96 if you include the resources and index) and is a very easy read. Crystal Bird Farmer writes in a friendly and engaging style. This is a book that needs to be read by anyone who wants to figure out how to make their community more diverse and more inclusive and a great introduction to dealing with all the baggage that makes it impossible to achieve inclusion and diversity. I would highly recommend it–and you can buy it directly from the author. I love that she also suggests that you can get it from a local bookstore and does not mention a large internet book (and everything else) seller. I hope that it becomes widely read and makes a difference in our communities.
In early August, Theresa wrote a Facebook post wondering about how we could make the communes more accessible to more people–and also mentioned that the communes filter out people. That’s not a bad thing, but maybe we need to change the filters:
You can see that it got a lot of comments. The first few are personal responses, mostly pretty much on target.
Then Allen Butcher (at first responding as ‘The Fellowship of Intentioneers’) joined the discussion and it soon became a three way triolog between him, Zamin Danty, and me, Raven (sometimes posting as Commune Life). The following thread quickly becomes very long, technical, ideological, and perhaps nitpicking, as we focus on the differences between ‘communalism’, communism, and anarchism and which are best, and even appropriate, for describing what we do in egalitarian communities. If you are bored by long-winded political discussions, you may want to end reading here. On the other hand, if you are a commune theory buff and the nitty gritty of how income sharing relates to political movements, read on.
On July 4th, Theresa posted her declaration of how communes need to be governed:
I think it was a great little post and it got a lot of views, but only one comment, and that was on the original Declaration of Independence:
I will add that I, Raven, also believe that more voices need to be heard, especially if we want to create communities that really challenge the status quo rather than just being comfortable places for white, middle-class folks to live in.
I recently put this on the Commune Life Facebook page, sharing from a statement featured on the Twin Oaks website.
I (Raven) have met some of the REAL folks and they are great. I am excited about the changes happening at Twin Oaks. Here are some of the comments we got to this post. As you can see, I am not the only one excited.
This is the final in a series that I (Raven) wrote for Facebook on diversity. I talk about my experience meeting the amazing Grace Lee Boggs and how she said that she and her husband helped create a very racially diverse group. I see this as a model for one way that the communities might become more diverse in a way that supports folks of color rather than simply recruiting them so that the communes don’t look so white.
Here’s what I wrote:
I also included a photo of Grace Lee Boggs:
I only got two comments, but I was taken with what Crystal Bird Farmer said. My double reply is because I am still not used to the way Facebook works and I wanted to be sure that it was clear that I was responding as myself and not as an ‘official’ Commune Life voice.
I also heard from Zamin K Danty who was concerned about this approach. I didn’t respond but I want to make it clear that this is only one path to creating diversity.
In my last reprint from Facebook, I mentioned that I was okay with all white communities and that diversity is often more to make white folks feel better. In this Facebook post, I talk about when diversity becomes important. I use myself as an example and, since having some picture makes posts more attractive, I used a picture of myself to illustrate it. Reading the post should explain why.
According to Facebook, we reached 302 people, but there was only one comment, and it was about how my situation resonated with the person who responded. Still, I am always glad when my posts have been helpful for someone–and I never know about people that these posts affect that don’t respond.
On Monday, I will post my final post on diversity, outlining one possible path to diverse community.