The Importance of the Right Allies–Serenity Community

by Paxus Calta

from Your Passport to Complaining

When the nation was exploding in protests over the murder of George Floyd, some skeptics, perhaps tired of the nations inability to hold Trump for any of his many crimes, said “these protests won’t change anything”.  They were wrong.

Viewers of mainstream news could be forgiven for thinking the big effects were removal of confederate statues and the confederate symbol from the flag of Mississippi and NASCAR races.  And i fear the biggest effect of the Trump presidency is that many news sources now focus more on telling us what we will get upset about, rather than what is actually important.  

The Floyd uprising changed policing in America.

However this short list misses most critical reforms and changes, many of which took place shortly after Floyd was murdered.  Some terrible laws were cancelled, including A 50 in New York which protected criminal bad cops by hiding their disciplinary records and complaints filed against them.  Colorado stripped cops of qualified immunity. LA cut over $150 million from the police budget and redirected it to other community services.  Over a dozen police chiefs were forced to resign, including in large cities like Atlanta, Tucson, Richmond and Louisville.  Police chiefs almost never resign suddenly or are fired.  Letitia James, the Attorney General of NY State made history by being the first AG to sue their own police department for use of excessive force.  At one point, i started to track all the things which had actually changed because of this uprising, it ended up being overwhelming by it and i quit.

Serenity Community – circa summer 2021

The communes also changed.  There were disruptive internal protests at these intentional communities about systemic racism and there was a lot of education of white communards about how despite their best intentions they were maintaining racist systems.  And in part because of these internal  protests POC members of communes started more seriously considering options which had only been discussed before.  Importantly, a number of BIPOC community members realized there was a need for a  BIPOC led income sharing community near the cluster of communes in Louisa county.  And so Serenity Community was born.  

OG Serenity

While Serenity (taken for the name for the starship in the Firefly TV series) is still forming, it is already making good things happen.  One of the things we are especially excited about is that Serenity has taken on the difficult task of dispersing scholarship (discount) tickets for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks who need economic assistance to come to QuinkFair.  Recently, has also agreed to take on the granting of scholarship tickets to other economically disadvantaged participants.  

And while they have been actively dispersing scholarship tickets, there are still more people who want to come to this event than can afford it. If you could help grow these scholarship funds it would be quite helpful.  If you are on Facebook, you can donate at this fundraiser or you can venmo 541-505-0803, be sure to include a note “QuinkFair Scholarships”

George Floyds death forced America to admit it had a systemic racism problem and while these important changes are to be lauded, we know the real work lies in front of us, but i am glad and excited to have the talented and energetic Serenity folks help in crafting a more fair and equitable world.

The Importance of the Right Allies–Serenity Community

Racism in the Communes

by Raven Glomus

(Note: It may be obvious to say this, but in this situation I want to clearly state that I, Raven, am solely responsible for this content.  Other members of the Commune Life team can respond but I take full responsibility for this post.)

Racism is a systemic problem that permeates every corner of this society.  The communes, regardless of how much of an alternative they aim to be, are not, by any means, immune.  

Last year, mostly in response to the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, several folks at Twin Oaks took the community to task for its racism, intentional or otherwise.  We published several posts on Commune Life about this.  There was a moment where it looked like Twin Oaks was going to commit to creating significant diversity there, and Keenan, ever optimistic, saw it as quite possible. The Diversity Team at Twin Oaks became REAL (Racial Equity Advocacy and Leadership) and put out a statement on their intentions.  Unfortunately, as often happens, things got mired down and members of REAL got frustrated and left.  I know that there are still members of Twin Oaks pushing for change but it seems stuck at the moment.

The O&I board at Twin Oaks, June, 2020

I know that at Acorn, they (under Ira’s leadership) have been trying to find ways of supporting BIPOC leadership. Two projects in particular that they have gotten behind are the Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance, which “recognizes the need for increased diversity in farming and the seed industry, and the need to provide more opportunities and support for growers from historically oppressed and marginalized communities”, and an attempt in Louisa County (home to Acorn, Twin Oaks, and other communities)  to create an “income sharing community run by a dedicated people of color”.  My understanding is that Twin Oaks is also supporting this.

Here at Glomus we have a mutual aid fund that we have been using to support (among other things) projects created by folks of color and indigenous people–especially POC created communities–and we have also collected money for the last couple of years for black and indigenous farmers and farming projects at Farmers Markets where we’ve sold our produce.  We did participate in the protests last year and we have been talking, on and off, about what else we can do.  We are a small, white commune and not immune to racist behaviors, but we have tried to deal with them.

East Brook Farm/Glomus Commune at the BLM protests in Delhi, NY

This brings me to East Wind Community in the Ozarks of Missouri.  East Wind is a large, overwhelmingly white, community.  (I’m not sure of its current makeup, but there have generally been one or two folks of color among the sixty odd member community.)  It is also, of all the FEC member communities, the one with the largest percentage of working class folks.  It has an unfortunate reputation for racism of the more overt kind.  Much of that is from some incidents which occurred in 2018 which some East Wind members engaged in rather racist behavior which led to at least two members of color leaving East Wind and a very uncomfortable FEC Assembly that year where we tried (without much success) address racism (as well as sexual misbehavior and transphobia).  It also led to a conference at Twin Oaks the following year where we addressed some of that more directly.

As far as I know, East Wind has never directly addressed this stuff (at the Assembly they were mostly defensive) but my understanding is that the folks responsible for the worst of the racist behavior are now gone–and left some time ago.  

As someone who has been to East Wind once (during that Assembly) and has only heard stuff, mostly second hand, I am still going to give my take on what I think was/is going on.  Paxus has referred to East Wind as the ‘wild west’ of the FEC communities.  I see them as leaning toward libertarian and laissez-faire.  

They are, as I said, a bit of a white working class community, and the issues of race and class become uncomfortably intertwined here.  During the Assembly, I saw white folks from higher class backgrounds attempting to lecture East Wind folks (often using jargon and somewhat academic language) on their behavior and the East Winders involved generally felt condescended to.

I can’t see East Wind as a community apologizing for their behavior.  They promote individual liberty there to the extent that during the pandemic, while Twin Oaks and Acorn (and Glomus) used quarantining to ensure safety, there was no direct response by the East Wind community other than affirm individual rights.  I am frankly amazed that they did not get hit by the coronavirus–and I still worry for them.

What we realized at the Assembly and is still true is that the FEC is merely a vehicle for connecting the communes and has no power to police them or enforce any standard.  As far as I am concerned, Commune Life exists to report on what is happening at the communes and to let the outside world know that they exist and are an alternative to mainstream living.  They are often an imperfect alternative, but they are an alternative nonetheless.  I am less interested in pointing out what’s wrong with them (although I am open to publishing critiques and have written a few myself) and more interested in exploring what we can do better.  

There are a couple of current attempts to help POC led communities form and I am very interested in supporting those and think that they will do more for folks of color than censuring the current communities for what is a society wide problem.  I am interested in how we can create more and better alternatives.  I am not interested in attacking the imperfect (and rather fragile, considering how many communities have fallen apart) communities that exist.

Again, I want to be very careful to state that everything in this essay is my own opinion and not the collective view of Commune Life.  I invite responses.

Racism in the Communes

BIPOC IC Fund

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.

— Raven

BIPOC IC Fund

The Token: A Review

by Raven Glomus

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.

The Token: A Review

Why are we so white?

During the month of June, when we were publishing a lot of stuff on Facebook about racial justice, Theresa wrote this post on why the communes have trouble keeping members that aren’t white.

There were, as you can see, a lot of comments. Here are some of them.

George Myers asked a question about why some forms of diversity seem to work in the communes, but race seems to be different. This got several responses.

There were a bunch more comments, including a long response from Gil Benmoshe which elicited a long response from Lyra TaChai.

Finally, there was a nuanced discussion between Cara Ziegel, Mary Hall, and Shayn Ephraim looking at beliefs, feelings, embodiment, and trauma in upholding white culture.

Why are we so white?

Racial Justice Work in the Communes

Continuing on the theme of racial justice, Theresa wrote this piece on Facebook looking at the difficulties and contradictions involved in doing this work as white folks.

She added this graphic:

The first comment that we got was from Rachael, also in our commune, giving a link to a source for this graphic:

Since this is a picture and the link doesn’t work, here is a working link.

Zamin K Danty commented with an interesting idea, but I spotted a problem.

And then Thomas Russell added a host of thoughts.

Racial Justice Work in the Communes

When Diversity is a Necessity

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.

When Diversity is a Necessity

Diversity and Racial Justice

In my post on Monday, I mentioned that I saw a need to support BIPOC led groups and that I would talk more about that. This is from the first of three Facebook posts where I talk about diversity, where it’s important and where it’s not, and how we can actually support BIPOC led alternatives, rather than trying to make our communities look more diverse simply to assuage white guilt.

Here is what I wrote in the post:

I thought that I said some controversial things in this post (and others in this series) and was surprised at how positive the comments were. Here’s what people said in response to what I wrote:

On Friday, I will post on when diversity is important.

Diversity and Racial Justice

Creating More Possibilities

by Raven Glomus

Police brutality is real, as is the killing of black folks by police and the phenomena of mass incarceration.  A recent response was to try to defund the police.  Unfortunately, the result has been a crime wave in several cities.

Really, we don’t need the police–but we do need something.  It’s easy to attack oppressive institutions.  It’s harder, but absolutely necessary, to create alternatives to them.

In the case of replacing the police, we will probably need to fund economic and educational strategies, give people the tools to build (or in many cases, rebuild) their lives, support folks who are having difficult times, and develop some types of sanctions (other than incarceration) that make crime a less appealing alternative.  In the meantime, we will probably need to focus on reforming police departments, until we have time to develop alternatives to replace them.

There always seems to be a lot of emphasis on the things that are wrong, all that we need to stop and get rid of, but I believe that this is the wrong focus.  We need to work on figuring out how we can develop alternatives, to talk about what we want rather than what we don’t want, and to develop working systems that can replace all the toxic, oppressive, hurtful systems that we have now.

One example is communes and communities.  I have said that I see intentional communities as part of a larger social change strategy.  They can be laboratories to attempt to build alternative systems on a small scale and see what works.  Income sharing communities are a particularly important experiment to develop ways of living without economic (and other) hierarchies.

I have taken the title of this post from adrienne maree brown’s book Emergent Strategy.  She lists the six elements of her strategy and the final one is Creating More Possibilities, which she subtitles “how we move toward life”.  

Creating new possibilities, I believe, is probably the most important work that we need to be doing right now.  Not just building communes, but creating cooperative structures of all kinds (businesses, alternative institutions that support people, educational experiences, etc) and networking them–so there is more cooperation between these institutions as well as within them–and supporting those structures so that they are more likely to succeed.  

And, more importantly, supporting not just alternative institutions created by white middle-class folks, but institutions created by working people and, especially, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) led and created institutions.  Racism and white supremacy are real things but, again, we can’t just try to get rid of them.  We need to replace them with leadership from People of Color and real attention to their needs–not what we think that their needs are but what they say their needs are.  We need to support them in developing the alternatives that they need.

Kidscreen » Archive » Editorial: Black Lives Matter

If we want a truly egalitarian society, we need to support organizations and methods that change the dynamics which keep people in oppressed situations.  I have written several Facebook posts talking about ways to do that which I hope to reprint here.

Saying that we need to create more possibilities is saying that we need to build abundance.  Abundance is attractive and, when it is successful, it can create a positive cycle that can bring more energy to create more possibilities.  And with enough possibilities,  we can create the alternatives to replace all the oppressive systems.  It’s just going to take a lot of work, especially at the start, when everything is stacked against us.


PS. The first poster is by amber hughson who has a whole series of these posters and is very clear about what constitutes real alternatives to policing and what does not.

Creating More Possibilities