Meet the Radical Workers’ Cooperative Growing in the Heart of the Deep South

 Meet the Radical Workers’ Cooperative Growing in the Heart of the Deep South

On November 9, people across the left woke up and wondered, “What do I do now? Under total Republican control, how does one fight for progressive change?”

Kali Akuno, the co-founder of Cooperation Jackson, a workers’ cooperative in Jackson, Mississippi, has been grappling with that question for years, and believes his organization provides a good model for progressives who still want to effect change under President Trump. When Donald Trump was elected, Akuno felt like he could tell the rest of the country: “Welcome to Mississippi.”

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Time To Build and Fight To Become Ungovernable with Kali Akuno


Time To Build and Fight To Become Ungovernable with Kali Akuno - Audio Link

Communities around the country are meeting and preparing for the continued onslaught of neo-liberalism that has exploded the wealth divide and has undermined education, health care, wages and more and the additional threats of an administration and Congress that are openly hostile towards immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, women and blacks. We speak with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson and the Malcolm X Grassroots Organizing Movement about the new project Ungovernable 2017 and the ongoing work to build economic alternatives to capitalism. For more information, visit


What It Looks Like When Communities Make Racial Justice A Priority

From Conversations that Heal To Trusts that Fight Gentrification

Zenobia JeffriesAraz Hachadourian posted Jan 16, 2017

This article is part of our state-by-state exploration of local solutions.


In the weeks following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, Wellspring Church in Ferguson became a space for protestors to meet, talk about issues, and strategize for change. Two years have passed, but Wellspring’s pastor, The Rev. F. Willis Johnson Jr., wants to keep those conversations going.



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He teamed up with another local church to create The Center for Social Empowerment, hoped to be an incubator for social justice solutions in Ferguson. The center stems from the idea that while policy changes are needed—like those recommended in a 2015 U.S. Department of Justice report—they don’t address the problem of racism within the community. To do that, Johnson says, the experiences of individual community members need to be considered.

The center holds monthly conversations that are open to the community and partners with organizations and schools to bring discussions to them. The meetings engage participants in reflecting on their own experiences with race and hearing the stories of others. This creates a shift from “debate rhetoric” to dialogue, says Nicki Reinhardt-Swierk, one of the program’s coordinators. “When we can get people to realize that the world as they understand it is not the world as experienced by other people, that’s how you start seeding change and sprouting action.”

In these forums, participants discuss actions they can implement in their own lives to change the role race plays in their community. Those actions don’t always include protesting, explains Reinhardt-Swierk. They might be recognizing the racist connotations of the word “thug” or changing the way an elderly woman interacts with a cashier.

“From [conversations] we can raise a healthy and loving challenge,” adds Johnson. “Now that I know better, I can push myself to do better. I can see my role in reconciliation and in my community.” —Araz Hachadourian


After living in Cleveland and Chicago, Iya’falola H. Omobola says she had never seen anything like what she’s witnessed over the past several years in Jackson, Mississippi, where homes have been allowed to “deteriorate and just stay there.”

Unlike other cities that use the threat of taxes or demolition to clean up derelict properties, Jackson appeared to have a pattern of neglect, says Omobola. In response, Cooperation Jackson, a grassroots organization co-founded by Omobola, is working to thwart gentrification and subsequent displacement of residents by buying as much property as it can to make land and homes affordable.

Decay, abandonment, and plunging property values are pervasive in many U.S. urban centers that are predominantly African American, like Jackson. Meanwhile, nearly 20 percent of these neighborhoods with lower incomes and home values have experienced gentrification since 2000, according to Governing magazine. In cities such as Seattle, Portland, and Washington, D.C., those changes have pushed out many residents. Cooperation Jackson members are determined to prevent the same thing from happening in Jackson, where about 80 percent of the population is African American.

The group has established a community land trust as part of its Sustainable Communities Initiative, which includes building co-ops (three operate today), purchasing land, and building affordable housing on the west side of town. So far, Cooperation Jackson has purchased more than 20 parcels of land for as little as $800 apiece. The land trust was part of former Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s vision before he died in 2014; Omobola, Lumumba’s media director, and Kali Akuno, who also worked for Lumumba’s administration, formed Cooperation Jackson and opened the Chokwe Lumumba Center for Economic Democracy and Development.

The goal is to enable as many people as possible in Jackson to own their own resources, Omobola says. Now, the organization is focused on acquiring property within a 3-mile radius over the next two years. “We’re looking at creating self-sustainability,” she says. —Zenobia Jeffries


To outsiders like Donald Trump, Detroit is like “an urban dystopia of poverty, crime, and blight.” But to Detroiters and those committed to the city’s revitalization, it’s a city full of promise—with the notable exception of its school system. Following multiple state takeovers, the largest school district in Michigan continues to suffer teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms, and financial mismanagement. And longtime residents and activists have had enough, turning to a legacy of the civil rights movement’s Freedom Schools to serve their children.

In February, parent Aliya Moore’s call to boycott schools on Count Day—when the state uses student attendance to calculate per-pupil funding—prompted a local group, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, to reimagine education for Detroit schoolchildren and launch the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement.


Victor Gibson teaches math to middle schoolers at the Dexter-Elmhurst Center. The retired teacher signed up to work for the Detroit Independent Freedom School Movement.

Photo by Zenobia Jeffries.

Organized by African Americans in the 1960s around sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues, the Freedom Schools presented an alternative setting for all ages centered mostly on voter registration and social change, as well as academic components—mainly reading skills—for young people. Since then, civil rights and racial justice organizations, along with grassroots movements, have resurrected the Freedom School model for their work in African American communities still faced with inadequate education, disenfranchisement, and racial discrimination.

The organizers of DIFS created a program that was piloted this summer at a local recreation center, where volunteer teachers provided cultural activities and lessons in the core subjects of math, science, English/language arts, and social studies. Other institutions, including the Charles H. Wright African American Museum, have signed on to host the DIFS program at their facilities this fall.

Gloria Aneb House, a former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a member of D-REM, helped to organize the local Freedom Schools movement. “Our intention is to do as much in outreach around the city and get into as many churches and community centers where they’re happy to have us,” House says. —Zenobia Jeffries

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated Cooperative Jackson had bought 20 parcels of land from the City of Jackson for as little as $1 a piece.  This article was corrected and updated Jan 23.

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CounterPunch Radio - Episode 60 with Kali Akuno

November 8th 2016

Election news making you ill? CounterPunch Radio has your antidote to the Clinton-Trump poison as Eric sits down with activist and organizer Kali Akuno to discuss the exciting movement to create people power in Jackson, Mississippi. Akuno, an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, discusses the ongoing Cooperation Jackson, a community-led initiative to transform Jackson, Mississippi and, ultimately, the entire country. Kali explains the origins of Cooperation Jackson and how the movement envisions its future, as well as detailing what the last few years have taught the community. Eric and Kali also examine how revolutionary technologies are being used in Jackson to transform the city into a center of decentralized production and economic and social resistance in the US. From COINTELPRO to 3D printers, climate change to the ownership of the means of production, this is a conversation you don't want to miss!

Visit to find out more.

Also follow the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the important work they do.

Musical Interlude: Devo - Freedom of Choice

Hi-Tech Production in the Service of Humanity in Mississippi

Cooperation Jackson Community Production Interns Applying Support Structures and Electrical Wiring to their Digitally Fabricated Micro-House.


Renaissance Jackson, the organization that briefly won the mayor’s office in predominantly Black Jackson, Mississippi, has launched a campaign to purchase a coding and programming capacity and a 3-D fabrication facility. They call it “Fab Lab.” This technology, “if it is democratically controlled, could actually serve humanity,” said Cooperation Jackson spokesman Kali Akuno. These kinds of projects are crucial, “first and foremost, to satisfy some of the basic needs of our community, and -- on a deeper level -- to really put this means of production directly in our community’s hands.” High tech is “one of these areas of the so-called ‘digital divide’ that Black people have been sorely and strategically absent from,” said Akuno. “So, we are doing it for ourselves.”

Past the Horse Race: US Politics Beyond the Election

By Charles Mudede Madison Van Oort Kali Akuno Marisela B. Gomez Jim Vrabel Darwin Bond Graham / 07 November 2016

Never particularly attentive to the lives of ordinary people — or developments outside the major hubs of government, capital, and entertainment — the American news media becomes especially myopic and trivial during the presidential election season, which seems to grow longer and more encompassing every four years. 

In an effort to better understand some of the stories being left behind by the horse race, we asked writers and activists from across the United States for brief reports on political developments and campaigns, both electoral and otherwise, that have been significant in their respective regions over the past year. Below are responses from Jim Vrabel in BostonMadison Van Oort in IowaKali Akuno in MississippiDarwin BondGraham in the San Francisco Bay AreaMarisela B. Gomez in Baltimore, and Charles Tonderai Mudede in Seattle

While these six reports represent too small and arbitrary a sample to allow for any broad conclusions, it is striking that struggles over housing and land use are at the center of nearly every one of them.


A protest in Baltimore opposing public financing for Port Covington. via Popular Resistance.   

Jim Vrabel: Housing and Income Inquality in Boston

“Everybody complains about the weather,” the old saying used to be (before global warming) “but nobody does anything about it.” Nowadays, everybody complains about housing prices and income inequality. In Boston and Massachusetts, some people are doing something about it.

In November, Boston voters will be asked to approve a 1% Community Preservation Tax, a surcharge on property tax bills that would generate some $20 million annually. Under state law, this new revenue must be used for preservation, open space, or affordable housing. Suburban communities that have already adopted it tend to steer it toward the first two categories. But in Boston — which has the third highest housing costs and third highest income inequality gap among big U.S. cities — the pressure is on to use it for the last one.

The campaign is being supported by a broad coalition of groups led by the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance and the Massachusetts Council of Community Development Corporations. A similar effort was defeated in 2001 due to the tepid and last-minute support of then-mayor Tom Menino and strong opposition by the Boston business community. This time around — with the growing concerns over housing affordability and the income gap — current mayor Mary Walsh has come out early and strongly for it and the city’s business community is sitting out the fight (some members are backing it), so there is a good chance that the measure will pass.

Sky-high housing prices and income inequality are combining to accelerate gentrification in Boston, which has prompted another campaign. This one is called the Right to Remain and it is being waged by a coalition of local community and social justice groups. Its goal is make sure that low- and moderate-income residents are not priced out of the city and one of its strategies is to call for establishing “neighborhood stabilization zones” to slow gentrification in up-till-now affordable areas like Chinatown, Dorchester, East Boston and Roxbury.

American cities are where everyone wants to be right now. Some of us remember when things were different. We remember when cities were being abandoned in the 1960s, when cities were promised investment from the so-called “peace dividend” that never materialized after the Vietnam War ended in the 1970s, and when gentrification began in the 1980s. Some of us also know that, throughout history, American cities have been seen as ladders of opportunity for the poor and working class to climb. These two campaigns in Boston are attempts to make sure that all of the rungs remain in that ladder.

A third campaign is being across Massachusetts. It calls for adoption of a so-called “Millionaires’ Tax” of 4% on the income of any resident that exceeds $1 million a year. Sponsored by Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community and faith-based groups and public and private-sector unions, it would generate an additional $2 billion annually. The new revenue would be applied directly to either housing or wealth redistribution, since it is earmarked for transportation and education. But it would give Massachusetts — which, despite its reputation as a liberal bastion, has resisted all attempts to change its flat-rate income tax for a more graduated and progressive one — a chance to take step in that direction. 

Jim Vrabel is the author of When In Boston: A Time Line & Almanac (Northeastern University Press), A People’s History of the New Boston (University of Massachusetts Press), and Homage to Henry: A Dramatization of John Berryman’s The Dream Songs. 

Madison Van Oort: NODAPL in Iowa 

Bill Gephard, president of the Iowa State Building and Trades warned back in August that “North Dakota lawlessness threatens to spill into Iowa.” Over the past few months, Gephard’s fears of “unwieldy individuals” and “aggressive protesters” appearing in Iowa has in many ways come true. With only a fraction of the Dakota Access Pipeline completed in Iowa, construction planned across 18 counties remains significantly vulnerable to disturbance. While most independent media coverage has rightfully focused on the brave water protectors in North Dakota, a number of events in Iowa are worth highlighting.

Most dramatically, someone set fire to equipment at three different Iowa construction sites, causing an estimated $2,000,000 in damage. While no suspects have been identified, authorities say they believe a pipeline protester is to blame.

And in Southeast Iowa, a group calling itself Mississippi Stand set up a small but militant camp near the pipeline’s crossing of the Mississippi River. For over two months, the group engaged in an array of direct actions, including regularly locking themselves to vital Dakota Access equipment and halting construction for hours at a time.

Although numerous organizations across the state have been rallying against the pipeline since Dakota Access announced its plans in 2014, many such efforts have focused almost exclusively on fighting eminent domain abuse, rarely mentioning native resistance in North Dakota or reflecting on how ‘protecting private property’ might itself reinforce settler colonialism.  

In contrast, Mississippi Stand expressed explicit solidarity with Standing Rock and indigenous battles against Big Oil. The group openly criticized Dakota Access for misleading residents of one of Iowa’s poorest areas with the false promise of local jobs — a deception confirmed by mainstream Iowa media — connecting (while not equating) histories of displacement and environmental racism with current realities of many local Iowans.

The encampment started when 35-year-old Jessica Reznicek, a Catholic Worker from Des Moines, blocked the entrance to the Lee County construction site with tires and created a “one-woman occupation.” After she was released from jail, Reznicek returned to the site where several supporters soon joined her.

Cameron Kennedy, a Mississippi Stand member who faces up to two years in jail for locking himself to a Dakota Access transport truck in October, explained that the group strategically shifted the location of its occupation: “We’ve managed to occupy the sludge dump where DAPL has been dumping toxic sludge into the ground water. Right now, we know for a fact they need this dump site in order to keep boring under the Mississippi River. So we’ve managed to strike one of their critical nodes of infrastructure... What we need more than anything right now is people to help us defend this site.”

Over past week, the group confronted escalating aggression from local police and private security, with unfortunately little increased support on the ground. The group announced on its Facebook page on October 27th that construction under the Mississippi has been completed; and while the camp has effectively disbanded, the group is currently raising funds to winterize their trailer and travel to North Dakota to support resistance near the Missouri River.

Madison Van Oort is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota

Kali Akuno: Cooperation Jackson and the Struggle for Community Production, Economic Democracy and a Just Transition in Mississippi

A struggle to define the future of the U.S. project is taking place in Mississippi. It is an asymmetrical struggle granted, but a defining struggle nonetheless. The struggle centers on whether the settler-colonial order of white supremacy will prevail in the form of a neo-confederacy that aims to roll back all of the social gains of the 20th century through the repression of Black, Indigenous, Latin@ and immigrant communities in the effort to revive 16th century relations of production, or whether a new democratic social order will prevail on the basis of self-determination for Black and Indigenous communities and working class emancipation in the form of common ownership over the means of production, particularly the Star Trek like 4th generation industrial technologies that are making mass production sustainable and accessible. This contest is primarily between the forces of progress on the left, driven by the Black working class, and the forces of reaction on the right, driven largely by white petit bourgeois forces.

Mississippi is the heart of the neo-confederacy. It is presently dominated by the Tea Party, which is in possession of the Governor's office and holds a supermajority in the state’s legislature. With possession of two of the state's three branches of government they are working overtime to legislate us back to the 16th century. If these forces have their way, Mississippi might become the first state in the union that ONLY functions to protect private contracts, as the aim of the neo-Confederates is to eliminate the public sector of the economy and social regulation almost entirely. This means no public schools, no public parks or recreation, no environmental standards or regulation, and no worker protections or rights monitoring. And that’s not all. In their ideal world everything will be privately owned, and owned by the white ruling elite and their allies, who have dominated this settler colonial project since its founding.

Of course, these forces are not without opposition. Throughout the state, progressive forces are fighting at every turn to preserve the gains of the 20th century — like the right to vote, the right to education, labor protections and environmental standards. Many of these fights have been able to keep the worse of the neo-Confederate proposals at bay for the last three years, but not without a cost. Fighting to preserve the status quo when you don’t own and control the means of production, including the media, is ultimately not sustainable. There must be a vision, and an organizing strategy and program to accompany it, to move progressive forces from defensive to offensive positions. This is where forces like Cooperation Jackson come decisively into the mix.

Cooperation Jackson is an instrument of the Jackson-Kush Plan, which is a counter-hegemonic strategy to transform the state of Mississippi. Cooperation Jackson is an emerging network of cooperative enterprises and supporting social solidarity institutions based in Jackson, MS. Our aim is to transform Jackson’s economy and social order by building a vibrant local social and solidarity economy anchored by worker and community owned enterprises that are grounded in sustainable and self-sufficient practices of production, distribution, consumption and recycling/reuse.

Since our emergence in 2014, Cooperation Jackson has employed a “build and fight” strategy. We work to build a base, to develop the productive forces within Mississippi, and to build a solidarity economy to advance the cause of economic democracy. We fight against capitalism, settler-colonialism and white supremacy in all their manifestations and for political power and self-determination. But, the area where we have been the most critical to the overall progressive movement in Mississippi has been in the development and promotion of a radical, but all inclusive vision of a just transition from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy based on community production. We are currently working to turn this vision into a reality by electing a slate of radical candidates for Mayor and city council in Jackson’s 2017 elections to institute major portions of our just transition plan, and to raise enough funds (hopefully with the help of readers like you and progressive forces through the US and the world) to build our first Center for Community Production in January 2017, which will be a Fab Lab (digital fabrication laboratory), maker space, coding and programming hub, and eventually a Fab Academy that will enable us to transform Jackson into a “Fab City”.

If we succeed in these endeavors, we will strike some critical blows against the neo-Confederate project. With the Center for Community Production we will shift relations of production by acquiring basic elements of the means of production. And with the implementation of the just transition plan, we will weaken the hold of the petro-chemical industry in our state. So, a critical struggle is being waged in Mississippi, one that demonstrates that progressive forces can make critical interventions with sound vision, strategy, and organizing.

Kali Akuno is an organizer, educator, and writer for human rights and social justice. He is the co-director of Cooperation Jackson, which is an emerging network of worker cooperatives and supporting institutions. Cooperation Jackson is fighting to create economic democracy by creating a vibrant solidarity economy in Jackson, MS that will help transform Mississippi and the South. He served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus was supporting cooperative development, sustainability, human rights and international relations.

Darwin BondGraham: Gentrification and Renters' Struggles in the Bay Area

Obscenely high rents, rising evictions, and the displacement of working and middle-class tenants has been the news story of the San Francisco Bay Area for about five years now. The latest development is the political awakening of renters across the region. They are organizing to protect themselves against a confluence of long-term economic trends, including stagnating incomes and rising property values. And they're battling landlords in an effort to rewrite state-and-local laws that currently treat housing as laxly-regulated commodity to be squeezed for maximum profit, not as a human right to be secured for the common good.

The result is that five Bay Area cities have new rent control and eviction protection measures on the ballot this year. And amendments are proposed to existing rent control and eviction protection laws in Oakland, and Berkeley. 

Beyond this, renters unions are emerging in a numerous other Northern California cities. They've already forced debates on housing and inequality in unlikely suburban locales like Concord. In Santa Rosa — a city that since the 1960s has been politically dominated by homeowners and developers — tenant activists managed this year to pass a new rent control law.

Of course this fight is happening everywhere, but the Bay Area’s singular role in the new global economy has made its housing crisis seem more extreme here. Being the epicenter of the tech industry, the Bay has both prospered and perversely suffered from a six-year economic expansion that has sucked in hundreds of billions in investment capital to finance startups and Fortune 500 companies, many of which, ironically, are trying to design robots and apps that will further drive down wages for many, or entirely replace jobs with new forms of automation. The growth of the tech sector has attracted tens of thousands of highly paid new residents who are putting unprecedented pressure on housing prices. Combined with the region’s limited undeveloped land and inability to rapidly add new housing, and a historic construction deficit, the Bay’s tech-driven boom has fueled a demand-driven crisis in which rents rise while average wages stagnate.

But it's not all impersonal economic forces from without that are to blame for the housing emergency. The crisis is also driven by the purposeful strategies of Wall Street-backed rental housing aggregatorsgreedy get-rich-quick investors, and opportunistic developers. The region's stressed and limited housing stock is ripe for exploitation by those with ample capital and no scruples.

Geographer Richard Walker’s examination of the role inequality, speculation, financial bloat, and tax havens play in undermining housing affordability in the Bay Area is a useful, big-picture explainer that shows how all this combines. Walker sets the table for more granular stories about the suffering renters endure at the hands of market logic.

I’ve yet to see anyone put a price tag on how much landlords are extracting in increased profits from Bay Area renters due to the housing crisis, but I think it’s fair to estimate that it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually across the region. That’s hundreds of millions in workers’ wages being extracted by landlords simply because California's state housing laws and regulations, and most local housing laws, allow property owners to monopolize socially created value in land, and capture this value by increasing rents at whatever pace they choose.

And of course the economic damages to renters are only a financial measure of a problem that is multidimensional. The Bay Area’s housing crisis is simultaneously a public health crisis.

Prior to 2016, the last California city that successfully enacted rent control was Hollywood, back in 1985. (Richmond passed a rent control law in 2015, but landlords spent heavily to gather voter signatures and have it repealed.) Thus the sudden explosion of new renter activism to demand rent control is, if not surprising, definitely a historical break. So far this movement has been overshadowed by other political stories of national and statewide importance, but it's worth paying closer attention to.

One center of the new renters' movement is the island town of Alameda, just across the Bay from San Francisco and next to Oakland. There, a scrappy tenants coalition has managed, in little more than a year, and on the efforts of volunteers, to place a strong rent control and eviction protection measure on the November ballot. Historically a sleepy ex-Navy town split between homeowners and renters, Alameda has become ground zero in the Bay Area’s housing war.

Local landlords have raised approximately one hundred thousand dollars to campaign against Alameda’s rent control measure. Similar landlord committees have been assembled in other cities to fight local rent control measures. And California’s major landlord lobbying group, the powerful California Apartment Association, has raised millions to fight rent control in Alameda, as well as in Richmond, Burlingame, San Mateo, and Mountain View. The group appears to be focusing its resources on preventing the spread of new rent control laws. Some have reported on the real estate industry money being spent to stop rent control in California — estimated in mid-October to be at least ten times whatever renters groups have been able to muster for their campaigns. It'll be interesting to tally the total investment landlords are making to maintain their control over rental prices when all is said and done.

In Berkeley, a city that has had rent control since 1980, the limits of de-commodifying housing and land are being pushed the furthest with a proposal to substantially increase an existing municipal business tax on residential landlords. The justification for the tax harkens back to Henry George, the San Francisco newspaperman, socialist, and author of Poverty and Progress. During the Bay Area real estate boom of the 1870s, George perceived that the owners of land were prospering from unearned increases in prices due to no effort of their own. These unearned rents, he held, should be taxed one-hundred percent, because they are the creation of society and the state, not the landlord.

No city in California has ever enacted such a land tax, but Berkeley's proposal is justified in part as a means of reclaiming a portion of socially produced value, and spending it on affordable housing projects in order to benefit society as a whole. Whether the new renter activism in other California cities moves toward more radical proposals like this is unclear. But the Bay Area's housing crisis will continue to push tenants to organize, and the concept of housing is likely to undergo change as renters demand rights to stable and affordable homes against the desires of landlords to maximally control property and generate profits.

Darwin BondGraham is a sociologist and a staff writer for the East Bay Express.  

Marisela B. Gomez: Rebuilding “two” Baltimores: segregated and subsidized

While the rhetoric and action of the presidential race has been taking up the imagination of the nation, other dramas have been unfolding across the US. In Baltimore, for example, we had a proposal for development of an enclave for white professionals —Port Covington — by billionaire Kevin Plank, owner of Under Armour. Not only did he propose 14,000 new housing units priced for those with incomes of at least $100,000, he requested and was granted one of the largest tax increment financing deals in the US, $660 million dollars. This amounts to more than 10% of the proposed $5.5 billion dollar cost of the project. Citizens, activists, civil rights organizations, and coalitions rallied and demanded that the city council reconsider such large government support for another neoliberal public-private development project with no evidence of equitable benefit to the local population (50% guaranteed local hiring, 30% affordable housing, etc). In supporting this and other racially and economically segregated projects, the city council again affirmed that public dollars will continue to support the growth of the wealthy. And Baltimore’s mayor-strong government affirmed that, as with previous redevelopment projects (Johns Hopkins Bioscience Park, Harbor Point), public dollars would continue to subsidize private development instead of public good. Organizing from below, more than 150 people signed up to testify at the hearing before the subcommittee, the majority to demand better benefits for the public; activists provided alternative proposals for equitable public subsidy. But they were matched and surpassed by those organizing from above — Sagamore Development, Kevin Plank’s corporation — with robocalls, advertisements, and divisive tactics. It’s still unclear how such large subsidies were granted to Mr. Plank in light of the law requiring that such funds be reserved for development that could not occur “but for” the subsidies. In the end, independent analyses suggested that the public subsidies will do no more than assure Mr. Plank a greater profit margin and lower risk. 

Baltimore’s history of public subsidy of private redevelopment is not new, dating back to 1950s urban renewal. And while each development project has promised benefit to the public, no one has ever evaluated of whether the public has seen benefits equitable to those taken by private developers. What has occurred is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Baltimore, and continued disinvestment in black and low income communities. This is evident in the number of abandoned houses, the underfunding of public schools and recreation centers, mass incarceration and violence wreaked on black bodies, the drug trade, and high unemployment rates in low income and black and brown communities. Immediately following the death of Freddie Gray and the uprising demanding justice in April 2015, every politician spoke up about the need to reinvest in our abandoned communities. Even Congressman Elijah Cummings spoke about the “two” Baltimores, the haves and have-nots. Just one year later, Baltimore continues with business as usual by neglecting public investment and subsidizing private developers like Kevin Plank seeking segregated and unequal communities. Critique of the outcome of this type of economic and community development continue to point to the current “two” Baltimores. Still, Baltimore continues acting for inequity and unsustainability while speaking a rhetoric of equality and sustainability. It’s Trumpism and Clintonism on a local scale.

Marisela B. Gomez is a community activist, public health professional, physician-scientist, and the author of Race, Class, Power, and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America.

Charles Tonderai Mudede: Seattle Now

Three big things happening in Seattle at this moment. One is the housing crisis. The city is constructing apartments almost exclusively for the highest paid tech workers. Affordable housing is becoming as real as the amazing powers of a superhero. Black Americans and black Africans have relocated in large numbers to the suburbs of Seattle. The number of white Americans in the city proper is increasing, as well as the number of people who call the streets their home. As if that weren’t enough, Chinese capital is entering the real estate market in search of yield and safe investments. If you read In Defence of Housing: The Politics of Crisis by David Madden and Peter Marcuse, you get a clear picture of what is going on with housing in Seattle. 

The next big thing is transportation. There is a proposal (ST3) to dramatically expand light rail service in the region. The section of the line that has been completed (between Angle Lake Station, which is near the airport south of Seattle, and University of Washington Station which is in the lower part of North Seattle) has experienced a success that completely caught the city by surprise. Boardings exploded. Trains are often packed. People clearly wanted to get out of their cars and move. But there has been great resistance to ST3 because it would end car dependency for many in Seattle. And those who do not need cars do not usually buy them. The car industry wants more roads, not more rails.

But here is the problem: because Seattle is too expensive for the poor and the working poor and the lower middle class, they will not enjoy the advantages of this Seattle-centric system. Homes and apartments near the line are becoming expensive, and speculators are already waiting to make cash at stations that open in the future. This will condemn the poor to cars, and the rich will enjoy the health and time advantages of the light rail system. Voters can’t say no to the expansion but it is not without its class serious problems.

Lastly, our socialist council member Kshama Sawant, who is doing great work on a variety of important issues, is at odds with many of the progressives in the Democratic party by supporting Jill Stein. She did support Bernie Sanders, but when he lost, she refused out of principle to endorse the clear neoliberal Hillary Clinton. This position is understandable, but it will certainly strain and possibly break her politically important alliance with progressive Democrats. This is bad news because Seattle actually needs more socialist candidates running for office, and this will not happen without the alliance that got Kshama Sawant elected. This situation is truly perplexing. Sawant is by no means wrong, but her support of Stein has no future. Those on the radical left need to commit more thought to difficulties of this nature.

Charles Tonderai Mudede is a Zimbabwean-born cultural critic, urbanist, filmmaker, and writer.  Mudede collaborated with the director Robinson Devor on two films, Police Beat and Zoo, both of which premiered at Sundance — Zoo was screened at Cannes. Mudede, who is an editor for The Stranger, has contributed to the New York TimesLA WeeklyVillage VoiceBlack Souls Journal, e-fluxC TheoryCinema ScopeKeyframeFilmmaker and is on the editorial board for the Arcade Journal and Black Scholar. His fiction has appeared in Seattle Review. Mudede has lived in Seattle since 1989

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Left Forum 2016 - Cooperation Jackson: Countering the Confederate Assault & the Struggle for Economic Democracy in Jackson Mississippi with brandon king and Rukia Lumumba

Left Forum 2016
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Friday, April 1st is the launch of “Operation Jackson Rising”. Operation Jackson Rising is a grassroots effort to stop the Confederate Spring being ushered in by Governor Phil Bryant and the neo-confederate, Tea Party dominated state Republican Party. The Confederate Spring is an onslaught of reactionary legislation, being forced on Black, Indigenous, immigrant and working class communities in Mississippi and throughout the south. This assault is an effort to impose a neo-liberal social order that seeks to reestablish an open racial hierarchy, patriarchal dominance and hetero-normative hegemony. It is explicitly seeking to criminalize more sectors of the Black working class, to openly and legally discriminate against LGBTQI individuals, to privatize public education and eliminate any semblance of Black or ethnic studies, and reduce the scale and scope of the government to privatize essential goods and services by eliminating taxes and reduce revenues. Cooperation Jackson has been working with the Coalition for Economic Justice which is specifically focused on combating the aspects of the Confederate Spring that are seeking to seize Jackson’s strategic assets and destroy Black political power in the city. This panel/workshop session will also provide some basic education, and give a context to the struggle for economic democracy in Jackson Mississippi and Cooperation Jackson's role as a vehicle designed to actualize economic democracy in Jackson, Mississippi.

Panel/Workshop Topics: Political Economy And The Current Crisis, Political And Social Movements, Culture and Everyday Life
More Panel/Workshop Information

Diversity of Perspectives: 
This panel/workshop session will allow space for a diversity of perspectives relating to economic democracy, self-determination, solidarity economy, and shared economy. We will also connect how white supremacy, colonization, and austerity to the current context of a confederate assault.

About Left Forum 2016: Rage, Rebellion, Revolution: Organizing Our Power
"Today's left generates an increasingly bold and resonant criticism of contemporary capitalism and the severely compromised everyday life that it produces. From Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15; from escalating climate justice and gender freedom demands and the movement against mass incarceration to the massive national support for Bernie — not despite but because he wears the socialist label: left critique is going big. Something profound is shaking.

The fuel for radical social transformation is all around us. From the streets and from offices; from campuses, factories, and stores, we see a growing rage against the system coming from those left behind and left out. People have had it. But we know too well that rage can easily feed the dangers of right wing populism, fascism, militarism, and gun violence in the U.S. and around the world.

Rebellion, too, stalks the institutions that perpetuate a ruthless and violent system. Rebellion is inevitable when people live in a dehumanizing and contradictory society. But rebellion can fuel the right as well as the left — from “Know-Nothing” style populism to positive reforms like higher wages, and from movements to end the racist dimensions - and transform the institutional purposes - of policing in our country, all the way up to a revolutionary alternative. The future depends on what we envision and build today, and on how we ride this wave.

We know that we can do better than capitalism and its state violence and endless bullshit. We reject the corporate dominance that corrupts our politics while delivering depressions, unemployment, and austerity. Folks all around the world share our disgust at the grotesque inequalities of today’s corporate system: its discriminations against and oppressions of vast populations, and its destruction of our environment. They sense that there are better alternatives. At Left Forum, we come together to imagine and hash out these alternatives, and to organize our power to make them real.

There is a lot to build on, and a lot to build. See you at Left Forum!"
- via

Left Forum 2016 Coverage
Provided by: Deep Dish TV
Producer: Brian Drolet
Cinematography: Ron Myrvik
Live Stream: Matt Hopard
Editors: Ron Myrvik and Rebecca Centeno

Assault on Black Political Power in Jackson MS. Part 3.

The Assault on Black Power in Jackson Mississippi. The State of Mississippi's white leadership has launched a series of very reactionary legislative bills to strip 90% Black Jackson of control over its airport and water system, two of its major sources of local income and revenue. In addition legislature has passed a number of measures denying rights to LGBTQIGNC people. What is in motion here is a Klan-like ride back to white supremacy along with an assertion of Black self-determination.

Assault on Black Political Power in Jackson, MS.

Our latest Mississippi Project video, "The Assault on Black Political Power in Jackson, MS: Countering the Confederate Spring, Part 1

Republicans throughout the South are trying to build a "new" Confederacy by dominating state legislatures and enacting laws that aim to return society back to the 18th century. Mississippi Republicans are working overtime to lead this reactionary charge.

The Mississippi Republican supermajority in the State Legislature are advancing an all out assault on the social gains won by Blacks, women, workers, farmers, immigrants and LGBTQI individuals and communities over the past 100 years during the 2016 legislative session.

Jackson, the Black majority state capital of Mississippi is coming under heavy attack this legislative session. There are four critical attacks being waged this session:  SB 2162 The Airport Takeover Bill, SB 2525 The Downtown Annexation Bill, SB 2306 The Racial Profiling and Immigrant Targeting Bill, and Gov. Phil Bryant's Confederate History Month declaration. The city's water treatment and delivery system is also under threat.

The Coalition for Economic Justice launched in January 2016 to counter these reactionary assaults, defend Jackson's economic integrity, and fight for economic justice and democracy.


For more information about the Coalition for Economic Justice visit or email

Send resources for The BDS Campaign to:
Community Aid and Development Inc.
P.O. Box 68426
Jackson, MS 39286

Send resources for the Buy Jackson Campaign to:
Cooperation Jackson
P.O. Box 1932
Jackson, MS 39215

‘Capitol Complex’ District Would Fund (Parts of) Jackson

The Capitol Complex project will benefit a large section of downtown, as well as the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson State University, Fondren and Belhaven. Affected areas are colored in pink. Photo courtesy Kristin Brenemen

The Capitol Complex project will benefit a large section of downtown, as well as the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson State University, Fondren and Belhaven. Affected areas are colored in pink. Photo courtesy Kristin Brenemen

By Tim Summers, Jr.             Wednesday, March 9, 2016 9:44 a.m. CST

JACKSON — Several parts of Jackson will benefit financially if a pair of bills the Mississippi Senate passed last week survives and becomes law. If successful, a new Capitol Complex Improvement District project would help fund development of a large section of downtown, as well as the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson State University, Fondren and Belhaven.

Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, explained in a phone interview Tuesday that the project would be funded out of tax dollars from the state's share of the sales tax revenue from the city. "The City of Jackson is going to get the same money it has always got. But the additional money which comes out of the state's share is going into this special fund for infrastructure around state property," he said.

The money will most likely be spent around state buildings, he said, hence the "Capitol Complex."

"We have a crisis with infrastructure. And a failure of infrastructure around state buildings where the state has a substantial investment is bad for the state," Blount said. "The state has an interest in seeing that the infrastructure around its buildings are well-maintained."

Mayor Tony Yarber heralded the move. "We applaud and are so grateful to our elected officials who saw past partisanship for the greater good of our entire state by making a move toward the much deserved investment in the infrastructure of our state Capital," he said in a statement.

The Senate version of the bill, SB 2525, would relegate the funds to very precise improvements, mostly involving infrastructure. The bill was clear that it would take place only on "public areas" including bridge construction and repair, water drainage systems, traffic and street lights, new water and sewer lines, as well as the ever-popular "street reconstruction, resurfacing, and repairs to roadways, curbs and gutters."

A five-member board of four appointees from the executive branch of the state government and one by the Jackson mayor would approve the fund allocations. Both the governor and the lieutenant governor each receive two appointees apiece, each to initially serve for three years.

The board will develop a plan for the project based on input from an advisory committee. That committee will provide the insight from the constituent area bounded in by the Capitol Complex district. While these 11 committee members may influence the final plan that the board develops, the City of Jackson, through the city council, will have final approval over any plan.

"The plan shall attempt to incorporate the needs of the City of Jackson, the Department of Finance and Administration, Jackson State University, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Any plan adopted by the board must be approved by the governing authorities of the City of Jackson," the bill states.

The Jackson mayor would choose three members of the advisory committee, while the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker would each have their own appointees.

Diverted tax revenue from the City of Jackson would pay for the improvements; however, only two members of the governing board are required to be from Hinds County, while the other three may be from Hinds, Rankin or Madison counties. Neither Rankin or Madison County has any land in the project area.

Kali Akuno, of the Coalition for Economic Justice and Cooperation Jackson, said both of these organizations are opposed to the bill.

"We are calling this the 'Downtown Annexation Bill,' because that is essentially what it amounts to," he said Tuesday. "If passed, this bill will give the governor control over the primary economic engines of the city (government, colleges and universities, and health care), which given the partisan and racially divided nature of Mississippi politics, will result in few of the 'improvement' contracts and the wealth generated from them, going to benefit black and other non-white contractors and workers."

Akuno said the bill would increase gentrification and displacement already occurring in the areas that benefit due to higher rents and taxes, and lead to "outright housing discrimination."

"This is exactly what has happened in other cities that have employed such schemes, like Austin, Texas," Akuno added. "SB 2525 is not designed to aid the existing residents of Jackson, it is designed to push impoverished black people out and replace them with an entirely new demographic with different class and racial interests."

Correction: The original version of the above story designation Sen. David Blount as a Republican. He is, in fact, a Democrat. We apologize for the error.

Email city reporter Tim Summers, Jr. at See more local news

Paris State of Emergency - Medialien Doc

A look back on the first months of the state of emergency in Paris: activists in custody, protests shut down, warrantless house arrests, and the COP21 strangled by anti-terrorist measures. Retour sur les premiers mois d'état d'urgence à Paris: des militants en garde à vue, des manifs interdites, des perquisitions anticonstitutionnelles et la COP21 étouffée par des mesures anti-terroristes.

UN working group in Jackson for fact-finding mission

Bracey Harris, The Clarion-Ledger 10:31 a.m. CST January 23, 2016

A United Nations working group focused on combatting matters of disenfranchisement affecting people of African descent has selected Jackson as one of four cities that members will visit as part of a fact-finding mission.

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will hear testimonies Saturday at the Lumumba Center at 939 W. Capitol St. on a number of social justice issues such as education, mass incarceration and environmental rights.

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