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What Architects and Anarchist have in common

In two nights, in two very different settings I got the same message and it is a message that needs to get through.

My father was an architect.  He got a lifetime achievement award from the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) and felt like this award should really be bookended by an outstanding young architects award, so he created one.  My father passed in 2009 and my mother continues to give out this award at the BSA gala each year.

I went this year for the first time to the BSA gala.  It was black tie and probably the fanciest dinner I have ever been to.  It was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston.

Intercontinental_1

shiny – The Intercontinental in Boston

Before the event my mother noticed I was not wearing any socks and asked me to put some on.  I went to my pathetic bag and could only find one sock, so I put it on (one qualifying as “some”); fortunately, no one seemed to notice.  My mother sat next to the award winner who was friendly and charming.  On her other side was the Boston Globe architecture critic, a long time family friend.

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The Field School – one of the award winners

At this awards dinner a life time achievement award was given to Theodore Landsmark.  I had met Landsmark before when he gave my mother an honorary doctorate from the Boston College of Architecture.  Landsmark certainly deserves a lifetime achievement.  He was the president of the very cool open admission Boston College of Architecture for 17 years.  He has been on the board of multiple arts-related institutions including the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  He has a bunch of advanced degrees from a number of fancy schools.  But in my mind the thing he is most famous for is being the right person in the wrong place as depicted in the Pultizer Prize winning photo below.

Soiling Old Glory.jpg

The Soiling of Old Glory

 

Landsmark is a great public speaker, but his message was not a comfortable one for the architects in the room.  He observed that he and one other architect were the only black faces in the room and had been for the last 30 years.  He told the black tie crowd that they had to do better promoting people of color and women to positions of responsibility in the field of architecture.  He noted that since he had joined the Boston Redevelopment Authority, they had approved scores of projects worth over $2 billion and only twice had the presentations been done by a women or by a person of color.  He pointed out that companies with diverse senior management are more profitable.  Further, that the emerging architecture markets in the global south are expecting to see greater diversity from partner firms in the north.  He observed that the city of Boston was “Majority Minority” and that most of the graduates of architecture schools are now women.  He attacked architecture and especially architecture management as being a bastion of old white men.

But I probably would not have written this blog post at all, if a similar conversation were not happening in a completely different context the next day.

I’ve written several times about the Baltimore Free Farm.  It is one of the most inspiring urban projects in the US, and is affiliated with the Point A project.  BFF does a “Fancy Dinner” fundraiser once a year.

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Anarchists can have nice things too

BFF has done a bunch of work on diversity and inclusion issues and provided important support — in the form of free food — for the protests in Baltimore last April.  Despite this work, there was a powerful critique of this year’s Fancy Dinner on the event’s Facebook page.  It included the following text:

People think about racism as an individual act of prejudice or discrimination from one person to another. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about systems, structures and institutions.

One of the principal organizers for the BFF collective read this critique during the Fancy Dinner.  BFF was being called out to support more local black businesses.  The audience of the Fancy Dinner was mostly white, and I believe quite sensitive to this critique.

There has been a huge jump in whites’ understanding of racism as a problem in the US. And at both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, at fancy dinners of dominantly white participants had this brought up in uncomfortable and powerful ways.

 

Communities Directory Crowdfunding

i have to say i am very proud of my co-dad.  Sky has been selected as the new executive director of the Fellowship for Intentional Communities.   And near the top of the list of things that EDs do, is hustle money.

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Willow and Sky Blue – Circa 2012

So far he has been pretty successful.  The first crowd funding effort since he became ED has raised more than $7K for the FIC’s Intentional Communities directory.

The FIC is trying to build on this success in the last few days of the online fund drive.  An anonymous donor has agreed to match any donations up to the $7500 mark that come in.

As with many good crowd source campaigns, the FIC is making it easy to donate by giving you a premium that you really want anyway for your donation.  You can get the brand new FIC intentional communities directory for donating $25.  Just do it.

 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 95,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Best Xmas present – a new life

You have these friends, who are stuck in their situation. Some combination of things in their lives are not working very well. Their jobs are a dead end. Their relationship is holding them back. Their social scene is deadening. What you really want to get them for a holiday present is a completely different life. You know they deserve much more and it’s heart breaking for you to see them stuck like this.

enough about my job

I have the perfect present. The entry way to a new life.

The new community directory is a single volume which describes and categorizes over 700 communities in the US. What your friend needs to do is to find their clan and their new life in one of these places where cooperation and sharing resources have been taken to a higher level. Perhaps the best way to get out from under that terrible boss is to move to a cooperative business. Perhaps shaking up their social scene will come from choosing to live with people who have shared values.

life begins here chinese window.jpg

Or perhaps not

There really is only one way for them to find out: to get the communities directory. And for the next 57 days you can get an advance copy for the crazy low price of $25, including shipping.

The organizers of the fundraising campaign here have gotten a bit daring. They are doing a threshold-based campaign, which means if they don’t get all the money, then they get nothing. This is my call to you to match their daring. Get this campaign to go viral. Put it up on your Facebook page, write about it in your blog (or simply re-blog mine) and if anyone knows how to make Reddit really work, it would be great there.

Communities Directory 7 Cover Draft (1)

And these unspecified friend I’m talking about,  might well include you. Be your own best friend and recognize that community life might well be better than what you are currently doing and you should get the directory for yourself and chart a path away from the troublesome waters you might be finding yourself in.

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Don’t let stable structures keep you from exploring

If you do decide to support this campaign, i would ask you to add one penny to your total, so we can see who found out about it thru this blog post.  Big Thanks.

 

 

 

#WhoIsBurningBlackChurches and the Mainstream Media Racial Bias

Unlike Yahoo, Google does not run a new service.  They run an aggregator.  It scans 4000 sources and creates listings for news stories based on a number of factors, including the reliability of sources and the popularity of the story. There are no editors at Google News; it is all done using algorithms.  Thus, in some crude way, Google News is the mainstream news (MSM).  Yesterday, I bumped into this internet meme (sic):

Is the MSM ignoring this story?

Is the MSM ignoring this story?

So i went to Google News’ US section for today (July 2) and, in the 30 top stories listed on the page, there is not a single mention of these churches being burned.  Nothing on the investigations, nothing on local protests about this arson, nothing about these churches having been targets before, nothing about the apparent race war which is raging in this country.  Simply nothing.

Why is this map so hard to find?

Why is this map so hard to find?

It would be wrong to say that there has been no coverage about this at all.  The BBC, NY Times and Buzzfeed have run stories on it before #BlackLivesMatter started raising public awareness about these incidents.  But the 24 hour new services on US television (Fox and CNN) had vanished the story.

To combat this silence, the twitter feed #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches was created by #BlackLivesMatter.  The twitter feed is an organizing platform where concerned citizens can post about these fires and read the latest news about this under-reported story.  But really the purpose of this hashtag is not to replace the failed FBI efforts to find the domestic terrorists, it is to shame the media into covering the story.  And it is working.  The BBC reports:

A Google News search about the fires returned more than 1,400 stories, up from just over 300 on Tuesday. Although news of a seventh church fire broke later Tuesday, and could explain the increase, Masri claimed that the Twitter action worked.

So far, however, the 24 hour TV news stations have remained largely silent (CNN has 4 stories, one explaining claiming one fire was from lightning).   If you put “Black Churches Arson” into Fox News’ search, there are no results found.  Salon magazine’s article on the media’s failure to cover  all this arson as an issue of domestic terrorism listed the following set of likely future Fox News stories on the church burnings from #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches:

  1. Apparently all those black churches used the same electrician.
  2. “Affirmative action” is to blame. Somehow.
  3. “Race hustlers” just want to get attention and make white people look bad.
  4. You see this is really a war on Christians!
  5. Do the math: Churches burn down all the time. Why are black race hustlers and liberals making such a big deal about simple math!
  6. What if Black racists want to hurt white firefighters!
  7. This is a scorched earth strategy to start a race war against white people.
  8. This is what happens when the SCOTUS allows gay marriage!
  9. Rap music! Rappers are always talking about “being on fire” and “making it hot up in here.” Let’s lay the blame where it deserves. What about personal responsibility!
  10. What if this was caused by, like, solar flares? How can the sun be racist?
  11. We need to talk about the broken Black family, and how black kids love playing with lighters.
  12. What do the liberals want to do now? Ban lighters.
  13. And really, where are black fathers?!
  14. Barack Obama is to blame.
But as pathetic as this list is, i do want to land on this last point.  Were Obama to hold a press conference, announce a special investigation, and highlight the problem, Fox and others could not avoid the story.  Certainly, there is a giant problem with the structural racism in the MSM.  But also saddening is the failure of the first black president of the US to take on the largely silent race war waging in this country.

Call to Action – Cooks to Baltimore

Baltimore is on fire.

One less police car - Fire in Baltimore yesterday

One less police car – Fire in Baltimore yesterday

But it is not the flames of store fronts and rare police cars.  It is the anger of locals who have tried everything else.  There have been protests in Baltimore for months over police killings of unarmed black youth.  MLK would have been proud of the tireless efforts by local organizers to try to influence the behavior of the police, non-violently.

But with the recent death of Freddie Gray who was arrested for reasons unknown, had his back broken, was denied medical attention when he asked for it repeatedly and then died in police custody, have thrown the city of Baltimore into a crisis.  The important thing to realize, is that this is happening all the time across the US.  Unarmed, young blacks are being killed by the police on a nearly daily basis.  What is also important to understand is the US is unique in this behavior, basically every other country in the world is able to deal with their populations without requiring the police to kill their unarmed civilians.  Freddie Gray did not cause the riots in Baltimore.  The Baltimore police and the mayors office doing nothing for years about this problem caused these riots, Freddie’s death just sparked them.

It is easy to feel hopeless.  It is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do.  This is often the luxurious place of white privilege,  There are things you can do.  Very specifically, if you understand community, you can go to Baltimore and help cook for protesters.  The Baltimore Free Farm (one of the most incredible urban projects in the US ) has made a call to the communes for cooks, if you have ever lived in community or feel like you understand how community works/have strong social skills, you are welcome to help.

We got the following request from our dear friends at the Baltimore Free Farm​ (BFF).

1) There are major protests in Baltimore
2) BFF is feeding protesters and needs more cooks
3) The best cooks for them are people who understand community and are not randos
4) Cooking experience is good, and willing volunteers who are not cooks can be trained and are welcome

If there are Acorn or Twin Oaks cooks (or others community savvy folx) who are willing to go up, they need help immediately and are estimating they will for the next several days to a week.

BFF will house volunteers. If you are interested please contact Billy at BFF.

If your problem is how to get there, i will help you get there. Paxus@twinoaks.org

Almost all protesters are non-violent.  You can help them.

Almost all protesters are non-violent. You can help them.

Extended FAQs – Twin Oaks Decision Making

This is the second in a series of extensions to the FAQs found on the TwinOaks.Org website.  Members, ex-members and other informed folks are encouraged to send corrections or alternative interpretations of my extensions as well as of the official FAQs themselves.

Here is what the website says about our decision making system:

Our decision-making model is based on the Walden Two Planner-Manager system combined with our egalitarian values. Managers are responsible for the day-to-day decisions for their area. For community-wide decisions and larger issues, the Planners (3 rotating members) make decisions by looking at our bylaws and policies, and by soliciting community input by posting papers for comment, holding community meetings, putting out surveys, talking with members (especially members that are closely involved in the issue or have strong feelings), etc. They don’t make decisions based on their personal preference, but rather by gathering information and determining the larger will of the community on a given issue. Any member can appeal a Planner decision they feel is unfair, although this rarely happens as Planners generally do a pretty good job at considering all the aspects of a given issue.

The community as a whole does not use consensus for making decisions, but some decision-making bodies within the community use consensus to make their decisions (e.g. the Membership Team). In keeping with our egalitarian values, we all have a voice in making the decisions about how to spend our collective money and labor during each year’s economic planning. The Managers and Planners put out their proposed economic plan, and each member can alter the plan according to their values and preferences (e.g. I can cut the office budget, and shift that money/labor to the garden budget instead, if I want). Once every member who wants to has done this, the Planners synthesize everyone’s changes to create the final budget.

decision-making-processes sign post Decision making at Twin Oaks is complex and the origin of this complexity (in my opinion) is the noble notion that we can do better than have a simple majority win.

The founders of the community thought they could improve on voting.  They wanted a system which revised proposals, even if they would win a simple vote, so that they could take care of minority voices in the community.  But because there were not (in 1967) good secular models of consensus process, they decided to roll their own and create a whole new group decision making structure. Key to this structure is our own unusual internal communication system.

Every community has an internal communication system, and almost all of them are verbal.  The group gets together some number of times each week and discusses what needs to happen and who is going to do it.

Twin Oaks was founded by writers.  We have a written communication culture. I don’t know of any other community that does it this way.  It has several advantages and some disadvantages as well.

The principal advantage is we avoid the “sloppy majority effect”.  If you are making a proposal and you have general support for it, but there are people with concerns about it, you cannot just force it through as a simple vote would.  If there are reasonable ways you can take care of the minority by modifying your proposal, the expectation is you will try to find these and amend your proposal.

This is why the O&I board is more powerful than a meeting format for proposal reworking. The O&I board is a collection of 24 clipboards on which people post proposals for changes in our policy and decisions.  These clipboards are stocked with extra blank paper at the ends so that there is room for people to add their thoughts (and so they feel like the authors of the proposal are inviting them to do so).  Ideally, critics voice their concerns, make constructive suggestions, and these amendments get reviewed and integrated in part or in totality to the new version of the proposal. The problem comes when the comments are not constructive or not easily folded into the existing proposal.  This is especially problematic when a vocal minority wants the proposal not to go forward at all or has a significantly different alternative they would like to advance.

How are we getting there?

How are we getting there?

These contentious proposals test our decision making system and demonstrate both its flexibility and its hazards.  The person who posts the proposal has several different options when they get complex or contradictory feedback on what they have submitted.  The first and easiest option is they can simply drop the idea.  This happens with some regularity.  Many folks proposing things, however, have a vested interest in the improvements they have suggested, so they will typically go one of several routes:

  • re-write the proposal to include new suggestions
  • call a community meeting to discuss the proposal (this is rare)
  • do a survey of member’s attitudes on this topic (also rare)
  • consult with other area managers or the planners

It’s a complex process and can proceed at a glacial pace, but some proposals do pass and it works well enough at Twin Oaks.

[ edited by MoonRaven ]

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