MLK, Solidarity & Cooperative Economies

share_imageMartin Luther King Day stirred a deep pain within your farmer this year. It’s a mess of feelings, sad, angry, guilty, privileged and invisible, all at once. Here’s the complexity; though I am Native I’ve grown up as a White-Passing, Upper Middle Class person with all the inherent privileges that accompany those labels in our society. It’s an experience that can render my inherited identity invisible, making me uncomfortable to identify as native due to my physical looks and off reservation upbringing. Am I really a Native? Do I really deserve to identify as Native? Am I culturally appropriating my own culture or perpetuating stereotypes or signalling to other white people that it’s okay to wear or use Native fashion or practices? Did I make this whole thing up? Am I just grasping with some need to have a unique and exotic heritage? Am I using my heritage to gain leverage somehow? This is what assimilation looks like. I am the end goal of our Governments policies to eradicate the indigenous peoples of this continent. “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” U.S. Calvary captain Richard Henry Pratt said, who deemed the ongoing battles too dangerous or arduous to continue and opened the first boarding school for Native American children.

I’m grateful that Martin Luther King marched, spoke and fought for the fair, equal, equitable work and life rights of Black people in particular but for all people. In his time and to the benefit of us all, he was boldly forging a radical, multi-racial movement for economic justice.

“…Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shore, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

His work isn’t over now that he’s gone. Dr. King didn’t do anything superhuman, it’s up to each of us to continue to walk up to the front lines and demand change. We can do that together, in peaceful, everyday, your neighbors wont even notice, ways through participating in Solidarity and Cooperative Economies.

Dr. King was a promoter of economic democracy, he was staunchly anti-capitalistic as is evident within his many speeches . In his most famous speech, I Have a Dream, he draws on many metaphors making explicit that America was (is) continuing to leave Black people behind both legally and economically and how essential economic freedom was to truly achieving the goals of the Civil Rights movement. “For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of society,” he said, “a little change here and a little change there, but now I feel differently. You have to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.” What is economic justice though? I strongly believe that a just economy is one that subverts capitalism, it involves businesses that are in solidarity with the cause, unionized or specifically sourcing and intentionally reaching out to the marginalized populations it may serve as workers and consumers. But more than that I strongly believe a just economy is best realized through the cooperative movement. Why unionize when you can be a worker-owner? A consumer-owner? I’m not alone, there are thousands around the world developing cooperative businesses seeking a more democratic economy.

At Good Rain Farm I seek to reconstruct and participate in the revolution of our communities food systems. Through supporting and purchasing as much of the Farms seed, seedling dirt, tools, starts through other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)  businesses the Farm participates in the Solidarity Economy, funneling money to those who’ve been most hurt by our Government and Capitalist (Greed, Profit Driven) economy. Your farmer has personally been seeking out Native non-profits to volunteer with and potentially partner IMG_20190121_161150389with such as Wisdom of the Elders. Good Rain Farm also seeks to become a worker-owned co-op, having farmer-owners who have specific expertise in the many faucets of the farm currently and into the future. This set up allows those who are on the ground, literally covered in it, to make the best decisions on how to operate the business and support the community. You may have read or heard of many calls for Reparations, one great way to insure your dollars flow towards that is through intentionally supporting non-white local business. Good Rain Farm customers have a unique opportunity to support both a co-op and participate in the solidarity economy. And for that the Farm is grateful and proud to offer our local, sustainable food source to you! Your dollars at the Farmer’s Markets, at Restaurants that support local farmers and your CSA purchases all go towards supporting a new economy that can move us closer towards a Just Economy Martin Luther King may have envisioned.

In my effort to attract and retain co-farmers and to better work with the local tribes I am currently attending a PUGS (Portland Underground Grad School) class titled Confronting Racial Bias in Non-Profit and Grassroots Organizing”. We all are acclimatized to a White Dominant Culture, living and functioning within systems such as Institutions, the Government, our workplaces and even our households where the assumptions and cultural norms of these spaces (Our society as a whole) support the Implicit Bias’s (the unconscious stereotyping and decision making) that support or continue to prop up a male dominant white society. Learning to identify and confront my own ingrained habits is one way I can better serve my community at large. For the Farm to better tackle and support Food Sovereignty of this bio-region it’s farmer needs to be actively growing and learning about her privileges. The farm needs to be reaching out and involving these other stake holders in developing our action plans and educational efforts around farming and native edibles. Actively working on deconstructing (decolonizing) my assimilation/adoption of the norms that support what has become a clearly hurtful normalized set of standards in our country and world today is a personal action I have taken. No matter how we each choose to continue the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, it is in the very act of intentionally choosing to participate in carrying on his legacy that will bring lasting change to our society for generations to come. (Maybe come to this event with your farmer? Farming While Black: Uprooting Racism, Seeding Sovereignty book reading at The Nightwood in Portland, Or? $15 Tickets)

All Links in this article I highly recommend you click and read them. I found them all very worthwhile.

Lim̓lm̓t, (Thank you)

Your farmer,

Michelle Week




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