NY Times article on Ira
Feb. 1, 2023
They Call Her the Godmother of Southern Seeds for a Reason
For a quarter of a century, Ira Wallace has nurtured seeds and gardeners: ‘When you say her name in our community, all this love comes up.’ Ira Wallace, 74, has played a key role at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for about 25 years, and is referred to by those she has mentored as a godmother.
By Margaret Roach Feb. 1, 2023 6 MIN READ
It was the allure of peanut seed that drew a big-dreaming beginning gardener to the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog decades ago. I was madly imagining a zone-defying adventure with the tropical legume in my decidedly Northern plot.
What I found at Southern Exposure amounted to a lot more than mere peanuts, and way beyond the packets of collard seed and okra that I added to my order from their list of Southern specialties.
I began an education there — and at Seed Savers Exchange, and a few other like-minded catalogs that are no longer around — centered on the lesson that seeds are no mere commercial product, but the embodiment of our living history.
In those catalogs, I received encouragement, and information, to learn to grow each crop organically and save its seed, rekindling a traditional skill that empowers us to feed ourselves season after season, while helping to keep seed strains going.
For some 40 years, Southern Exposure has stewarded an ever-evolving list of regionally and culturally important seeds, now numbering around 800 varieties. And for about a quarter of a century, Ira Wallace, 74, has played a key role at the company, which has been owned since 1999 by the place she has long called home.
Peanut seed has been in the Southern Exposure catalog almost since the beginning, about 40 years ago. The Fastigiata Pin Striped variety has large, wavy pods, with nuts that have orange skins marked with purple when they’re dried.
The farm-based Acorn Community is a secular, egalitarian intentional community on 72 acres in Mineral, Va., that supports “radical sharing” and “encourages personal responsibility,” according to its website. Such ethics, and the energy forged by its communal spirit, have been assets in the face of the seed industry’s modern era of dramatic consolidation and its focus on the pursuit of patented varieties.
Four multinational giants that are also in the pesticide business now own much of the precious genetics of our agricultural crops; seed has become intellectual property.
But not here. Southern Exposure offers heirloom and open-pollinated seed, each variety with a story to tell — a link to those who grew it before, and the places it originated.
One that Ms. Wallace looks forward to each year is roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), a big, beautiful plant that produces “the zing in Red Zinger tea,” she said. It used to be grown in Florida, where she was raised. It’s sometimes referred to as sorrel or Jamaica sorrel; in the 1890s, it was called Florida cranberry.
Ms. Wallace screens seeds of her favorite Whippoorwill cowpea, an heirloom that traveled with enslaved Africans to the Americas and was eventually grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
‘Collaborators, Not Competitors’
Southern Exposure mails out about 80,000 catalogs each year. In 2022, it filled 52,000 orders, most to customers in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, with a segment of shoppers elsewhere wanting a taste of the region — as those long-ago peanuts promised me. Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter tomato, with giant fruits exceeding two pounds and sometimes reaching four, is one such headliner.
As if her role there and as the elder at Acorn were not enough, Ms. Wallace applies her seemingly inexhaustible energy to other forms of nurturing as well, and to teaching. Prepandemic, she was a Girl Scout leader and “the math lady” at the local library, using math games to engage children with numbers.
She has also mentored countless grown-ups who were curious about seed farming, helping to connect them with other growers who could share information and equipment, improving their chances of success.
She even mentors other seed companies.
Okra, a mallow family member, has been part of the Southern Exposure assortment from the start. The current catalog lists 20 varieties, including Puerto Rico Everblush — early yielding, bountiful and delicious.
Credit…Chris Smith/Utopian Seed Project
“I remember a really early conversation, where Ira told me small seed companies needed to be collaborators, not competitors,” said Chris Smith, the executive director of the Utopian Seed Project, a North Carolina-based crop-trialing nonprofit. He expressed gratitude for Ms. Wallace’s role in helping to jump-start the Heirloom Collards Project, which he is part of, and her early support of another small Southeastern specialist catalog, Sow True Seed, where he worked.
The role she has assumed has been described by many — including Ms. Wallace herself — as that of a godmother.
“When you say her name in our community, all this love comes up — a standing ovation every time, from all the young’uns and friends who sit at her feet, whom she has blessed,” said Bonnetta Adeeb, of Ujamaa Seeds. Ms. Wallace has advised Ujamaa, a collective of Black and Indigenous growers focusing on culturally relevant seed, which just introduced its second online catalog.
Witnessing this traction is joyful for Ms. Wallace, and even a little surprising, in the best way — particularly set against the backdrop of the last century’s sharp decline in Black-owned American farms, to fewer than 1 percent today.
“The seed world is a particularly white aspect of the sustainable agriculture movement,” she said. “Where Black people were coming in at all to farming was in CSAs and that aspect of the food system — not to grow seed.”
She is delighted to support Ujamaa’s young and emerging seed farmers, alongside retired educators and those in the BIPOC community who want to farm, she said: “This is definitely something I didn’t think I was going to see.”
Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter tomato, an heirloom with giant fruits that can sometimes reach four pounds, is a longtime headliner in the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog.
Southern Peas, Greasy Beans and More
There are flowers and herbs in the Southern Exposure catalog, too, but it’s the traditional Southeastern vegetables whose stories pull me back every year.
This is where I met greasy beans and certain other pole beans, including Selma Zesta, whose pods remain tender even after the beans have swelled inside, providing green and protein in each mouthful.
Ms. Wallace has a special affection for the Whippoorwill pea, a Southern pea or cowpea — not the green shelling or English pea (Pisum sativum), but Vigna unguiculata, the same species as asparagus beans. Whippoorwill traveled with enslaved people from Africa to the Americas, where it was eventually grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
Move over, kale: Collards are just as versatile. The Heirloom Collard Project, whose members include Seed Savers Exchange, Southern Exposure, Ujamaa and the Utopian Seed Project, hopes to convince us all to grow some.
Credit..Chris Smith/Utopian Seed Project
Cowpeas, which grow on vines, can be shelled and eaten green or used as dry beans.
“I can’t do without them,” she said. “They remind me of my grandmother, who raised me, who always grew them, and they’re inexpensive protein. The vines build the soil, and you can feed them to your critters if you have animals on your farm. What’s not to like?”
A dozen collard varieties sport leaves ranging from green and blue-green to the yellow-green ones of Yellow Cabbage Collards, a North Carolina heirloom whose leaves form a loose head. Maybe the most striking is a variegated Florida heirloom; half of its leaves display white markings in winter.
And move over, kale: Collards are just as versatile, whether they are harvested young or fully grown, to steam or sauté; or serving as the wrapper for dolmas; or even dehydrated and crispy. The Heirloom Collard Project, whose members include Seed Savers Exchange, Southern Exposure, Ujamaa and the Utopian Seed Project, hopes to convince us to make room for a row.
The South’s population has evolved to include new immigrant communities, and the Southern Exposure list has changed accordingly. Alongside longtime regional family heirloom peppers is Pimiento Lago Agrio, an Ecuadorean sweet pepper with two-inch, pumpkin-shaped fruits.
Go Ahead, Try Some Okra
In the way that the South’s population has evolved, so has the Southern Exposure seed list. Alongside Doe Hill golden sweet bell pepper, a pre-1900 Virginia family heirloom, is Pimiento Lago Agrio, an Ecuadorean sweet pepper with two-inch, pumpkin-shaped fruits. An Acorn Community member whose mother is from Latin America volunteered with Ecuadorean seed-saver groups, forging the connection.
“We realized that, just like the European immigrants spread their versions of different vegetables around, that the current immigrants have communities and varieties,” Ms. Wallace said. “We’re trying to make that a part of the web of American heirlooms we offer.”
Many gardeners, particularly Northern ones, may not have grown a single okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), a mallow family member. It has been in Southern Exposure’s assortment from the start, as if preparing the ground for Mr. Smith, whose book, “The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration,” became a 2020 James Beard Foundation Award winner.
The current catalog lists 20 okras, including the winner of Mr. Smith’s 2018 trial of 76 varieties, Puerto Rico Everblush — early yielding, bountiful and delicious.
“A lot are family heirlooms, like the Shows okra, which we sold out of the first year of the pandemic and just got back in,” Ms. Wallace said.
But some are “just fun,” she added, like Okinawa Pink, from Japan: “It’s such a bright pink color that kids come to it like bees to honey.”
One of Ms. Wallace’s must-have crops is the yellow potato onion, a perennial onion that Southern Exposure reintroduced in 1982, from a strain dating to before 1790.
Peanuts in Colors, Onions in Aggregate
The peanuts that first pulled me in have been there alongside okra since the start, or thereabouts — and not just familiar-looking reddish-brown ones, but those with variegated, striped and black nuts.
Also marking decades on the list are yellow potato onions (Allium cepa var. aggregatum), a favorite of Ms. Wallace’s that is also popular with customers, and is shipped out each fall as bulbs. Southern Exposure reintroduced that perennial onion in 1982, from a strain dating to before 1790. “That’s something that, every year, we never have enough of,” she said.
It’s one of her must-have crops — like a larger shallot, but with more true onion flavor. Adaptable to all of the United States, except for Florida and South Texas, its bulbs are exceptional keepers, lasting a year or longer under good storage conditions.
The last word of its Latin name, aggregatum, is a tipoff to the multiple onions that grow in aggregate — a group of individuals nested together. And one of its common names is mother onion.
Somehow it all seems to fit that this particular godmother to so many seeds, and seed people, would have a rapport with a mother plant that thrives, and produces, in community.
Margaret Roach is the creator of the website and podcast A Way to Garden, and a book of the same name.
The price of independence
Professional political campaigns at the US Senatorial level must protect themselves from the many “helpful” constituents who want to waste their precious time with their under formulated notions of how to win their race. For a quasi-independent political group like our Flip Project it is quite hard to convince the official campaign to give us any time. The lovely out-of-state volunteer campaign coordinator is happy to put all people on their door to door canvass. But if we want to do something other than that, their hands are tied. For us, the price of our independence is we need to out perform door to door canvasses.
This year, with a very short campaign duration (thank you Georgia’s new “election integrity”/ voter suppression laws), we have chosen to promote free rides to the polls as what we think our volunteers can deliver that will be the most effective way to get out votes. We are producing assets, like the Spanish language poster below, with a QR code that lands or our splash page, which gives out information on free rides (with ride services or friendly volunteers), polling locations and election protection practices.
We are scrambling to get these assets translated into almost every language, except Vietnamese which broke for Trump in the most recent presidential election. We support everyone’s right to vote, and especially we want to promote voting among non-English speaking citizens, and we promote the languages we are especially excited about. At this point, we only have enough enough money to do poster and other physical promotional materials in English and Spanish. The other languages likely to see translated assets for this election are Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Bangladeshi and possibly Pakistani, these will be promoted over social media by our air team. In the 2020 Georgia runoff, we did translations of election materials into 13 languages.
2020 Presidential results national results by ethnic group.
Turns out there are a bunch of studies showing the correlation between access to a car and voting. The above graph shows the somewhat shocking thing which happens in the US, and even though we might not like the behavior, we can not deny the behavior. People who don’t own cars are on the order of 30% less likely to vote than people who do have a car in their household. [What i found interesting in this, is that the absentee ballot use is basically unchanged, where i had thought people without access to cars would significantly increase their use of absentee ballots – but they don’t and instead they often simply do not vote.]
Our high tech partner in free ride share is plus1.vote and their findings shocked us a bit. They found that social media campaigns for their services were far less effective than their other techniques. One of their techniques is to use geographic and demographic data to locate prospective free ride candidates and then push the free ride directly into their Uber wallet. Then they don’t even have to mess with a promo code, they can simply push a button and they will get a free ride to the correct polling station for their pick up.
Looking for high Democrat voting with low auto ownership
We are also digging into the data to find the best places to promote free rides. There is very granular census data we have gotten for free, which combined with political data gives us the ability to look at locations in metro Atlanta which have high Democratic voter preferences and also low car ownership – the sweet spots for free ride to the polls services.
Flip Project Ground Team L to R – Paxus, Jacqueline, Vicky, Spiderman (aka Mark)
We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner of the project staff in Georgia now (several more folks are coming up). In a beautiful coincidence, the Indian restaurant we went to dinner at overlooked the Hosia Williams Mural (seen in the background of the above picture). In 2020, we help revitalize this mural, we had a GOTV artwork competition near here and several of the current staff met for the first time in this location. For this all out-of-town group of activists, this spot feels like coming home.
There is still time to support this campaign and a significant need. I am also humbled and thankful for the many friends and family who have donated and insured that we can keep this project going. This is a very close race and perhaps our effort will be the piece that pushes us to a win, as we helped in 2020 Georgia senate runoff.
Workshops at the Communities Conference
Approved Workshops for Twin Oaks Communities Conference September 2-5, 2022
These are the approved workshops for this year’s Communities Conference, with links to the community or organizational affiliation of the presenter under their name.
- Aging in Community – Raines Cohen
- Alleged Urban Squatting Workshop – Peaches
- An FEC Community in Costa Rica? – Keenan Dakota & Lyndya Geiger Ross
- Apocalyptic Wakanda & Zion Building a New World – Aleta Toure
- Authentic Relating in Community – Mike Jadoo
- Biophilic EcoVillage Design & Building – Fred Oesch
- Can You Power Your Community Entirely With Renewable Energy? Alexis LEF
- Collaborative Community Design – Moonraven
- Community Business: Making Money Together! – Xander Astra
- Community Legal Workshop – Jenny Hoffpauir
- Community Singing: the Craft of Co-Enchantment – Craig & Cleo Green
- Funding ICs thru Airbnb Rentals & Retreats – David Vanderveer & Victoria Bryant
- I Didn’t Mean It That Way: Identity-Related Harm in Cmty – Crystal Farmer
- Panel: Starting POC Communities
- Panel: Stump the Chumps
- Politics, oppression, and creative forms of liberation – Gil & Ella Cambia
- Quilombos Culture for EcoVillages & Intentional Communities – Macaco
- The Revolution Will be Indigenized – Roberto Mendoza
- Transforming Founder’s Syndrome – Cecile Green
- Travelers in Community – Ozgard
Below is the summary workshop description and presenter biographies.
Aging in Community
Whether or not your community is (or plans) to be intergenerational or senior-focused, you need to be preparing for members getting older — it’s a natural part of all our lives. By consciously approaching aging and building collective community consciousness about it, you can make it much more likely that you and your neighbors will be able to not just stay in their homes longer, but also help everyone, from birth on up, experience longer, healthier, richer lives.
While many traditional approaches to “Aging in Place” focus on the “deficits” and physical, social, financial, and mental issues, ICs are full of opportunities for “positive aging” where our unique lives as elders and age diversity can become a strength..
We’ll look at examples from many different kinds of communities that have successfully laid the groundwork, share what we’ve seen in (or anticipate in) our own communities, and together help each other create a plan and path to take home. Join us for lively discussion, role-playing, and simulations, plus sharing of established and home-grown resources to bring back to our communities and a network to support each other in continued connection.
Raines Cohen is a Community Organizer. Facilitator. Cohousing Coach. EcoVillage Ambassador. Aging-in-Community Author. Certified Senior Advisor. Certified Sage-ing Leader. Founding Member, Elders Action Net. Past board, FIC/Coho/US. Leader, East Bay Cohousing/Cohousing CA. Living in community in Berkeley, CA.
Alleged Urban Squatting Workshop (draft desc)
Squatters have no rights in the US, but some tenants pay no rent – and tenants do have rights. This workshop explores no rent and low rent tenancy in metro areas like DC which have good tenant protection legislation.
How can you find such a place? Public records and other no rent pioneers can be some of your guides. How to respond to aggressive landlords to your legal advantage and how to maintain good relations with neighbors who are burdened with conventional rents.
Peach’s will share the short version of how they landed in a lovely home in DuPont Circle for the cost of parking and how they are sharing this bounty.
Peaches is the only sales rep for Southern Exposure Seed Exchanges Wholesale business and runs a bike repair service in DC. They are also the driving force behind Casa Peaches which houses activist, abortion refugees and legally disadvantaged international. They have lived in several intentional communities and communes.
An FEC Community in Costa Rica?
There is a 200 acre of land in Costa Rica that has two houses and a big concrete dome. A group of people are going to try to start an FEC-style community on that property starting October 1st 2022.
Keenan has lived at Twin Oaks for 35 years.
Lyndya Geiger Ross: Lyndya lives in Costa Rica. She is associated with La Finca de La Tierra Nueva. Lynda is also associated with the Foundation that has been developing this property for 20 years. She will happily answer questions about westerners choosing to live in Costa Rica.
Apocalyptic Wakanda (Panther) & Zion (Matrix) and Building a New World
We are not going back to normal. African Americans are reviving the Black Cooperative Movement by replacing our assimilation amnesia with a Liberated Zone training ground. Some call it Beloved Community, Some call it African Time banking Village. We call it LandCorps. Hear from three cooperative members of Parable of the Sower Intentional Community as they build it (community) so they will come.
Aleta Toure homeschooling mother, community organizer, filmmaker, Mindfulness practitioner, dancer, & visionary.Yehudit Chef, clothing designer, Peoples, jewelry franchise owner, youth organizer, & dancer. Justice – Kayaker, environmental justice worker, cooperative bicycle worker & gamer.
Authentic Relating in Community
Authentic Relating (AR) is the practice of freely expressing yourself with others in order to bring about a richer human experience. This practice of free expression to bring about a more truthful human experience builds on the Quink community of self-reflection and positive shifts for one’s own life and community.
Expressing in a more truthful way enables connections in the world based on who you really are.
When practicing Authentic Relating we keep the 5 Practices of Authentic Relating in mind:
1. Welcome Everything – We welcome everything that arises in our field of awareness, in ourselves, in others, and in the world
2. Assume Nothing – We notice our assumptions of people and situations, and check them out with others
3. Reveal Your Experience – We let ourselves be seen, known, heard, and touched as who we really are, and invite others into our worlds
4. Own Your Experience – We take full responsibility for whatever we experience, and for having an impact on others
5. Honor Self / Honor Other – We honor our own needs and wants while also honoring the needs and wants of others
Mike Jadoo have over participated in many Authentic Relating workshops. He recently completed the Authentic Relating Training (ART) Level 3 and is ready to serve the community by providing AR games. He has previously hosted many NVC practice groups and book readings.
Biophilic EcoVillage Design & Building
Earth’s climate and our man-made environment is at a tipping point. Intentional Community designers and builders must embrace a more urgent and far reaching purpose and responsibility, in ways that nourish and regenerate the health and beauty of our built environment and planet. This presentation will cover EcoVillage state-of-the-art practices and conceptual future systems and methods needed to create a regenerative built environment and organic buildings that embrace accountability with respect to climate change and quality of life. Inspiring current opportunities and evolving case studies will be explored.
Fred Øesch (“Esch”) is the principal of Øesch Environmental Design in Charlottesville, VA. An award winning Design / Build firm, Øesch has produced EcoVillage Master Planning, Architecture, and Interiors utilizing healthful, energy efficient, regenerative organic materials and methods.
Collaborative Community Design
Many people think about or try to start communities by putting out all the things that they want. In this workshop, a small group of participants will design a potential community by each putting out a few things they want and seeing what collective design emerges.
Raven is a long time communard (Common Threads, Ganas, Cotyledon, Glomus Commune) now attempting to build an income-sharing community in New England. Also 70 yo white cis man.
Community Business: Making Money Together!
Want to know how to start a community business!?
Want to make your existing businesses more profitable?!
Too frequently we see communities fail over getting the bills paid or just never start for lack of funds!! Let’s talk about how you can hate capitalism and still make that money.
The history of intentional communities is filled with fascinating examples of communal businesses! Let’s learn from other communities successes and failures!
Leverage the skills, knowledge, and support of the amazing people around you!
Learn about some the newest tools and cutting -edge concepts from Startup Culture!
Running a local small business and regional manufacturing can be a radical act!
Leave this workshop with a new business plan that will align with your community values, make the world a better place, and pay the bills!
Xander Astra is a Designer and Inventor from the San Francisco Warehome Communities.
He has launched 60+ Mass Products, Started 3 Community Businesses, Won National Business Competitions, Blah, Blah, Blah… He thinks we should steal some ideas from Silicon Valley to make Capitalism suck less!
Community Legal Workshop
When should a new community seek tax exempt status? Is an LLC enough legal protection for the members to pool money and start covering expenses together? Do we have to be religious to be a monastery? What are the advantages of a land trust? We are doing public service work in our community, should we become a B corp? These questions are examples of what you might be interested in exploring in this legal clinic.
This workshop is designed for people who are in the forming stages of an intentional community or wish to understand these legal and tax structures. Jenny will start with a basic presentation and then take questions from the attendees, answering both specifics and sharing general principles which are more broadly applicable.
Jenny Hoffpauir is a lawyer and experienced communard who helps forming communities navigate the various legal, financing and other landscapes to create lasting structures which reflect community values. Jenny has particular expertise in the structures and agreements which enable income sharing communes.
Community Singing: the Craft of Co-Enchantment
Joining voices in song can nourish intimacy, enthusiasm and shared vision in community life. In this workshop we’ll explore the craft of growing co-empowering vocal communities in diverse contexts of work and play, celebration and grief. We’ll practice co-enchantment, sharing dynamic and easily learned songs accessible to all. If you can talk you can sing!
Craig and Cleo have spent decades living and singing in community. Out of this experience they’ve grown “The Contemplayful Songbook: a Field Guide to Co-enchantment.” They are members of Charis, a small regenerative community near Charlottesville.
Can You Power Your Community Entirely With Renewable Energy?
Energy Permaculture means energy embedded in a community context. Living Energy Farm has pioneered energy systems based on battery-less solar power, as well as durable battery systems, biogas, woodgas, and other durable, affordable renewable energy technologies, all in a context of self-sustaining community. No energy bills, no battery replacement costs, energy systems that last the rest of your life. Ask questions, find answers, and grow our community’s future.
Alexis Ziegler is the founder and chief technologist at Living Energy Farm in Louisa Virginia. LEF is working both locally and internationally to bring appropriate, low cost, clean energy solutions to individuals and intentional communities.
Funding Intentional Communities through Unique Airbnb Rentals and Retreats
We will explain the history of the White Lotus Eco Spa Retreat and how it has evolved into a community of people that work and live together. Community members contribute by helping manage, repair, and expand the retreat center and Airbnb units. We also provide space for events and retreats as well as creating our own. The community began with just 5 people and one building on 3 acres and now have a full time community of 13 people, 17 Airbnb units, and 125 acres. As we develop spaces on the land, we rent them out and use that income to add more spaces on the property that are both for the community and guests. Some of the amenities we have for our community members and guests are a sauna, cool dip pool, movie theater, meditation room, massage room, conference rooms, kitchens, ponds, gardens, frisbee golf, outdoor fire place, paddle boat, and nature trails. Our community organically grew out of friendships and part time guests that decided to make this their permanent home. Community members all have unique talents and skills that are given opportunity to flourish and contribute to our lives as well add to our guests’ experiences while they are here.
David VanDerveer, founder and architect of The White Lotus Eco Spa Retreat has worked professionally as an electronic technician, D.J, videographer, chef, yoga instructor, builder, and heavy equipment operator, but he is best known as an international comedy juggler.
Victoria Bryant is an educator, performing artist, and serves as the event manager at the White Lotus. She has been a resident there for almost two years and enjoys planning as well as hosting events that bring the community and guests together to celebrate and connect with one another.
I Didn’t Mean It That Way: Identity-Related Harm in Community
When marginalized people experience harm in a community, they often withdraw from community life or leave altogether. If you’re a community member who wants to know why, take this workshop. We’ll discuss the common types of harm that occur around identity (microaggressions) and tools for addressing the harm in the moment and after it has occurred. We’ll also cover ways to initiate accountability processes and healing around specific incidents.
Crystal Byrd Farmer is an organizer and speaker in the intentional communities movement. She serves as a board member with the Foundation for Intentional Communities and serves as Co-President for the BIPOC Intentional Community Council.
Panel: Stump the Chumps
This is a Q&A panel of experienced communitarians who take on the toughest audience generated inquiries about how to build and maintain intentional communities. Panelists will be announced shortly.
Politics, oppression, and creative forms of liberation:
a Live Action Role Play on the ins and outs of both national and international politics, and whether we can change the course of history.
this is will be a simple game with very complex strategy of how to create international solidarity against oppression, while taking a deep dive into the nature of oppression, power, conflict, facism and pacifism.
Gil Benmoshe has been living in intentional communities for over 20 years. with a strong focus on permaculture, natural building, and education. in his professional life he works in facilitating teams towards effective communication, leadership, and conflict resolution. these teams often include academic, professional, athletic, military, and government agencies.
Gil has a specific interest in “imagineering” a post-national future and how people can self organize without the state or capitalism.
Quilombos Culture for EcoVillages and Intentional Communities
Learning that happens deep inside each of us during group activities.
Liberation Arts (LA) residencies offer
Joy and celebration that energizes everyone
- Arts and fitness education for children
- Tools for synergy between children, adults and elders
- Dynamic schedule options for meetings, classes and events.
Macaco is an expressive arts facilitator helping people experience warrior arts culture. He is a Contremestre in the Afro-Brazilian art of Capoeira. He is one of the lead members of Grupo Liberdade de Capoeira and received his Capoeira artist name Macaco (monkey).
The Revolution Will be Indigenized
We all need to reclaim our Indigenous values, in order to build the foundation for a new equitable and sustainable society. We start by decolonizing our minds from Capitalist values, like individualism, competition and exploiting the Natural World and embracing community, cooperation and living in harmony with the Natural World.
Roberto Mendoza is a native (Muscogee tribe) and Mexican Indigenous (Purepecha). Born in Tulsa, OK. Lived in NYC, San Francisco and Maine. Part of the occupation of Alcatraz Island by Indians of All Tribes, AIM, the Bioregional Movement, the Greens and founded Cooperation Tulsa, an intersectional, ecological movement.
Transforming Founder’s Syndrome: An Exploration of the Territory and the Ways Through
Founding a community is an enormous challenge and requires a tremendous investment well beyond the financial resources. Once more people are involved, many communities struggle with the power dynamics of founder’s syndrome, a complex set of interactions which often result in community stagnation, high turnover, isolated and overworked founders and cliques.
We’ll start by examining common issues that communities and founders face. We’ll look at a workable definition of “founder’s syndrome”, including some of it’s key symptoms. Then, we’ll dig into specific practices and tools for navigating out of founder’s syndrome.
An intentional community enthusiast and founder, Cecile Green has a passion for helping humans share power more effectively. She synthesized her experience in intentional community with the research she’s done into power and organizational development into a set of communication tools called Collab.
Travelers in Community
Exploring the possible mutually abundant relationships between travelers and communities, including methods and wisdoms on community traveling.
✨Ozgard✨ (they/them) is some sort of fae critter of many names, who has been a community traveler for roughly a decade, having visited over 40 intentional communities of varying forms across the US.
If you are interested in attending the Labor Day Weekend Communities Conference at Twin Oaks in central Virginia you can find tickets on Eventbrite
It’s time to get arrested
The Supreme Court is the triumph of the Trump administrations authoritarian desires. Rights are being stripped by religious zealots who lied during their confirmation hearings and should be impeached, but wont be. You are frustrated, you are angry, you want to do something, but you are not quite sure what to do. Please note new information about bail from Angie at the bottom of this post.
It’s time to get arrested.
For many folks, this will seem counter intuitive. How can getting myself thrown in jail help anyone or anything? It just seems like a waste of time, money and a hassle.
It turns out it is one of the most effective tools mass movements have to change the political tide. It has been used effectively around the world, even in some of the most repressive regimes. In the US, the end of the Vietnam war, the death of new nuclear construction and getting the right to vote for both women (1920) and POCs (1965) in the US relied on civil disobedience to win.
If you want to dig into the logic and practice of civil disobedience, I encourage the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which goes deep into both how and why.
From the Boston Tea Party to Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March, and from suffragists’ illegally casting their ballots to whites-only lunch counter sit-ins, civil disobedience has often played a crucial role in bending the proverbial arc of the moral universe toward justice.Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
But if you are willing to consider this option, i want to encourage you to go to this Saturdays action defending abortion rights in DC. Here is some of the more practical advise, i shared with Oakers who are organizing this action.
Who you get arrested with matters. The Women’s March organizers have an arrest training and orientation on July 8th at 6 pm in DC. Folks interested in this should fill out the form of the principal organizers. and plan on being there in person. If you get arrested with or near the black bloc who are breaking Starbucks windows, your police experience will likely be much more headachy and physically difficult. Try to stay with other protesters the night before (avoid the temptation of hanging with DC friends not involved with the action).
The key piece of information, especially for people who have not been arrested before is the overwhelming experience of this choice is boredom and some confusion. You will spend lots of time after you are arrested waiting to be processed, sometimes in a hot police vehicle. You will spend a lot of time in holding cells. You will be told to wait often with no indication how long. Your cell phone will be taken from you (typically) once you have been processed and usually (but not always) any reading material you have. Often you can smuggle a zine or some other pocket sized reading in. This is recommended to help cut the boredom. And of course make friends with other arrestees.
Bail is complex. If you do need it, it is designed to insure you come back for your court hearings. When you do, you get typically get your bail money back (or 90% of it if you use a bail bond person). Angie is the queen of bail, she is copied on this message, supportive of this action and will have useful contacts on bail bonds services and how not to get stung by them.
For 90% of non-violent actions in DC there will not be a need for bail money, assuming arrestees are willing to identify themselves to get released and go thru the legal system. DC mostly has a “catch and release” policy around non-violent protesters – usually you are released with a summons to appear before the court. There is a high chance you will get a fine or community service at your court hearing, because you will almost certainly be found guilty – but this is not bail. And thus not needed at the time of arrest.
Separately, the organizing groups will likely have lawyer services available to folks risking arrest. You should get their legal contact info and write it in marker on peoples arms. Also you should have a TO support person who is not getting arrested and is in DC and their number should also be put on peoples arms, with instructions to call when folks are released.
While it is pretty easy to get arrested (block any intersection and refuse to move when the police arrive). After some hours of processing and being held, they will quite likely release people (who have identified themselves with id) on their own recognizance without a fine. Remember holding people is expensive for the city, they don’t want to feed you and also they don’t want the jails overwhelmed by protesters. They also don’t want you once released to go back and immediately get arrested again, so they will often hold folks until most of the actions are over.
They will hold you and not release you if you refuse to identify yourself. People wishing to do this type of action (refusing ID) should talk with action organizers to see what support and advice they offer. I discourage people from carrying full wallets into arrest actions – instead ID, a metro card plus $20 or so, recognizing this will be taken from you at the time after you are processed (as will your wallet if you bring one). 90% of things confiscated from arrestees will be returned by the police.
People who require daily medication need to know they will be separated from their meds for at least hours, possibly an entire day if there are many arrests and lots of on going actions that the police/the city don’t want you to return to. People should not assume the police are going to be either reasonable or accommodating around getting your meds to you once you have been arrested and separated from them.
Wear comfortable clothes and while the action will likely be hot, your holding cell experience will be air conditioned (often set very low) and folks should dress accordingly (typically using layers). Skip jewelry.
I personally discourage people from resisting arrest, especially on their first arrest action. Mostly because it is frustrating (you can’t do it for long without serious hardware) and the DC police are experts in compliance holds and you will feel disempowered by how quickly they are able to stop you from resisting and are likely to face more serious charges.
If people want to “hit harder” then instead of arrest and release I recommend hit and run actions (this is not civil disobedience). And if people are interested in this I have other contacts to offer.
Organizers have to make sure you have sufficient support people (not risking arrest) to accommodate how ever many people are getting arrested. The most important thing here is getting folks after they have been released. Especially for people who are getting arrested for the first time, the terrible part of the experience is not over until there is a friendly known face checking in with them after release. This means some support people must be willing to stay until everyone is released, this could easily be 2 AM on Sunday. [Here again I am assuming people want to ID and return for trial or pay the fine, refusing to ID can leave you in jail for days] assuming you have multiple vehicles in the city, a 3 arrestees to 1 support person is a good ratio. Several of the DC detention facilities are not near the metro, so getting people back can be slow or frustrating, every arrestee should have a metro card (which works on the buses) with over $5 on it.
It is wise if support people have something nice to give people when they get out – candy or some other appropriate treat. Getting arrested for the first time often changes peoples lives, in slightly unpredictable ways. Some will never do it again. Some will realize it is their calling. Nearly universally it will result in detainees disliking and not trusting the police more.
Support people need to realize there is an important emotional part of their job. Even short stints in jail can mess people up. Mass actions arrests usually do not have you in solitary- so you might end up in gender segregated general population. If gender is unsure to the police, they will generally use the gender listed on your ID to determine where you are detained. Police will not respect your selected pronouns.
It is important to remember that these are very popular actions. This means if you don’t bring a phone – every other person in DC will lend you theirs if you say “Hey I just got arrested defending abortion rights and I was hoping to borrow your phone to call my support people to tell them I have been released”.
As an organizer people are going to want to know that you are going to take care of them in their on going legal hassles. This means getting rides back to DC for court stuff (typically two trips) and labor credits for that work. Here I would assume you will be able to accommodate folks, we have in the past.
And while getting arrested is a fine, desirable and noble thing. People should take the decision seriously and not be shamed in anyway if they chose not to do it and attend the protest or do support work instead. Especially people in fragile or compromised mental health circumstances or who are likely to be traumatized by physical boundaries being disrespected by the police should consider support roles instead of arrests. There will be many more options for getting arrested in the future – this is a long haul campaign.
If you are getting arrested for the first time for a protest, try to stick near someone you know and like who is also getting arrested – for the same crimes as you. Generally this will mean you have company and someone to talk with. This does not always work, you can be separated for all kinds of reasons.
People need to be ready for police to completely change their behavior on short notice. They can be friendly and accommodating one minute and the next they can be pushing you around or using unnecessary force for no apparent reason. The police are not your friends in this situation- even if they mostly have been in your life before. That said, DC police are better than most in dealing with NV protesters, because they have so much experience.
A note from Angie:
Two big things- first, whenever possible (especially if you’re working
with low bail amounts), it’s better to post cash bail than to use a
bail bondsman. Bail bonds usually cost 10% of the bail cost, and you
do not get that back- even if you’re found not guilty, even if the
charges are dropped, that money is a set cost that the bail bondsman
receives. OTOH, cash bail is also a risk, especially if someone other
than the arrestee is paying- if the person doesn’t show up to court
dates then the bail may be forfeited. Think about who is paying the
bail ahead of time, have a plan for how you’ll deal with $50 bail vs
$500 bail vs $5,000 bail. And obviously, a 10 person bail of $50 is a
different burden than a 2 person bail of $500.
Second- there may be other, more violent protests going on in and
around DC this week. That kind of thing can impact how smoothly (or
not) your nonviolent arrest action goes. Cops are people, they get
tired and worn out and stressed (1312 tho, don’t get me wrong). If DC
cops are dealing with violent protestors on Wednesday, Thursday, and
Friday, the might be harsher on nonviolent protestors on Saturday.
The big one I’m watching is the trucker convoy, now called the “1776
Restoration Movement”. they have been in DC on the national mall since
the morning of the 6th, are violent, some are registered sex offenders
(including one who pleaded guilty to child molestation of a kid under
14), and they’re all facist religious bigots. A few have been
arrested. The situation is fluid and changing fast.
A few of the 1776RMers know about the Saturday action, some many
attend, most are instigators and shit stirrers. If the action is near
the mall then it’s a major concern, if not it’s probably not as big a
deal. If you want more info let me know.
Best of luck with your action, and if I can help or support let me know!
The importance of the Right Allies – Serenity Community
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quink Books – Open your mind
Good festivals build on people’s excitement, this is why so many events are designed around performers and their personalities. But there are lots of other excitements which are available.
As we have been talking about quinks more, people keep asking for examples – and especially what are common quinks? Things that don’t require the heroics of breaking a toxic relationship or the mastery of enlightenment.
Wolf suggested Quink books. Almost everyone has read a book that has changed their life in a way which they look back on positively now. These books hold a power and story for you and as organizers we want to bring that to our event.
On Friday Oct 1st at dinner we will have the participants of QuinkFair bring copies of their favorite books to dinner with the intention of discussing them, why they changed their lives and seeing if that is a message someone else in the group needs to hear.
We ask that people consider bringing a copy to give away. [If that’s not doable (financial challenges, difficulty finding a copy, etc) then you could also print the title and author on one side of a 3×5 index card and write why it was so important to you on the other side. We’ll take photos of these cards and share them on the QuinkFair blog, as well as on Facebook. ]
These are the three clear quink books for me and a sentence about what i took away from them:
That anarchist societies don’t make problems go away, they just shift how they are discussed and decided.
Was a compelling smack in the head about how my blindness to gender and racial inequity did not exempt me from at least learning about them and hopefully doing something about them.
This book taught me that a good author can have me crying by page 4. It showed exhausted heroes who looked a lot like people i loved. And it showed our type of consensus decision making in impossible situations sparking effective non-violent resistance.
What are the books that changed your life and why? Can you provide copies for others to learn the things you did and perhaps other important lessons?
QuinkFair is a transformation celebration borrowing from several festival cultures and striving to spark positive and healing experiences. It takes place on beautiful private land in rural Virginia in the town of Mineral on Oct 1 thru 4. Tickets are still available.
For some event participants this has been a lovely exercise, they get to go to their favorite used book store, shop for the books which help them become who they are and then bring them to the event and press them into the hands of someone who you hope has a similar strong resonance with the book.
9/11 pop quiz “Why?”
Like most white Americans I did not learn the history of the burning of Black Wall St until the George Floyd protests. And I am a bit embarrassed about my minimal knowledge of the history of Union organizing and civil rights. Unsurprisingly I do better with anti nuclear activism history
But the question I find surprisingly few US Americans (including highly educated ones) can answer is “Why was the US attacked on 9/11?” It seems like an important question for us to have a consensus historical answer to. It is not like this was something Osama bin Laden was cagey about. He gave three very specific reason for the attacks on the U
- the US boycott of Iraq which had already killed 600k children
- US construction of military bases in Saudi Arabia
- US political and military support for the Israeli’s war in Palestine
The more you dig into each of these reasons the more reasonable it becomes (if you lived in the region) to think the only way the US will stop doing these things is if you strike them dramatically at home. While bringing these issues to the attention of the world – because each represents an injustice or danger of US expansionism.
But with perhaps the most dramatic terrorist attack in history, in the US least, bin Laden and friends lost control of the message. Instead George W Bush told the country “they hate our freedom” as preposterous as that is. I find that collectively we are much more likely to remember the “Freedom Fries” debate with France that the actual US instigated actions that sparked this retaliation.
Interestingly, this is another thing the US tends not to recognize – 9/11 did not start these wars. There were already happening, people in the Middle East were already dying because of US policy , but people in the west were just ignoring humanitarian organizations which were trying to call out these injustices. 9/11 was a surprise because we were happily ignoring our policy effects in the Middle East.
While we are fighting the Big Lie, it is important to remember we have likely been duped by other politicians.
A Festival with Homework
[Update May 2023: This post has been updated for this years dates and new site.]
This is an ambitious event. We are striving to create a temporary community celebration where we positively change the lives of participants. This experience strives to strike the delicate balance between joyous celebration and transformative self reflection. We want you to have a crazy good time, and we also want you to walk away from the event a wiser, wilder, and more inspired person.
To this end we are trying some unusual things: this festival has homework you need to complete before arriving. We are asking everyone to bring a very specific type of memory. A rememberance where you made a choice and things in your life improved. It could be a little thing, standing up for yourself or taking a small risk. It could be a large thing, like breaking an addiction, falling in love or reaching a spiritual enlightenment. Reflecting back on the lock downs, how are you different in an improved way and how did that happen? This memory will be the core of a story we want you to tell.
Homework for a festival?
What the talented storytellers explain is that the way you improve your story is to often retell it. And this is also the way you understand your own story. But we are often discouraged from telling these types of stories culturally because they are immodest. Yet especially in these extraordinary times, modesty is dangerous and we need to honor and herald these heroic choices.
What event is this? QuinkFair is an event on July 20th through the 24th. It is located in Louisa, Virginia at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference site, so it is close to the several communes of Louisa county. A festival inspired by many other events and cultures including the rainbow gathering, burning man, and the intentional communities conferences.
The story we are asking you to develop is about a quink from your life, a quink is roughly defined as the opposite of trauma, where after some identifiable event your life improves or you experience a healing. When people share these positive stories we observe two important things happen. The first is that you think more about these experiences and pay attention to how they might happen in your future life and how you might best ride them. And secondly, these are intimate stories of (in part) how you became who you are and this vulnerability brings intimacy with the group.
Beyond crafting a story, we are asking folks to consider presenting about their quink experiences so others might learn from their paths. Examples bondage class, group building with challenge course material, or try your hand with divination at the Temple of Oracles. We discourage the term audience in favor of participant and co-creator or maker.
We borrow from other festival cultures and are strongly committed to both a high consent culture and a decommodified one. Consent culture means we have a shared respect for bodily autonomy and feel safe. For example, one of our the consent examples on the QuinkFair website suggests to “Ask open ended questions- for example, avoid saying “It’s okay if I hug you, right?” Instead try saying “I’d like to hug you, how would you feel about that?”
Decommodified cultures don’t use vendors internally: no vendors, no service fee, no barter, no corporate sponsors, no money based markets, and nothing for sale.
Can we guarantee you will have a quink at this event? Certainly not, but we do have both clever guides and powerful tools to help you find at least where you might look for your future quinks. We also have intentional communities and especially (income sharing) communes coming to present themselves, so perhaps your Quink will be leaving your straight job and moving to a commune in the country?
Tickets are on sale here 
Lots more info about this event at www.quink.org