Into A Natural Deepness

A romance of thought, poetry of engagement, and dance of theory.

Fairer Trade For A Greener World

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A quick little ditty for the Onondaga Small Business Development Center Blog on the Syracuse New Times website. About Fair Trade & B-Corps, honoring Earth Day, Peace, & Social Justice.  The Edited and Printed Version at http://www.syracusenewtimes.com/fair-trade-for-a-greener-world/:

What is a B-Corp and how can my business become qualified?

At the heart of green business is the three-legged stool of sustainability – considerations of people, planet, profit – or social, environmental, economic considerations.

In April, as we anticipate celebrating the global event of Earth Day, it is important to understand how international trade, shopping locally, and considering social factors affects small and green businesses worldwide.

Knowing the differences between how Fair Trade and Free Trade impact the operations, liability, and accountability of a company will have a big impact on your understanding of an environmentally sustainable business culture locally and globally.

The American Sustainable Business Council, a leading educational organization for a green economy, understands that free trade is only as good as it is also fair trade: 

For example, when local-scale, sustainable farming is beaten by large-scale agribusiness, the price of agricultural commodities may drop, but at the cost of major negative externalities. Among these are rising unemployment caused by numerous farm failures, destruction of soil, overuse of poisonous pesticides and widespread corruption in countries where regulatory structures are immature and weak.

So, those differences within operations, liability, and accountability of a company translate into how the relationship exists between shareholders, management, and the rest of the supply chain.

Shareholders in a traditional corporation only judge financial performance for determining success. Shareholders in a benefit corporation take into consideration social and environmental benefits to society from the corporation’s performance (such as the condition of the farmer’s livelihood as a producer of raw goods), without fear of backlash from the shareholders.

Offering fair trade products would get a much higher grade from shareholders of a Benefit Corporation with fair trade as a goal.

Here in New York State, businesses have a great opportunity to form as a benefit corporation, also known as a B Corps, to be able to legally implement fair trade within their charters and operations. A benefit corporation is a type of for-profit corporate entity, legislated in 28 U.S. states, that includes positive impact on society and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals. B Corps differ from traditional corporations in purpose, accountability, and transparency, but not in taxation. (Source: wikipedia)

Benefit corporations have been widely championed by numerous buy-local campaigns, such as Syracuse First and Buffalo First. In fact, both of these organizations, which assist local businesses with marketing, outreach, and advocacy opportunities, also have unique histories with supporting fair trade initiatives: Syracuse First, directed by Chris Fowler, under the umbrella of CenterState CEO, is the local Syracuse Chapter of the American Sustainable Business Council through the NY Sustainable Business Council affiliate.

Former Buffalo First Director Andrew Delmonte, is now a NYS Certified Business Advisor and Social Enterprise Coordinator at SBDC-SUNY Buffalo State, who has educated the NYS Small Business Development Center statewide staff at our 2014 annual training.

I myself have been involved with green business development and certification programs for over 5 years, having developed the Green Core Company Green Business Certification program here in Syracuse, and assisted numerous businesses in converting their operations, including a provision to “Not produce products or services which demean/oppress groups of people or animals, or are socially or environmentally destructive” which fair trade is designed to nullify.

These experiences make us a qualified upstate New York trio to help you through free and confidential SBDC counseling to obtain your business’s B-Corp Certification.

Fair trade is here in Syracuse as we speak. Local coffee roaster and SBDC advisee client, Aaron Metthe, of Salt City Coffee, puts his sustainability mission of people, planet, and profit into action through his purchasing of fair trade certified coffee from Guatemala. Aaron will be opening a “community-based shop” on the Near Westside of Syracuse in 2015. Aaron puts the “Earth” in “Earth Day” by offering his organic, fair-trade products – meaning that all workers on the farm are paid a fair wage.

The Bruntland Commission’s 1987 report on sustainable development is still one of the most cited and respected: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. We can create cooperation, not competition, and we can create a more dignified life for all, both at home and abroad, through supporting fair trade, purchasing locally, and patronizing Benefit Corporations on this Earth Day and all future Earth Days to come.

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The Censored Version I was Asked to Re-Write:

  At the heart of green business is the three-legged stool of sustainability – considerations of People, Planet, Profit – or Social, Environmental, Economic if you will. On this early April day, as we anticipate celebrating a global event such as Earth Day, it is important to understand how international trade affects small and green business concerns worldwide (global, international, Earth Day, worldwide, get it?).

Knowing the differences between Fair Trade and Free Trade will have a big impact on your understanding of an environmentally sustainable business culture locally and globally. The American Sustainable Business Council, a leading educational organization for a green economy, understands that free trade is only as good as it is also fair trade:

“First, in the guise of lowering barriers and improving competition, they do not expand trade but constrict it. They do so by favoring dominant industries and thwarting fair competition from smaller companies that are more nimble, innovative, and committed to sustainable methodologies. For example, when local-scale, sustainable farming is beaten out by large- scale agribusiness, the price of agricultural commodities may drop, but at the cost of major negative externalities. Among these are rising unemployment caused by numerous farm failures, destruction of soil, overuse of poisonous pesticides and widespread corruption in countries where regulatory structures are immature and weak.”

Our local businesses may be at risk due to unfair competition from multinational corporate giants, but so are our social fabric and our communities, as a result of some unfair free trade agreements. I’ve personally seen the devastation both at home and abroad. Living in a lower-income neighborhood of Syracuse, the need is apparent everyday by the vacant commercial properties, dilapidated residential units, and crumbling infrastructure.

In response to the economic situation of the African-American community in Ferguson Missouri, following the racial turmoil there in recent months, Reverend Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, wrote “The question of good jobs in minority communities is directly tied to the loss of these jobs overseas”

[Hanging in the balance are our own Fergusons – fc] (Poole, Isiah; 2015) – neighborhoods like the Near Westside and Southside of Syracuse, where diverse jobs and businesses are needed to be owned and operated locally, not continued to be outsourced to other countries with lower labor and environmental standards.

During my Syracuse-Cortland-Ithaca Sister-City Delegation trip to Cajibio, Cauca, Colombia in the Summer of 2014, the gap between United States standard of living and that of the majority of Colombians could not be overlooked. An Oxfam report on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which eliminated tariffs on 80% of US exports to the country effectively forcing small farmers to compete against heavily subsidized US agricultural products, estimated “that the average income of 1.8 million […] under-protected small farmers will fall by 16 percent [… and that – fc] 400,000 farmers [i.e. small business owners – fc] who lived below the minimum wage would see their incomes drop by up to 70 percent and be forced out of their livelihoods”.

This report has been corroborated by new figures by CODHES (Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento) a non-profit organization with a mission of “peaceful alternatives for Colombia, with an emphasis on the individuals and communities directly affected by the armed conflict”, which show that mass displacements of small farmers have increased by 83 percent in 2012.

In this day and age of global community, we can still create our own local economy. We do it every day at the Onondaga Small Business Development Center with our free and confidential business advising services. With our partnerships and allies such as Syracuse First (which also happens to be the local Syracuse Chapter of the American Sustainable Business Council through the NY Sustainable Business Council affiliate).

The Bruntland Commission’s 1987 report on sustainable development is still one of the most cited and respected: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This definition gives explicit respect to the “needs” of the world’s poor – including here in Central New York. We can create cooperation, not competition, and we can create a more dignified life for all, both at home and abroad, on this Earth Day and future Earth Days to come.

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Written by franklenraymond

April 2, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Cooperative Federal Credit Union 2015 Board of Directors Report

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Cooperative Federal Credit Union Annual Meeting 2015
Board of Directors Report
Presented March 8, 2015

As we reflect back on 2014, the most important sentiment that the Board would like to express,
as always, is a thank you to our hardworking and committed staff. Everyone’s efforts at cross‐
training and building relationships, both inside our own organization, and inter‐organizationally,
have served us well this year. This was never exemplified better than when our Assistant
Treasurer left early for maternity leave (Congratulations Christina!), and the entire team
pitched in to get us through the unexpected.

We’d also like to thank Peter Scheibe and Linda Hall for their years of work as they retire from
the Board and take on new roles as Emeritus Directors.  The Emeritus positions position them
to be at liberty to attend board meetings and participate as equals, though unable to vote.

Economic Challenges and Successes

Our Net Worth Ratio – the key indicator of our financial health – has been maintained above
the 7% “Well‐Capitalized” mark for the duration of the year, aside from a short dip in May due
to a few major loan losses. Loan loss in general and delinquency have not been reduced to the
level we would prefer (being aware of our historical divergence from our peers in these
statistics due to our mission‐driven operations), but we are cognizant of the steps the staff are
taking to remedy this.

Although slightly slower than planned loan volume has been a culprit in our slow growth – a
continuing level of cellar‐dwelling interest rates has been just as much part of the challenge to
overcome. Secondary Capital and grant funds, as always, have continued to be valuable and
necessary parts of our operations and financial management strategy. The Board continues to
monitor our concerns with delinquency and collections, the management and sale of Other
Real Estate Owned (OREO) properties, and the resolution of our NCUA Member Business
Lending (MBL) policy which has been the subject of heightened regulatory scrutiny in recent
years.  

Committee Activities

Board engagement has maintained existing Committee activities, while expanding those
activities in some respects, and creating new opportunities:

 The Budget Committee met regularly to reconcile assumptions and review financial
results for ongoing management needs, and to establish the 2015 annual budget
proposal.

 The Nitpickers Committee also met regularly in 2014 for ongoing financial analysis of
the Credit Union. The Nitpickers convene to review financial statements and accounting
reports in detail, Allowance for Loan Loss (ALL), liquidity, key compliance ratios, cash
drawer shorts and overages, negative share accounts, debit card fraud losses, progress
of general ledger reporting for the year, and other items as the Board directs.

 The Supervisory Committee monitored financial operations and accounting controls.
The annual CPA audit and report overseen by this committee indicated that Cooperative
Federal’s financial statements were presented cleanly and fairly in all aspects.

 The Executive Committee, as always, provided oversight and action between Board
meetings, primarily through approving charge‐off of loans, ALL calculations, and bonding
for employees, interns, and volunteers.  

 The Board Development Committee worked on identifying committee participants, and
considering further education and training opportunities for current Board members.
The committee also worked on developing the Board emeritus position and description,
and recruited board candidates for our March 2015 election.

 The Personnel Committee carried out the yearly CEO evaluation process for our
organization.

 The newly formed Youth Credit Union Committee is working to provide support to the
In School Savings Branches that Cooperative Federal operates within Henninger, Fowler
and Nottingham High Schools as well as Ed Smith K‐8 and the Southside Academy.
Committee members will help explore new products, participate in fundraising
activities, act as liaison between staff and board, and provide general support to keep
the youth credit union branches open and operating smoothly.

Finally, we are very proud of the implementation of our Social Action Committee, of
which our first project is a living wage study for Onondaga County. The Social Action
Committee will develop and implement projects to create fundamental change in our
world, locally and globally. These projects shall involve and engage Cooperative
Federal’s Board, members, and staff. Building upon the tradition of the anti‐apartheid
activism which led to the creation of Cooperative Federal in the 1980s, the committee
will focus on support and advocacy in areas such as:

1. Moving toward the elimination of poverty,
2. Developing a Solidarity Economy,
3. Expanding social justice,
4. Sustaining the Natural Environment, and
5. Peace Activism.

Projects and actions related to identified issues and areas of focus will be undertaken by
multi‐stakeholder working groups including the use of volunteers and interns, when
available, so as to not create an added burden on staff and Board members. The Social
Action Committee will deliver education, awareness, activism, and energy to inspire our
Credit Union community to action on global and local issues while promoting our
cooperative principles.

Moving Forward

The Board is responsible for setting policy and reviewing the overall functioning of our credit
union, and as such, worked on numerous other aspects of the Credit Union’s operations and
development through the year:

 We began conducting exit interviews with outgoing staff.   
 We reviewed upcoming technological improvements to service.   
 We discussed the potential need for services in additional languages.    
 We continued to be involved in development of the New York Cooperative Network.  
 We issued a formal Statement of Solidarity with THE General Body at Syracuse
University during the Fall 2014 Sit‐in at Crouse‐Hinds.

Outreach & Accountability

In 2014, we welcomed new members Elmore Davis, LaRhonda Ealey, Durkia Estrada‐Iglesis, and
Jesse Harasta.  Members of the Board participated in the Board & Staff Picnic at Strathmore
Park over the summer, and gave time to table and provide community outreach at both the
Westcott Street Cultural Fair and the Plowshares Community Arts and Crafts Fair.

As Board President, I am introducing a slate of 10 initiatives for developing a more robust Board
and Board Membership. These items include building an informational wiki website for Board
member education, document storage and retrieval; organizing a new Board Member social
following each Spring’s Annual Meeting; establishing a Board Calendar for new Directors to
understand the context of their yearly responsibilities and opportunities; and creating an
expanded acronym tip sheet.  

The Board also hopes to continue to interact with our members, and provide appropriate
service through understanding the concerns and challenges that members bring to the table.  
Members are highly encouraged to continue using the Board email address
to contact us at any time throughout the year.
Finally, we would like to share with our member‐owners a thank you for your patronage and
participation – and continued positive outlook on operations, profitability, and community
relations for 2015 as we look forward to continuing to serve through our mission‐oriented
approach.

Prepared by Frank Cetera,
President of the Board of Directors

Written by franklenraymond

March 13, 2015 at 4:12 pm

This Metal Is For Me

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that medal is not for me.  this metal is for me.  legs pistoning across deserted
society, fenced in yard after boardedup house after stewardless lot after
disrespecting lyrics telling a narrative of defeat through defensiveness and
aggression

i am on the offensive guided by voices confirming my self and place in a wave of
uncaring and tacit fakery covered in shining glints traded for labor lacking
awareness

my travails are not your spectacle.  they are your reality.  i exist. these wheels and
these gears and this crooked number four frame are the witness i do this not for
consecration but because it fails the test of comfort it lacks the villainization
heroization of the high speed death match which allows us to feel we have
survived another day with meaning in this mean mad world

Written by franklenraymond

March 12, 2015 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Deeply Poetry

Grand Adventures in Transit and Minor Sorties in Intersectionality

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Renovating a 100-year old house, that had sat vacant, dismissed, and deteriorating for 4 years prior to its purchase, has recently been the most anxiety producing activity in my life.  That is, until my recent jaunt at riding the #Centro bus system.  But wait, this is not a sob story, but a joyful leap.

My first instance of confusion was waiting outside at the corner of #Otisco and Ontario for the 74 bus down to the Hub, to catch my connection up to Onondaga Community College.  When to my surprise, the bus that came by at the expected time displayed a lit up destination of Grant Blvd, and a different route number, not at all what I was expecting.  I let it pass, and turns out, I shouldn’t have, because no other bus showed for another 30 minutes.  Turns out this may not be an uncommon occurrence.  A letter submitted to my #IndyMediaCNY news site from local bus rider Amie St. Amour mentioned the same issue, and referred to it as “the simple confusion occurring when ‘buses continue on as other buses’ and so don’t have the route number expected on the sign even after doing the work of finding the way”.  This alone, though frustrating, was not enough to spur me to write a blog post.

Turns out I made the same mistake the next day, while waiting for my return bus from OCC to downtown.   I guess I hadn’t learned yet that one should just get on whichever bus is going in the general direction you wish to go at the general time that you are expecting a bus to be coming by your stop with no consideration of the destination sign in the window.  So I went back inside and then came back out again for the next later bus, boarded, and proceeded to slip my $5.00 bill into the money-taker-machine-thingy.  Sorry, only bus passes, dollar bills, and change accepted.  $5.00 bills?  We can’t possibly have the technology to accept those in 2015.  Maybe it has something to do with limited change capacity on each bus, well why not just give me my change as a credit pas for future bus rides?  There’s an idea.  This alone, though frustrating, was not enough to spur me to write a blog post.  Particularly because the bus driver was so nice as to allow me to stay on, and collect money into her own hands, instead of the money-taker-machine-thingy, from boarding passengers at multiple stops, until she had enough to give me change from my fiver.

Since this was a later arrival than I am used to with my schedule when I got to the Hub (see missed bus last paragraph), I proceeded to have a look at when the Solvay route (which would take me through the #NearWestSide) was due for me to transfer onto.   Not for another 35 minutes.  Add onto that the 10 minute bus ride, and it would be another 45 minutes until getting home.  It would take significantly less to walk, even though it was dark and cold and snowy (three things which I particularly enjoy in any case, though others are not so congenial to such conditions), so I set off and got home in 20 minutes.  This alone, though frustrating, was not enough to spur me to write a blog post.

The next morning I decided to take a different route, even though it would be a later boarding, to avoid going downtown to the Hub and then backtracking up to OCC.  I would board on South Geddes at Marcellus (according to the published schedule), then transfer at Onondaga.  When I walked over to the intersection, there were no Centro bus stop signs in site.  So, still being fairly new at this, I waited anyway until the assigned time.  At said time, a bus which I was starting to assume would be mine could be seen in the distance, but it stayed in the passing lane and showed no signs of slowing down as it zoomed by me.  My bad, again.  This alone, though frustrating, was not enough to spur me to write a blog post.

As I said, nothing in recent history has given me quite so much anxiety dread as standing at a bus stop waiting and wondering if my bus was coming or if I had already missed it or would my fingers be okay in the gloves I was wearing as the temperatures dropped to below freezing due to no wind chill protection from the non-existent bus shelters.  Or the fact that to catch the return bus from OCC I had to wait on the shoulder of the road on Seneca Turnpike, as cars flew by during some of the worst driving conditions imaginable, curving out of the lane at times onto the shoulder as they took the turn, often no more than a long arm and #Shaq-sized hand span away from me (or the snowplow blade that certainly was ‘over the line’ of the lane into the shoulder and forced me to take a step backwards), in the dark, with the wind and snow blowing in my face, trying to squint ahead to see the bus in time to wave at it and make sure it saw me. This alone, though frustrating, was not enough to spur me to write a blog post.

Once, I decided to ride the bus from OCC to the downtown hub, and then transfer onto a bus that would take me to #Westcott St.  This was not my usual route, in fact I had never taken it before, and it turned out to not be the usual experience either. The bus was full when I got on but there was one seat left that I was able to take, and by the time when I got off at the Hub, it was packed full, I mean standing room only shoulder-to-shoulder. The conversations between OCC and the downtown Hub ranged from two women in their 50’s talking about finally getting their degrees and the job searches they were both partaking in, and long layovers on campus because of the infrequent schedule of the Centro buses, to two men talking about the time they had spent living at the Rescue Mission and how thankful they were to not be there now, and the conversation between an inebriated woman and herself (or anyone who would listen) about how we had to stop at every block for only one person to get off. Quite the colorful journey. After my transfer at the hub, the bus was nearly empty, that is, until we pulled up outside of Syracuse Stage and a true gaggle of undergrads entered, flashing their ID cards for free rides (I can’t quite understand why or how students going to SU and able to pay such high private tuition should be entitled to free ridership while those folks trying to get late life degrees and jobs had to pay for their bus rides). This scene from High School Musical (at least, that is the pop culture reference that popped into my mind, though I admittedly haven’t actually seen that show), contained conversations about who was dating who, and what the latest shopping excursion to Forever 21 had resulted in.

The contrast between the two legs of my journey could not have been greater. The experience though was heart expanding as I witnessed a true cross-section of the city using the bus services, and I felt a true connection to the communities of people riding those buses.

This alone, though enlightening, was not enough to spur me to write a blog post.

Then Centro announced they are making sweeping cuts to service, such as no routes after 9 pm, and no routes on Sundays (see the full list of proposed schedule changes here).

This alone, was enough to spur me to write a blog post.

During this time period, I attended #THEGeneralBody‘s “Teach In To Act Out” at the Community Folk Art Center.  During the Friday evening Keynote Address & Discussion with Dr. Margo Okazawa-Rey entitled “In These Times: Creating a Beloved Community as a Radical Act”, in which she focused on Love as the primary topic.  One attendee commented that she had been a member of the Syracuse and Syracuse University community for 14 years.  She went on to proclaim that in those 14 years she had never felt safe in any space.  You read that right, not anywhere locally.  Until that is, she proclaimed, she participated and visited THE General Body’s 18-day sit-in at Crouse-Hinds Hall.  And then again at the weekend’s events she was taking part in at the Teach In To Act Out.  I felt sad.

I felt sad not only for the fact that we as a community do not currently participate enough in making safe spaces, and welcoming all to our neighborhoods, our homes, workspaces, yards, and more.  But that we were losing another common space that acts as a great equalizer in some ways, a great engager, a great enabler, as our bus service proposed cuts loomed ahead – for true safety does not come from withdrawing inward to a space, but by expanding our hearts and minds through venturing outward, and riding bus transit is a certain yogi way to do so.

Unless of course we start acting.  Actual action is #civic, commercial, and personal participation.  It is voting.  It is running for and holding office at all levels.  It is physically manipulating our spaces for our benefits.  It is being organized for change (using tools such as calendars, folders, email reminders and notifications).  It is creating (and electing leadership that is capable of being creative, coming up with creative solutions, and listening to others who may be more creative than they are).  It is communicating with your leaders and elected officials in the 1st degree, that is, as #LinkedIn would put it – without a middle-person – without a witnessless post on a Facebook page – without a mention of their name in a 3rd party publication that is lacking the appropriate hyperlink, #hashtag, or label.

The future is possible.  It is not a made-up sci-fi.  When we replace our water mains, we can make power through hydro currents at the same time (Portland is already doing it why aren’t we).  This is not made up sci-fi stuff.  Compassion, empathy, and caring are not made up sci-fi things.  We can choose to act competitively (and increase our anxiety and loss of safe space) or cooperatively (decrease our collective anxieties and increase our safe spaces).  Oh yeah, and how bout some travel mug holders on those buses while we’re at it?

This evening, Thursday, February 19th, from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm, Syracuse Common Council will be holding a meeting to discuss the proposed cuts to the Centro bus transit service.  The meeting is open to the public at Syracuse City Hall and I hope you will consider attending in support of finding alternatives to the cuts.

Written by franklenraymond

February 19, 2015 at 6:56 am

What Next, Justice Beyond Grief

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Note: This article originally published as an interpretive editorial at Independent Media CNY on 12/11/14.

The amount of media, journalism, and blog articles about Ferguson over the last two weeks has been staggering.  There is no conceivable way to keep up with all the new and forthcoming information.  And that’s too bad because much of it is really really good journalism and analysis.

Of all the pieces that I encountered, two stuck with me because they proposed not just an analysis, but specific actions of solidarity.  Each was shared multiple times and even built upon one another.  The first, Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder, published at janeewodds.com, presents, in the words of the second article’s authors –

only thinking, reading, contemplating, reframing. While these personal acts are absolutely necessary, they are insufficient. They are not enough, and especially not today. They fall short because they don’t facilitate change, because they don’t hold whiteness accountable, and because they aren’t sufficiently tied into movements of racial justice.”  – 12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision – Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard

I’ve also seen many many people sharing these articles and making a personal statement or two on Facebook about the Mike Brown killing and the Darren Wilson non-indictment (and now as I write this, the non-indictment in the Eric Garner killing).  In the case of my set of Facebook friends, this generally means solidarity as an ally with non-whites, and enragement at the Grand Jury decisions.

The comments that accompany the posts and articles that most strike me (besides the calls for demilitarization of the police) are the ones that call for jobs, economic development, and citizen engagement from within the ranks of, or from members of, disenfranchised groups.  These things won’t come about solely from facebook clicktivism or protests or marches.  Note: I am not here to diminish these actions.  They are important, and I can’t wait for ensuing marches and rallies that will energize and galvanize.  They allow #GriefFrustrationAndAnger to be expressed, a #GrowingRacialJusticeVoice to be heard, and a chance and a reason for reflection, especially I hope through encouraging #LookingBackAtYourOwnRacistHistory and recognizing how you have been influenced to perhaps look the other way.

I will though offer the following other actions, as a contribution, that you can take to not just deal with the immediate aftermath of the decisions and the resulting emotions, but to bring about necessary “change to laws, to our institutions and how we carry ourselves each and every day” as I riff off of my favorite item from Osmundson and Leonard’s list – “11. Do Something Beyond This Week”.

#ShutItDown may be the new age of civil disobedience, but civil disobedience in itself does not equal change.  Effecting the system, effecting the root causes with root solutions, effecting our own internal revolution and evolution, these are the next steps – Participatory Democracy, Cooperative Economics, Assurance of Basic Needs, Continuing Lifelong Personal Development.

  1. Move your money from a corporate bank to a member-owned community development credit union such as Cooperative Federal.  If you believe that the system is functioning to keep power in the hands of the few who currently have wealth and power, and that police brutality and militarization are facets of the control structures in place too, then divest from those structures, and put your money into the hands of your community and your neighbors.
  2. Become a member owner at Eat-To-Live Food Coop (or Syracuse Real Food Coop).  Similarly to moving your money, move your consumption and your grocery purchases to a member-owned store.  There are currently two choices in Syracuse, the Eat-To-Live Food Coop on South Salina St, and the Syracuse Real Food Cooperative on Kensington St.  Both are run democratically, and revenues stay within the neighborhood, and within the operations of the store itself.
  3. Form your own cooperative business, collective home, or sharing economy project.  Value people over property by putting property and ownership into collective hands.  Examples that currently exist are community gardens, housing coops, and tool shares.  But the possibilities are endless.  Worker cooperatives, in which the individuals who work at a business also own the means of production of the business, are the holy grail of cooperatives. We don’t currently have one worker cooperative in Syracuse, let’s change that.
  4. Know the history of police brutality and corruption locally, and understand what this current racial justice movement is demanding.  I honestly don’t know this history as good as I should, but I hope to keep learning about it until there is no more of it to learn, i.e. we’ve put an end to such violence.  Look to the New York Civil Liberties Union and the United As One Coalition for this information. Read Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States” to understand the roots of white privilege, beginning with the violent colonization of Native Americans by European settlers. Also, read and be familiar with the demands from the Ferguson Action Group for radical change to the nation’s criminal justice system.  These are the endgame goals that we should be discussing and communicating.  https://www.scribd.com/doc/248655866/Ferguson-Action-Group-s-Demands
  5. Become a digital witness (learn and practice citizen journalism techniques).  If you have a smart-phone, download a live-streaming app and learn how to use it efficiently and in a moment’s notice.  Practice documenting events that the paid media do not show up at, and sharing them with the world.  I currently use Bambuser app on a Galaxy S3 phone, and post via Independent Media CNY.  Ask me how.
  6. Support a political party that supports equality and fairness without qualms.  The Green Party accepts no corporate donations, and puts voluntary caps on individual donations.  This removes special interests from the election and governing processes.  Greens stand with gumption for everyone to have the basic needs to live a dignified life – which would include free education, appropriate housing, health care for all, and public jobs programs for full employment.
  7. Healing and self-care.  We are all human biological and chemical organisms, with limits, and personal struggles and needs, whether they be emotional or physical, outside of the movements and activism we participate in.  Allow yourself time, sleep, creativity, exercise, quiet, poetry – allow rest and peace to enter your heart in stillness and solitude – without guilt.  Build connections through the universal languages of music and art – attend a DFR Tent Revival for Freedom and Democracy performance and jump, dance and sing together.  It takes a village, the weight is not just on your shoulders, nor should it be for a successful revolution to take place, be your brothers keeper, but first be your own.
  8. Share more civic skills, positive value propositions, and alternative consumption models.  Work on voter registration drives and teach about the voting process; conduct a street medic training and create helping roles for people as parts of actions; volunteer with Food Not Bombs to not only feed the hungry but learn how to cook fresh food from scratch; demonstrate a degree of frugality, that demonstrates economic thrift and prudence in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoids waste, lavishness or extravagance.
  9. Engage in intersectionality with the organizations that work to continue the conversation, not “arrest” it. –  Gratitude to the new Syracuse Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for opening the doors to expanded dialogue without ulterior motive.  The public service and non-profit industrial complexes are similar to capitalism in that they need to feed on competition by being “one-up”  to keep them relevant and flush.  Privatization of public utilities, schools, and healthcare prevent true intersectionality due to the holding and control of power by the capital owners. Understand that intersectionality is not just based on issues horizontally (such as with multi-racial groups or the LGBT community), but also vertically.  The military functions on an international level, just as the police do domestically, to maintain control and prevent people from exerting influence over their own affairs.  Recognize that when groups such as the Syracuse Peace Council are fighting against drone warfare at Hancock Air Base here in Syracuse, they are fighting against the same system of oppression.
  10. Contact your elected representatives directly and personally.  After you show up at a march or rally en masse, send an email, make a telephone call, mail a letter to, or knock on the door of those same exact public representatives that you were trying to get the attention of.  Tell them you were outside their office with that crowd of people, and reinforce your demands, wants, needs, and goals as an individual who is part of a movement.

I had put off writing this piece for days and days as I let the realities and the perspectives sink in, and as I watched and learned what was happening around me.  I clapped and chanted as I live-streamed one of the biggest and most successful displays of public power that I have seen in my time in Syracuse – the “I Can’t Breath” Syracuse March for Justice on Monday December 8th.  I was eager to know what was next. I was disappointed by the low turnout (compared to the march and rally) at the following evenings’ community forum on “Syracuse, Ferguson, Gaza: Rebellion is a Right” at New Salem Baptist Church, but optimistic that folks were in their own neighborhoods taking action.  Many of you are likely aware of many of the tasks and actions I outlined above, and are likely even engaging in them.  But many of the people who were out at the march are probably not aware, and I especially dedicate this to harnessing their energy.

Journalist Chris Hedges recently called for professional revolutionists, and claims that civil disobedience is “the only mechanism left that offers hope for systematic legal and judicial reform”.  I would agree, but the rise of a professional revolutionist class will be difficult, especially while putting food on our own tables – because as far as I know right now the job listings for professional revolutionist are few and far between, if at all.  So I would encourage you to harness the thought that “mass acts of civil disobedience” include the actions I have discussed above (as well as others that aren’t included here), and are not just limited to marches and sit-ins and professional revolutionists.   Don’t give up your power, use it via ballot, brawn, or buying power.  Use your power as Everyday Revolutionists for connecting, and for loving, to overcome the current differences that manifest as status and class.

Written by franklenraymond

December 11, 2014 at 10:23 pm

West Side Walks Begins a New Season of Grassroots Sidewalk Snow Removal

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Note: Originally published at http://independentmediacny.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/390/

As Winter returns to Syracuse, conversation once again turns to the long negligent planning for snow removal from sidewalks (and what will likely be an ever increasing issue with bike paths as well).  A recent Common Council proposal was voted down by 7 of 9 councilors that would have fined property owners $50 for not clearing the sidewalk of snow along “primary removal routes”.

Some folks have taken the role of sidewalk shoveling maven into their own hands, as the Westside Walks program of sidewalk snow removal began again this past Saturday. Volunteers with the Westside Residents Coalition (WRC) set out to clear Grace Street, from Delaware Street to Congress Avenue (the chosen route was due to the three bus stop locations along this two-block length of city street).

Six volunteers (including disabled, with baby in tow, and nearing senior age) took 90 minutes to accomplish the task.  It was a great show of community support, but it won’t accomplish a permanent and wide scale solution to the sidewalk safety problem we experience during Winter months in CNY.

Options seem fairly numerous, from sidewalk heating and sidewalk plowing with mini-plows, to youth job programs.  There could even be a hierarchical approach with levels of engagement – imagine bike lane and sidewalk mechanized plows for major arteries, contracted small business brigades with push snow blowers for secondary arteries, and youth brigades going out with shovels to individual need spots on lesser trafficked streets, with service for the elderly and disabled.

The budget will likely be the last hurdle for any of these ideas, too bad sidewalk snow removal wasn’t included in the recent Syracuse Billion proposal.  So we must continue to hope that the safety of our pedestrians, the quality of our streetscapes and neighborhoods, and the ability to leverage our city’s wonderful reputation as a northern winter wonderland (or at least the potential for that in light of our record as a northern winter snowfall capital) will receive the attention it deserves very very soon.

Until then, go slow, and consider coming out for some urban cross-training with the West Side Walks crew every Saturday.

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Cruz pausing for my camera phone, recognizes the importance of safe and walk-able streets as he looks forward to being a local business owner some day.

 

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Robert came in from outside the city to work off some Thanksgiving calories via community service.

 

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Cameraman selfie, in between shoveling, chatting, and breaking up ice.

 

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Unfortunately, plastic shovels, even with metal tipped edges, are not always a match for driveway portions of the sidewalk that are crushed down by vehicles and can become a sheet of ice that would easily force someone into the street. Timely snow removal could help prevent this from happening.

 

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A not-so-friendly stretch of sidewalk in the target area that has basically become an icy sheet due to pedestrian traffic over the snow.

 

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The CENTRO bus stop at the corner of Grace and Delaware overlooks footprints in the snow of people who come in and off the roadway instead of walking on the icy sidewalk.

 

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More good work of the Westside Residents Coalition in the neighborhood. Syringe litter is a problem of concern here as it is in many parts of the city, but concerned and caring citizens are confronting it directly.

 

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Karaline, Susan, and Gary work on the final stretch together before the whole crew heads inside for a community lunch of turkey casserole and vegetarian sweet potato and black bean chili at Brown Memorial on South Geddes St.

 

Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/westsideresidentscoalition

Written by franklenraymond

December 1, 2014 at 11:22 am

Cooperative Federal Statement of Solidarity with THE General Body at Syracuse University

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On November 19, 2014, the Board of Directors of Cooperative Federal, a committee of volunteers elected by their fellow members to govern our credit union, unanimously passed this resolution:

Statement of Solidarity with THE General Body at Syracuse University

Cooperative Federal expresses solidarity with THE General Body and their movement for structural changes to the administration of Syracuse University related to transparency, diversity, and safety.

Our Credit Union Aligns with the 11 Grievance and Need Points of THE General Body:

TRANSPARENCY: As a cooperative entity we uphold transparency in our operations through governance by a Board elected democratically by our shareholding members on the basis of one member, one vote. Institutions should exist to serve people, not the other way around. Our investment in Syracuse to date is over $110 million. All of our members’ money is put to work in and for the local community.

We oppose the corporatization of education and exclusion of the students (stakeholders, if not technically shareholders) and the campus community from access to budgetary information, and the blocking of the inclusion of wording that supports diversity, citizenship, accessibility, democracy, and community engagement in any mission statement. Budgetary decisions should also respect and respond to requests for an increase in library and graduate student employee funding, as well as divestment from fossil fuels.

DIVERSITY: As a financing entity, Cooperative Federal takes great pride in re-investing all of our member’s savings into the community of those we represent – highlighting a culture of mutual aid and service across the diverse membership we are dedicated to cultivating. More than any other financial institution in Syracuse, we provide services to those underserved by conventional for-profit banks – including a growing number of recent immigrants and refugees, from every corner of the globe. Most of our members live on low incomes and a majority of our members are people of color.

Our own beginnings are in line with many campus movements of the last thirty years. Cooperative Federal was organized by a group of local activists seeking a viable and radical alternative to global corporate banks, specifically at that time, divestment from the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa. We continue to uphold a mission of fair services for people of color, single women, the LGBT community, activists and other low-income or nontraditional workers; through special loan terms, Servicios Bilingues, and a “commitment to serve all members fully”.

SAFETY: As an entity of the people, we fully respect and encourage the right to a peaceable, public redress of grievances as enshrined in our Constitution and traditions. This includes full inclusion of provision for mental health and sexual assault services, accessibility for those with disabilities, and preventative measures for those identifying as marginalized, as put forth within THE General Body’s list of needs.

Each member of a community should not only have the same rights as others whom share the same equity of being a functioning and contributing person within an institution, but also the same expectations towards a system and community of services that evolves with THE General Body and the needs they identify.

Prefiguring Society with Our Own Lives and Institutions

Each member, regardless of their wealth or ability, has an equal vote and an equal share in our success at Cooperative Federal, a model which we believe is key to a system that works for people, not for profit. Private educational organizations can take steps within their investments, campus services, and charter to ensure that they include such values as well.

Based on this belief and our record of engagement and service, Cooperative Federal proudly expresses our support for THE General Body at Syracuse University, and student movements everywhere against discrimination, unequal privilege, and lack of student community access to administrative redress. We honor the students fighting to demonstrate another way is possible within our current society, and stand with you throughout this work in progress.

In cooperation and solidarity,

Frank Raymond Cetera, President
Cooperative Federal
Syracuse’s Community Development Credit Union

Written by franklenraymond

November 25, 2014 at 8:27 pm