How do we achieve community power?

How do we achieve community power? This is a key question for the survival of Groundswell. The success of the Groundswell project (program? school? movement?) will be measured in our ability to sustain not just ourselves, but each other.

In three years time, I want to be able to sit on a couch with people from Groundswell and cry. I hope to laugh, grieve and scheme with you all in the years ahead.

That's what it will take to for me to stick around. It's what gets me out of bed to go to school in the morning, and it's what would motivate me to build something together that lasts.

I dream of Groundswell — every student and staff member of this program — being able to access many different categories of power. Collaborative power. Emotional power. Obstructive power. Structural power.

God knows we need it.

I didn't go to school the day Mike Brown's murderer was acquitted. What was the point? I went to a vigil instead.

2014 will be remember as the year that the ongoing genocide of black people stopped having any trace of subtlety. Black men, black women (especially black trans women) are being murdered in staggering numbers by police, by vigilantes, by private security guards. There is seldom a breath of repercussion for those murders.

The Klu Klux Klan has made a re-emergence as an almost mainstream political voice. Every day there are more news stories of police officers in Ferguson and beyond who are part of the "ghost squad:" police officers who are secretly Klan members.

This all sounds like the shadowy youtube clips with creepy music talking about the lizard people illuminati. I wish this was a conspiracy theory I could laugh off.

We're not as distanced from this in Vancouver as we might like to believe. Anti-blackness remains a prominent force here (look up the destruction of Hogan's Alley). Besides, how can we distance our society from police violence when the Vancouver police are active agents in the ongoing genocide of indigenous people?

I feel like I should scrap this whole blog and write something more uplifting, just focusing on Groundswell and how incredible the people there are. I'd like to read that. I feel numb.

The new economy. Social enterprise. These buzzwords will remain play-tools of the capitalist class, unless they can truly transform the economy based not on white, middle class liberal values, but on values of need. The need as a black or indigenous person to not be killed by police. The need to be able to walk at night as a trans or cis woman without harassment or violence.

The alternative economy will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

At 566 Powell St, there are Christmas lights, candles, ripped up Mandarin orange peels hanging from the ceiling. We might not be talking about projects today, but they're on our minds.

The safety and sensitivity of Groundswell, the friendships that deepen every time we sit down to eat together, these are buds of a gentle community power.

In five years, we could have a loosely organized network of community based organizations. Some of us will be upcycling materials. Some of us will be running alternative schools. Maybe Vancouver will look different. Maybe there will be a daylighted stream running through the city.

Hopefully we'll be making enough money from our projects to live on.

When we want to do something about housing, about gentrification, we will have the community power, trust and skills to do something tangible.

For me, Groundswell will be a success if we can get 300 of us up to Burnaby Mountain — or whatever the site of environmental resistance happens to be — at a day's notice. That's obstructive power.

We're not an overtly activist school. Or if we are, it's not in the way activism is commonly understood. While everyone who comes to Groundswell wants to see an alternative to capitalism as it currently runs, there are still a diversity of view points. I don't want that to ever change.

But I do want us to have a sense of urgency when it comes to the struggles of others. When the next Ferguson happens, how can we provide meaningful economic solidarity? We might look to the relationships of horizontal solidarity between revolutionary Latin America and Vancouver based groups in the 70s and 80s for inspiration.

Between the uprisings in Ferguson, Burnaby Mountain and New York, there is a revolutionary movement of marginalized people being built. We should know where we will we stand in relation to these movements.

As Gilad said to me, neither of us really care that deeply about the economy. We care about social things. The economy is just a tool we can use to try to create alternatives, try to create jobs, try to create power.

These connections we're building every week are beautiful and nourishing. In writing this blog, I'm not trying to push us harder than we can stretch. We often need to be gentle with ourselves, and if that means creating small, self-sustaining, interesting projects that's great.

I think it would be a good plan to put some thought towards Groundswell's Utopia though. Let's talk about forming all our projects into one umbrella co-op. Let's talk about how we're going to stop the cafe from being a gentrifying force. Let's talk about our visions for the space and for each other. That's what excites me.

- Sasha, Groundswell participant, Fall 2014