Two Year Anniversary

We’re coming up now on the two year mark. It was Dec 28th, 2013, when we convened a motley crew of 20 people from our East Coast network at The Keep here in DC for the inaugural meeting of Point A. At the time we thought it’d be hard to find people interested in doing something as crazy and intense as trying to start a fully income sharing urban commune with an ambitious program of community support and radical transformative social change. Boy were we wrong. Two years later we’re operating in four cities on the East Coast, are being asked to operate in two more, and might have accidentally helped inspire a commune on the West Coast (oops!). With so many things happening and on the verge of happening it seemed like a good time to start putting out a newsletter.

Back in January I moved up to DC from Acorn Community in Virginia to be an on the ground organizer for the DC Point A commune. I’m a living example of the communes’ ability to easily support members in their unpaid activism: Acorn has given me a year of economic support in which to organize the DC commune so I can throw my all into the project without worrying about supporting myself at the same time. As I come to the end of that year it looks like we’re on track to have a new commune spun up for me to slide smoothly into. Over the last year a lot has happened. I’ve organized or spoken at events here in DC, over in Baltimore at the Baltimore Free Farm, all the way up in NYC, and even, enchantingly, in Madrid and Gijón. We’ve doubled the size of the core group in DC, gotten the word out to scores of people, gotten the UDC Community Development Law Clinic to help us figure out how to incorporate, lined up financing, and found and started negotiations on a few likely properties. Most importantly the core group has been meeting regularly, building relationships with each other, and figuring out what sort of culture and community we are interested in cultivating at the commune.

Although there are many obvious differences between urban and rural communes (as well a many similarities) there’s one big difference I wasn’t expecting when we started this project. At the beginning, when Paxus and I put together our dream list of initial recruits we included people from all over the East Coast assuming that we’d get together, pick a place to start, and all move there. What we were told in that first meeting was exactly the opposite: people wanted to build communal communities in the cities they called home. At the rural communes our members come from all over the place, often traveling a significant distance to visit or move in. Locals are a rarity at the rural communes (although not unheard of). Interest in the Point A communes, in constrast, comes largely from current residents of the cities. An easy majority of the DC group, for instance, grew up in the DC area and nearly all of them are both already living here and plan to make DC their forever home regardless of whether or not they are members of the commune. This gives a very different flavor to the form of the community and work that we will be doing.

Pressing the PANYC button

Names have power.  I spent years going to a summer environmental youth festival in Europe called “Ecotopia”.  Regular participants consider themselves Ecotopians. We talked about “Ecotopian Principals”.  When things went well, we marveled at the “Ecotopia spirit”.  It was originally the title of a book by Ernest Callenbach, who coined it in his 1975 popular classic, which was a prophetic tale of the Northwest region of the US succeeding and reversing industrial capitalism.  But the name  quickly went on to mean much more to many people.   If we had, for example, called it Summer Green Fest, we would have identified with it less deeply and it might well have died a decade sooner.Ecotopia landscapeSome of the best names are ones which occur organically.  I remember when we were designing an all womens anti-nuclear office in Prague which was staffed by internationals.  Emily said “Why don’t we just call it the Prague International Anti-Nuclear Office?”  I said “don’t you think that is a little long?” She said “We would call it PIANO for short, the acronym.”  Instantly there was no other choice, we just started calling it Piano from that day on.

The Point A project wrestled a bit initially with what to call ourselves, we wanted a good name.  But the more we talked about it, we realized that the communities that the project created would have their own names, identities and origin stories – so a good name would be nice, and i like Point A, personally.  But it is not a brilliant name.

Busy people compress things.  Your goodbyes are shorter, repetitive tasks get shaved by seconds where you can and multi-word names you have to type repeatedly become acronyms.  Point A has a growing number of specific urban sub-projects (including currently DC, NYC, Baltimore and Richmond).  So i started writing Point A – NYC and then PA – NYC and finally PANYC.  omg what a great name.Dont-PanicWe are often told “don’t panic”, not just in the context of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, but to maintain order.  From where i sit, if we follow this strategy the chances for the planet to survive are vanishingly small.  The people who want us to stay calm are often the same ones who think Climate Disruption is not a thing.  They think business as usual is the way to go and they most certainly think that we should respect the powers that be and the current authority structure.

Cartoon-Climate-Disruption

Totally a thing.

I could not disagree more. We need to be panicking.  We need to be doing things dramatically differently.  Business as usual is suicide, convenient and lucrative for a tiny fraction of the population, certainly.  But no less suicide for the planet and everyone we care about. Well see if the other folks in the project are as excited as i am by this name and the implications.  But i have a spring in my step just thinking about it.