AEOO Insider Update: What Transformations Might We Make Possible in 2023?

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It’s typical for this time of year to assess oneself and turn over a few new leaves. So, I’ve been starting this New Year with meditation. I’m not practiced or good at it, only sampling New Age questions that Deepak Chopra suggests we begin to sit with: Who Am I? What Is My Purpose?

There’s a part of me that sneers: purpose-schmurpose. Chopra claims he’s continually open to whatever life delivers, the secret of his serenity. His task is to ask himself these two questions, remaining open to surprise. Reportedly life has delivered him a net worth of a hundred and fifty million dollars. Is there more to his story? I am open to hearing it.

Who am I? The answer changes every day, doesn’t it? This morning, I know full well that I’m a woman and a year older. My knees protest the Lotus position. I’m a worker, underpaid on the job, and never paid for my most important ones, raising my children, keeping a home, or writing to help me stay halfway sane.

When young, I had more certainty. I felt a power, putting words down on paper before I learned about class and its connections, before writers and publishers became mere content-providers. I was positive I would never be so scared and wrong-headed as my mother. I would never be like her. Now I see her in my face, in my hands, in a voice that doubts.

When I was young, I aspired to the courage JFK wrote about, the equality and dignity that Martin Luther King described, the end to war my generation demanded. My heart and body freed by rock and roll and the pill, I never saw the disillusioned 80s and 90s coming — There’s no such thing as a free lunch! Ketchup is a vegetable! We’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! How could I imagine George Floyd’s filmed murder, Donald’s believers, or 2023?

Was I open to what life delivered? Maybe. I was thrilled to get a computer, happy when it told me I had mail. Now its another unpaid job. Maybe I stayed open, after kicking and screaming, and losing and grieving, I learned how to survive. This too shall pass.

Who am I? I am an American, asking a quintessential American question: If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich? It’s the wrong question altogether.

The Chinese call 2023 The Year of the Rabbit. They’re not talking about a wise-cracking Bugs Bunny. They mean the poet rabbit-survivor you meet in the novel Watership Down: “You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there, you find it’s not that simple.”

To outsiders, Rabbit is seen as soft and weak, but to the Chinese and the author of Watership Down, their quiet personality hides confidence and fast, practical reasoning that reminds me of women I know and admire — my mom included. Alert and clever, they may never be high-net-worth-individuals, but we all count on them, and need their stories.

With hope for the year ahead,

Rickey Gard Diamond, AEOO Founder

Reworking the Economy

We dedicate this issue of our Insider Update to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who worked with small communities at the local level to bring about justice. Murdered when he began his campaign to unite white and Black poor people, his words and ideas still inspire us for the work of creating a “more perfect union,” as does the Poor People’s Campaign with its national call for moral revival.

Dr. King said the US has three interrelated problems: racism, militarism, and economic inequality. Since then, Black women scholars like Kimberlee Crenshaw have expanded ideas of social intersectionality that apply to individuals and groups, which overlap to compound disadvantage or advantage; that’s one reason why Black Americans have a tenth of the wealth of white Americans, and why US women’s median income was 83% of men’s regardless of race or education. Yet women of color are more economically insecure, despite their greater wage parity with men of color. 84% of total US wealth is still held by white Americans, who are only 60% of the population. But only the top 10% of Americans own 76% of all US wealth.

We are big fans of Vanessa Lowe in Philadelphia, who is part of the public banking effort there.

A retired CDFI director, and now radio broadcaster on Germantown Radio, you can listen to Vanessa’s Money Hour on Spotify, where she talks with resourceful people — like Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, Nicole Cobb, and Maribel Francisco — about programs and paths to financial security & wealth building.

Another great podcast has been developed by AEOO conversationalist and Green Money Journal writer Ebony Perkins and her associates, Andra Longton and Leah Fremouw: Renegade Capital.

One episode highlights Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan and her impact on local policy that builds inclusive economies. As Chair of the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, Jenn promotes his legacy of racial healing, economic and social justice, and community engagement. She serves as Vice Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, leading efforts for civil rights and equity. As the first House member to be pregnant while in office, she has been a fierce protector of women’s reproductive rights, children, and families. She says we need to change economic and government systems, but also narratives around economic inequality.

Be a renegade. Find out how old policy decisions impact your community, and what reforms could result in long-term change. Then share what you learn.

A young city councilwoman in Evanston, Illinois, Robin Rue Simmons, pushed hard for the city to create a $10 million dollar fund from the legalization of marijuana for reparations for Black citizens.

“The Big Payback” on PBS’ Independent Lens documents the scuttling of Lincoln’s promises of 40 acres and a mule for Black independence and a long history of racial violence and injustice. Its unflinching and inspiring look at Robin’s remarkable service shows us Black and white citizens with a range of opinions. It also highlights the federal bill HR40, first introduced by US Rep. John Conyers (D-Mi) in 1989 and every year until he retired in 2017, to create a reparations commission to create a federal plan.

After that, US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx) began sponsoring the bill. Her meeting with Robin is moving, their joint struggle encouraging — and it has launched a new and exciting national movement for local city reparations.

Updates from the AEOO Community

Progressive Agendas Can Win! On Feb. 3 at 4:00 pm Pacific Time, you can tune into a conversation, organized by Praxis Peace Institute, between AEOO board member Georgia Kelly and Gayle McLaughlin, two-term Mayor of Richmond, CA.

Under McLaughlin’s leadership, Richmond increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2008. Homicides were reduced by 70% and neighborhood groups advanced a progressive city agenda. The Richmond Chevron refinery was forced to pay $100 million dollars in additional taxes after a successful lawsuit that required payment for their environmental harm. She led the fight against foreclosures and founded the Richmond Progressive Alliance, now the California Progressive Alliance.

Having won every campaign in Richmond, even with Chevron outspending her 20 to 1, Gayle understands grassroots organizing and how it can change the political and cultural landscape. Gayle’s Book, Winning Richmond: How a Progressive Alliance Won City Hall, is literally a how-to for radically changing city governments.

Tickets are $15 for Praxis members and $20 for non-members.

Financial Liberation for BIPOC. The Root Social Justice Center is providing “a BIPOC affinity space for those wanting to be more connected to the people who look like us and the gifts we provide.” Their latest series, featuring co-visionaries Shanda Williams and Ana Meija, is about Financial Liberation and Wellness. (Shanda participated in AEOO’s Learning Circle on Public Banking and also helped organize a Vermont conference on Money Matters. Her leadership matters, and we’re so excited to share these events!)

The first session, on budgeting, passed this weekend — but you can still sign up for sessions on debt and credit, and homeownership, coming up soon. The BIPOC healing series is FREE and open to anyone who identifies as a BIPOC person (non white). You can pre-register here to join the group in Vermont, in-person at the Center.

Women Must Have A Place at the Table! AEOO Founder Rickey Gard Diamond digs into the Farm Bill in her latest piece for Ms. magazine. While the U.S. has created an omnibus Farm Bill for nearly a century, our mothers — especially when Indigenous women and other women of color — have never had a say in where our government’s farm support money goes. Not until recently….

The 2022 Women, Food and Agriculture Network National Conference revealed hundreds of formidable and experienced women passionately involved in food security. They not only highlighted the racial and gendered inequities; they offered exciting solutions and ways to learn and stay involved via WFAN’s Plate to Politics.

THE FUTURE IN OUR POCKETS: Making Money Work for the Common Good. The existing system of money creation, built on debt and designed to give power and privilege to the masters of the marketplace is not our only option. Learn how our money system undermines peace, equity and the environment both in the US and internationally, and how we can fix it. AEOO’s Marybeth Gardam of Women’s Int’l League for Peace & Freedom joins with Lucille Eckrich and Virginia Hammon of Alliance for Just Money, on Thursday, Feb. 23 5pm-6:30pm Pacific/8pm-9:30pm Eastern/ RSVP here to tune in on Zoom.

AEOO Resource Library Spotlight

A fitting mantra for the year ahead may be this: “We are the economy!”

We were so moved by the sentiment, shared by Jhumpa Bhattacharya in one of our Zoom of Our Own conversations, that we organized an event with incredible women putting mutuality into practice, and creating community-centered economic models and institutions.

Together, we explored ways to create more resilient communities through revolving credit circles, cooperative businesses, trade agreements, services, and more.

Women often lead these local efforts that economists traditionally call “informal,” but why? Would becoming more “formal,” as some are now urging, improve mutual trust and security, or undermine it?

You can watch the recording of this conversation and access the curriculum — at no cost — as part of AEOO’s mission to democratize this critical knowledge. Hungry for more feminist perspectives? Check out our growing resource library for more videos, books, and podcasts to explore.

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AEOO is an alliance that believes today’s woman also needs an economy of her own — one valuing our diversity, waged for our lives, and driven by women’s ideas and leadership. Follow us on Medium for resources, updates and thought-provoking articles.

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Virginia Woolf said a woman needs a room of her own. We think women need an economy of their own, too.