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Announcing Matsutake

CoLET came together around the simple idea that the people working for liberation needed to use tools that lended themselves to the liberatory tasks at hand. Since the day we hatched, we've wanted to:

  • challenge movement folks to live and spend according to their values,
  • educate them about better options,
  • be a provider of better options, and
  • also cook and eat amazing food.

Over the years, we've been able to do all of this to some degree, but never in a way that felt scalable....until now. After hearing over and over again about movement people being kicked off, surveilled, suspended and stolen from by corporate platforms we started toying with the idea of encouraging people to have their own "digital space". As our friend Micky Metts from Agaric Coop says,

"Let's get off the plantation!"

So we've spent these last pandemic years creating just that with Matsutake. After lots of trial and error and fighting with servers and code and stylesheets and such, we present it to you.

Matsutake is a plot of digital area that CoLET has set up for folks like you to rent on our servers for as long as you need. We've set up some basic templates (using WordPress and various WordPress add-ons) that we think can get most people up and running. (However, if you need something custom, we can probably make that happen for an additional cost).

Matsutake is inspired by the rich and resilient fungal networks that populate our planet and make so much plant and animal life possible. We believe the solidarity economy has the potential to be as strong and life-giving, and we are excited to be another node in the growing space of radical tech collectives and coops.

Matsutake is a side-hustle of love built to serve the communities that made us and the blessed communities to come. We don't store up your data and sell it to anyone. That'd just be wrong! We aren't all up in your business either.

Because it is open source, any of this can be pulled up and move to your own server or someone else's in the future if you prefer! We support you in getting as free as you can be.

If this sounds intriguing to you, learn more by clicking here.

In Abundance

OK, so we know it is cliche to talk about growth and blossoming in the springtime but that is sorta what is on our minds so that is what we’ll talk about.

Across the world most of us have indeed all spent more than enough time thinking about what we are missing, yearning for, lacking in this loooooong stretch of lockdowns and nervousness. What we maybe haven’t done enough of is inventory what we currently have in abundance. So we are taking the time to catalogue that now in no particular order

Abundances

Heat

Snow

Food

Adventure

New people

No people

Nature

Quiet

.Health

Humor

Help

Knowledge

Curiosity

Space

Time

Wifi

Openness

Friends

Awareness

Nostalgia

Security

Hope

Ideas

Courage

Where We Are

In thinking about how to describe where we all are now, I asked Dana and Laura for a word for something that “changes form and then comes back stronger”.

They first suggested compost, but it struck me as slightly too gunky and eaten by worms (though good and important…compost your food waste if you can, y’all!).

I then asked about diversion or maybe something related to water….maybe tributaries?

Looking at the wikipedia page for tributary, I see that distributaries are streams that branch off and flows away from a main stream channel. We have all drifted, some just a bit from where we were; others quite far away.

As I read further I see that in Australia, the term anabranch refers to a distributary that diverts from the main course of the river….but then later rejoins. This is the word I like the most today. It is clunky, but it feels closest to what I think I am hoping for. I wish that even as we are scattered now, we will bring everything we learn and see back from our diverted, composting path back to enrich our work and fun times together.

Here are some of the things we have picked up along our winding (diverting? composting?) tributary/distributary paths:

How ‘Tikim’ Shaped Filipino Food Writing—and How It Was Resurrected (article) This is a long read about a highly-celebrated but collosally hard to find essay collection about Filipino cuisine. I was riveted from start to finish and desperately want this book now.

Yes We Cannibal (group) – new friends in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Mushroom At The End of the World (book) by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
This book was so deliciously good that it inspired us to make some major changes to a project we’d been working on. More details coming in the new year!

Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art (book) by James Nestor
By understanding the miraculous and underdiscussed functions of the nose, you can improve your health, or in some cases, heal yourself with your own body. Empowering and timely, as we think about keeping our respiratory systems healthy during Covid. The nose can trigger different hormones to flood into our bodies, can lower our blood pressure and even help store memories. Long story short: Breathe through your nose. It’s much better for you.

Care Work, Dreaming Disability Justice (book) by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
I learned about Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha through a plenary at the 2020 Allied Media Conference. As a mother, woman, friend, lover, steward of the earth care work is at the core of what I do, so something with a title as literal as Care Work piqued my interest. This book dives deep, critically thinking about what care is exactly. What does care require of us? Care is slow. Care is witnessing others lives and not fixing or changing anything. Mutual aid is great, but let’s not romanticize it. In studying the disability justice movement, there are lessons and tools to be harvested by anyone looking to build radical and resilient communities.

Parenting for Liberation

Before the lockdown, those of us who are parents were thinking about how we could supplement or shift our kids’ education and exposure to cultivate their taste for liberation. Now we are thinking not just about them and their continued growth, but also about how this can be an opportunity to change ourselves.

Rather than simply yowling for a return to normalcy like so many of the voices coming out of popular media, we wonder about how can we use this time to experiment with the ways and locations in which we do and don’t parent. We think about what we mean by “good education” or “great teacher”, and continue to explore and get creative about how we make time and space for our full selves. Here are some cool and helpful things we’ve stumbled across along the way:

Parenting for Liberation for podcast – episode 31 (with adrienne maree brown and dani mcclain) is particularly dope!

Parenting is Political – blog for progressive and radical parents

Unconditional Parenting – this classic by Alfie Kohn is all the more critical as we find ourselves in this moment where people seem more ready than ever to talk about ways to extract police and policing out of our communities and reimagine how we hold each other accountable without turning people out into the cold.

The Conscious Kid – website link to more good resources for

Rooted Kids – a very cool website by radical NYC kindergarten teacher, Laleña Garcia

Crisis Nursery – this is an amazing project I heard about that provides 24-hour emergency care for children and support to strengthen families in crisis. It is open 24 hours, 365 days a year for the entire community to access with no fees or income eligibility. I would love to be part of helping to start this sort of thing in NYC if it doesn’t already exist.

about the image: Here, at a village on Rarotonga, principal island of the group, a district nurse speaks to mothers and children on the importance of a balanced diet for the health. (1965) By Photographer: Unknown – https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE25799650, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89425520

As We Shelter In Place

Sheltering in place is not a gift any of us would have asked for, but we are making use of it. CoLET was started in a moment of political crisis so we know that while there is pain and suffering (far more now than that time) in crisis, these inflection points can be times of great creativity and fertility. When we are fortunate/privileged enough to be secure and safe during a crisis such as this, we can use the time to evaluate our lives. We can renew our commitment to nurturing those efforts and relationships that are working....or muster the strength to sever ties with all that weighs us down.

We can cultivate comfort and courage in uncertainty.

We can care for ourselves and each other. Checking in on neighbors and old friends.

We can discover our needs and let them be known.

We can study and dream.

And we can ready ourselves for the world that will be.

Because there is no more "going back to normal". We can only take brave and shaky steps forward.

Here are some things we have been doing and reading in this time of relative hibernation:

DOING: gardening, fermenting, canning, cooking and cooking and cooking, learning Portuguese, taking singing lessons, working, caring for our kids, exercising -- alone and across screens, checking in on our neighbors, budgeting, looking at more open and secure alternatives to Zoom (Jami, Jitsi, Nextcloud Talk), resilience mapping, washing our hands....over and over and over again.

READING:

GIVING:

CoLET Lately

Here's a rundown of a few things we have been/will be working on, reading up, and thinking about these days.

      Recent Media

Taking Stock

We're into our second year of being/doing CoLET and we've been using these cold, slow, winter days  to take stock (aaaand also make stock! Because food is one of our thangs, y'know.). We're still simmering  on a lot of what we're sharing here, but wanted to share a little about where we are and what we've done so far. In part to stay accountable and also to just chronicle this journey for ourselves and those that come after us.

The Good Stuff

Communication
CoLET is not the main source of income for any of us, so we couldn't devote a lot of time to it week in and week out, but we still were able to maintain momentum despite only seeing each other every other week or so. We still manage to talk nearly every day either over Signal, email (we are enthusiastic users of NextCloud!), and (more recently) via Issues in our Gitea instance.

We have a good line of communication and can easily move from business concerns to talking about our personal lives to sharing recipes and back again. We have inside jokes and  a good sense of each other's quirks. We laugh a lot, we stress very little, and have a lot of genuine love and respect for each other.

Structure
After much chewing on the issue, we decided to incorporate as an LLC. It took longer than some of us expected, but we are grateful to the wonderful young women and Dr. Michael Haber of the Community and Economic Development Clinic at Hofstra University for skillfully (and cheaply!) getting us over the finish line. We hope to share our operating guidelines with you soon as we think they could be of service to the greater community.

Building Our Network
Continued study on the intersection of socieconomic justice and climate justice is a priority for us, and in our first year we were able to organize many lively reading groups and dinners. We have archived much of what we read and discussed here on the blog. Over the past year or so, Camille (our unofficial spokesperson!) also made the effort to reach out to and start growing our network by connecting to many likeminded groups. We've made friends with folks via:

Dana maintained close ties to the NYC coop and solidarity economy community, participating in a group for women and non-binary folks confronting patriarchy within that movement. There is a brilliant write-up of their efforts here. From this community, we were also able to get our feet wet, doing small projects for Hopewell Care Cooperative and Dollars &Sense. Laura, who came into this with little WordPress experience, was a quick study on these projects and started styling themes like a pro in no time.

The Tough Stuff

Scope creep
While we had a lot of success making new friends, we sometimes over-reached and tried to participate in events and groups that had a more global scope than we could handle. For example, Camille pitched a workshop to RightsCon and the Black Farmers and Urban Growers Conference and while it was accepted at both, without any funding and a clear sense of what we were trying to accomplish there, it didn't quite make sense for us to participate. As the saying goes, "You have to crawl before you walk."

Another mistake we made last year was starting to work on a project before we fully understood the scope or the budget. By the time we realized that the group we were working with had little money and a LOT of requirements, we were in too deep. This was a big learning experience, and something we have now taken steps to rectify. We know that the groups we want to work with are often going to be cash-strapped, but we think the solution to this is finding the cash to pay for the work rather than trying to get people to work for free. As we implement new systems, we want to also try to root out the exploitative dynamics that have characterized the old ways (e.g. expecting women and people of color to do thankless unpaid labor).

Equity and Expenses
Though we intentionally decided not to be a cooperative, we do want to have an equitable (though not necessarily equal) split. Right now, members get paid based on the work hours they put into a given project. Since nearly all the work hours we've been paid for so far have been for WordPress development, any work that isn't paid client development/training work currently goes unpaid -- no matter how much time gets put into other aspects of the collective. As a new formation, we are still thinking through how to compensate everyone for the time they put into keeping this ship on course.

Of course, as a fledgling organization, we are squarely focused on covering our monthly overhead. Right now that's been a challenge. Once we have more income coming in and all our costs are covered, we will be better able to spread the income around.

CoLET's Space
We genuinely wanted to host more dinners, but finding cheap/free space in Brooklyn has proven tough. We also sometimes struggle to figure out where to meet with just the three of us, but our apartments work OK and we sometimes like to go grab a slice of pie at Pel's.

We did have consistent good luck hosting the reading group in the private rooms in the library and moving from the Crown Heights library to the main library was an upgrade (though they don't allow food in the meeting room in the main library's Infocommons 🙁 ) . A lot of people swore they wanted to come to the reading group's but people consistently failed to show up for the last few so we've put them on hold for the foreseeable future. We still want to do dinners though. Let us know if you happen to have (or know of) a cozy space in or around the Crown Heights/PLG/Flatbush area!

(The featured image on this post is from Larry Luckham's image set from his time at Bell Labs. He worked in their Oakland, California data center in the late 60s and early 70s. Click above to see them all. They are great!)

February 2018: On Race, Gender, Capitalism, and “Biopower”

What We Read:

What came up for us:

[vimeo 36579366 w=640 h=360]

Bret Victor – Inventing on Principle from CUSEC on Vimeo.

Dynamic Land in Oakland is a building that is a computer. A more immersive and tactile experience https://dynamicland.org/

How can we prioritize the social and cultural when capitalism is economics first?

Proprietary software defines the scope of what is possible in tech so often.

What Can A Technologist Do About Climate Change? (forthcoming article)

Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain discussion of class and racial dynamic in Occupy

How can you do education in a protest movement?

Does the term “radical” mean anything anymore?

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