We Weren’t Ready

As a long-time black radical, I am one of those strange individuals that was actually excited when the election results came in. I’d long been waiting for The Bad Thing to happen that would shake the radical Left up and energize the masses to get up, get involved, and get organized.

As the months rolled on, I feverishly woke from my own semi-slumber and headed out to meeting after meeting in search of groups that were invigorated by this moment. But I found only wild disorganization and enthusiasm-stifling confusion.

After joining and quitting several groups in frustrating succession, I came to the sad realization that

We simply weren’t ready…

It is not one person’s or organization’s fault. A friend of mine used to say, “You have to manage abundance just as much (if not more) than you have to manage scarcity,” and the truth of that statement has been borne out to me greatly in the last few months. From finding adequate meeting space to setting up communication systems to being ready to pounce when there is an opportune moment to strike, I have found a great many groups on the Left severely lacking. While there have definitely been some phenomenal showings, like the airport occupations in response to the travel ban, by and large it seems that a sustained and cohesive uprising is still looking for its get up and go.

Realizing that the “perfect organization” wasn’t just going to present itself to me, I decided to 1) quit or move to the extreme sidelines of the groups that I’d joined, 2) engage in my further political education, and 3) work with others to start my own group.

The Collective for Liberation Ecology and Technology (CoLET) is a new formation focused on addressing some of the infrastructure issues that plague progressive and radical organizations, while also helping to expand the discussion/effort towards technology in the service of environment and true liberation. While we are just getting started, some areas that we already believe radical groups might begin to explore in this political moment are:

  • Mission – What does your group do? Is that apparent/transparent? Is your group focused on the right things for this political moment?
  • Communications – Is your group using Google, Slack, Facebook, and Twitter for revolutionary efforts? Are there alternatives? What are the barriers to moving off non-liberatory platforms?
  • Scale – How/ should you grow your group? Not every organization needs to be a big tent, but those that are need to grow the tent with care. There is no sense inviting people to join a group that is not prepared to truly welcome and onboard them.
  • Space – Where can you meet? Where should you meet?
  • Safety – What policies are in place to ensure safety of the members? How do you deal with internal harassment?
  • Security – Does your group have a security culture around information-sharing? How is that enforced/encouraged?
  • Governance  – How does the group make decisions? Is that transparent?
  • Political Education – What materials and systems are in place to make sure new people understand what is going on and can continue to learn about the group’s political platform?
  • Partnerships – Is your group working in solidarity with any other groups? Why or why not?
  • Fundraising – How does your group raise money? What physical or digital platforms do you use to receive that money and are those platforms aligned with your group’s vision/mission? How is the money used? Is that transparent?

… But We Were Ahead of the Curve

While many of us in radical Left groups are struggling with what to do with the tremendous and often overwhelming influx of people and interest that came our way once the The Bad Thing happened, we have not struggled in understanding this political moment.  We know that what looks like a single, huge earthquake to many people with a newfound radical lens on the world is actually just an aftershock of the many centuries of racist and sexist imperialist/ colonial then capitalist/neoliberal campaigns.

Where this repression and genocide was at dogwhistle levels to so many for so long, we radicals have heard it as a steady drone for decades, if not centuries. In this moment, we need only work on how to be effective at helping others tune into a deeper understanding of what is happening and harness that newfound awareness and energy to spark creativity and struggle on towards liberation.

We Weren’t Ready Read More »

Decentralizing our Data

In the past decade, a multitude of online tools and applications have been made available to us for “free.” But, they aren’t without cost. In the Economist article, The Incorporated Woman, Jennifer Lyn Morone describes her experience trying to take ownership of her data and finding out just how much it is worth. The article focuses on the business around our data and the huge profits made by big technology companies, like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Data is essentially, when used on commercial platforms, a form of currency to them.

Generating revenue from our data is referred to as data monetization. In his article Data = Opportunity: But Are You Monetizing Information?, RK Paleru observes that companies use our data in order to gain marketplace insights that help them create products and services that meet a perceived customer need. Paleru refers to these type of companies as info.-disruptors because monetization of information has disrupted many industries and displaced many traditional retailers, newspapers, recruiting firms and media companies.

Rise of the info-disruptors – While companies such as Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, and Netflix are all well known to monetize information, and in the process have displaced many retailers, newspapers, recruiting firms, and media companies respectively; many recent startups such as Uber, AirBnB, and Alibaba are disrupting many other industries.

Consider some of the commonly used applications and services that these companies offer:

  • Gmail, Docs, Calendar services by Google
  • Facebook and it’s other applications like WhatsApp and Instagram
  • Twitter

When Facebook was preparing to go public in 2012 an article, in the New York Time by Lori Andrews, Facebook is Using You exposes how…

[they make] money by selling ad space to companies that want to reach us. Advertisers choose key words or details — like relationship status, location, activities, favorite books and employment — and then Facebook runs the ads for the targeted subset of its 845 million users.

And shares how this is small compared to how…

Google took in more than 10 times as much, with an estimated $36.5 billion in advertising revenue in 2011, by analyzing what people sent over Gmail and what they searched on the Web, and then using that data to sell ads.

But Lori Andrew notes how ads could be seen as more of a nuisance but there are side effects such as…

[t]he bits and bytes about your life can easily be used against you. Whether you obtain a job, credit or insurance can be based on your digital doppelgänger — and you may never know why you’ve been turned down.

In a recent BBC article, Rob Crossley explores the question, Where in the world is my data and how secure is it?. He discovers the sheer volume of data Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon collect and store about us. No one really knows where all the data lives. This is scary! The data these companies collect is no longer under our control. Alistair Croll argues that this is a Civil Rights issue in Big data is our generation’s civil rights issue, and we don’t know it where he uses an example of how data could be used against you, violating not only your privacy but your rights.

If I collect information on the music you listen to, you might assume I will use that data in order to suggest new songs, or share it with your friends. But instead, I could use it to guess at your racial background. And then I could use that data to deny you a loan.

There are some lawsuits that have been started. One that has gotten some attention is the Fraley vs. Facebook where users got a $15 in the $20 million dollar settlement that includes more user control over how data is used. We are likely to see more of this in the coming years.

If we think about what we use on a daily basis that tends to include:

  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Documents
  • SMS
  • Chat
  • Social Media

These types of applications and communication tend to live in the cloud, which is a server somewhere accessible via the web. Jacob Silverman outlines how trends are created around apps, in this case Slack, affect our privacy and our lives very directly, aptly titled Big Brother is Watching, and highlights the power dynamics in providing software as a service platforms:

Who watches over our data, and who watches over us? The answer, apparently, is whoever administers the apps and networks that run our lives.

What would happen if we each start moving some of our data away from these commercial sources? Would that give us a bit more privacy and control? What would the cost be, since the data would not be monetized in the same way? Taking back control of our data and securing our privacy would require changes in our personal behaviors and to the way we interact with the cloud. What if you knew where the servers are, and who and how they are managed? What would you pay for those cloud services, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 per month or per year? How much is your data worth? In 2012 Joe Mullin provides some context in How much do Google and Facebook profit from your data?.

Social platforms are a little different since they’re intended for connecting and sharing more broadly. That includes dialogue and interactions with a broader audience. It’s also about creating a personal presence on the web. But, is there a way to share and connect while still retaining privacy and having control of our data? There have been some efforts and we will explore one called IndieWeb and we’ll go into it in more detail in a future blog post.

Decentralizing our Data Read More »

female mechanics in Senegal

Spring/Summer Brainstorming

From May through July 2017, Lauryl, Dana, and I gathered these unedited ideas and resources in a pirate pad as we began to think through what CoLET would/should be.

Brainstorm and Resources
Name Possibilities 
Something with architecture 
some variation on bldg. new world within shell of old
  • Day One Collective (DOC)
  • The Today Collective 
  • Tools for Another World Institute (TAWI)
  • Institute for Study and Service to Self and Surroundings (ISSSS) first association on reading this is ISIS so maybs not?
  • The Center for Ecology, Technology, and Liberation (CELT)first association: celtics like the sports team/indo-european language
  • Ecology, Technology, Liberation (ETL or The ETL Collective) 
  • Liberation, Ecology, Technology (LET or the LET Collective or  – And this one, starting with liberation may be more powerful too. into this one also for the association – “let” as in “enable”
  • The Cooperative for Liberation, Ecology and Technol0gy) (CoLET) – This acronym name could read as a name, which I like ditto
  • Center for Liberation Ecology Solidarity and Technology (CeLEST)
  • Center for Ecology Liberation Economic Solidarity and Technology  (CELEST)
  • an economy not based on fucking over people/planet 
  • Focus on building stuff/DIY and sharing findings/experience  rather than protest or book club or holding endless panels
  • Transparency around process and output 
  • Working at human scale
“Building tools, skills, and communities for radical interventions. “
* We are a small, Brooklyn-based, community-centered, radical feminist anticapitalistcollective. We work to maintain, develop, extend, and promote tools and documentation for likemminded  groups to communicate and organize. We especially lift up the often overlapping struggles of black people, women, people from the Global South, poor people, indigenous people,  queer/trans people, imprisoned and trafficked people, and those persecuted for their documentation or religious status.Our aim is to contribute to the development and nurturing of digital and ecological commons where people can learn, share, and grow themselves and their communities with dignity and joy.
How do we implement it? NOTES GO HERE!!!
Small group study and practice 
Public installation somewhere – It’s [insert time here] do you know where your data is?
– Classes/workshops
Herb classes
Detoxifying your home, medicine cabinet, kitchen, etc
Fighting class – they have this at The Base and aparently it was very popular (Nabil)
DIY things 
Free as in Freedom: Data audit and setting up new domains
Understanding community land trusts – the nuts and bolts
Understanding cooperatives – starting, leading, joining, 
UNderstanding alternative currencies
  • Brochures/materials, newsletter
  • Crisis intake – dealing outside the system/ mutual aid society 
  • Neighborhood assemblies – enabling registration and voting
Simple website to help people find spaces to meet in NYC- radicalactivist.space is available for $0.99 spaceforactivists.nyc is also available for like $32 – findyourcongressperson.com seems to have something like this , built with Drupal. We would need a Search function and a Submit function and then a contact email address for all other issues. We could also just do it as a wiki
Suite Tools 
* WordPress
* With BuddyPress provides community aspects, groups and member profiles, but needs some UI/UX
* CiviCRM 
NextCloud – could have collaborative doc, but already has calendar, email client, tasks connected to calendar and more apps are being developed by community.
Electic Embers
https://bitmask.net/  VPN for Linux
Eventbrite replacement – invitations and invite management (I think people can use CiviCRM for this)
Other Dreams/Projects
Camille would also like to have a member-run physical space for coworking, social events, and a cooperative gym!!
Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners conference 
Tactical Technical Interventions
  • mail
  • phone
  • document sharing
  • event scheduling 
  • membership managemen
  • shift management
  • Development, documentation, and training. 
(Longer-term vision of having a physical space. Maybe some sort of neighborhood tech clinic)  Without the space, conduct gatherings in spaces within the community. 
Org Structure
Transparent governance and membership – which just means people know how things work, we actually do our best to adhere to that system, and it is clear how to change things . Also clear to know how is involved and how
Well documented communication and tasks
Decisions made collectively – agree, disagree, non-blocking disagreement (not consensus please!!) Agreed
Embracing impermanence (if it doesn’t work out we should have a nice way to dissolve it) very true  this x100; also into the idea of not fetishizing process/structure or ‘organizations’ e.g. only so much as is needed to do the things ur trying to do
Conflict/dissent welcome  (CA has good phrasing around this) again agreed x 100 (lol, agreeing with ur comment about disagreement)
Membership Tiers
Foundation/ Organizing – People that are part of/ work on the core group. I think of the work as being: figuring out strategic direction, coordinating technical efforts, building and nurturing membership, cooperating with likeminded orgs. 
Members – People or Organization that consume the technology/ services and give feedback
Partner Organizations – committed to building platforms and sharing resources
Supporters – People who believe in our mission (I am concerned about non-stakeholders giving money. Will have to think this through) 
I think we’d also have partner orgs like Palante 
Incorporation/Legal Structure 
(contact details of people who could help with this are MUCH appreciated!)
Urban Justice Center
Michael Haber lawyer from Hofstra at the comm. economic development clinic who might be able to find students to support us:  Michael.L.Haber@hofstra.edu
Conflict Resolution
To quote activist Berniece Johnson-Reagon, “If you’re in a coalition and you’re comfortable….your group is too small.” As practitioners of radical global feminisms, we welcome the discomfort that comes from misunderstanding and disagreement as an indicator that our mission is gaining support and our network is expanding.  We will entertain petitions from dissenting groups and individuals within the community, and use the above-listed principles as our guide as we attempt to understand, mediate, translate, and (when appropriate) resolve conflict. 
Elinor Ostrom principles outlined here – https://camilleacey.com/2017/04/02/something-in-commons/
BYP100 Community Accountability Process documented – http://transformharm.tumblr.com/
Useful Links:
  • DAWI the folks who may or may not continue working coop network platform from the past 2 years.
  • thanks for sharing!
Values and Principles
  • Another good read – Territory, Presence, & Building a Base of Support (https://itsgoingdown.org/territory-presence-and-building-a-base-of-support/) << thanks for sharing this! especially interested in/curious about how to act out the shift in emphasis from instiutions that claim to ‘represent’ groups to geniuine relationships w/ individuals & w/ groups pushing against the social order
  • Antiracist 
  • Anticapitalist
  • Feminist
  • Ecological
  • Sustainability
  • Permaculture – earth care, people care and fair share
  • Cooperative
  • Communitarian / Focus on community – both local and collaborators
  • Community space (s)
  • Educational- externally and internal 
  • Strategic
  • Technology
  • Scalable
  • Open source
  • User friendly
  • Responsive 
  • Selfcare/ healing
  • Impermanence and imperfection
  • Transparent conflict resolution structure 
  • Loose rule structure see Ostrom
Potential Partners
Center for Family Life
Interference Archive 
Security In A Box – https://securityinabox.org/en/
Cypurr Collective
Open Mastery
Wild Seed Collective
Black Womens Blueprint
Anthony Williams – https://t.co/O9qoro04Wz
Save Our Streets
One People’s Project
It’s Going Down
Art Against Displacement
Data and Society 
Progressive Technology Project – https://ptp.ourpowerbase.net/ (this website is a mess so I am sorta doubtful)
Cooperative Jackson
Plan C UK
West Harlem Environmental Action 

Spring/Summer Brainstorming Read More »

Tools For More Secure Communication

Over the past week, we’ve all heard a lot of worries and concerns because of the election results. Working together to support each other is crucial. But, doing so securely is essential. Here are few quick things you can do today and a few resources to continue towards more secure communication across our communities. The DIY Guide to Feminist Cybersecurity is very comprehensive and outlines in more detail some of the following:

Phone Communication

Email Communication

Browser Security

Online Applications

  • Use a Password Manager like LastPass
  • When possible use your own network applications and tools, control where your data is using free and open source software like

Resources and Guides

Tools For More Secure Communication Read More »

Why CoLET?

Dana, Lauryl, and Camille came together in May 2017 to think about how to carve out a space for technology and technologists within radical and progressive activism.  We all come from the cooperative/solidarity economy space and found that while many activists and organizers were thinking about ways to divest from businesses and practices that harm our communities in the areas of food, fashion, and finance, this conscious consumer behavior rarely extended to the realm of technology.

With our work in this collective, we hope to empower organizers and the communities they struggle alongside to invest in and leverage tools that uplift and protect us all, as we continue to fight.

Why CoLET? Read More »

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