Resist and Build, Fight and Build, Oppose and Propose, Resist and Insist – whatever the wording, there is great convergence about the need to connect these dimensions. Even if the lines are a bit blurry, we can broadly distinguish between resist work that seeks to fight back against an oppressive, unjust and unsustainable social/economic system, and the build work of the solidarity economy that seeks to build ‘another world’ beyond capitalism to one that puts people and planet, equity, justice and sustainability front and center. Resistance without knowing where you’re going is likely to lead only to reform of the current system. Building a solidarity economy without being grounded in grassroots organizing runs the risk of losing touch with the struggle that impels the need for a solidarity economy in the first place.
Kali Akuno brings a powerful vision and deep analysis that is changing the social and economic fabric of Jackson, Mississippi. Activists are bringing together resist and build through three spheres of organizing: 1) Cooperation Jackson is building the solidarity economy through cooperative and community controlled enterprises and initiatives, 2) People’s Assemblies are used to organize the community, as well as to 3) engage in a political/electoral strategy to take power through local government and grassroots organizing.
Kali Akuno is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson.
Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city.
Kali also served as the Co-Director of the US Human Rights Network, the Executive Director of the Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California.
Emily Kawano is Co-Director of the Wellspring Cooperative Corporation, which is seeking to create an engine for new, community-based job creation in Springfield, Massachusetts. Wellspring’s goal is to use anchor institution purchases to create a network of worker-owned businesses located in the inner city that will provide job training and entry-level jobs to unemployed and underemployed residents through worker-owned cooperatives.
Kawano also serves as Coordinator of the United States Solidarity Economy Network. An economist by training, Kawano served as the Director of the Center for Popular Economics from 2004 to 2013. Prior to that, Kawano taught economics at Smith College, worked as the National Economic Justice Representative for the American Friends Service Committee and, in Northern Ireland, founded a popular economics program with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.