Dream Reborn…Whose Dream?

By Adrienne Maree Brown Apr 05, 2008

Wanted to quickly get on here and get some thoughts out into the public sphere. I’m at the invigorating Dream Reborn conference and its so inspiring, it feels like I’ve been turning in circles the entire time and each time I turn there’s another face of someone I love, someone who inspires me. There’s layers of stuff happening here, there’s the League of Young Voters running a Tunnel Builders Institute, there’s Afeni Shakur preaching about organic farms and owning our own land, there’s brilliant base building labor organizations here speaking about good, union jobs, there are innovators here in the realms of organizing, environment, business, media. The presentations I’ve experienced so far are powerful, thought-provoking, challenging our collective ideas of how organizing and entrepreneurial endeavors overlap. Yesterday was a feast for the spirit with speakers, food, song, poetry. Today some more of the nitty gritty started to emerge. My first panel was on local initiatives for Green Jobs with a brilliant woman named Gloria from SCOPE-LA, Jeremy Hays who I think of as one of the genius folks from Apollo Alliance, and a young woman from Boston named Kalila where they are just getting started. Comprehensive and so strategic it hurts, these three laid out plans for how they are getting their local governments to recognize bottom lines that aren’t just about profit, but about impact on (and opportunity for) the community, about impact on (and evolution of) the environment, of the quality of the jobs and the benefits. The metaphors and talking points are consistent across the board – pathways out of poverty, lifting all boats, green jobs not jails. Great questions emerge for organizers in spaces such as these, where we are all clearly buzzing around something that feels like an opportunity for us – us being all of humanity as Afeni put it so beautifully yesterday – to finally be in a position to direct the circumstances in and around our communities. Great questions emerge for me around what this means about our relationship towards capitalism. There’s a great range of folks here from grassroots community organizers who hold firm that the long-term solution can’t be reached using tools from a system that requires a glass ceiling, others who feel this is one step that at least shifts resources towards us, and a final group who feels like we need to just learn to use capitalism on our behalf and it will be all good. So if the American Dream is, perhaps :), a capitalist dream, if we green it could it finally evolve capitalism to a non-oppressive idea that doesn’t require an underclass? And there are great questions around the actual strategies – what do we understand about reducing emissions, about carbon trading and auctioning, about large scale government programs to apply this dream of Green Jobs to our communities, about voting in ways that change broken democratic systems rather than just engage them? What do we do to bring green practices to local initiatives who don’t have friendly governments – guerilla gardens? Reclaiming rooftops? Y’all know I’m always looking for the visionary action – not the protest but the vision for what we want and the actions we take to show and claim that. I think those actions can come out more as we understand more…the more we get it, whatever IT is, we have to share the stories, share the questions, bring the information to the community to engage with and make conscientious decisions about what their local path will look like. And and and – how do we learn from the environmental justice movement thus far, who have won and lost for years in building the foundation for this moment…how do they stay at the forefront, how do they shift into this very visionary work – do they all shift? It’s an awesome amount of work, of thought, of responsibility – I can see the feverish, glorious glow in the eyes of the Green For All staff as this dream and workload grows and it feels like there’s a large, national people of color led body who is getting to engage in this discussion. I have to run off to another panel, on Alternatives to Fossil Fuels, to share our model for Indigenous People’s Power Project and hear from some brilliant folks about how we’re going to create real economic alternatives…but I will come back with more questions – wish everyone was here!