It should come as no surprise that we are experiencing ongoing crises that are most impacting Black folks, poor folks, queer folks, disabled folks, and others of marginalized identities.
Our context under capitalism is fraught. In the last year alone Atlanta saw the impacts of price gouging, causing 11% inflation in 2022. Black Atlantans are surviving perpetual insults due to COVID-19, reproductive repression by way of the state legislature, assaults on education, gentrification and land struggles, climate disasters, and seemingly incessant police violence.
Most recently, a #StopCopCity forest defender, Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán, was murdered in a multi-agency invasion (including, but not limited, to Atlanta and Dekalb County police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation) into Atlanta’s Weelaunee Forest. Most radical Black Atlantans see the police-training complex proposed for the forest as an environmental, economic, social (safety), and political crisis with consequences for Black residents present and future.
This is our context. All of this has reminded our community what it means to experience what Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls “organized abandonment.” In the Black community, it is a plight that has uniquely prepared us for solidarity and community organizing.
Legacies of solidarity
The legacy of solidarity via intentional communal action has been a mainstay in the Black community, especially among freedom fighters. But what do we mean by solidarity?
In our eyes, solidarity is about making sure people’s needs are met by actively prioritizing communal care. Rather than shallow senses of unity, solidarity is grounded in sustained alignment and shared intention. It is a choice to not leave folks behind — making solidarity historically the counter-tactic for organized abandonment.
“Permanently organized communities” require community organizing. Sometimes this looks like galvanizing community members around boycotts, rallies, and petitions; other times it’s working with the community to develop solutions for dire problems. Either way, it’s about communal power.
In light of fervent socioeconomic and political repression in the South — and in Atlanta — our city is also known for its rich history of community organizing and resistance to anti-Black repression. Social justice titans such as John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Ella Baker, Ralph David Abernathy, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, and Julian Bond, among others, all represent Atlanta’s Black radical tradition.
Many were deeply disturbed by capitalism and worked to undo it. In King’s 1966 speech to his staff, he remarked:
“We are saying that something is wrong … with capitalism…. There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
Economic solidarity is also a throughline in the histories of Black cooperation, including cooperative enterprises and community-focused projects, which Black Atlantans have long valued as methods of strengthening community and surviving crises.
Atlanta’s current Black-owned cooperatives include the Pecan Milk Coop, AJC Learning and Liberation Center, Sevenanda Grocery Store, Gangstas 2 Growers’ Sweet Sol Hot Sauce Coop, Southwest Atl Growers Coop, Community Movement Builders’ Sea Moss Coop, and the Ke’Nekt Coop.
Many of these cooperative entities are tied to social justice organizations — evidence that sociopolitical and economic solidarity have grown in tandem here.
Efforts towards Black liberation and expressions of economic solidarity have always come together — whether it was bus boycotts or more contemporary pushes for Black economic self-determination.
What is the solidarity economy movement?
Suffice it to say Black revolutionaries in America are not the only ones fighting for economic self-determination.
The solidarity economy movement grew out of work building alternatives to capitalism in Latin America and the Global South.
In a solidarity economy, “communities govern themselves through participatory democracy, cooperative and public ownership, and a culture of solidarity and respect for the earth.” Though Black communities in the United States may not have historically self-identified in this movement, clearly Black liberation struggles fit well.
The solidarity economy movement includes many strategies, economic models, and frameworks, and its stewards hold “pluralism” as a core value. Some aspects of the solidarity economy that you may be familiar with include credit unions, cooperatives, and labor unions — but time banks, universal basic income, bail funds, and mutual aid may be more unfamiliar.
Organic mutual aid efforts have sprung up in Atlanta and across the country in the wake of Black liberation movement uprisings and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Black Atlantans saw a need to take care of one another in ways that build power and collective resilience. For many, the pandemic exposed the ways in which our government, beholden to capitalists, will not truly meet the needs of people and thus it is on us to make sure our neighbors survive.
Groups such as Free Atlanta Abolition Movement, Metro Atlanta Mutual Aid Fund, the Peoples Pop-Up, and Sol Underground were all birthed with the charge of radically building power and aiding in the survival of Black folks throughout the Metro area.
Ending the state of the economy as we know it
Our organization, Endstate ATL (ESA), solidified its programs in response to growing local economic challenges that we see as a function of anti-Blackness, patriarchy, and capitalism. Endstate ATL is an organizing body and political home dedicated to building alternative solutions to liberate Black people in Atlanta from state violence and dependency through an abolitionist, Black, queer, feminist lens. We are committed to achieving this through mutual aid, direct action organizing, political education, and transformative leadership development.
Since the 2020 onset of the global COVID crisis, Endstate ATL has worked to rapidly meet the material needs of Black Atlantans while struggling to recover resources and maintain the personal capacity needed to continue our efforts. One of our taglines is actually “Can’t Wait for the State.”
Our Black Power Fund covers utility bills for Black marginalized Atlantans — focusing capacity on Black queer and trans folks and Black people with disabilities. Our mutual aid efforts allow us to not only understand conditions but engage community members about their root causes.
In our organizing landscape, we are connected to many organizations that too fit the solidarity economy praxis: From covering utility bills to free groceries, from sea moss cooperatives to resisting Cop City, from policy campaigns to building movement infrastructure we see the interconnected efforts of Black people to liberate ourselves through economic solidarity.
Unfortunately, we’ve also seen the myriad ways that this work has been siloed and sequestered, leading to hoarded resources and extractive relationships, unnecessary duplication of labor, and, most importantly, insufficient capacity to build sustainable systems for and with community. Thus, we imagined and planned the 2023 Black Atlanta Solidarity Economy Gathering to change that!
2023 Black Atlanta Solidarity Economy Gathering
The BASE Gathering was an event series featuring the Black Power Mixer, Alignment Convening, and Blaqueer Art Market. Many organizations were able to attend, including but not limited to: Community Movement Builders, Pecan Milk Cooperative, Barred Business, Amplify Atlanta, Sol Underground, Blaqueer Art Market, FOR OUR SIBS, The Herbal Society, Youth Community Builders League, ARC-Southeast, and Black Alliance for Peace among others.
The events included people organizing against the disenfranchisement of justice-impacted individuals, young folks holding down free stores, LGBTQ-led food co-ops, youth base-building specialists, abortion funds, and Black folks organizing across the diaspora.
This Black Atlanta solidarity economy convening felt different in that it is rare for such a range of strategies and focuses to be brought together around a shared vision of anti-capitalist Black liberation led by young Black marginalized people.
At this time this constellation of organizations and businesses is still shaping itself — and that will rightfully take time — but has at least agreed to come together again before midyear in order to further flesh out potential avenues for collaboration and alignment-building.
Establishing communications channels and a directory of organizations and businesses committed to the Black Atlanta Solidarity Economy are initial steps for us to take together — and who knows what we’ll do next!
If history is any indication, radical efforts centering solidarity economy building will strengthen our fight for Black liberation in Atlanta and beyond.