This is the second story in a series gathered as part of Love With Power: Practicing Transformation for Social Justice, MSC’s celebration of the transformative practices that are infusing movements with vibrancy and innovation. Click here to download the full pdf.
On a starry night in 2015, Quinton Sankofa sat with new friends in the serenity of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, preparing to return to Oakland the next day. Sankofa was leading Permaculture for the People, an intensive course organized by Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project (Movement Generation). For a week they had lived in this beautiful rural California center, learning the theory and concepts of permaculture and linking them with justice.
In the morning Sankofa and the other organizers would go to Oakland for the second half of the training, where they would begin hands-on projects to apply their new knowledge and skills in community settings. The organizers would also create site-specific maps for projects they would start when they returned to their homes.
Sitting under the night sky, the friends began to question what would happen when they transitioned back to the urban environment. “We were 28 mostly urban folks who had bonded deeply and built community away from home. Oakland is so busy. We feared we would loose community in the transition,” recalls. Sankofa. Silently, however, they resolved to carry the energy, commitment and relationships they had cultivated back to Oakland.
Permaculture for the People, and the practitioners and communities it cultivates, is a cornerstone of Movement Generation. Movement Generation began teaching permaculture and complementary earth skills to organizers of color as a strategy to foster deep resilience and traditional ecological knowledge in communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. It was also a way for organizers to cultivate new relationships to land, labor and local economies.
Lots of organizers understand the commodification of land as a fundamental problem. What is missing is the understanding of how to have a relationship with land. Permaculture is the cutting edge of a 10 thousand year old tradition. It teaches us we are part of the living world and living systems. This traditional knowledge can help us adapt to crisis and move through it.
– Quinton Sankofa, Movement Generation Staff Collective Member
and Earth Skills Program Coordinator
Movement Generation has grown and developed like an ecosystem over the years – intentionally nurturing diversity, relationships and the practice of Cultivating Home. The physical space — a sprawling garden that spans the yards of two homes – and the people, strategy, and programs reflect this commitment.
In the Movement Generation garden the California drought feels far away. Yet it is here that Movement Generation nurtures a space for organizers to tackle questions like: What does a future with a drastically changing ecology look like? How do we restore our right relationship to place and build the muscles of sharing and interdependence? How do we strengthen community resilience in the face of changes we cannot anticipate? What would a just transition look and feel like? What movement strategies do we need to navigate this transition together?
To Movement Generation it is clear that the climate crisis is an economic crisis, caused by economies that depend on extraction, domination and endless growth. What is needed is an entirely new experience and understanding of economy that is grounded in the word’s original roots – the management of home.
For us, transformation meant remaking the relationships of home at every level. Remaking our relationships to home means becoming grassroots ecologists who are learning how our actions impact the ecosystem we live in, including all of the people, and then making new choices.
– Gopal Dayaneni, Movement Generation Staff Collective Member
Movement Generation developed a Just Transition vision to focus energy away from an extractive economy and towards creating interconnected local, living, linked, loving economies on a large scale.
In order to catalyze transition they needed an “embodied politic” and a practice of Cultivating Home themselves. As a community Movement Generation experimented with ways of working and organizing that reflected their vision and commitments.
As Movement Generation’s commitment intensified they were confronted by a crisis of another kind: many of them were coming to the work as “wounded warriors” carrying unresolved, challenging, even traumatic, experiences. This personal, generational and historic trauma often created patterns of behavior and thinking that prevented them and their movements from actualizing big goals and visions. They realized that if they wanted to do anything about the ecological crisis, they needed to shift the movement habits that kept them guarded and fragmented, towards practices that could rebuild the fabric of community and their relationship to land.
Permaculture for the People emerged as one of the powerful vehicles that Movement Generation uses to help people Cultivate Home, heal wounds and generate real solutions. The two-week gathering brings together leaders of color from communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.
My ancestors had an adversarial and often tumultuous relationship with the land because they were enslaved. Through this work I can come as a free person and reconnect to land in a way that is healing and beneficial. It’s helping me break down barriers.
– Quinton Sankofa
Organizers began to shift from seeing their projects as primarily solving problems to seeing design as a way to systematize and cultivate diversity, resilience, and relationship within their communities.
Creating alternatives in an urban environment is radical and important work. If we are not generating our own alternatives while resisting the system then we are falling into a trap of spending our lives just resisting and fighting.
– Antonio, Permaculture for the People participant
Over the last two years, grounded in their practice of Cultivating Home, Movement Generation focused on investing in community resilience and resilience-based organizing. Movement Generation also steadily focused on building movement leadership and campaigns that can take the vision of just transition to scale within different sectors of society. Intensive Justice and Ecology Retreats, like the initial gathering that launched Movement Generation, continue to strengthen and deepen a cross-sector movement network. Collaborations with grassroots groups in the Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice, and Right to the City gave birth to the Climate Justice Alliance and generated a translocal organizing approach to build power and scale in new ways. All of this is to support people taking leadership for a just transition in their own communities as parents or engineers, fast food workers or healers, artists, faith leaders or teachers.
Through a web of strategies, Movement Generation is defining what it means to Cultivate Home at the root of a just transition and they are generating a tangible and powerful community that embodies this transition.
It is this element —of creating a new world while transforming the old—that is so powerful.
It is what might make the impossible possible.
To learn more about Permaculture for the People:
Check out Movement Generation’s newly released video on Permaculture for the People!
On Saturday, April 30, Movement Generation will host its next Race, Class and Ecology event and will feature Permaculture for the People. The event will showcase several Movement Generation Videos, (including the brand new one featuring Permaculture for the People). Permaculture for the People alum will share their design maps and stories and we will engage in fun small group activities using permaculture skills. Contact Movement Generation for more details.