Athens Social Justice Symposium 2019 – Stand, Speak, Act!

Post by Matthew Epperson, Executive Director, Georgia Cooperative Development Center, 4/7/2019

January is a cold month, even in Georgia, and it leaves much room for grimacing and other displeased facial expressions. But take one look at the faces in the photos from SJS 2019 and you’ll see, this was a positively uplifting experience for many, if not all of those involved, particularly me. Georgia Co-op Development Center submitted a panel presentation titled “An Athens Economy That Works for More Folx” and we were accepted! The panel featured 4 great panelists: Kara Brown, General Manager  of Daily Groceries Co-op, Almeta Tulloss with Cherokee Moon Mixology, Greg Wagstaff with Swadeshi Co-op, Zack Godfrey with B Lab UGA, and Patrick Davenport with Peachy Green Clean Co-op [Zachary with Normal Landscape Co-op was unable to join us].

After some introductions to what is an eco-nomy (from the Greek oikos house + nemein to manage; just think of a circle that links together land, labor, capital, reuse/disposal and worldview) I contrasted the dominant extractive economy of today (think take, make, waste in a single forward line) with a future economy of regeneration and reparations (solidarity and intersectionality, in a circle) dominated by cooperatives and other democratic players. To help think about that future, I invited these Athenians who are pre-figuring that future economy to share their experiences.

We shared some of what’s working (empowered workers, local value chains that strengthen the Athens community keeping dollars local) and what’s most challenging (poverty at 37% in ACC, lack of capital access and co-op education, missed opportunities to collaborate across silos like UGA with the community, racism, among others), and discussed if building more co-ops was a kind of reparations. We didn’t get very far on that last crucial question, but thanks to the distinguished presence of Dr. June Gary Hopps, we got to learn Mayor Maynard Jackson was able to do reparations work in the building of Jackson-Hartsfield Airport, intentionally setting the expectation that the general contractor hire Black owned building companies.

It was a lot to do in an hour! If you’d like to hear the audio, you can follow this link to listen to the whole recording: