We’re extremely excited about our inaugural Municipalism Cohort Fellows. We accepted 27 participants, representing a number of local organizing initiatives from around the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico, including the Lucy Parsons Labs in Chicago, La Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico, Common Ground Collective in Baltimore, Paterson People’s Assembly in New Jersey, and Aetna Street Solidarity in Los Angeles. Some of our participants organize workers, others the unhoused, and some the abolition of the carceral state. All seek to build democratic power at the municipal level.
The fellowship starts Saturday, 9/16/23 and runs for 12 weeks until 12/2. Topics for our sessions include decoding municipalism, mapping local power, base building, popular assemblies, and building a strategy plan. We will be joined by guest speakers including the Black Nashville Assembly and Kali Akuno, Cooperation Jackson.
We will be sharing recorded lectures from our sessions with fellows and their colleagues only. Our aspiration is to make all of our sessions publicly available as self-guided modules, similar to the Economics for Emancipation course. This is our inaugural cohort and we will use what we’ve learned to shape future offerings.
You can get to know the fellows a little better by clicking on their photos below and reading their biographies.
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Ale is Co-Director at Lucy Parsons Labs where they challenge the development and deployment of harmful technology with a disparate impact on Black, brown, and poor folks. To support Chicago’s racial justice movement ecosystem, LPL leverages the technical expertise of radical researchers, spreads techniques locally, and uses courts for data liberation and change.
Ale is a proud child of Mexican immigrants born and raised in Chicago’s southwest side. They are a neurospicy, queer forever-student of radical theory, drawing from abolitionist and anarchist traditions to critique technopolitics amplifying state violence. They have extensive experience in quant and qual research methods, and a deep love for critical, collectively-driven knowledge-making.
Ale holds a BA from Stanford University and two MScs from The University of Glasgow. They were a Marshall Scholar in 2016, a Boyd Barnett Fellow in 2022, and a Public Voices Fellow in 2023 with the OpEd Project and MacArthur Foundation.
Organizing Project:Lucy Parsons Labs
I am a queer seed, grown near the southeastern mountains of Turkey, alight with questions towards freedom as a collaborative possibility. I am a thinker, writer, and photographer, with a long-standing practice of cultural organizing. Queer and trans peoples have enlivened my senses of possibility. Whether in explorations of love with chosen families, in direct actions against state violence in the south, or in mutual aid structured through queer performance nights of Istanbul, we excavated an agency to articulate ourselves and our lives in interdependent journeys. Across these geographies, I have understood political as a space of experimentation in relationships. Last year, I created abolitionist containers in Detroit that brought together a range of organizers to imagine a communally sufficient city. These spaces came to fruition in deep collaborations, with a particular emphasis on art and healing. What the gatherings attempted – slowing down, inviting in play, and staying with ambiguity – are practices I seek to center, as we continue building our relationships towards communal sufficiency.
Organizing Project:Mapping Abolition
I’m a weaver who holds connections in diverse arenas, which I strive to leverage to strengthen movements for just transformations. This includes my role as engaged neighbor and volunteer for my community compost program and community center arts, music and activism, my role as advisory board member on the Collective Sustenance Farm project, and my role as mother, friend, sister, partner, colleague for those close to me. My roles as the Partnerships Curator with the League of Puerto Rican Cities, my role as professor in the Graduate School of Planning at the University of Puerto Rico, my role as ecosystem coordinator in nurturing the deep collaboration of three young systems change organizations in Puerto Rico who are working on participatory governance through municipalism, land justice, housing justice, and democratization of information, are all nourished by these relationships and vice versa.
Organizing Project:La Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico
Location:San Juan, PR
Arlo Fosburg (they/them) is based on Narragansett and Wampanoag land (so-called Providence, RI) where they have been working on cooperative housing and food projects for the last decade. Arlo has participated in a range of movement and organizing work, including land defense, tenant organizing, graduate student labor organizing, community herbalism, street medicking, movements for prison and police abolition, and anarchist popular education, but consistently finds their home in relationally-driven cooperative projects that work to simultaneously meet basic needs and build local power. Arlo is inspired by histories and presents of queer and trans social formation, social reproduction theory, and the everyday ways that people care for one another and build different worlds. They are invigorated by kitchen table politics, experimental poetry, Jewish ritual, and speculative creative practice. In their spare time they love to make too many pies, swim in the ocean, knit socks, and watch bad reality TV.
Organizing Project:Grove Street Cooperative, Trash City Medic Collective
Organizing Project:Common Ground Collective
Carla Belinda Margarita Orendorff
Carla Belinda Margarita is the daughter of a woman who crossed the US border without permission. She is a queer, Bolivian-America artist, writer, researcher, and community organizer raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. She organizes mutual aid networks of care alongside unhoused people on Aetna Street in Van Nuys and is committed to fighting back against the criminalization of poverty in the United States. Through her work with the Los Angeles Tenants Union, she organizes with people living in their RVs, on the streets, and in temporary shelter programs for dignity and power as tenants. She is also a part of the Aetna Street and Echo Park Lake Research Collectives at the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA where she works collaboratively with unhoused communities, where 6 unhoused people are dying every day on the streets of LA. Together we organize knowledge and research to challenge systems and build power with unhoused communities to be recognized for their contributions and efforts towards building a more just world.
Aetna Street Solidarity is a radical network of care dedicated to building a more visionary and inclusive world with people living unhoused on Aetna Street. We host weekly community nights on Tuesdays along the Van Nuys Orange Line metro stop where we cook hot meals and share harm reduction and medical supplies. Together we are building community resistance to Los Angeles Municipal Code 41.18, a law which banned sitting, lying, and sleeping on sidewalks across thousands of blocks across LA, including Aetna Street. We also publish a newspaper called Street Views, which features artwork, poetry, personal stories and original reporting on housing and homelessness in LA from the perspective of unhoused people living in LA.
Organizing Project:Aetna Street Solidarity
Location:Los Angeles, CA
Desiraé Simmons (she/they) is a community organizer, activist, and advocate serving in multiple grassroots organizations and coalitions. Desiraé is a founding member of Liberate! Don’t Incarcerate, Rising for Economic Democracy in Ypsi, What’s Left Ypsi, Citizens for Racial Equity in Washtenaw, Michigan Alliance for Justice In Climate, and Untold Stories of Liberation and Love. She has served on City Council as a Ward 3 Representative since November 2022. She lives in Ypsi with Zander and Indigo who offer a portal to her wildest dreams.
Organizing Project:Rising for Economic Democracy in Ypsilanti (REDY)
Destini Smith serves as the Leadership Program Manager with Catalyst Miami. Destini is a climate and housing justice advocate with years of service in ministry and advocacy. She currently serves as the Board Chair for SMASH Miami, a housing justice nonprofit and community land trust. Additionally, Destini helps Christians pursue social justice as the chair of the And Campaign South Florida and seeks to equip Black women to build their own tables with faith and wisdom through her work with Truth’s Table, a podcast and community built by and for Black women.
Destini also holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Emory University and a Masters in Community and Social Change from the University of Miami.
Organizing Project:Catalyst Miami
George Ygarza is a first-generation popular educator, organic scholar and militant researcher. He has been navigating professional and deprofessionalized spaces since 2010. Before becoming a certified Middle School History teacher, George spent five years as a substitute teacher in the post-industrial city in which he was born. George translated the lessons he learned as a public-school teacher into community organizing, spending a number of years mobilizing around immigrant rights, housing issues, and police abolition among others. George has written about housing and police abolition across various mediums while also deepening his work in the public humanities. He is currently a member of the political education committee in his local BLM chapter where he works on consciousness-raising and organizing peoples assemblies centered around the right to the city. He has previously worked as a visiting assistant professor in Critical Global Studies at Pitzer College and currently holds a postdoc position at the University of Pennsylvania.
Organizing Project:Paterson People's Assembly
My name is Gloria Thomas (she/her). I am from Brownsville, TX and am 29 years old. My parents are from South India, and I moved to Texas when I was 6 years old and have been living here most of my life. I have a passion for the environment, spirituality, and I enjoy drawing and making collage art.
I have a degree in Chemistry and Anthropology from UTRGV, and a graduate degree in Water Resources Sciences at the University of Minnesota. I spent my academic years learning how to solve environmental issues, which included learning the physical sciences (chemistry and microbiology), and some environmental policy. Towards the end of my graduate studies, I came to a stand still and realized the institutional problems with academia to solve real world problems.
I was inspired by the George Floyd protests in 2020 in Minneapolis (where I was also finishing my Master’s), and dedicated myself to organizing in my free time and becoming politically active. I wanted to learn how to solve major problems like the climate crisis, wealth inequalities, and etc. by direct action and means outside of institutional systems.
Since then I have joined several political groups such as Democratic Socialists of America – RGV, Divest/Invest RGV, South Texas Environmental Justice Network, and I am also working to start the Green Party in my region. I hope to learn a lot through this fellowship and hope to enrich my organizing work, and I am excited to join a co-hort of like-minded individuals!
Organizing Project:Divest/Invest RGV, Voces Unidas RGV
Gracie Rule is a researcher and organizer working within abolitionist and housing for all movements in Nashville, TN. In their day job, Gracie researches ongoing police misconduct and writes policy recommendations to demand police accountability within the Metro Nashville Police Department. Previously, Gracie served as an anti-eviction organizer at a small housing justice nonprofit. Outside of work, Gracie organizes with the Nashville People’s Budget Coalition, working to reimagine public in Nashville, and is a founding member of Renters Union Nashville, a local autonomous tenant union. Gracie holds a masters degree in Community Development and Action and bachelors degrees in Human and Organizational Development and Political Science from Vanderbilt University.
Organizing Project:Nashville People's Budget
Lupe Pardo (she/they) is an active community member based in the Rio Grande Valley. They use outsider art practices, historical analysis and grassroots organizing, always centering creativity, to imagine radical change. Some of their significant projects include the zine “A History of Policing in the Rio Grande Valley” and their work uplifting regional stories of police violence in their role as historiographer and archivist with Divest/Invest RGV.
Organizing Project:Divest/Invest RGV, Voces Unidas
Jasmin Velez is a dedicated community organizer and advocate with a strong focus on fostering equitable neighborhood development and environmental stewardship. With over a decade of experience in community engagement and project management, Jasmin has built her career around uplifting communities and driving impactful change. In her work, she leads initiatives aimed at expanding community involvement in educational programs and campaigns related to voting, youth initiatives, and civic engagement. Jasmin has a keen interest in engaging with community members and collecting their stories to shape dynamic visions for local areas. Her skill set includes proficiently organizing sessions, facilitating resource accessibility, and creating effective outreach materials. Throughout her diverse roles, Jasmin has spearheaded community-centered projects, spanning areas such as environmental education, urban greening, and beautification. Jasmin Velez continues to drive positive community transformation, leaving a lasting imprint on equitable neighborhood development and engagement.
Organizing Project:Kensington Corridor Trust
I live in so-called Kingston, Ontario, Canada as an uninvited guest on stolen land, the traditional territories of the Anishinaabe, the Mississauga of the Ojibways, and the Huron-Wendat, and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. I am a pansexual and gender-fluid survivor living with depression. I am a transracial adoptee with middle-class privilege and student debt. Since 2008, I have participated in collective organizing that centre anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, Indigenization and Land Back, Palestinian solidarity, anti-racism, mutual aid, harm reduction, disability justice, queer and trans liberation, and intersectional feminism. I am currently an organizer with Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston (MAKK). I share my skills in facilitation, conflict de-escalation, suicide intervention, and survivor support with my community. In my day-job I am a settlement worker for gay and trans refugees; I also coordinate community-building and leadership programming for refugee youth. In my free time, I enjoy intense conversations with friends, cooking, singing, dancing, swimming, yoga, and multi-day hikes.
Organizing Project:Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston
Kelly Hayes is an organizer, author and photographer. They are the host of Truthout’s podcast “Movement Memos” and a contributing writer at Truthout. Kelly is also the co-author of Let This Radicalize You with Mariame Kaba. Kelly’s written work can also be found in numerous publications and anthologies, including, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Kelly is also a direct action trainer and a co-founder of the Lifted Voices collective.
Organizing Project:Lifted Voices
Kermit is a 4th generation Philadelphian, writer, dreamer, and abolitionist, researching and organizing at intersections of land, food, and environmental justice. He sees abolition as the breaching of enclosure — schools, prisons, labor, race, gender, family, all the way to the borders of the nation-state — to liberate bodies, cultures, knowledges, resources, and energies, across space and time, along collectively self-determined pathways.
Kermit works to engage communities in shared struggle, mutual support, freedom dreaming, and and the coproduction of knowledge, resources, and space, whether in research, organizing, or the larger project of world-making. He is particularly interested in building hyperlocal networks of material solidarity, as an alternative form of economy — that is, how people relate to each other and the land. He wants to explore how these arrangements might be scaled up to build the social, political, and material infrastructure for dual power, as a strategy for resistance and resilience against the intersecting and emergent crises of capitalism.
Organizing Project:Building Blocs
Mariyah Jahangiri (she / her) is a first-generation Pakistani network and movement builder and cultural organizer that has spent the past 7 years leading campaigns for Just Transition, abolition, food sovereignty, housing justice, undocumented workers’ organizing, reproductive justice, Palestinian liberation as well as involved in mutual aid projects, across more than 15 geographies.
As a co-founder of the grassroots BIPOC youth-led collective Survival Bloc and a co-leader with the Climate Mobilization Project as well as other grassroots networks, Mariyah’s work is focused on building climate survival programs across the country rooted in learning from and building out projects for disaster collectivism and skill building around collective survival, community care and somatic transformation, and land-based struggles. Mariyah is passionate about honoring the renewal and protection of our ecological and spiritual attunement, and liberating peoples attention to ancestral wisdoms beyond our current political imaginations constrained by late-stage capitalism. She is currently working alongside dozens of local movement groups across the country to evolve their vision and strategy, and use this time of accelerating ecological crisis to build an aligned “movement of movements.”
Organizing Project:Survival Bloc, Climate Mobilization Project
Ndindi Kitonga is an educator, long-time community organizer, and houseless rights advocate. Ndindi grew up with a family who worked as counselors and educators in Kawangware, a large slum on the outskirts of Nairobi. Her early experiences working with a dispossessed community compelled her to pursue higher education in the United States and eventually to work with youth as a high school science teacher.
In response to the horrific disparities the COVID pandemic exacerbated in her community in Palms, Ndindi co-created a small mutual aid network in her local community in March 2020. The unhoused population in this community is comprised mostly of Black and Latine people, many of who are queer, disabled, undocumented, and PWUD (people who use Drugs). The abolitionist network of care, Palms Unhoused Mutual Aid (PUMA) has grown over the past three years from a small collective where organizers share food, hygiene, harm reduction, and other supplies with their unhoused neighbors, to one where they are organizing popular education clinics, coalition-building, and political mobilization.
Ndindi is also the co-founder of Angeles Workshop School, a radical secondary school in Los Angeles focusing on democratic learning and class consciousness. In addition to her work in K-12 education, Ndindi teaches graduate school courses and is a published scholar in the areas of Black movement politics, feminist abolitionisms, critical pedagogy, and anti-colonial education.
Ndindi has a B.S. in Biochemistry as well as an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Education.
Organizing Project:Palms Unhoused Mutual Aid
Location:Los Angeles, CA
Rosie DeSantis (they/them) is a Detroit poet with work featured in local, national, and international poetry publications, as well as an abolitionist event curator and audience-integrated theater-maker. As director of community programming at Detroit Community Wealth Fund and founding coordinator of the Cooperative Economic Network of Detroit, they are deeply involved in local efforts to organize, invigorate, & platform solidarity economics in the city.
Organizing Project:Mapping Abolition
Organizing Project:Common Ground Collective
Savanha is a radical Black ecologist, whose work sits at the intersection of environmental justice and prison abolition. Savanha has organized in Gainesville, Fl with GoDDsville Dream Defenders and Fight Toxic Prisons, combating environmental injustice in historically Black communities, and urging action to protect the livelihood of incarcerated people during natural disasters. In Atlanta, Savanha supports mutual aid groups like Food4Life (formerly Food Not Bombs), and organizing efforts surrounding Stop Cop City. Savanha also serves as the Human Rights and Climate Justice Fellow for the Organization for Human Rights and Democracy in Atlanta, GA. At their core, Savanha is dedicated to reconciling with public imaginations concerning the value of Black and the Earth, deepening possibilities of collective struggle, and creating institutions rooted in notions of indispensability.
Savanha also holds two bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and African American Studies from the University of Florida, as well as a Juris Doctorate from Emory University School of Law.
Organizing Project:Organization for Human Rights and Democracy
An avid fan of the beach, skateboarding, and reading, Z has high hopes for the future of the region they call home. A resident of South Florida for most of their life, Z returned after graduating in 2022 with a degree in Geography, which gave them the lens to see spatial injustice and the power of community organizing. With ties to Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, Z feels the climate crisis and its urgency on all fronts of their life. They currently work as the Climate and Community Justice Organizer at Engage Miami, a non-profit dedicated to youth civic engagement, and as a Green New Deal Futures Fellow for Sunrise Miami. In both roles, Z works to recruit and train young people for local organizing, especially around climate and its related areas like housing, transit, and labor. Z has experience managing regenerative agricultural operations and dreams of a Miami that utilizes its favorable climate and historical ties to the Caribbean and U.S. South to become a capital for community gardens, healing the land, heart, and mind simultaneously.
Organizing Project:Engage Miami, Sunrise Miami
Zaina Alsous is an organizer, writer, and popular educator based in Miami, Florida. She is the daughter of Palestinian refugees. She has participated in, and led, a variety of movement experiments and political projects within the U.S. South over the last 13 years. She believes in building working-class power desde abajo (from below).
Zakaria (zeh-kuh-ray-yuh) is a farmer from Richmond, Virginia with roots in community organizing and climate activism. In 2017, he began working with farmers and other communities in rural Virginia to develop a robust campaign against the construction of two fracked-gas pipelines. It was through this pipeline fight—and the relationships built along the way—that connections between food, land, and climate justice were revealed to him. Zakaria began planting seeds and learning the ways of food production initially on land that was on the route of the pipeline and, in the years since, has been continuing to cultivate skills as a farmer-organizer in Richmond.
Organizing Project:Young Farmers Coalition, Survival Bloc