Fall Updates from AORTA

Dear community,

Since our last newsletter in May, the strategic cascade of attacks from the Right has kept the Left fighting hard on our intersectional fronts of struggle from immigrant rights to healthcare.

At the forefront as we write this newsletter is the need for just recovery efforts in the face of climate disaster. It’s been almost a month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and the government response is just one of many devastating examples highlighting legacies of colonialism, environmental racism, and the relative lack of mobility for people who are poor or disabled.

Health worker and movement strategist Jason Negrón-Gonzales who was recently on the ground in Puerto Rico reports that “There is still a massive amount of need, and it looks like FEMA, the US military, and the government of Puerto Rico aren’t up to the task and don’t share our goals…People are still on the edge, marginally housed, going hungry, drinking dirty water and getting sick. Help hasn’t arrived for many.” (Read more and sign this petition.)

Utuado, PR (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

That said, we are also witnessing visionary and emergent solutions from the grassroots. In this newsletter, we share some acts of inspiration that have bolstered our belief that our movements are irresistible.

What has AORTA been up to?
In the last quarter (July-September) alone, we’ve had the honor of supporting people who are fighting for climate justice, reproductive justice, affordable housing, racial justice, and grassroots democracy. We worked with about 40 clients in 9 different statesdoing organizational equity transformation work, conflict transformation processes, anti-oppression workshops, and strategic visioning retreats.

This summer, Autumn and Jenna led sessions at the Allied Media Conference; Manju, Neily, Esteban, Jenna, and Autumn led sessions at the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy; Marc attended the Deep Democracy Rooted in Beloved Community Transitions Lab; and Manju attended Camp Wellstone for people interested in getting more involved in electoral politics.

AORTA members and fam at the 2017 Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy.

We also held our annual retreat in Chapel Hill, NC in August during the auspicious week of the total solar eclipse! We worked on our Theory of Change, assessed financial priorities, and made space for healing work.

Read on for acts of inspiration and more about what we’re up to!

With love,

Acts of inspiration!

Political activism happens in literally millions of different ways. Here are some stories that strengthen our conviction that together we will win.

These activists in Philly model transformative justice through a community resentencing process. Ghani, who had been sentenced to death by incarceration (also known as life in prison) at the age of 15, has since received a resentencing that makes him eligible for parole.

Organizers with disabilities affiliated with ADAPT show up in Washington, D.C. to shut down the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The proposed Medicaid cuts would be particularly devastating to people with disabilities and seniors.

As we celebrated the toppling of confederate statues around the country in August, this story of dozens of activists turning themselves in for toppling a statue in Durhamwas particularly dear to our hearts.

The Black Women’s Defense League organizes their own revolutionary rebuilding effort in Houston.

Migrant dairy workers in Vermont taste victory after a long campaign pressuring Ben & Jerry’s to commit to their Milk With Dignity program, which will improve wages and working conditions for dairy workers. Several prominent farmworkers on this campaign were detained and released by ICE this spring and summer.

Activists with Migrant Justice conclude a 13 mile march from the Vermont State House to Ben & Jerry’s in June 2017.

AORTA co-founder kiran nigam transitions on to new projects.

It is with a mixture of sadness and joy that we announce that our co-founder kiran nigam will be departing at the end of this year to pursue other passions: sadness because her absence will be deeply felt, and joy because we know that kiran’s talents will shine and shimmer in her new endeavors.

kiran (pictured below on right with AORTA co-founder Jenna Peters-Golden on her left) has dedicated her energy, time, and love to AORTA since 2010. She has worked with hundreds of organizations and businesses and has impacted thousands of workshop participants in her time at AORTA, and we know that her impact will continue to be felt well after she transitions out of AORTA. kiran has also been instrumental in building AORTA’s capacity as a business: she’s written many of our policies, guided us through financial planning, co-led hiring processes, and so much more.

Over the last year, kiran has been splitting her time between AORTA and an intensive nutritional therapist training program, and she plans to move back to the Bay Area in December, where she’ll be putting her nutrition training to use, among other exciting projects. She’ll continue to do a limited amount of work on AORTA’s behalf, including the Financial Education Toolkit (see our update about that below). Stay tuned for further updates in 2018!

kiran wants AORTA’s clients to know that she treasures her relationship with ya’ll and welcomes folks to stay in touch, especially via snail mail. kiran’s AORTA email address will remain active through December 2018; if you would stay in touch with kiran, please reach her there: kiran@aorta.coop.

Book AORTA now for 2018

We know that we’re most effective as trainers and consultants if we can plan out our calendars far in advance. We also know that our movements sometimes need us to tend to urgent issues that can’t be planned for. So we’re moving toward a practice of booking roughly 80% of our calendar for the upcoming year in the fall, reserving the remaining 20% of our time for response to moments of urgency.

If your business or organization is budgeting for professional development, scheduling a staff retreat, or anticipating a transformative process in the year ahead, we ask that you consider reaching out to us by the end of November so that we can include you in our 2018 calendar.

For those who fear that they can’t afford to hire AORTA, we want to emphasize our deep commitment to supporting the work of those on the front lines fighting for justice and liberation, and especially with groups led by communities of color, immigrants, and/or working class and poor people. Our sliding scale is designed to allow us to do affordable work with groups that need it!

Why We Should Revolutionize Financial Education in Our Workplaces

So many of the workplaces that we encounter — even ones that share our values — perpetuate systemic power structures when it comes to their finance department. We recently co-wrote an article about this phenomenon, and how we can redistribute that power through radical financial education designed for everyone.

That’s why we are collaborating with TESA CollectiveA Bookkeeping Cooperative, and Open Bookkeeping on a Financial Education Kit that will strengthen movements for social justice and cooperative economies by increasing the financial literacy of the organizations that make up our movements.

We are committed to keeping this kit free and bilingual. In order to that we need to raise some funds!

October is co-op month. Help us strengthen the co-op movement by supporting our fundraising campaign! You can donate here, and help to spread the word on social media, and in your newsletters.

Other things we’re reading/watching/listening to

This political comedy webseries set in North Oakland, CA is brilliant (photo below)!

Listen in on long-distance besties Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman in the podcast Call Your Girlfriend.

Puerto Rico syllabus: Essential Tools for thinking about the Puerto Rican debt crisis.

Mijente’s guides to Know Your Rights to Defend Your Rights and setting up Community Defense Zones.

Taz and Zahra break down the good and the bad of the American Muslim female experience with style & humor in the monthly podcast #GoodMuslimBadMuslim.

A shiny new website!

Welcome to our new website! It’s now even easier to submit an inquiry about working with us, check out our compilation of delightful clients, and access our resources.

We’d like to thank the talented Quran Karriem (full disclosure: Quran is AORTA member Manju Rajendran’s partner) for designing and developing our new site, along with our summer intern, Eric Baudry, for his help with content migration.

Stay tuned as we add more resources, and please direct any feedback or suggestions to info@aorta.coop.

Get in touch, work with us, support our work!

We hope to hear from you soon!

In solidarity,

AORTA Cooperative
Autumn Brown, Esteban Kelly, Jenna Peters-Golden, kiran nigam, Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, Manju Rajendran, Marc Mascarenhas-Swan, Neily Jennings, Roan Boucher