Who are “the people”; Who is “the community”?

Since Winter of 2016, I’ve been loudly advocating for climate-friendly cities, tenant rights, abundant housing and many other important issues on twitter @sharethecities. It has been a journey of deciding who I wanted to follow, support, promote, learn from, get mentored by, mentor, where and when to publish, grassroots vs grasstops, non-profit vs independent self-funded, and more. There’s been a few missteps. There’s been a lot of learning, growing, failing, succeeding — — all in public. I’ve been relentlessly documenting the work on social media — often people message me to say “I’m exhausted watching how you spend your time”, but also I hear from people, almost weekly, who say “I can’t tell you how much seeing what you do and how you do it has influenced me, made me grow and I appreciate how you’ve been transparent with your work”.

Lately, I have been committed to finding ways to use what I’ve learned to provide free support to “those most impacted by the housing and climate crises”. I’m putting that in quotes because it is used so often by so many people and groups and government agencies I’m not sure what it means anymore or if we are all using the same definitions. Who are “the people”, who is “the community”? What does it mean that Share The Cities uses an anti-racist framework towards lowering barriers to community engagement? How have I moved from stating these goals and aspirations of “doing equity” and put it into practice?

  • I now offer stipends to speakers at Share The Cities meetings.
  • I prioritize highlighting organizations and voices that are femme, queer, and Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) at Share The Cities meetings and on social media.
  • I credit people’s ideas, journalism, and activism more diligently.
  • I actively reach out to offer compensation to people who have influenced my work.
  • I raise funds for myself through Patreon and those funds pay for local newspaper subscriptions, an equity consultant who also educates me about disability justice, lots of books, anti-racist workshops and donating back to the organizations whose ideas and movement building are embedded within Share The Cities’ efforts. The funds are matched by family members who help me feed & house myself.
  • I donate my time, (and sometimes the time of people who volunteer with Share The Cities’ organizing collective), to other organizations to build their capacity with an emphasis on organizations and efforts that are led by BIPOC & people without housing or experiencing extreme housing insecurity.

These changes have been reflected in what organizing spaces I find myself in, and the types of causes I prioritize. I’m still an urbanist wonk that cannot get enough of the nerdy futurism of (re)imagining our industrial lands — but I also want every urbanist I organize alongside to reprioritize the rights & safety of people detained and incarcerated as an “urbanist issue”.

My ~105 Patreon donors and the several dozen people that organize alongside me under the name “Share The Cities” have a lot of faith in me and my work. I am grateful to them. They’ve continued to support me, even as I have seemed to be doing less. I promise you I am not doing less.

In this journey to do more real equity and less fake equity I realized I can no longer talk publicly about a lot of the work I do. The work I’m doing isn’t mine to champion or brag about or reveal. It is difficult that I can’t talk about the sometimes exhausting, yet very rewarding cool stuff I’m doing. One idea — I have been trying to figure out if I could collect quotes from people I connect with, to share with others. Not just to brag about the work I’m doing (still have those shameless self-promotion instincts!), but maybe to inspire others to switch the way they do their work. I especially want people like me with class, ability, skin-color privilege or other privileges to shift a little into looking at their resources and redistributing them and sharing them.

Keep asking yourself — — Who are “the people”, who is “the community”?

Keep asking yourself — — does altruism exist?

I don’t believe in altruism so I’m constantly evaluating my motives for engaging in things 1. Why am I doing this? 2. Is this ego, transactional, for ally cookies, to have “cred”, white-passing guilt, overcompensating? 3. Analyze your motives and you’ll do less harm.

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Laura Loe

Laura Loe is a renter, an educator, a musician, and a gardener from Colombia/NY/LA/Chicago who has lived in Seattle for over 10 years.