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“What am I, some kind of elitist?” On becoming a BACE board member by Amber

In 2009 my relationship with Bay Area Community Exchange began when I made a video about the grassroots (or solidarity) economy. (In fact, you can watch it here!) It earned me about 50 hours on the time bank and I was off and running.

Not only was I ready with hours, I was ready with knowledge that was new to me. Interviewing the organizers of the Grassroots Economics Festival gave me a lot to think about, as far as what is possible outside the mainstream economy.

After becoming a mother, I looked to the time bank for a model to find access to childcare, for one thing. Then I started volunteering with BACE to make sure that the needs of families and kids were considered in planning events, such as POSSE Parties.

My ideas and energy were well-received. It felt great! I’ve worked a lot of jobs where ideas were shot down by bosses who weren’t paying me to think, so they said. BACE is a collective, so that means board members, volunteers, and active time bank users decide what the priorities are. (One challenge with that, of course, is that we often find our long list of ideas limited by our own schedules, resources, and ability to follow through.)

I actively volunteered for over 2 years before nominating myself to become a board member (the standard procedure in joining the board). My hesitance was that as a white lady, joining a board with an already white majority reflected the toxic alignment of power that keeps people of color on the outskirts of not only the mainstream economy but also some “alternative” and supposedly “progressive” movements as well. This remains in the front of my mind.

I also felt that a board, by its very nature, is an elite power structure. Comfortable in staying outside of it, I participated at arm’s-length by doing the work I felt suited for, attending meetings, and exercising my vote. I kept reading about collectives and non-hierarchical organizing structures to learn more. (For example and its counterpoint offered a “second-wave” feminist take on the subject.)

But then the board membership began to shrink, and I saw that my presence was indeed needed—that as a parent, a youth development worker, a feminist, an artist, a skeptic, and a voracious reader of anti-racist analysis, I might be able to make a meaningful impact within and through BACE.

I also saw that whether or not my power was explicitly stated as a board member or implicitly exercised as an extremely active volunteer, it was still power. Naming it and using it responsibly felt better than acting like it was non-existent or somehow not accountable to anyone.

So last month, the attendees of the planning meeting in Oakland went ahead and voted me as a board member. Yay! I’m planning to occupy the seat for 6 months, and during that time I want to hit some goals.

We definitely have our work cut out for us with upcoming website changes, continuing relationships with community organizations, volunteer outreach, and the return of POSSE parties. (Can’t wait for more of those!) We are also working as a board to provide curriculum to use in the community, and trainings for people interested in becoming board members—learning new leadership skills, and sharing theirs with us.

And I would love to talk and work more deeply with people in uprooting structural racism, sexism, ableism, and intersections of oppression, and connecting economic justice work like time banking, for example, to these efforts. What are the benefits of time banking as a solution to inequality? What are the risks? How does it look different in our differing communities? What are the challenges? What other models of mutual aid can we learn from?

Please feel free to email if you have some thoughts to share, or call me at 415-699-7011. I will do my best to answer in a timely way.

Power, freedom, survival, and consciousness to the people!

Students from the Woolman Semester School visit BACE Timebank

This is a guest post by Megan Stoddard, an active BACE member: On Thursday, March 18th, BACE was honored with a visit from students of the Woolman Semester School. This alternative residential high school in Nevada City, California takes high school juniors and seniors, and gap year students, for semester-long programs focusing on social and environmental justice. This was the second time Woolman students visited BACE. Their first visit, by last semester’s group of students, took place in November 2012.

Our guests were at the tail end of their Great Turning field trip, which is part of the Global Issues class taught by Emily Ziont. This trip brought them to the Bay Area for a tour of groups, projects, and programs that offer solutions to immediately pressing global issues. In BACE presentation by volunteers Ricardo Simon, Amber Yada, and Megan Stoddard, held at Noisebridge, the students gained exposure to a whole new economic model.

Questions flew. Students and staff alike were very curious about how all of this works.

Question: How do you prevent people from freeloading and taking advantage of the system?

Answer: People wouldn’t want to work for freeloaders, so that takes care of itself, and we’ve never had that problem–people tend to feel obligated to give services when they’ve received services.

Question:  What if I’m a new Timebank member and I need a service before I’ve done any work?

Answer: Then you have a negative balance, and that’s okay–there’s no penalty for having given more credits than you’ve received.

Question: Is there a limit to how many credits you can have (above or below zero)?

Answer: Not really–if someone has more than fifty credits either way, we may contact them to make sure they know how to use the system, because what we really want is for people to be both giving and receiving–but again, we’ve never had any problems.

Question: Are there timebanks in other places (i.e. this student’s hometown, Asheville, North Carolina)?

Answer: Yes, and you should be able to find them with an Internet search. There’s also a timebank for college students, which probably all of you will be soon.

In the spirit of spreading the word, Woolman students Lily Bell and Augie Brinker have posted articles on the school’s blog about the Timebank presentation. (Slight correction to the article by Lilly Bell: Megan, Amber, and Rick are not the founders of BACE, just the volunteers who could make it that day.)

Board Notes 2/13

Attendees:  Amber, Carl, Greg, Daniel, Evan, Johnny,  Leslie, Lisa,  Mark, Megan, Pauline, Rick, Sarah, Seth, Vandana, Victoria, Wendy

Report Backs

  • Amber and Carl set up support@bace
  • Seth got a Thank You for a donor
  • Carl, Amber and Rick participated in a user feedback session (with volunteers) for move to original branch
  • Greg has been working on the blog (security, clean up, etc.)
  • Rick has a party coming up at St Francis Sq. in May

Mountain View launch for new Timebank (Vandana and Pauline)

  • Will focus on healthy aging in place and an intergenerational approach to building healthy communities.

Sarah and Victoria need folks to take a survey for a new mobile app. for Timebanks

  • will be open source and awesome

Johnny on video and Outreach

  • needs an assistant to work on video + has a 1 minute video on how to make a cobb oven
  • Earth Day Festival, wants BACE to table, April 20th 1 – 6, civic center location, wants help with skillshares.

Outreach Reports

  • Greg – Bay Area Sharing Economy? SF Professional Career Networking?
  • Creative Currency – forward email to list
  • Evolver Bay Area – forward email to list

Timebank Retreat Priorities (a raw vote on priorities from a pop-corn session)

  • structure – 7
  • responsibility – 4
  • accountability – 3
  • what are we doing badly? – 4
  • diversity – 3
  • member agreement, liability – 3
  • education – 2
  • board member rotation – 1
  • grow capacity – 1
  • make meetings better (food) – 1
  • grassroots led organization – 2
  • what is our goal – 8
  • nature of leadership – 1
  • take stock of resources – 4
  • what are our needs – 3
  • working groups (tech, admin, outreach and inreach) – 4
  • localize the BACE Timebank – 3
  • organizational partnerships – 4
  • strategy and tactics – 5
  • scaling up/scaling down – 0
  • day to day operations/policy/operations

Timebank Retreat Announcement will go out to Timebank, Facebook, blog, etc.

–notes taken by Rick

DIY: Get Your Hands Dirty, Because Democracy Is Messy

A Legacy of Paystubs?

“The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed.” – Steve Biko (1946-1977)

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being oppressed? Have you ever felt that you’re somehow responsible for oppressing someone else? Granted, you and I are not living in the midst of apartheid South Africa like Steve Biko was. And yes, humanity has no doubt achieved some “historic gains” throughout it’s history…

But still, we live in times that are seeing record #’s in poverty, foreclosures, unemployment, school closures/teacher strikes, student debt/tuition hikes, mass deportations and austerity measures. (Not to mention climate change, GMOs, chemtrails, milex expenditures, endless wars/conflicts, blah, blah, woe is me, etc., etc.) Seriously though, the system as a whole doesn’t seem to be working for the vast majority of us, yet it appears to remain steadfast on it’s course. Why are things playing out this way?

Oppression is the methodology by which those in power keep the rest of humanity from having equitable access to what we need to survive & achieve true liberation: Land and Knowledge. When it comes to education, one doesn’t have to look far to see how equitable access to knowledge is being controlled. Where I live, in Fairfield, we’ve just seen the closure of the 5th school in the past 3 years (3 elementary, 2 middle schools). It makes me wonder…Who truly bears the responsibility of deciding when, where, what, and how OUR children should be educated? The State? Hmmm…

The apparatus of the State is used by those in power to remain in power. Through the control of education and by enacting and en-Force-ing statutes, we are kept seperate from the womb of all life, the Earth. Recent local events like the cancellation of Power to the Peaceful (booo! I met Michael Franti there 1nce! :o), or the attempted chain of evictions of the HANC recycling center, The Free Farm and Hayes Valley Farm are a testimony to this.

These places are safe-havens for those of us that know the importance of operating outside the contradiction that is the market economy. How can these things be happening if so many of us don’t want them to?

Enter the most powerful weapon of the oppressor…The minds of the oppressed.

Somehow, and I’m not sure exactly when…(maybe it was the 500th time you and I “pledged allegiance”) we’ve collective agreed to hold this idea in our minds: That institutions that legitimize themselves through the illegitimate use of force are somehow…legitimate. Incidentally, these same institutions will usually denounce the use of force, even as they brutally attack peace-loving individuals. Their behavior is really quite strange and dare I say it, psychopathic. Is it any coincidence that so much capital is being spent trying to “manufacture consent”? (see Psywar link below)

Speaking of capital, it seems to yet again reign supreme in the recent vetoing of AB889 aka “The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.” This legislation would have provided the same protections for domestic workers (house cleaners, caregivers, daycare, nannies, etc.) that most other workers already enjoy, like meal breaks and overtime. Coincidentally, the reasons cited for not signing the bill all have to do with $, or more specifically, the lack thereof. Without mentioning farm/day laborers and their plight, I think it goes without saying that California’s 200,000 or so domestic laborers are feeling a bit oppressed right now.

What you won’t hear the Associated Press talking about, besides oppression, is the value of all the unpaid labor that this ‘almighty market economy’ continues to depend on and benefit from. While there are some who get paid for domestic work, there are many of us that do not. We still work and contribute to society in very meaningful ways, only through a different type of economy. I’m referring to what is known as the ‘core economy’. The strength of this core economy is reflected in the quality of our relationships with one another. The quality of how we care for our young/elderly or how we engage in civic activity.

We all know the value of this economy because we’re all potty trained (I assume!). Anyone who has had the pleasure of teaching another human not to soil themselves knows, potty training is hard work! Anyhow, I bring up the core economy to point out that not only is this type of work not being valued in today’s mainstream society…It is actually being undermined. As many of us already know, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for many families to ‘make the ends meet’ without spending ever more hours apart from each other or aquiring some form of debt. In name of oppressed people everywhere, there has to be another way.

Ask any number of people if they want to be oppressed or to oppress, and overwhelmingly the answer will be “No!”. However, ask those same individuals to acknowledge how their current status relates to oppression and/or what they intend to do about it?…And things start getting complicated. Some will outright deny being oppressed or oppressing anyone. Others may reluctantly acknowledge the truth while stating something along the lines of “that’s just the way it is, though”.

Then there are those that are actively trying to change things. They’re my personal favorite because they are the ones who are leaving behind more than a legacy of paystubs and receipts. They are the ambassadors of the future because they hone their ability to cooperate while the market economy tells everyone that “competition is the mission.” They are the lifeblood of the core economy. Whether they know it or not, they’re helping to build a better world for my son and his generation. A world that will someday, very soon, be free from all forms of oppression…They are members of the BACE Timebank and I am truly honored to be one of them!

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to attend a POSSE party to see what I’m talking about. Surf through some of the profiles. Get to know your fellow egalitarians. Since joining BACE, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting countless wonderfully unique and caring individuals. One of them so eloquently reminded me of the importance of being in the company of people who aren’t focused on ‘what they can take, but rather what they can give.’ Rock on, Mylo!

Oh yeah, the groups section is extremely inspirational! Check it out too! (you’ll need to be logged in to do so) These are the architects of a new status quo. Onward!

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” – Cesar Chavez


Mind-altering info: – The Federal Bureau of Intimidation by Howard Zinn – The Stanford Prison Experiment (30 minute documentary) – The Milgram Experiment (40 min documentary) – Psywar: The real battlefield (Full-length documentary) – Money As Debt (A MUST SEE!)


Personal and Community Accountability on the BACE Timebank

The removal of money as a barrier for exchange, as many of us have experienced, feels very liberating when you do it. It ignites in your soul innumerable possibilities; instead of being accountable to a dollar amount, you are accountable to a person.

One might imagine: could the Bay Area Community Exchange (aka the Timebank) be a tool for addressing inequalities in our society?

Although the Timebank treats everyone’s time equally, achieving equality in an unjust system isn’t so simple. To work towards that goal requires some really heavy lifting.

Accountability towards ourselves, our groups, and between groups, is essential practice for this work. Here are some ideas on finding a place to start.

Accountability as an individual:

  • Connect to your own inner vision, whatever that means for you. Many people do this through yoga, meditation, art, play. Spend time with yourself that actually feels good.
  • Share your truth. Be aware of your own ongoing story as a self. Sift out the myths, and test what really holds meaning for you.
  • Recognize when you need assistance, and ask for help. You can post a request on the Timebank, even if it’s just for someone to keep you motivated.

Accountability within a group:

  • Get to know each other. Eat and talk together, share goals, plan events, etc.
  • Treat each other’s stories respectfully; hear each other with gratitude.
  • Learn ongoing histories of the lineages, groups, movements, nations, systems, and land you are a part of. Read, talk to people of different generations and viewpoints. Write and share these valuable stories — with permission, always!.
  • Keep your commitments, and let people know your limitations. Regularly check in with other people to keep you grounded.

Accountability between groups:

  • Educate yourself and your crew on the struggles and oppressions that face different groups in our society.
  • Stand in solidarity with causes you agree with, even they don’t reflect your own immediate interests; often our struggles are intertwined at the roots.
  • Reach out to allies, and communicate your needs and what you can offer.
  • Work to identify and actually feel what privileges are associated with yourself and the members of your group. Study how you can best use them towards creating an equitable world where those same privileges don’t exist.

For more resources, check out these links:

The Basics of Zen Meditation

Queer Zine Archive Project

Anti-Racist Organizing to Build the 99% Movement

Love, Race, & Liberation: ‘Til The White Day is Done