Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kilombo Intergaláctico Update

an image from El Kilombo Intergaláctico's last successful space effort

UPDATE Jan 29 '08: El Kilombo Intergaláctico have just released their first book! Order a copy of "Beyond Resistance: EVERYTHING!" today and help organize their "Beyond Resistance: Everything" Book Tour: The Zapatistas, The Other Campaign and US.

I'm off to Utah in a couple of hours to represent for our film Slingshot Hip Hop at the Sundance Film Festival... wish me luck! For some inspiration, check out this in-depth fund drive appeal from fellow adherents to the Sixth Declaration, El Kilombo Intergaláctico - open it up, read thru... sounds amazing what they're doing in Durham. Also check out their excellent new piece Feliz Año Cabrones: On the Continued Centrality of the Zapatista Movement after 14 years.

Next Thursday I'll be coming with an update from Sundance...

Greetings from El Kilombo Intergalactico!

Dear Friends,

Through the end of February 2008, El Kilombo Intergaláctico will be holding its Annual Holiday Fund Drive. El Kilombo is a social center based in Durham, NC, in operation since 2004. A 501(c)3 non-profit, we are home to a bookstore and numerous community programs involving working class and people of color communities in Durham. As we bring another successful year to a close, we seek your financial support for the momentous next steps of our organization.

El Kilombo has grown steadily and surely as we have creatively expanded programs to meet the needs and desires of our primarily Latino and African-American neighborhood. In the last year, we established English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, embarked on a community garden two blocks away, and continued our weekly computer literacy classes, after-school tutoring for kids, and youth Capoeira classes. We have maintained a vibrant intellectual space of study and research through a seminar on Black and Latino Intellectual History and one on Globalized Durham, which will continue throughout 2008 to refine our analysis of the issues and concerns we face in Durham. Our computer center provides free internet access to the community, and we have grown the size of our bilingual lending library. We are also excited to announce that December 16th marks our first day of free health screenings--the fruitful work of the community assembly's health commission.

All of these programs are cooperatively administered and freely distributed. Most importantly, they are coordinated by a community assembly, which has the capacity to make decisions not only regarding the center but also the future of our community, and thus to become another node in the network of community-based movements around the world.

Our goal for this year's fund drive is to raise $65,000. Fifteen thousand is needed to cover the bulk of our projected operating costs for 2008. We seek to raise an additional $50,000 to purchase a permanent building for El Kilombo and create affordable cooperative housing as we battle the gentrification occurring in our neighborhood. El Kilombo is run by an all-volunteer collective of community members and students, and 100% of the funds we raise go towards sustaining our space and community programs. With your financial contribution, we can continue strengthening our organization's capacity to meet concrete needs, in our enduring effort of building active and organized participation in community life.

We would like to tell you more about our accomplishments, current programs, and plans for the upcoming year. We can gladly email you a beautiful pdf newsletter about our organization upon request. We greatly appreciate your support!

All of us at El Kilombo

Make a Donation to El Kilombo:

Send a check made out to El Kilombo Intergalactico to 324B W. Geer St., Durham, NC, 27701.
donate online at the secure "Network for Good" website: Just search for the name "El Kilombo." Thanks!

El Kilombo is a social center based in Durham, NC, in operation since 2004. A 501(c)3 non-profit, we are home to a bookstore and numerous community programs involving working class and people of color communities in Durham.

We have been inspired by democratic social movements to create concrete projects that are environmentally and socially self-sustainable, responsive to the particular demands and desires of a community, and actively democratic. We practice our commitment to progressive social change by socializing our knowledge, creating spaces where we can form new social relations, and making decisions through collective assembly.

Self-Determination: Creating Community, Exercising Power:
El Kilombo's vision is rooted in the integrity of our processes for deciding policies in a democratic fashion, and to hold open the space for the continual reevaluation or recreation of our decisions. That is the great significance of community: community doesn't just exist, simply by sharing an identity or a block or even a barrio.

Our efforts rest fundamentally on strengthening our community assembly and the autonomous institutions we create to meet our needs and desires. What we are constructing is not merely progressive programs, but the enormous social power and collective democratic capacity to implement our decisions, to change our lives and the world.

Community Assembly
The community assembly directs the center's programs, discusses community needs, makes decisions about program changes and innovation, and designates tasks. The assembly is a collective decision-making body that functions not only to make consensus a reality but also to ensure the circulation and sharing of information that will make an informed decision possible. Our community assembly meets once a month and is made up of people from the communities who use and maintain the center.

ESL Courses
Since January 2007, El Kilombo has been offering free English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. Classes focus on acquiring oral and written communication skills and incorporate the experiences, knowledge and life-skills of the participating students. Classes meet twice a week.

We began in 2007 offering only two courses, a beginner course and an intermediate course, in addition to an English conversation table where students could practice speaking English in an informal setting. Due to overwhelming interest, we expanded to four courses in the summer and fall of 2007, offering two beginner courses, an intermediate course, and an advanced course. To increase interactive learning and greater student participation, course enrollment is limited to 10 students per class. We are currently designing an upper-level Spanish course using Howard Zinn's Young People's History of the United States.

Youth Programs
Semillitas Kids' Literacy: During the Summer Semillitas (Little Seeds) program, we offered early childhood literacy classes based on "emergent curriculum" pedagogy, where lesson plans were developed dynamically according to the interests of the children who participate in the class. The classes, taught bilingually, focused on improving reading and writing capacity through technology, games, books, exploratory activities, and multiple learning stations.

After-school Homework Help: We offer homework help for kids of any age and Spanish translation of homework and school documents for parents.

Capoeira Class: Capoeira is a martial art concealed as a dance developed by African slaves in Brazil. Capoeira combines floor movements resembling breakdancing with agile acrobatic movements and kicks. A weekly class for kids is led by members of Grupo Capoeira Brasil NC.

Technology Center: An important hub of access to technology and information

Adult Computer Literacy Courses
Since May of 2006, El Kilombo has offered weekly computer classes free of charge. Classes focus on fundamental computer skills for beginning users, including internet use, word processing, spreadsheets, and email. More advanced students can learn about web design, social-networking sites, computer maintenance and technical support, and more complex programs. Classes are taught bilingually to accommodate English and Spanish speakers. The computer class has also served to facilitate the work of the community assembly, integrating lessons on email and internet use with communication and research for the assembly's projects.

Free Access to Technology
During regular operating hours, we offer free access to internet computers, headphones, printing, and a digital projector with our media library. The center has nine refurbished computers that are daily utilized by community members (adults and youth) to communicate via email, access information, complete homework projects, meet vital needs such as finding housing, purchasing household items, and staying connected with friends and family in North Carolina, the United States, and abroad.

Integrated Instructional Use
The Technology Center is also used in conjunction with the other free programs offered at El Kilombo:
- Computer learning station in our Semillitas (Little Seeds) children's summer literacy program
- Technology Center as a tool for ESL learning in class, and as a resource for "intercambios," or "language exchanges," where English and Spanish speakers partner to share conversational and cultural practices.

Music and Arts Festival
El Kilombo organized a large, free community festival on May 13, 2007, held at "El Hoyo" park and soccer field located behind El Kilombo. We had food, Kids' games, arts and crafts including graffiti and piñata-making, as well as Capoeira and musical performances ranging from rap to folk music. The festival was a wonderful opportunity for the approximately 200 people in attendance to become better acquainted with El Kilombo and our programs and to build intentional community.

The Health Commission was delegated to set up free medical consultations and basic care at our space with qualified medical personnel. We held our first free health clinic at El Kilombo, with dental screenings on December 16th. We plan to provide basic check-ups monthly. We have also recently begun a weekly exercise session at the soccer field behind El Kilombo.

Community Garden
El Kilombo has begun work on a community garden project at Bay-Hargrove Park, located just two blocks from our community space. During the summer, El Kilombo organized a gardening program open to youth and adult members of the community. We learned basic gardening techniques while contributing to the cultivation and maintenance of a vegetable garden. The garden became a site for numerous community BBQs, where positive relationships were forged. We plan on continuing the garden into the next year.

May Day 2007
El Kilombo participated in May Day 2007 demonstrations to demand rights for all of the "undocumented" in the US, joining hundreds of others in Raleigh, NC, and hundreds of thousands more across the country. We took to the streets and raised our voices against the global system of exploitation which has ceased to respect borders and has contributed to the immense flows of migration from North Africa to Europe, from rural China to urban China, from Bolivia to Argentina, of Asians to Australia, and of Latin Americans to the United States.

Fighting Gentrification, Building Community, Buying a Building
- Making a reality the desires of the community assembly to promote affordability, safety, and richer, joyful relationships through collective living.
- Creating a permanent home for El Kilombo to prevent our eviction by the encroaching real estate development.
- Creating a base for our community struggle in this territorial battle to defend and create neighborhood spaces and resources enjoyed in common by the community.
- Creating affordable, cooperative housing in the face of very real and imminent displacement of the working class residents in this neighborhood.

Building Purchase Crucial for our Sustainability
Purchasing a building in the next year will be imperative for our ability to continue our work in this particular neighborhood and to strengthen our assembly, which is the creative source of the many amazing projects on El Kilombo's horizon.

Since El Kilombo opened its doors May 2006 at its current location on W. Geer St. in Northern downtown Durham, it has become undeniably clear that our neighborhood is in the midst of an intensive gentrification process already underway.

However, El Kilombo has become an important community institution playing a key role in successfully fighting this gentrification. Our assembly has provided the space to circulate information, discuss concerns, and formulate proposals and strategies. Very specifically, we have been so far successful in the fight to keep a large, city-owned, public park and soccer field (directly behind Kilombo) from being privatized by real estate developers, preserving it as a public resource that is presently a vibrant foci of our community. The park is used daily by youth and adults alike for soccer, birthday parties, celebrations, and our May Community Festival.

The Housing Commission, created in the community assembly, has over the past year investigated buildings we could purchase, and that would not only house El Kilombo, but also create affordable, cooperative housing for members of the assembly.

Housing Details
After an extensive property search over the last year, the housing commission has seriously investigated a great prospect, a 3-story, approximately 6,000 sq. ft. building a block away from our current location, great for our mixed use needs: The first floor would house El Kilombo and its many programs, including the computer lab, lending libraries, and much-needed social and educational space. The two other floors would create living space suitable for 4 apartments of 1, 2 or 3-bedroom units.

We are enthusiastic about this cooperative housing endeavor and have immense wealth of carpentry, construction, and other skills and knowledges within our community for the renovation of what would be OUR building, including earnest desires to reside in the apartment units and create new and richer ways of living cooperatively.

El Kilombo needs $50,000 in start-up funds towards:
- A down payment,
- renovation costs,
- and mortgage payments during renovation before residents can move in.

From our rigorous calculations, this purchase will be financially sustainable through the combined rents of El Kilombo and the other living units, which presently go down the drain to landlords.

Help us make this critical purchase with a financial contribution.

Organizing our Thought: Intellectual Production and Research
Spring 2007 Seminar: Black/Latino Thought and the World we Live In
A weekly, 12-session seminar at El Kilombo

Globalization has destroyed many of our long held beliefs about political action. Yet, it has simultaneously created unprecedented levels of inequality and desperation. Our working group examined this situation through a reading of Black and Latino intellectual traditions and community-based movements. We investigated how these traditions offer us invaluable keys not only to map our current situation but also to transform it.

Fall 2007 & Spring 2008 Seminar: Globalized Durham
A seminar held biweekly at El Kilombo

Durham is a city contending with the global realities of the 21st century: the intensification of wealth as well as suffering and the incapacity of state and civil institutions to offer redress; the increasing mobility of money, information, business, and people; and the struggle to control that mobility. In this seminar, we are researching themes such as the decline of tobacco and textile factories and the city's increased stake in transnational research and informational networks, military and technological commerce, and international policymaking, centered in Universities and institutions of Research Triangle Park; a booming migrant population in the wake of NAFTA's aggression; and gentrification.

PaperBoat Press
El Kilombo has prioritized the sharing of our studies and experiences through the expansion our website as a resource and the national and global circulation of our intellectual production in our writings and public events. In January 2008, we are launching our very own press, "PaperBoat Press," with the publication of our first book, Beyond Resistance: Everything, a momentous interview with Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista Movement conducted by El Kilombo, in which he discusses zapatismo in the context of the US, people of color, and migrant subjectivity.

In the coming year, Colectivo Situaciones will be publishing a Spanish edition of our book in Argentina. An Italian edition will be published by Ya Basta, with a joint introduction on the history and significance of social centers. We are also working to secure its publication in Mexico. The book will be freely accessible online and available for purchase.

Our Future! As we move into the next year, here are some of our exciting next steps!
- Strengthening our existing programs: ESL, computer class, Capoeira, homework help.
- The Health Commission will continue working to secure regular health check-ups and screenings at El Kilombo, as well as training and educational opportunities for the community assembly as health promoters.
- The housing commission will continue to actively pursue the purchase of a building and develop project details for the financing, renovation, and coordination of affordable, cooperative housing.
- Organizing a Durham city-wide inter-neighborhood meeting to learn about other neighborhoods? struggles with gentrification and begin a network of communities.
- Our Spanish language lending library has been such a hit that community members have expressed interest in a Spanish-language reading group on Latin American history and social movements.
- Starting a neighborhood newsletter to circulate information about community issues, continue building a bond between the black and Latino communities, and have a larger presence in the neighborhood. Ultimately, we strive to have our own bilingual media (radio, online, TV, and/or print).
- Planning a Spanish class for English-speaking residents.
- Expanding our youth programming with the formation of a youth assembly.
- Continuing the community-garden, with the possibility of expanding the garden to a larger location.

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