In December, I plan to open a bakery on 5th Street and Brush in Oakland. My cupcake business, Angel Cakes, has been a catering operation for the last 7 years, renting shared kitchen spaces around Berkeley and Oakland. Silly as it sounds, cupcakes allow me to support myself and allow me to participate in a variety of social justice movement work and organizing in an unpaid and volunteer capacity.
I’m currently running a crowdfunding campaign to assist me in buying all of the appliances I need to make the business work. For the first time Angel Cakes will have a storefront that is open to the public.
The space I’m moving into is the former Gingerbread House Restaurant, which closed in 2007. The area feels mostly industrial and similar to (but without the development of) Jack London Square, which it is on the edge of. A few blocks away, there are other small food businesses, like BRIX 581, Venga Paella, and Autobahn Café.
I strive to be aware of gentrification and my role in it, and conscious of the impact of where I live and work. I’ve coordinated discussions and events on the topic, and have given my time and money to organizations that I think are doing good work.
When considering this location, two of the factors that were important to me were: who owns the building, and I am I directly displacing a resident or business?
First, the cafe space I’m moving into, a portion of the original restaurant, has been empty since the restaurant closed in 2007, so no one is moving out so I can move in. I like that I am putting a food business where there was originally a food business.
Also, the building was bought by people I know, who are long-term area residents. They are buying the building to use it and are not a developer just looking to make a profit.
* * *
These readings on gentrification in the Bay (and generally) have been helpful in informing me on the issue, in no particular order:
- Development without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area
Causa Justa :: Just Cause
- The Struggle For the Flatlands: How Oakland Can Fight Gentrification
Maria Poblet/Organizing Upgrade
- How Burrowing Owls Lead to Vomiting Anarchists (or SF’s Housing Crisis Explained)
Kim-Mai Cutler / TechCrunch
- The Ethics of Gentrification, Social and Personal
- California Screaming
Nathan Heller / The New Yorker
- Evict This: A History of Housing in West Oakland and Tools to Resist Displacement
East Bay Solidarity Network
- Neill Sullivan’s Oakland
Darwin BondGraham / East Bay Express
- Gentrification: No Resting Place, Pt. 1
- A Hard Look at Gentrification
Ta-Nehisi Coates / The Atlantic
- Who Owns Your Neighborhood? The Role of Investors in Post-Forclosure Oakland
- The First Cycle of Gentrification in West Oakland, CA: 1998-2008
- American Babylon: Race and The Struggle for Postwar Oakland
Robert O Self
- The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City
- Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California
Donna Jean Murch
Here are some links to organizations in the SF Bay Area who are working on this issue, and in my opinion are doing effective work. I will continue to follow and support these groups:
- Anti-Eviction Mapping Project
- Eviction Free SF
- Causa Justa :: Just Cause
- San Francisco Community Land Trust
- East Bay Solidarity Network
Clamor Magazine was a huge and significant part of my life. Not only did a spend seven years working on it, but it shaped my life, friendships, and politics more than I could have imagined.
I’ve been working for the last year to make the content of the magazine available digitally, and I kind of can’t believe that I am able to say CLAMOR IS NOW ONLINE.
Jason and I are also doing a fundraising campaign to make the archive more accessible. I hope you will consider contributing or spreading the word. Here’s a link to the campaign:
Working on this project has been so nostalgic for me, but also just really exciting. As part of the fundraising campaign I’ve been going through each issue and posting some of my favorite pieces on Facebook and Twitter. It’s been like an excavation – the features I totally forgot, along side the things I could never forget. I am pleased and proud about the work we were able to do then, and wish there were a similar vehicle now.
These pieces are available if you go directly to the Internet Archive, but right now we aren’t able to locate them through searching Google or other engines, which is the purpose of the project we’re doing now.
More info on the project (including a link directly to the online archive and to a list of the 800+ contributors) is below.
* * *
The Clamor Magazine archive is now available digitally—Can you help us make it more accessible?
Clamor co-founder Jason Kucsma and I are working on making all of the print content available and searchable through a new web portal. We’ve already digitized the print magazines, and though everything is online now, we still have some work to do to make it an accessible collection for readers, researchers, and enthusiasts. Can’t wait for the new portal? You can view the magazine collection on the Internet Archive here.
We need your help to see this project through. We hope that you will consider making a small donation to make this possible. Read on for for more about why we’re digitizing the magazine, and why we need your help.
Read the rest of this entry »
We talked for a while and she explained it all to me. I recognize that she is essentially a salesperson and her job is to make it sound like a good deal. She succeeded. You can read all about it on Groupon’s site for selling their service to businesses, Groupon Works.
Despite the sales pitch, I was skeptical. I started talking to a bunch of people about their experiences and thoughts about it and eventually decided not to do it.
Why I said No
Let me be a bit conceptual here for a moment.
Like most small business owners, I consider what I do a craft. Each cupcake order I make is custom made in a small batch, usually by me with the occasional help of an assistant. What I charge for my work is that (sometime elusive) sweet spot between what it actually costs me to produce the order and what people think it’s OK to pay for cupcakes (aka “what the market will bear”). There’s not really a lot of wiggle room there.
Capitalism is really good at instilling in us the desire to pay as little for things as possible, despite what the things cost to produce. This doesn’t make sense. When we look at the “slow food” and artisan food movements, where things like organic vegetables and fancy cheese and nice bread cost a lot, the producers say it’s because that’s what it actually costs to make the food. While I’m sure we can all think of fancy food and artisan things that are over-priced, for the most part, while we live in a system where we pay for food (which is kind of absurd, but that’s another story), I think that charging what it actually costs to make something is right.
Offering a coupon (Groupon says it needs to be at least 50% off) encourages that kind of behavior – of thinking not of what something is worth, but a more self-focused “what kind of deal can I get this for” attitude that I don’t want to encourage. At all. It’s not the way to value things that are produced ethically, by people who care about what they are making and their customers.
Not offering a coupon feels like I’m saying “this is what my product is worth.” Good. Let’s go with that.
Isn’t it worth it for the marketing / getting my name out there?
As someone who works on publicity and marketing, I think about how to get the word out about projects all the time. Unlike other people, I think spending money on marketing and promo efforts is important and can be effective when done right.
When people say “I lost a lot of money using Groupon,” Part of me thinks of that dollar figure not as lost money but as the cost of a marketing effort. Then the discussion is, is that dollar amount something I am willing to pay as an investment in marketing? and did I gain customers as a result? For most people, the answer is no.
For example, when I look at my Groupon/coupon buying behavior and that of my friends, which I can guess is not that different from most of the Groupon-buying public, I pretty much only buy coupons for places I already go or have no intention of going to again after I’ve spent the coupon.
Most people who buy online coupons are coupon shoppers. If they want more cupcakes, they’re not going to buy from me, they’re going to wait for the coupon for the next cupcake place (because we all know that cupcake places are everywhere right now).
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to think about this in an in-depth way, I’m not doing that any more. It basically financially penalizes the small businesses and restaurants that I am patronizing and want to support. They’re not gaining me as a customer since I already go there (or don’t intend to go again), they’re just losing money on the transaction. If I don’t want people to do that to me, why am I going to do that to others?
One of the caveats I can imagine is that if I were offering, say, a yoga class where my costs stayed the same even if the number of participants increased, then it might make sense. But, obviously, cupcakes are different than yoga. And if I offered a class, I would probably just offer an introductory package (like half off your first month or something), bypass Groupon, and spend my time and money on social media.
Although I often joke and say that I have 10 jobs, really my main job is to help awesome authors & filmmakers promote their work through events and other outreach. I work with a few other really cool folks, and we have a group called Aid & Abet. I know, this is not news. I’m just trying to get everyone on the same page here.
Well, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that today we relaunched the Aid & Abet website – it’s at www.aidandabet.org and I absolutely love it. The designer is Derek Hogue and I will highly recommend him to anyone who wants a new site or a redesign. Not only does it look great, but the user interface is amazing and easy to use.
Second, along with the new site, today we are announcing the release of a new booklet – Get Noticed! How to Publicize Your Book or Film – designed for all of our friends (including many of you) who have your own projects and don’t want to or can’t afford to hire a PR firm to do publicity for you. There is tons of info in it and it’ll be helpful for anyone who has a book, project, or film to promote. It’s available as a PDF download or as a printed booklet, and you can find out more about it at: http://aidandabet.org/resources/get-noticed/.
In honor of my dad‘s birthday today, two poems that he loved.
Crossing the Bar • Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
High Flight • John Gillespie Magee, Jr
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Love to you, Dad, wherever you are.
OK, so we’re gonna have few posts in reverse order here.
Last week I spoke at the Black Rose bookstore in Portland, Oregon. First of all, thanks to Kevin for setting it up and the crew at the bookstore for hosting, and for running a great space.
Ostensibly, the talk was about two projects I’ve worked on recently: the Clamor pamphlet, and the article I wrote on independent media for In The Middle of A Whirlwind. I chose to focus on two issues common to these pieces: money and power.
In both, I talk about how I feel that within activist culture, we focus on the evils of money and power, and often resist understanding them and using them to our advantage. I know that because our knowledge of financial matters was so limited, we made many mistakes at Clamor that hurt us later. This is perfectly illustrated by Stephen Duncombe, whom I quote in the Whirlwinds article: “Progressives worry about abuse of power before we have it, this is a sign of our reluctance to pursue it.” When I asked Duncombe to expand on this point, he replied:
Power is scary. With it comes responsibility. As with leadership, if you don’t acknowledge that power is necessary then you won’t do anything about re-imagining it. I think leftists have gotten very comfortable being critics of power. Criticism on the road to power may be useful, but criticism by itself, in our day and age, is actually an attendant to dominant power. “Look,” the powers that be argue, “we have critics, that means you have freedom and democracy, right?” Criticism, by itself, is just self-serving politics: it makes the critic feel better about their non-compliance but changes nothing. Therefore I’m interested in moving past criticism and really thinking about what is necessary to win power. For without power you can’t change things. And I’m in this game to change the world, not just comment about how bad it all is.
Yep, I made a booklet!
Last year I wrote a long article about the end of Clamor Magazine, and I was encouraged to revise and expand it by my friend Ramsey for his new publishing house, PM Press. Well, now it’s done, and all fancy! You can buy it, any moment now, through the AK Press website. I circulated the article last year on the internet, but the pamphlet version is revised and much expanded.
I’ll be doing some miscellaneous speaking events to support the pamphlet, and you can find out more on the “Upcoming Events” page, or you can find out more about the things I’ll be talking about by visiting my page at Aid & Abet Booking.
Writing the pamphlet felt good. It was good to process all of the stuff that had accumulated in my head for seven years, but honestly I could have written about 10 times the material. Here’s a small blurb from the back of the pamphlet to give you an idea of what I wanted to talk about: “This analysis is presented as a case study on how movement projects and organizations deal with vital but rarely discussed issues such as management, sustainability, ownership, structure, finance, decision making, power, diversity, and vision.” So, you kinda get the idea.
The first dog of my adult life was Raza. When I moved to Bowling Green, Ohio to work on Clamor in 1999, Raza was living with Jason and Renee. Later, when Jason and I started dating, and eventually moved in together, we shared responsibility for him and he became the Clamor mascot, to be joined in 2004 by Tobe. Later, Raza moved to Arizona with Jason, and Tobe moved to California with me.
In December 2006, Clamor stopped publishing. Because I helped start this project, this was an emotionally difficult decision. But, I can say that as part of the publishing group that decided to close our doors, it was the right decision.
I’ve spent the last few months working on a reflection and analysis of my work with Clamor. This was a very important article for me to write, for myself, and I hope that it serves to offer some insight to the inner workings of a long-term project. Also, because radicals are often poor historians, I felt it important to do my part to record our history.
The article is long and tries to do many things. There are several smaller articles within that could be teased out, such as the role of independent media in movement building, the finances of independent publishing, and the importance of building institutions. One day, I hope to elaborate on these ideas and help encourage discussion on topics which I view as essential.
Clamor has been a very important project to me. Mostly, it has helped bring me into contact with individuals who amaze and inspire me, individuals who worked as staff members, contributed their work, or were featured in the magazine. I will always be thankful for the opportunities that were available to me because of the magazine. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and Clamor over the years.
You can download a PDF version of the article here. Eventually, this article will be posted on the Clamor Magazine site when we finish changing it over to reflect that the project has closed.
*** UPDATE ***
The article has been revised and greatly expanded, and is now available as a pamphlet from PM Press. You can order one here.
I welcome any and all comments and feedback, either here or via email.
(as a preview, here is the table of contents)
Seven Years of Clamor: Challenges, Successes, and Reflections
2. Why Independent Media?
3. The Beginning of Clamor: What We Were Trying to Do
a. Entry Points: Helping New Voices be Heard
b. Content: Integrating Politics & Culture
c. Building a Foundation: Decision-Making Structures
d. Diversifying Income
e. Innovation through Adversity
f. Being a Good Community Member
g. Midwest Represent! Why Geography Matters
h. Standing our Ground: American Apparel
a. Money: The Great Specter
b. Debt: Finding Money for Starting and Continuing Projects
c. Operating Outside the Niche: Marketing to Advertisers and Subscribers
d. Getting the Word Out: Models for Distribution
e. Growing Pains: Issues of Power, Diversity, and Representation
f. The Non-Profit Industrial Complex: Volunteers vs. Paid Staff
6. The End of Clamor: Why We Decided to Close
7. The Future
So, the beans have been spilled – After seven years and 38 issues Clamor is no longer publishing. It may seem sudden to you, but to those of us involved in the day-to-day operation of the magazine, it has been a long time coming.
After sending a letter to subscribers, we posted our official announcement on our website. Josh Breitbart blogged about it at Civil Defense. Our other projects, the Allied Media Conference and the Infoshop will continue separately.
How do I feel about it? I have mixed feelings. Jason and I will be going through the long and arduous task of dissolving the business, and that will take some time. I’m working on a more indepth analysis and reflection that I hope to post soon.