(R)evolutionary powers for regenerative economies: Learning from natural law and leaders in Jackson, Mississippi
– Elizabeth A. Walsh

“What time is it on the clock of the world?” Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs posed this question on July 4, 1973 in Detroit as they reflected on the costs of the 1967 Rebellion, the history of revolutions in the 20th century, and the promise and prospects of “making an evolutionary/revolutionary leap towards becoming more socially responsible and more self-critical human beings.”1 How would we answer their question today?

It is 2020 and our global alarm clock is ringing. In the wake of the global pandemic; the onslaught of deadly wildfires, hurricanes and extreme weather associated with escalating climate change; and the growing awareness of systemic police brutality and persistent racism, more people are waking up to the reality that dominant economic structures represent a dire threat to life on the planet.2 Although some still want to return to their dream state3 and “bounce back” to how things were before the pandemic, many others are increasingly vocal about their unwillingness to return to business as usual. Increasingly, movement leaders and corporate leaders alike are calling for reimagined economies that serve life, not just profit. Some even explicitly call for a fundamental paradigm shift to a regenerative economy. However, definitions of this paradigm shift are varied and strongly contested.4

On the corporate side, at Climate NYC on September 21, 2020, Walmart’s CEO announced a commitment to become a “regenerative company,” explaining that “Regenerating means restoring, renewing and replenishing in addition to conserving.”5 Yet, by centering its definition of “regenerative” on environmental stewardship alone (e.g., as a means to sustain profit-growth), the United States’ largest private employer5 may continue a much-criticized pattern of greenwashing7 exploitative and extractive practices with regard to employees and local economies.8

On the social movement side, in June 2020, United Frontline Table9 released “A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy: Protect, Repair, Invest and Transform,” a 48-page strategic guide to support a shift in public consciousness and a pathway to equitable, ecologically responsible solutions to climate inequity that (1) honor the dignity and liberty of frontline communities and (2) work in harmony with Mother Earth.10

The differences between the approaches, their basis of power, and definitions of “regenerative” are striking.11

Importantly, both approaches (1) recognize that the current global economy is not aligned with the earth’s regenerative cycles, and (2) assert the importance of working with nature, according to nature’s laws and principles. However, their responses to the global alarm clock’s call for an “evolutionary/revolutionary leap” forward to a regenerative economy are still markedly different.

One path is powered by organized money and built upon neoliberal economists’ interpretations of liberty and human nature. Formalized in 1947 in the wake of a devastating world war by 36 elite white men,12 the neoliberal economic model was purportedly intended to deliver global prosperity but is anchored in a narrowly construed sense of “liberty” wherein the primary role of government is to protect individual property rights.13 This model arose from centuries of extractive, exploitive and exclusive economic growth built on the backs of stolen labor and land and enabled by a white supremacist world view.14

This path is “business as usual.” Although leaders on this path may claim to be “regenerative” and grounded in a natural law of “liberty,” their faulty assumptions will keep them stuck in a rut on a collision path toward social, ecological, and economic collapse. This collision course is not new. It is the same one that Dr. Martin Luther King warned us against in 1967, when he called for a “revolution in values” to shift away from a “thing-oriented” society dominated by racism, materialism, militarism, paternalism, and other intersectional oppressions.15 It is the same one that Donella Meadows and her team of systems scientists warned us against in 1972 in Limits to Growth,16 with their call for a shift in consciousness from a growth-oriented economy to a life-centered economy that would reverse the coupled challenges of social inequity and ecological degradation. It is the same one reflected by the “Great Acceleration” (1950 – present) that has propelled us into in the Anthropocene, where our ecocidal tendencies threaten life, with tremendous disparities in health, wealth, and quality of life.17

If it is, indeed, time to answer Dr. King’s call for a “revolution of values” and Meadows’s call for a paradigm shift, what principles and practices can we embrace to unleash the revolutionary power needed to bounce forward to a “life-centered” society supported by an equitable, regenerative economy? What can we learn about liberty, natural law, and human nature from American revolutionaries before and after the 18th century to meet the challenges of the 21st century? We explore these critically connected questions in this article in theory and practice.

Grounding ourselves in the legacy of thought leaders in movements for liberation of land and people including Grace Lee Boggs, Audre Lorde, Fannie Lou Hamer, Howard Thurman, and Buckminster Fuller, we first offer a theory of revolutionary/evolutionary (hereafter, “(r)evolutionary”) power grounded in our capability as human beings to regenerate – to intentionally adapt, evolve and thrive, working in solidarity with each other and the ecosystems that support us. We posit that access to (r)evolutionary power occurs through the practice of three principles of regeneration held in dynamic tension: integrity, reciprocity, and liberty.

Grounded in the active, ongoing praxis of movement leaders in Jackson, Mississippi, we discuss how this model of (r)evolutionary power works in action. We focus on Cooperation Jackson (a member of the United Frontline Table previously mentioned) and their efforts to implement the visionary Jackson-Kush Plan. Cooperation Jackson is “Building a solidarity economy in Jackson, Mississippi, anchored by a network of cooperatives and worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises.”18 Mutually supporting green worker cooperatives, community land trusts, eco-villages, and centers of community production are at the center of their efforts to bring about a just transition to a regenerative economy – rooted in Jackson, MS, yet globally connected.19

Grounding ourselves in our capacity for intentional development and adaptation – with a long view back to over 50,000 years of human history,20 and a view forward seven generations – we offer a theory of (r)evolutionary people power rooted in our fundamental capacity – as human beings, just like all living beings and systems – to regenerate.

Power to Regenerate
The power to regenerate – or, Grace Lee Boggs put it simply, the power to “create the world anew, which each of us has”21 – is at the heart of (r)evolutionary power. Boggs, like Buckminster Fuller, believed we are all here as conscious human beings to intentionally shape the ongoing evolution of life on Earth.22 But how? How do we exercise our power to regenerate? We propose practicing three interrelated principles, arising from natural laws of flourishing living systems: integrity, reciprocity, and liberty.

Image 1. Regenerative Power Triangle: Three Principles of Natural Law. Source: Author.

Integrity is the natural state of being whole and complete – undivided, functionally whole, and integrally connected.23 To be in a state of wholeness is to be in a state of health and wellbeing, from our cells to our “selves,” from our neighborhoods to our ecosystems. As human beings, we are parts of much larger wholes – families, communities, ecosystems – all revolving swiftly around the sun on Spaceship Earth, 4.5 billion years in the making, within the much larger and longer context of the universe.24

Our very existence defies probability. We’ve made it this far by the marvels of cooperation and symbiosis, from the level of cells, to species, to entire ecosystems. Life begets life, via rich webs of mutually supportive relationships. We have all evolved together, thus far, and homo sapiens sapiens has become a self-aware species capable of intentionally shaping ourselves and our ecological homes.25 As Bucky Fuller put it, on a biological and metaphysical basis, “we are here as local information harvesters, local problem-solvers in support of the integrity of the eternally regenerative Universe.”26

Acting in service of the integrity of the “eternally regenerative Universe” affords us vitality, not only because we depend on the gifts of the earth and sun, but also because acting with integrity – where our vision, values, words and actions are all in alignment – elevates our own vitality and sense of completion.27 As Audre Lorde wrote in The Uses of the Erotic:

    Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness. The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible.28

Performance of this essential, life-giving work is not for the faint of heart: conventional economic structures rarely reward it and it threatens dominant power structures. And yet, Lorde notes, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”29 Such clarity of vision and chosen commitments generate the courage to act despite our fears – both real and imagined.

Like integrity, reciprocity is a natural law for all life on Earth. Robin Wall Kimmerer– a forest ecologist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation– explains that the covenant of reciprocity holds that “for the Earth to stay in balance, for the gifts to continue to flow, we must give back in equal measure for what we take.”30 In her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants she declares, “If good citizens agree to uphold the laws of the nation, then I choose natural law, the law of reciprocity, of regeneration, of mutual flourishing.”31

What does reciprocity look like in practice? First, it is the antidote and antithesis of practices of extraction, exploitation, and exclusion. The law of reciprocity recognizes, as Kimmerer explains, “Each person, human or not, is bound to every other in a reciprocal relationship.” She elucidates:

    Just as all beings have a duty to me, I have a duty to them. If an animal gives its life to feed me, I am in turn bound to support its life. If I receive a stream’s gift of pure water, then I am responsible for returning a gift in kind. An integral part of a human’s education is to know those duties and how to perform them.32

Kimmerer emphasizes, here, that being a citizen – not just of a city, or a nation, but of our common home – is primarily about learning our duties in the service of life, and performing them with thanks, and the trust that the trees, water, soil, and our neighbors are all performing their duties so that we may all thrive in mutual relationship. This lifework makes life “work” – it is a source of regenerative, life-giving energy for us, and for the earth. The practice of reciprocity is foundational to our security, belonging, dignity, and sovereignty.33

Like integrity and reciprocity, liberty is a practice that supports the flourishing of life on Earth. Put simply, liberty is our freedom to choose. Liberty – our capacity for intentional, conscious choice – is both a birthright and a sacred duty of human beings.34 As Mahatma Gandhi said, “we but mirror the world,”35 and our capacity for choice affords us the power to shape the world with loving intention. This freedom includes the practices of:

  • Choosing who we shall be, moment by moment,
  • Choosing to honor our dreams and desires by envisioning alternative futures,
  • Choosing what we shall do, movement by movement, with our lives – our bodies, ourselves, our communities, in service of our collectively desired visions and values;
  • Choosing to design and enact cultural, governmental, technological, and economic structures in service of liberty, reciprocity, and integrity.

Without embracing liberty, the practice of integrity and reciprocity can be misconstrued and abused – especially by holistic thinkers operating under the influence of paternalism, colonialism, racism, and ableism who think they know what roles “other” people are meant to serve.36 In response, we explicitly adopt Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s definition of feminism as part of our definition of liberty: “That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers—manmade barriers, certainly not heaven sent.”37

Conversely, it is also essential that we hold liberty in dynamic tension with reciprocity and integrity. Without this balance, liberty too easily becomes construed as a private right to practice self-interest – a dangerous notion within a dominant culture that maintains a radically narrow construction of self.38 In a liberated world, the relationship of part to whole is reciprocal – as Howard Thurman said “Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”39

Received in a culture that glorifies personal gratification, the quote can only be understood in the context of its speaker. Writing in 1965 in the throes of the civil rights movement, Thurman reflected in The Luminous Darkness: A Personal Interpretation of the Anatomy of Segregation and the Ground of Hope on what segregation does to the human soul, and the possibility of being fully alive in a living world:

    The burden of being black and the burden of being white is so heavy that it is rare in our society to experience oneself as a human being. It may be, I don’t know, that to experience oneself as a human being is one with experiencing one’s fellows as human beings. It means that the individual must have a sense of kinship to life that transcends and goes beyond the immediate kinship of family or the organic kinship that binds [one] ethnically or “racially” or nationally. [One] has a sense of being an essential part of the structural relationship that exists between [oneself] and all other [human beings], and between [all human beings], and the total external environment. As a human being, then, [one] belongs to life and the whole kingdom of life that includes all that lives and perhaps, also, all that has ever lived. In other words, [one] sees [oneself] as a part of a continuing, breathing, living existence. To be a human being, then, is to be essentially alive in a living world.40

Like Fuller, Thurman returns us to the miracle of our individual yet collectively lived lives, and our membership in the regenerative kinship of life on Earth. Yet, the design of current dominant systems pulls for abuse and trauma, not for life and liberation. In response to the question of whether she wanted equal opportunity in that kind of system, Fannie Lou Hamer replied vehemently, “No.” “What would I look like fighting for equality with the white man?, she said. “I don’t want to go down that low. I want the true democracy that’ll raise me and that white man up… raise America up.”41

Declaration of the power to regenerate
What might the United States’ Declaration of Independence look through the lens of the regenerative power triangle – Liberty, Reciprocity, and Integrity? One possibility (new language underlined):

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men beings are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights and Responsibilities, that among these are Liberty, Reciprocity, and Integrity (the basis of their vitality and co-evolutionary power) Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, —That to secure these rights and responsibilities, Governments are instituted among Men self-organizing, self-motivating, self-educating human beings, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —These Governments then exercise their regenerative powers to enact structures of liberation – social, cultural, infrastructural, and economic – for the sake of the integrity of health and wellbeing for all.

Should we accept such precepts, following in the revolutionary tradition of the United States, we must also embrace the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”42

Put more directly, in a world of unjust laws perpetuating abuse to people and land, the (r)evolutionary demands of the practice of regenerative power requires that we exercise our powers to disrupt oppressive structures and heal harm they have caused. Active resistance and intentional disruption of oppressive economic structures of extraction, exploitation, and exclusion buttressed by racism, colonialism, paternalism, sexism, and ableism are essential to all life on our planet. We can exercise our powers to disrupt and heal through myriad strategic interventions, including direct action, democratic organizing, creation of alternative economic and governance structures, restorative justice, practices for resilience, and a life-long praxis of mastering complex power dynamics to build liberating, regenerative power.

What does the regenerative power triangle – liberty, reciprocity, and integrity – look like in practice? Here, we turn to the story of Cooperation Jackson, and the legacy of a steadfast struggle to liberate land and people, first in the heart of the deep oppressive South in Jackson, Mississippi, and rippling out beyond.

Although the story of Cooperation Jackson is deeply rooted in Jackson, Mississippi, part of its (r)evolutionary origin story begins in Detroit in the wake of the 1967 Rebellion, as Black Power movement leaders (like Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs) worked to envision a liberating pathway forward.

We declare these truths to be self-evident
In 1968, responding to the fundamental American revolutionary call to alter, abolish, or institute a new Government in the case of human rights abuses by the existing government, 100 black radical leaders gathered in Detroit and signed their own Declaration of Independence, establishing the Republic of New Afrika (RNA). The RNA set out to attain self-determination for people of African descent and decolonize the territories held by the U.S. Two core directives of the RNA were to (a) secure reparations, and (b) create a sovereign, black-majority country situated in the Southeastern United States, in the heart of an area of black-majority population. They also created a constitution and the framework for a provisional government (PG-RNA).43

Their intention was to create a new society, with no color, class, gender, and physical ability discrimination.44 From the outset, the PG-RNA’s governance structures were rooted in direct democratic participation in shared ownership – especially because cooperative economics and mutual aid networks had already proven to be critical to survival for Black communities subjected to the racialized terror of white supremacy instituted in the Deep South.45 They chose to focus first in Mississippi – the epicenter of the most brutal abuses of human rights, and a linchpin of the Civil Rights Movement, with the Mississippi Freedom and Cooperative Movements and leadership of figures like Fannie Lou Hamer and Henry Kirksey. The PGRNA purchased land in Hinds County, MS, near Jackson, to create a community aligned with their values and vision.46

Chokwe Lumumba, a Detroit native recently elected to the cabinet of NPA (and later, in 2013, elected as the Mayor of Jackson, MS), travelled to Mississippi for the first time in March 1971 for the dedication of land. He joined a group of 500 women, men, children, and elders to celebrate on their newly purchased land, but as they approached, they were confronted with a blockade – a blockade established by the same chief law enforcement officer responsible for the murder earlier that year of two Jackson State University students on their campus, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The Ku Klux Klan, FBI, and Mississippi Highway Patrol stood with him as he said, “Niggers, we’re not going to have a land celebration today.” In the introduction to Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi, Lumumba’s daughter Rukia recounts the story her father told of that day (abbreviated here):

    So, it was 500 of us went down that road to the roadblock, and we had old people, young people, we had babies, we had everybody, and we were praying. We were hardcore revolutionaries driven back to prayer. We were praying to God where ever we can find him, because it was serious. . . . [J]ust as they had their stuff showing we had our stuff showing, and it was a near calamity. I know it’s hard for you believe, but it was just like in the Bible, that road blocked opened up, just like the Red Sea and we went through there. And when we got through that blockade, and got to that land base, people started eating the dirt and that’s where the slogan came from – Free The Land.47

Free The Land. Free the land; Free the people. The regenerative power of this reciprocal relationship has been at the heart of collective praxis of the NPA, the New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO), and the Malcom X Grassroots Movement (MXGM, established in 1990) in Jackson, MS ever since. After completing his law degree in Michigan, Chokwe Lumumba returned to Jackson, MS in 1989, working as a lawyer to address racial abuse while developing youth development programs in the 1990s with MXGM. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, MXGM supported survivors with material aid, political support, and capacity building through the facilitation of People’s Assemblies. MXGM Leaders revived these People’s Assemblies – a mode of direct democratic self-governance – in Jackson.48

As people gathered and self-organized in these Assemblies over the years, a clear vision for the future and strategic imperatives to serve it also arose. These deliberations revitalized The Jackson-Kush Plan. The revitalized version of this plan was released in 2012. The Assemblies helped build capacity for electoral organizing and political power, ultimately electing Chokwe Lumumba Mayor of Jackson in 2013 on a platform for reform strongly shaped by the People’s Assemblies. Although Mayor Lumumba passed from this life in 2014, the movement of which he was part continues. Co-founded by members of the MXGM, members of the People’s Assemblies, and allies, Cooperation Jackson emerged in 2014 to carry the work of the Jackson-Kush plan forward, as well as broader efforts to educate, motivate and cooperate for climate justice [Image 2.].49

Image 2. Our Power Campaign: Educate, Motivate, Cooperate for Climate Justice. Source: Cooperation Jackson50.


The Jackson-Kush Plan and Cooperation Jackson embody the principles of liberty, integrity, and reciprocity for all – in spirit and strategic, consistent action.

The Jackson-Kush Plan’s chosen vision is to “build a vibrant, people centered solidarity economy in Jackson and throughout the state of Mississippi that empowers Black and other oppressed peoples in the state” (see Figure 3 for geographic focus). Three core types of economic and governance structures serve as pillars for The Plan:

    (1) Building Peoples Assemblies (structures to support direct democracy, and to educate, motivate and organize across generations);
    (2) Building a Network of Progressive Political Candidates (structures to shape representative democracy by building political support around policy agendas and infrastructure priorities that support a regenerative solidarity economy);
    (3) Building a broad-based Solidarity Economy (structures that support cooperative enterprise, land trusts, and mutual aid networks that contribute to the regenerative capacities of people and land).51


Image 3. Cover of the Jackson-Kush Plan. Source: Cooperation Jackson52.

The practice of reciprocity is at the heart of Cooperation Jackson’s strategies to develop a Solidarity Economy rooted in appreciation of existing community strengths and life-giving work. Cooperative enterprises are essential for community health and wealth, especially given the failure of existing neoliberal, undemocratic institutions to meet peoples’ needs.53 By returning land and housing from speculative markets into community ownership and care, Cooperation Jackson is expanding equity in the fullest sense and ensuring that regenerative development does not trigger displacement.54

Cooperation Jackson also practices reciprocity through its focus on shifting our economic thinking about work from a view of “jobs” to “roles.” Kali Akuno explains this shift as a deeper part of a just transition needed:

    We must aim towards eliminating wage labor and commodity production. Instead we need to be orienting around recreating roles in our society that are critical to the functioning and the wellbeing of all – instead of jobs situated around wages.55

Akuno speaks to the generative tension between reciprocity and liberty. Reciprocity requires diverse, differently gifted people to do work that supports the integrity of the larger community.56 Liberty reminds us that these gifts must be freely given and honorably received. This right to choose life-giving work runs counter to the Right to Work laws in MS and elsewhere that erode solidarity networks and enable extractive labor practices.

Further enabling a reciprocal flow of resources, the goal is to have cooperative enterprises hire and cultivate local talent, build solidarity networks, and cultivate the regenerative capacity of the land and people. For instance, their cooperative Green Team enterprise collects landscaping yard “waste” and works with the Freedom Farms Cooperative to transform it into compost. The compost is then reinvested in the farming cooperative’s efforts to regenerate soil health, which in turn generates fresh produce that nourishes the community.57 The Jackson-Kush Plan outlines additional structures and strategies designed to work synergistically together to expand community health and wealth [Image 4.].

Image 4. Cooperation Jackson Vision & Strategy. Source: Cooperation Jackson58.


Cooperation Jackson is working to restore health to soil, souls, and society in MS through the practice of integrity – consistently working in alignment with commitments, values, and vision. When asked about how Cooperation Jackson has been achieving such success in the face of such oppressive obstacles Kali Akuno explains:

    One of the things that we always tell people is that what you’re witnessing over the past ten years in Jackson really is the accumulation of decades of groundwork that was laid, that took persistence, determination and perseverance, chipping away. Even when certain ideas weren’t popular. Even when certain oppositions were not popular. People sticking with it. Staying true. Staying committed. Being in the community in various ways. Organising political campaigns. Organising youth around arts and sports. These are all things that the organisation just remained grounded in since the early 1970s. That built up a floor of good will and a solid faith.59

With that floor of good faith, coupled with clear vision and shrewd political and economic strategies, Cooperation Jackson has already succeeded in acquiring more than 40 parcels of land in West Jackson for the Fannie Lou Hamer Community Land Trust (CLT).60 Plans for CLT stewardship include development of The Ewing Street Eco Village Coop Pilot Project, which will generate green housing, healthy food, and meaningful work for future residents. Drawing on the strengths of relationships and resource-networks within and outside of West Jackson, Cooperation Jackson is developing building plans that include energy and waste management infrastructures that will help the community effectively and efficiently use alternative sources of energy and eliminate waste in the future. Plans for the use of the land also include reserving spaces for local food production, including an aquaponic farming initiative.61 Building and fighting – consistently over time – Cooperation Jackson is forging the way for a just transition to a regenerative economy.

Image 5. Unleashing the regenerative capacity of the land through the Ewing Street Eco-Village. Source: N. Bagchee and Cooperation Jackson62.


Image 6. Fannie Lou Hamer Community Land Trust Land. Source: N. Bagchee and Cooperation Jackson.63

The story of Cooperation Jackson shows how (1) revolutionary people power moves at the speed of trust, and (2) working through the dynamic tension of the regenerative power triangle cultivates trust – trust in our capacity to choose wisely together (liberty), to honor our declared commitments through consistent action (integrity), and to create relationships of solidarity and mutual care with one another and the natural world (reciprocity). When we practice regenerative power persistently, we grow in confidence – in ourselves, each other, and the web-of-life – to grow and adapt in service of life. In so doing, we build our capacity to transform ourselves and heal the world.64

As our global community struggles to respond to conditions of precarity exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, it is time that we all look to Jackson, MS to draw some lessons towards building (r)evolutionary collective power in our own communities to support a just transition to a regenerative economy. Their community has more than 50 years of experience organizing in extreme white supremacist regimes, and they are in action, organizing in extreme times. As Sacajawea “Saki” Hall powerfully articulated on the May 1, 2020 – marking Cooperation Jackson’s sixth birthday, and a call to global action – their sustained struggle continues:

    We’ll dream, we’ll drum, we’ll pour libations to the ancestors and make offerings of mutual aid and protection to those with whom we share space and time in all times but especially those of existential crisis. … [W]e’ll put out an international call for a General Strike and lead the online organizing, reaching back into our own history of resistance to recall slave strikes of cotton pickers and incipient labor organizing of washer women in the Reconstruction Era.65

While Cooperation Jackson is deeply rooted in Mississippi and the United States, its vision – and sources of inspiration and collaboration – are tied to global struggles for liberation and rooted in principles of natural law. Life-giving freedoms are hard won, and too easily taken away. Progress depends on collective, intergenerational, intersectional, international work persistently performed over time, and through critical connections locally, regionally, and internationally.66

The global coronavirus pandemic and the Movement For Black Lives have disrupted “business as usual” in the U.S. and around the world. People are waking up. Writing in 1974 as part of the Black Power movement in Detroit, Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs observed “Man/woman is obviously at a threshold, a border, a frontier,” and called for a revolution in consciousness and systems structures to enable healing in marginalized communities, and the full web of life.
67 As we spring forward with 2020 vision, it is time to exercise our natural (r)evolutionary collective powers, drawing on our collective strengths to create a just transition to a regenerative economy.

1. Boggs, G. L. and Boggs, J. (1974). Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press.
2. For example, in 2020 record numbers of Americans (up to 26 million) took to the streets to protest in support of the Movement for Black Lives and more than 2.5 million people engaged virtually in the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, building on the unfinished work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967/68 Poor People’s Campaign to end systemic racism, poverty and extreme structural wealth inequities, the war economy, environmental destruction, and other injustices. See: Buchanan, L., Bui, Q. and Patel, J. K. (2020). Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History, The New York Times, 3 July. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests-crowd-size.html (Accessed: 9 October 2020); Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (no date). Repairers of the Breach. Available at: https://www.breachrepairers.org/poorpeoplescampaign (Accessed: 9 October 2020).
3. “Dream state” used here relates to the state of forgetting and denial named by Ta-Nehisi Coates which is deeply patterned in people who believe themselves to be white, living in varying states of power over black people and other people of color, who are usually oblivious to that privilege or how they got it. See: Coates, T.-N. (2015). Between the World and Me. 1 edition. New York: Spiegel & Grau.
4. For examples of definitions from social justice movement leaders calling for a just transition to a regenerative economy, see MG (2016). Just Transition Zine. Movement Generation, pp. 1–32. Available at: https://movementgeneration.org/justtransition/ (Accessed: 29 May 2020).; United Frontline Table (2020). A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy: Protect, Repair, Invest, and Transform. Detroit, MI. Available at: https://climatejusticealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ProtectRepairInvestTransformdoc24s.pdf.
For examples of definitions of regenerative development from environmental designers, planners, and social scientists, see Hes, D. and Plessis, C. du (2014). Designing for Hope: Pathways to Regenerative Sustainability. 1 Edition. New York: Routledge; Cole, R. J. (2012). Regenerative design and development: current theory and practice, Building Research and Information, 40(1), pp. 1–6. doi: 10.1080/09613218.2012.617516; Caniglia, B. S. et al. (2019). Regenerative Urban Development, Climate Change and the Common Good. Routledge.
For examples of definitions of regenerative economics from other environmental and economic thought leaders calling for a paradigm shift, see Fullerton, J. (2015). Regenerative Capitalism: How Universal Principles And Patterns Will Shape Our New Economy. Capital Institute. Available at: https://capitalinstitute.org/regenerative-capitalism/; Lovins, L. H. et al. (2018). A Finer Future: Creating an Economy in Service to Life. New edition. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers; Thackara, J. (2017). How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow’s World Today. Reprint edition. Thames & Hudson.
5. McMillon, D. (2020). Walmart’s Regenerative Approach: Going Beyond Sustainability, Corporate Walmart – US. Available at: https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2020/09/21/walmarts-regenerative-approach-going-beyond-sustainability (Accessed: 9 October 2020).
6. United for Respect also reports that Walmart is also the largest private/corporate employer of Black, Latinx, and women in the country. See: Whose Walmart? OUR Walmart. (no date) United for Respect. Available at: https://united4respect.org/campaigns/walmart/ (Accessed: 9 October 2020).
7. Greenwashing, as used here, refers to an environmental marketing campaign to persuade the public that its organizations’ products, aims, and policies are more ethical than they are, so that consumers will continue to purchase their good and services and build their profits.
8. Bloomberg.com (2020). Walmart reviews prison labor policy after civil unrest over race, 24 June. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-24/walmart-reviews-prison-labor-policy-after-civil-unrest-over-race (Accessed: 7 October 2020); Mattera, P. (2020) Wal-Mart: Corporate Rap Sheet, Corporate Research Project. Available at: https://www.corp-research.org/wal-mart (Accessed: 9 October 2020).
9. United Frontline Table represents a broad-based coalition. Their report emerged from dialogue among 64 organizations and 80 leaders working in solidarity on the frontlines of a just transition to a regenerative economy.
10. United Frontline Table (2020). A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy: Protect, Repair, Invest, and Transform. Detroit, MI.
11. So striking, it would be, that employees at Walmart joined others at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, Target, Shipt, and FedEx to walk off the job on May 1, 2020, demanding greater support during the coronavirus pandemic, including more protective equipment, hazard pay and paid sick leave. United For Respect created a tracking system for worker safety reports to support transparency and accountability. See: areyousafe.work
12. This is a reference to the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, whose founding members included Milton Friedman, Frederich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Karl Popper.
13. Queiroz, R. (2018). Individual liberty and the importance of the concept of the people’, Palgrave Communications, 4(1), pp. 1–12. doi: 10.1057/s41599-018-0151-3; Lovins, L. H. et al. (2018). A Finer Future: Creating an Economy in Service to Life. New edition. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers; Slobodian, Q. (2018). Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
14. Notably, the Doctrine of Discovery (~ 1100AD-present) is an explicit declaration of white supremacist entitlement that established a spiritual, political, and legal justification for colonization, enslavement, and seizure of land from indigenous stewards by white, European men pledging allegiance to Christian monarchs and their churches. This structured the foundation of the global economy. [See Newcomb, S. (1992). Five hundred years of injustice: The legacy of fifteenth century religious prejudice, shaman’s drum, pp. 18–20.] Although economic systems shifted from monarchies to capitalism governed by liberal democracies, they did not shift from foundations in a white supremacist world view that valorizes entitled greed. Moreover, neoliberalism is based on the dogmatic view that when individuals (and corporate bodies) act in their own self-interests, the invisible hand maximizes collective utility and generates financial wealth (the sole goal of the global economy). The model assumes that (1) human beings are selfish, (2) natural resources, power, and wealth are scarce, and therefore (3) economic systems must have winners and losers. It builds strength on divide and conquer strategies. [See Slobodian, Q. (2018). Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; Queiroz, R. (2018). Individual liberty and the importance of the concept of the people, Palgrave Communications, 4(1), pp. 1–12. doi: 10.1057/s41599-018-0151-3] 15. King, M. L. (1967). Beyond Vietnam: A Time to break the silence. Riverside Church, New York, NY, 4 April. Available at: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/beyond-vietnam (Accessed: 30 May 2020).
16. Meadows, D. H. et al. (1972). The Limits to Growth; a Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind. 2d. ed. New York: Universe Books.
17. Rockstrom, J. et al. (2009). Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity, Ecology and Society, 14(2), p. 32.; Steffen, W. et al. (2015). The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration, The Anthropocene Review, 2(1), pp. 81–98. doi: 10.1177/2053019614564785.
18. Cooperation Jackson (no date). Cooperation Jackson Home Page, Cooperation Jackson. Available at: https://cooperationjackson.org (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
19. Akuno, K. (2017). Build and Fight: The Program and Strategy of Cooperation Jackson, in Jackson Rising. Daraja Press. Available at: https://jacksonrising.pressbooks.com/chapter/build-and-fight-the-program-and-strategy-of-cooperation-jackson/ (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
20. While there is significant debate about when “humans became human,” Grace and Jimmy Bogg’s Clock of the world started 3,000 years ago with the advent of the human capacity to communicate via print. This long arc of human history helps put the past 500 years of white supremacist sickness within a larger evolutionary context. We use 70,000 years of human history as a target, reflecting debates presented here: Wilford, J. N. (2002). When humans became human (Published 2002). The New York Times, 26 February. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/26/science/when-humans-became-human.html (Accessed: 20 January 2021).
21. Boggs, G. L. and Davis, A. (2012). On revolution: A conversation between Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis. 27th Empowering Women of Color Conference, ‘A Holistic Approach: Justice, Access and Healing’, Pauley Ballroom, University of California, Berkeley, 20 February. Available at: https://www.radioproject.org/2012/02/grace-lee-boggs-berkeley/ (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
22. As she and Jimmy Boggs observed, “Nature and the universe existed before human beings, but the world in which we live has been created by the ideas, work, and deeds of human beings. Therefore, it can be changed by the ideas, the work, and the deeds of human beings.” See Boggs, G. L. and Boggs, J. (1974). Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, p. 14.
23. The word “integrity” comes from Old French integrité or meaning “soundness, wholeness, completeness.” See: Definition of INTEGRITY’ (no date). Merriam-Webster. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
24. We credit the term “Spaceship Earth” to Bucky Fuller, from his 1964 book, An Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, although the term was previously mentioned in Henry George’s, Progress and Poverty (1879). Henry George, a political economist whose concept of Spaceship Earth reflected a belief in the value of common land, advanced the belief that people should own the value they produce themselves, but that the economic value derived from land (including natural resources) should belong equally to all members of society. Scientific reflections on the longer history of the universe can be found in: Swimme, B. T. and Tucker, M. E. (2011). Journey of the Universe. Yale University Press.
25. Mithen, S. (1999). The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science. 1st Edition. London New York: Thames & Hudson.; Swimme, B. T. and Tucker, M. E. (2011). Journey of the Universe. Yale University Press.
26. Fuller, B. (1983). Only Integrity is Going to Count, The Buckminster Fuller Institute. Available at: https://www.bfi.org/about-fuller/resources/articles-transcripts/only-integrity-going-count (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
27. The dictionary defines “integrity” as “firm adherence to a code of …values” and notes that it “implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge.” It names a second meaning as “whole, complete.” In the Politics of Trauma, Staci Haines suggests that when we are able to align our actions with our freely chosen values and vision, we can all return to a state of wholeness, health and wellbeing. See: Definition of INTEGRITY’ (no date). Merriam-Webster. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity (Accessed: 8 October 2020).; Haines, S. (2019). The Politics of Trauma: Somatics, Healing, and Social Justice. Illustrated Edition. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.
28. Lorde, A. (2007). Uses of the erotic: The erotic as power (1978), in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press Feminist Series Edition. Ten Speed Press, pp. 54–55.
29. Lorde, A. (1980). The Cancer Journals. New York: Penguin Random House.
30. Kimmerer, R. W. (2014). Returning the Gift, Minding Nature: Center for Humans & Nature, 7.2. Available at: https://www.humansandnature.org/returning-the-gift (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
31. Kimmerer, R. W. (2015). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. First Paperback Edition. Minneapolis, Minn: Milkweed Editions, p. 173.
32. Ibid, p. 115.
33. The practice of reciprocity is also at the core of the longest functioning participatory democracy in North America, which also influenced the checks and balances structure of the United States’ Constitution. Reciprocity requires that we interrupt patterns in which one person or group takes more than their fair share. However, it also transcends simple checks and balances modes of balancing powers among individuals competing to dominate one another. For reflections on the principles and structures of Haudenosaunee (also known as Iroquois Confederacy) governances, see: Lyons, O. and Mohawk, J. (eds) (1998). Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations & the U.S. Constitution. Santa Fe: Clear Light; Akwesasne Notes (ed.) (2005). Basic Call to Consciousness. Summertown, Tenn: Native Voices; Walsh, E. (2018). remembering our way forward: Opportunities for a just transition to a regenerative economy, in. Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Buffalo, NY. Available at: shorturl.at/htIO5.
34. Cyndi Suarez centers the power of human beings to choose (after conscious consideration of alternatives) as the basis of her model of liberatory power. See: Suarez, C. (2018). The Power Manual: How to Master Complex Power Dynamics. Gabriola Island; Minneapolis: New Society Publishers.
35. Gandhi, M. (2000). The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, p.241.
36. For instance, Jan Smutz’s deep understanding and commitments to holism, reciprocity, and integrity supported him in living a life of vitality and purpose and developing the League of Nations, United Nations, and Commonwealth of Nations, as well as enabling the apartheid system in his home in South Africa. In an ecosystem, there are separate niches of equal importance, each needed for the flourishing and integrity of the whole system. A product of his environment, Smutz’ patriarchal, racist, colonial lens likely afforded him these sense that he and other officials knew best what essential gifts “others” had to contribute, where “others” should live, and what they were to do in service to the whole. An embodied commitment to liberty would have addressed his blind spot, allowing for greater freedom, power, and wellbeing. See: Smuts, J. C. (1926). Holism and evolution. Macmillan Company.
37. Makers (2012). Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Free to Be… You and Me… and a Feminist. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwkhV-q0V20 (Accessed: 9 October 2020).
38. Powell, John A. (2015). Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society. Reprint edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
39. As quoted in Bailie, G. (1995). Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. Crossroad, p. xv.
40. Thurman, H. (1989). The Luminous Darkness: A Personal Interpretation of the Anatomy of Segregation and the Ground of Hope. Friends United Press.
41. Williams, J. (2013). Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. Penguin.
42. The Declaration of Independence, as reproduced in: Allen, D. S. (2014). Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality. 1st edition. Liveright, p. 28. Please note that the punctuation of the Declaration of Independence cited by Allen differs from that posted online by the National Archives at: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript. Allen explains the punctuation inconsistencies and the reproduction error by the National Archives in p. 278-281 of Our Declaration.
43. Berger, D. (2018). “Free the Land!”: Fifty Years of the Republic of New Afrika, Black Perspectives | African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), 10 April. Available at: https://www.aaihs.org/free-the-land-fifty-years-of-the-republic-of-new-afrika/ (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
44. Lumumba, R. (2017). Foreword: All roads lead to Jackson, in Nangwaya, A. and Akuno, K. (eds) Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. Available at: https://jacksonrising.pressbooks.com/front-matter/realizing-self-determination/ (Accessed: 26 May 2020).
45. Nembhard, J. G. (no date). Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. Available at: http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-06216-7.html (Accessed: 11 November 2016).
46. Lumumba, R. (2017). Foreword: All roads lead to Jackson.
47. Ibid, p. xii.
48. Nangwaya, A. and Akuno, K. (2017). Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. Available at: https://darajapress.com/publication/jackson-rising-the-struggle-for-economic-democracy-and-self-determination-in-jackson-mississippi (Accessed: 26 May 2020).
49. Ibid.
50. Bernard, S. (2014). A green utopia deep in Mississippi? This guy has a game plan, Grist, 9 December. Available at: https://grist.org/cities/a-green-utopia-deep-in-mississippi-this-guy-has-a-game-plan/ (Accessed: 9 October 2020).
51. Akuno, K. (2012). The Jackson–Kush Plan: The Struggle for Black Self-Determination and Economic Democracy, p. 24.
52. Ibid.
53. Williams, E. and Walker, J. (2017). The challenge of building urban cooperatives in the South., in Jackson Rising. Daraja Press. Available at: https://jacksonrising.pressbooks.com/chapter/the-challenge-of-building-urban-cooperatives-in-the-south-2/ (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
54. Akuno, K. (2017). Build and Fight: The Program and Strategy of Cooperation Jackson.
55. Akuno, Kali and Systems Change Not Climate Change (2020). The path to ecosocialism and survival. Available at: https://cooperationjackson.org/blog/thepathtoecosocialismandsurvival (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
56. The practice of reciprocity also requires a willingness to disrupt relationships of extraction and exploitation, in which one party is taking more than their fair share. Practicing reciprocity is antithetical to neoliberal and white supremacist systems.
57. Akuno, K. (2017). Build and Fight: The Program and Strategy of Cooperation Jackson.
58. Ibid.
59. Hopkins, R. and Akuno, K. (2018).Kali Akuno on imagination and “The ways we can and must resist”. Available at: https://www.resilience.org/stories/2018-11-19/kali-akuno-on-imagination-and-the-ways-we-can-and-must-resist/ (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
60. Akuno, K. (2017). Build and Fight: The Program and Strategy of Cooperation Jackson.
61. Bagchee, N. and Cooperation Jackson (2019). Building a Transition City: The Ewing Street Eco-Village Coop Pilot Project. The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, CCNY, CUNY. Available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/431893329/Building-a-Transition-City-Landscape-Online-Version (Accessed: 31 May 2020).
62. Ibid, p. 1.
63. Ibid, p. 5.
64. Haines, S. (2019). The Politics of Trauma: Somatics, Healing, and Social Justice. Illustrated Edition. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.
65. Madeson, F. (2020).Young Black Missisippians join May Day protests for workers rights, COVID-19 protections, Scalawag, 6 May. Available at: https://scalawagmagazine.org/2020/05/cooperation-jackson-may-day/ (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
66. As Grace Lee Boggs explained “Changes in small places affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness. We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.” See: Boggs, G. L. (2007). Bill Moyers Journal: Seeds of Change. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/2007/06/seeds_of_change.html (Accessed: 30 October 2015).
67. Boggs, G. L. and Boggs, J. (1974). Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century. P 19.

We express thanks to Sacajawea Hall and Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson for their review of this article, and for the work they and their collaborators at Cooperation Jackson lead in our world. We also acknowledge the life of Elandria Williams whose work in cooperative economic development is referenced in this article, and who made her transition in the period in which it was written. May their memory and legacy of beautiful solutions be a blessing: Elandria Williams

Elizabeth Walsh is a community and regional planner, scholar-practitioner, and engaged neighbor. She facilitates collaborative research and action to advance a just transition to equitable, regenerative economies. While completing her masters and doctoral degrees in Community and Regional Planning at the University of Texas at Austin, Elizabeth collaborated with diverse leaders to co-create regenerative initiatives ranging from green and healthy housing to urban agriculture. As a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University at Buffalo and the University of Colorado at Denver her research and teaching focused on civic engagement, capacity-building, and collective action for climate justice and resilience. Currently at the University of Denver (DU), Walsh serves as program coordinator for the DU Grand Challenges Urban Sustainability Cohort, a collective committed to cultivating just, inclusive and thriving communities where people and nature flourish. Her current work focuses on reparative and regenerative approaches to advancing community-rooted health and wealth.

To learn more about the work of Cooperation Jackson and to participate in the global movement they support, please visit: cooperationjackson.org

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