On March 12, 2009, Highlander staff member Susan Williams travelled to Asheville, NC, to facilitate a class on globalization. The class, held in a multi-racial neighborhood, was the second in a series of gatherings to talk about the economy. Participants included Ukrainians, Latin Americans, and African Americans, requiring three-way interpretation in Russian, Spanish, and English.
The group talked about globalization by exploring examples from their own experiences. During the discussion for example, participants looked at the labels in their shirts and talked about how the textile and apparel plants used to be such an important industry in North Carolina. One woman had even worked at one of these plants years ago before it closed and moved. Participants also talked about what’s happening to people they know – lots of reduced hours, some lay-offs, a family who had moved to the apartment from a three-bedroom home because they couldn’t afford it – and connected this with what is happening in the economy.
Finally, the group talked about what could be done – including planting a potato garden in the neighborhood, developing more relationships so that people would smile and wave at one another, and sharing information about jobs. They also talked about socialism, and one woman mentioned that she had 1-1/2 years of support in Russia when she had her baby. “You know,” she said, “socialism wasn’t all bad!”
The class was organized by staff from two western North Carolina groups that have participated in Highlander programs: Just Econmics, which attended the Solidarity Economy meeting at Highlander in 2008, and Nuestro Centro, which is participating in the THREADS multi-racial organizing and leadership development institute. Altogether, it was an amazing experience – and a good reminder of how much a group of people know if you let them talk.