REC Goes to North Carolina Divestment Convening & Launching of New Responsible Endowment Fund
On October 1st, Natalie Casal and I went to Greensboro, North Carolina for a North Carolina Convening for Divestment and Reinvestment. The event was a gathering of students, alumni, parents, and community members from Guilford College and around North Carolina to discuss the importance of “divesting resources away from systems of oppression and investing in solutions that will bring about true liberation.” This convening was also the first official event to announce the launch of the Fund for a Responsible Guilford, an exciting Responsible Endowments Fund between organizers at Guilford College and REC.
The students and alumni at Guilford College who organized the event really put together a superb program. The day was full of participatory workshops, panels, delicious food, and good conversation. The first item of the day was a panel that we shared with powerful people: Marnie, the Managing Director of the Fund for Democratic Communities; Elandria, the co-coordinator of the Education Team at the Highlander Research and Education Center and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Knoxville; and Holden, a communications fellow with Ignite NC. We discussed opportunities and challenges that we saw within the divestment and reinvestment movement, and U.S. political movement organizing in general. I was struck by the candor and honesty that the space allowed for. Elandria directly discussed what she saw as the difficulty of movement spaces to unite and see past each other’s differences in tactics in order to advance everyone’s agendas together. Natalie and I discussed the purpose of knowing terms of the financial world -- political education and being able to navigate the conditions of the corporatized university and financialized, neoliberal system. We openly discussed the fact that understanding investment and finance was a tool in the larger fight against systematic oppression, but not an end in itself.
The panel emphasized the importance of solidarity and not staying confined to your issue or sector. Towards the end of the panel, Samir Hazboun - an alum of Guilford College and one of the core organizers of the event - announced the new Fund for a Responsible Guilford College, launched by the Guilfordians for Justice Coalition. Housed by REC, this new Fund is the first of its kind to demand divestment from private prisons and the occupation of Palestine as well as divestment from the fossil fuel industry. Before this fund, all of the Responsible Endowment Funds that we had started were only for fossil fuel divestment campaigns. The essence of the fund is to receive donations from supportive alumni, parents, students, and community members to demand that Guilford successfully commit to freezing any new investments in fossil fuel companies*, the prison industrial complex**, and the occupation of Palestine*** as well as set up a Divest/Reinvest committee made up of community members and campus stakeholders. If Guilford fails to do this, the funds raised will go to community organizations in North Carolina.
In an official statement of Guilfordians for Justice Coalition, the group explained why the Fund for a Responsible Guilford is important to them.
We all hold Guilford and its core values near and dear to our heart, and thus we struggled with finding a way to both give back to the place that helped shape us while still standing for those values which are not currently reflected in our institutions investments in systems of racism. We are excited to provide a solution that will allow for community members to show their financial support for a place that means so much to and also send a powerful message about the importance of remaining committed to fighting for social justice.
During my short time in North Carolina, I was thoroughly impressed by the commitment that the students, alums, and parents had at the convening to transformative system change and to a comprehensive take on divestment and reinvestment. This sentiment was clear in the workshops that followed the panel which ranged from topics on the prison industrial complex, Palestinian occupation, reinvesting in communities in the South, and understanding the ins and outs of university endowments. We at REC are extremely proud to support this promising and growing campaign and movement at Guilford College.
*200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies as outlined by “The Carbon Underground 200” Project on the day that Guilford College commits to divest
**Using the main companies provided by the American Friends Service Committee screen for the prison industry http://investigate.afsc.org/screens/prisons
***Using the main companies provided by the American Friends Service Committee screens for the occupation and military aspects of the Palestinian occupation: http://investigate.afsc.org/screens/occupation and http://investigate.afsc.org/screens/military