You may have noticed a few new faces and names coming from NEC over the last few months as we added four new staff members to our team. Shauvan Evans and Araz Hachadourian joined shortly before CommonBound as network organizer and communications coordinator (respectively). Tori Kuper kicked-ass as CommonBound’s Buffalo Coordinator before joining the team permanently as operations coordinator. Our newest staff member, Natalia Linares, joined us in the role of communications manager just last month. By way of introduction, we asked them a few questions about their work, how they came to NEC, and their hopes for the future.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Shavaun Evans: I’m a native of Louisville, KY. I came to NEC after working on food and farm issues for a little over eight years, starting out as an organizer for a TN-based community food systems organization, then moving to DC to work for an advocacy coalition focused on sustainable agriculture federal policy. Since moving back to Louisville in 2013, I’ve been active with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth as their volunteer Publicity Coordinator and a member of their Economic Justice Team.
Araz Hachadourian: I’m originally from Los Angeles but for the past few years I’ve jumped around from San Francisco, to New York, to Seattle, going to school and interning in a few different newsrooms. I joined NEC as communications coordinator in June after a year at YES! Magazine where I reported on the New Economy beat and worked with the social media team.
Natalia Linares: I'm a Colombian & Cuban-American New Yorker from Staten Island aka Shaolin, but have spent considerable time in Northern and Southern California. I have over a decade of experience as an cultural organizer, artist advocate, and publicist working to amplify voices from traditionally invisiblized, exploited and mis/underrepresented communities. Experiencing first-hand the extractive toxicity of the modern "music business" - and the media landscape which supports it - inspired a deep-seeded passion for equity, economic justice and democracy. In 2010, I founded conrazón, an artist & creator development agency invested in new paradigms for a hyper-connected, heart-centered generation.
Tori Kuper: I'm proud to be based in Buffalo, the “City of Good Neighbors” and home to lots of creative economic innovation. I've been rooted in the cooperative movement for about 10 years. I have lived in, and still serve on the board of Nickel City Housing Cooperative, founded a worker cooperative called BreadHive, and am now launching a worker cooperative development center called Cooperation Buffalo. I am excited to connect local projects and movements to the growing number of national networks that are strengthening and accelerating change.
What lead you to new economy work?
Shavaun: My friends and I talk a lot about what we want to see changed in Louisville: real community ownership of land and property, a city budget process that is centered around the needs of the people that live here... As I began to dig into the work of NEC, I realized how much of a resource NEC is to the kind of work we were constantly discussing. The opportunity to be in a professional role that was connected to the advocacy work I do off the clock was something I couldn’t pass up.
Araz: I’ve always had an interest in economics and social justice, but as a reporter that mostly translated into talking about the failings of policy and politicians. I was drawn to the work communities were doing to build better systems for themselves: things like co-ops, land trusts, and alternative forms finance. As I dug into it, I learned that this kind of work is going on pretty much everywhere, it’s just left out of the mainstream narrative and I saw this role as an opportunity to help change that.
Natalia: The work I had been doing in the arts, media and culture field led me here. As a collective member of Sol Collective in Sacramento, CA - a center dedicated to arts, culture & activism - it became a mission to explore the role which fearless art, media interventions and platform co-ops could play in building not only a new economy, but a new culture. The trauma our Staten Island community experienced in 2014 after the horrific Eric Garner murder went viral also planted a seed about what sorts of economic alternatives could be cultivated in the oft-forgotten places of the world. Finally, conversations with my partner who studies Economics inspired new imaginations of how I could contribute to the New Economy movement given all I'd seen and been a part of building.
Tori: As the daughter of a refugee and immigrant, I’ve seen through my family’s eyes how global systems of oppression and exploitation operate. In my own life, one that is filled with a good amount of privilege and all the “right choices.” I’ve struggled with huge student loan debt, lack of access to healthcare, and precarious and stressful employment situations. As a parent, I wonder everyday if the food my son eats, the air he breaths or the dirt he plays in contains poisonous chemicals... all of this stems from the exploitive capitalist values of old extractive system -- a system which is working for very few of us. I see people all around me waking up. Our social, political and economic movements are gaining strength and momentum as we come together to build a better alternative that works for all of us….I’m invested in New Economy work because it makes me feel a sense of agency and capacity for change -- because I think it’s the most important thing I can do with my lifetime.
If you weren’t doing this kind of work, what would you be doing?
Shavaun: I would likely be working on policy, or doing something focused on the community-building efforts happening in Louisville. If I could follow my dreams though, I’d be a dancer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre!
Araz: I’d probably be working in the journalism business with a side-hustle writing horror stories.
Natalia: I truly see this next chapter as destined and couldn't see myself doing anything else - except for becoming a trapeze artist, or possibly a small-scale organic legal cannabis farmer.
Tori: If I wasn’t doing this work, I probably would have joined a traveling circus a long time ago. My background is in performance and culture-making and I spent years traveling and gaining professional training in clowning, mime, stage combat, and subversive physical theater. Unfortunately, that work didn’t pay so great and those student loans didn’t pay themselves, so I put down my fire staff and picked up a rolling pin and started a worker cooperative bakery in the hopes of taking my economic future into my own hands. That got me really passionate about new economy work, which has brought me here today. I do hope life leads me back to the circus someday.
What do you wish you had more time for?
Shavaun: Exploring Kentucky. The fall in Kentucky is especially beautiful – I wish I had a bit more time to travel and explore the state from end to end.
Natalia: I wish I had more time to explore my own creativity as someone who is always thinking so creatively of how to amplify the work of creatives, haha! Deep down inside, I'm a dancer who wants to find more time to shake the bones and fear from within, out!
Araz: I have a long, long list of things I want to learn-- like videography and gif making. I’d put a dent in that.
Do you have a secret superpower?
Shavaun: I’d be a natural, harm-free mosquito repellent. I’d just walk into a space and mosquitoes would bounce off everyone and stop biting.
What music have you been listening to lately?
Natalia: I've been listening to Xenia Rubinos' album 'Black Terry Cat,' fierce rapper Nani Castle and Queer indigenous lyricist, Dio Ganhdih. You can follow my Soundcloud for stuff I'm listening to in the moment: www.soundcloud.com/naticonrazon
Araz: I've been on an Emily King kick lately. She just has a great style and is my go-to when I'm in a music rut.
What was your best/worst/strangest job experience?
Natalia: In a past life, I had to project manage a terrible 'experiential marketing' campaign for a huge bank on the streets of Downtown Manhattan. The bank essentially gave free lunch for a week from the "coolest" food trucks of the moment in exchange for collecting customer information on iPads - except it was pouring cold rain the entire campaign deep in the catacomb$ of New York City. I remember it as a personal hell. Thankfully, I'm still in touch with some of the young people I had to endure the experience with and they are following their passions beyond the food trucks!
Tori: My best/worst/strangest job experience was a gig I picked up from a friend in New York. She worked in the entertainment industry and got me a production gig helping manage the “Simpsonization of Manhattan” when The Simpson’s Movie went to DVD...During the press conference, my best friend who was dressed as Marge had a panic attack and I had to pull her into a boiler room to get her quickly out of costume. There was no way she was putting that costume back on so I climbed in instead. I was dressed as Marge with a 3ft beehive, a Maggie puppet on my hand, and about 3 feet of visibility through my mask. Suddenly I was in a room with all of the actual actors from the Simpsons. I couldn’t see their faces, but I could hear their distinctive voices and see their shoes. There were some really fancy shoes in that room. It was kind of surreal. I was literally living inside of the Simpsons.