Friday, March 11, 2011

The Story of a Housewife That Started an Epic Facebook Page

Three weeks ago yesterday I started the facebook page Take Back Urban Home-steading(s).  The day started out pretty much like any other day, then events both on the web and in my life began to take unexpected and surprising turns.  Some of it's a blur to me, but to my best recollection this page was started the day my uncle Phil passed away.  Two days prior another person had passed away in our family, Moochie, the grandmother figure to our family.  Just as we were starting to recover from her death the unexpected and tragic death of my uncle Phil hit us sending us reeling into further shock and grief.  Two deaths in two days seems unimaginable, but it happened, and we continue to work through the shock, disbelief and grief.  Whether it was a way to deal with my grief, a distraction, or merely coincidence, this page came into being.

That day as I went through my usual facebook routine I came across a post by the Dervaes family which read, "We're getting death threats now."  I quickly went to their page to investigate what was going on.  People were asking questions left and right, and no answers were being given.  Then Deanna Duke of  The Crunchy Chicken  posted a link to her blog post:  Urban Homesteader's Cease and Desist.  It turns out that the Dervaes family of "The Path to Freedom" had trademarked the words "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading."  The urban homesteading community was outraged, putting it mildly.  We began to express our anger and frustration about what they had done, one thing led to another, and I knew I had to do something.  "What if we started our own facebook page to take our words back?" I posted.  People were in full support, so I did it.  I knew I couldn't use the words urban homestead or urban homesteading because several pages had been pulled with these words including the Denver Urban Homesteading and an Oakland bay area group called the Institute of Urban Homesteading who wrote the book Urban Homesteading, (whos publishers have also been sent informal cease and desist letters from the Dervaes.)  Those college grammar classes finally came in handy and I threw a dash into the word homestead and added an "s" in parenthesis at the end.  Then I went back to the Dervaes page to share the link but the page had disappeared.  I panicked thinking we had lost our chance.  I remembered some of the names of the people I had been chatting with luckily, Deanna being one of them. I quickly friended them, sent them a link to our page "Take Back Urban Home-steading(s)", and the rest is history.  Deanna put our link on her blog, (thank you Deanna!), and people began to spread our page like wild fire all over facebook.  "I'll send your link to my 1000 fans" one guy said, and others made similar comments.  Within 24 hours we had 2000 likes and counting, and we had started a twitter account that was tweeting away, (thank you Michele!)  Before we knew it we were on Boing Boing, OC Weekly, LA Weekly, Blogher, and numerous blogs and on line news sources.

My friend and fellow urban homestead blogger and reporter Melody Stone of  It's All Happening contacted me and said, "April, this is truly epic!"  Her husband Luke was actually the person who submitted our page to Boing Boing, which has statistically brought the most traffic to our page.  "The internet has turned on these people and created a movement", (paraphrased), they told me.  "So what do I do now?"  I asked, completely clueless as to what an internet movement was, or even how this had happened.  "I just started a page though!" I said.  Melody's advice was to let it do its thing and sit back and watch.  So that's what I've been doing for the past three weeks and as we near 6000 likes I continue to be astounded and proud to be part of such a thriving, giving, organic and impassioned community.

Recently the Dervaes have accused our movement of "spreading false reports that have led to a smear campaign against members of our family."  This is from their web site, and I won't post a link to increase their page hits.  If you really want to see it go to their Path to Freedom site and it's there.  They have also accused bloggers of false reporting.  Let's set the record straight once and for all.  It all started when the Dervaes sent out informal cease and desist letters to bloggers, specifically the Urban Homestead Experiment, publishers of homesteading books including: Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume, and The Urban Homestead - Your Guide to Self Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, public libraries, and web sites including Denver Urban Homesteading.  They also had facebook shut down pages which included the terms in them, including the Denver Urban Homesteading who relied on the page for their business, The Urban Homestead Experiment, and The New Institute of Urban Homesteading, which is an educational project, with NO notice whatsoever.  They're claiming that they are the ones who have coined modern urban homesteading.  Urban homesteading ideals have actually been published by Mother Earth News in the articles: "The Integral Urban House (1976) and Live Country in the City (1979) and books on urban homesteading were also published in various books prior to the turn of the century.  The idea has been around a long time and the Dervaes didn't invent it.  They are attempting to trademark a lifestyle, one which abhors commercialism in any sense, and one which won't back down until we re-gain the words that define who we are.

I've been blogging for several years now and was planning to start my own urban homesteading blog right around the time this controversy started up.  I think it's the main reason I created the page;  what the Dervaes has done directly affects me and my right to free speech.  Now they claim that it's ok for bloggers to use the term, (thanks for the permission), but haven't rescinded the letters they sent or restored the facebook pages they had pulled.  So how are we fighting back?  The Electronic Frontier Foundation decided to take up the case for Process Media, the publishers for The Urban Homestead due to the huge outcry from the urban homesteading community.  We're raising funds via our page to help the Denver Urban Homesteading file a petition to cancel the trademarks.  We started an online petition to cancel the trademarks, and have had several action days in which we use the words and spread information about our cause, first through a blogging day of action and last week through a Youtube day of action.

Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) has become far more than an urban homesteaders activism hub through all of this.  Despite the battle we face we have become a cohesive organic community for urban and suburban homesteaders and we share advice, encourage one another, provide resources and networking, share blogs, and create a positive venue for people to share free information with one another.  We refuse to be trademarked by two words and we continue to spread the truth in an ethical non biased way.  We are not a smear campaign, and we are willing to take a hard look at what who we are and what we represent.  I am proud of this community who has banned together and created a thriving hopeful community.  We live in the land of opportunity, and when we saw our community being threatened we stood up and took action.  Go urban homesteaders!  

18 comments:

  1. great post, and thanks for the shout out. You're doing such a great job keeping tabs on that page!

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  2. Thank you for leading this support so that we all may retain our right to free speech in our daily urban homesteading lives. We are Urban Homesteaders and will never let them choose our words for us!

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  3. You're awesome. Thanks for starting this and connecting everyone.

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  4. Thank you for taking the time, putting forth the effort, and having the courage to stand up for what you believe in!!

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  5. I love the page, April! Thank you, thank you, thank you for starting it. I would for one would have been completely lost without it.

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  6. great post and yes, thank you for connecting everyone, out of the bad comes some good.. :D

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  7. Great post!! And I love your family photos/descriptions on the side!!! You have a beautiful family! Keep up the awesome work! I don't even know how I came upon the FB page, it was a fluke, but I'm so glad I found it!! Yay for urban homesteading!

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  8. Good for you! Let us all be as active when things matter to us!

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  9. I just love Urban Homesteading! And I have since I was a wee child! and my father before me! Thank you for this fine site on this age old Urban Homesteading way of life!!

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  10. Shame on the Dervaes' for selling out something we thought they believed in. I used to follow them on Twitter and Facebook, but now I've removed my twitter follow and Facebook "like" status.

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  11. Thanks for getting the word out!

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  12. Thanks everyone for the comments and support!

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  13. Thank you for unveiling the intentions. We all are working to make our world better. One urban homestead at a time.

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  14. Very nice update about motives and responsibilities - keep it up!

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  15. I can't believe that I stumbled across your blog! I joined the Facebook page a while ago and when I realized I was reading the blog of the person that started the Take Back Urban Homesteading, I was thrilled! Thank you so much for doing all you are doing!

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  16. You're welcome Darlene! Glad you found my blog. :) Happy urban homesteading.

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