Play the Greed: A Starter’s Guide to Divestment, Boycott & Local Investment



The term divestment became clear to me last fall when I realized that meaningful support for Standing Rock would come by way of dollars, lawyers, and protests rather than memes and tweets and t-shirts. In these moments of demonstration, not only did bodies move from one space where they were expected to be, but they occupied another space creating a barrier to proceed with construction, while generating public attention. These effectual bodies refused to move until a specific request was granted. They weren’t just voicing a complaint. They had exacted a specific demand in conjunction with their physical presence. Meanwhile, noDAPL and noKXL organizations called for divestment from the 17 major banks funding the construction.

I heard the term divestment used again during a walk-out at Columbia University when students gathered to call for a Sanctuary Campus before DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) could be repealed under the new administration. During this particular event, students once again called for divestment, this time requesting that CU divest from organizations funding private prison initiatives that could incite racial profiling. Similar walk-outs have taken place nationwide as students have called for their University Presidents to recommend divestment from organizations supporting the use of fossil fuels. In these instances, the customer, in which the organization is in service to, petition the organization to withdraw their dollars and support.


Similar lines of movement have taken place throughout the past week as Apple, Starbucks, Netflix (and even the Pope), have taken the lead in representing their multi-million dollar organizations as those not in favor of the recent Muslim Ban. This quickly prompted a #starbucksban on behalf of many conservatives who felt Starbucks was #virtuesignaling to a certain demographic that would “drink up” their support. In this case, we’re talking about boycotting, where we spend  in places that support our ideals if we can. As noted, the movement of loyalty is followed by dollars in a seemingly complex market of class politics.

With that in mind, the idea of boycott, strike and divestment far precedes today’s neo-bourgeoisie tactics, dating back in recorded history to the early 1800s.  The root rationale of these tactics bow to the concept of raising awareness, economic protest and ethical consumerism, but cross paths with the concepts of non-violent action. One notable example of this is  Gandhi’s resistance against British tax laws upon salt. (And there’s far more to be garnered from Gandhi’s example that I will save for another blog.) Another more contemporary example took place during the Obama Administration when the 2011 Occupy Wall Street Movement sought to petition big business for a “redress of grievances”. OWS may have seasoned the pan for our recent political theater and certainly pulled upon the threads of the First Amendment as we are once again doing now.



While the call for large-scale divestment seems to be gaining steam again through the petitioning of large corporations, individuals & households are also making ethical choices around the investment of their dollars. Simultaneously, families and corporations are funding organizations that promote their political preferences. (And apparently the yarn industry is thrilled.) We saw this happen in the sudden surge of ACLU donations that swelled up over the past week. We’ve also experienced outgrowths of this mentality in more steady and amenable forms of “civil disobedience” such as #ShopLocal over the past decade. In these ways, we seek to reorganize our human capital by withdrawing or exerting our labor, wealth and social endorsements, each carrying a lot of clout.

As I continue to survey my community in asking what they think about divestment, boycott, and most recently strike, I raise the question: Could these particular motions provide the leverage needed to incite some of the changes we seek within the existing structure? I don’t know the full answer or suggest that these are imminent solutions, but rather recognize that they are movements. Some could create quick knee-jerk reactions within the macro environment as with Starbucks, while others may slowly erode the frame. At the very least, perhaps it alleviates some of our fears by enacting choice rather than complacency, but I’m not certain that is enough. These economic actions should run in tandem with several others that help move the ball; speaking up within difficult contexts rather than echo chambers, protesting alongside communities who have requested a call to action, voting & petitioning, modeling civil discourse, perspective taking on many sides of an issue, gathering in person to talk, and supporting existing movements and organizations, particularly those run by people  of Color, who are well-versed in navigating the maps of marginalization and pressures of government obstruction. At the same time, part of the action we must face is rolling up our sleeves to embrace the discomfort, the pains from the birth of consciousness, and the consequences of false security that we’ve leaned back on for too long. Freedom is always contingent… and there are many who have lived in this “new reality” as their existing reality, well before we got our feathers in a twist about “45”. But I digress…


In consideration of these issues, I’ve been biting my nails over where to spend my money and which bank would be the most ethical to work with, as I seek to avoid supporting DAPL while also supporting communities like Flint. So, I’ve been reaching out to folks to gather resources and information about divestment and boycott. I realize I have the privilege of choosing where and how I would like my dollars to go, (while at the same time feeling they may not add up to much in the face of the billionaires we’re up against). I definitely feel my hands are tied in that I am still reliant to get to work by car. I want to urge big business and lawmakers to expand the existing technology that would allow for electric cars, as well as wind and solar farms,and this should be part of the long game for all of us.  That being said, I want to believe that any changes, even the smallest ones, will generate ripples of impact. Offered here  is a small list to contribute to the growing dialog on divestment, boycott and strike. I am happy to add additional items as people send them along.

I credit my dear friend Dar Williams  for the title of this blog and for opening my eyes to a deeper understanding of this concept through the lyrics of her song, Play the Greed . The song was included as part of a 2012 complication inspired by the Occupy Wall Street Movement called Occupy this Album. Dar’s commitment to acting local is part of the continuing “Think globally, Act locally” (Geddes, 1915) legacy of Pete Seeger and the Hudson River community where she resides. Dar’s work, and those of performers and artists like her, represent the embodiment of grassroots activism thriving in America today. I am hopeful that we can feed the existing cells of independent media and the arts, non-profit human rights and environmental organizations in our community, while at the same time urging the big players to withdraw large swaths of capital from agendas that seek to exclude, harm, or exploit the environment and its people. (Meanwhile, I am eager to hear of ways we can contribute to the need for jobs for those hit by the challenges of our economy.) Let me know what you think! -jd

THE LIST OF ACTIONS- (Please email us to contribute)


National Prison Divestment Campaign

Contact the 17 Banks Supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline  urging them to divest & also boycott their Business #bankexit (*The significant argument here is that pipelines and their corresponding businesses provide jobs, so this works against the overall push from millions of Americans in need of jobs. We may need to urge our government for the enhancement of jobs in additional industries in consideration of the context.)

Unlock Your Pension – Find out if your pension is invested in private funding of prisons and other institutions.


#deleteuber -Uber tried to break a strike this week and their CEO collaborated with the trump regime. They also implemented a price surge during the airport protests over the weekend.

Sleeping Giants– Direct action on Breitbart advertising through twitter. Companies generally don’t realize they’re advertising on Breitbart. Sleeping Giants helps companies bar Breitbart from ad buys.

Democratic Coalition – Boycott Tr*mp App

STARBUCKS IS ON THE FENCE- #boycott Starbucks was launched by conservatives after the CEO promised 10,000 jobs to incoming workers, while Mexico has called for a boycott of all U.S. business currently operating in S. America, particularly McDonalds, Walmart, & Coca-Cola

GRAB YOUR WALLET – The up to date list of companies that sell “45” brands.


Help for Flint – Supports Red Cross, United Way and water filters and donations

Choose an Ethical Bank: MOVE YOUR MONEY  (UK) MOVE YOUR MONEY (US)

72 Financial Institutions Scorecard 

9 Ethical Shopping Apps and Plug-Ins 

Ethical Buyers Guide- Find a rating atributed to each busines

Ethical Shopping Index 

Pay for Lawyers- The noDAPL protesters are requesting legal support, as well as the folks recently impacted by the Muslimban.

Consider funding Independent Media sources such as THIS to help First Amendment stay in tact.

Look for independent artists and  musicians in your area, such as Junk Fed, who are donating their time and talent and proceeds to fund raisers and organizations, such as the IRIS Benefit Concert.

Independent donations to PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, Planned Parenthood and organizations such as the ACLU will help to counter the call for divestment from alt-right. This will truly be a war of dollars. Meanwhile, We may be moving toward a new example of economy…Thoughts?



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