Black President by Rick Schmidt

As BLACK PRESIDENT begins to be distributed in UK and other countries I’ve been wondering how the financial breakdown of US markets and elsewhere will affect young people and their efforts to live, work, save money (if they can!) for the FUTURE.  I have a son getting ready to enter the workforce after college graduation in December and have to wonder how he’ll afford anything in this inflationary economy.  In the good old days (say the 1990s) people could almost expect to find a job and cheap apartment somewhere, even grow their money, but now it’s more like a crap shoot.  And even when college grads band together to rent, they’re lucky to find something where each person’s portion is under $700/month in places like the San Francisco/Bay Area!


Feels like there will soon be a movement of some kind toward a new kind of communal living by students, college graduates or otherwise, where people group themselves together to survive the coming economic rollercoasters.  Since students form relationships when they co-habit in rentals/dorms during college, groups of 3-4 young men w/significant others, many may pool their resources after graduating.  That would mean they could (1) rent a house with multiple bedrooms, (2) buy food collectively, (3) have a couple communal vehicles.  Anyway, it looks like the beginning of a communal movement to me!


A while back I bought a lovely and fascinating painting from 1947 that was entitled ‘A Journey to New Harmony.’ 

 At first I thought that was just a beautiful & lyrical title of an interesting folk art piece.  But after researching the name on the internet I discovered that the images were some kind of rendering about a commune in an actual place called New Harmony, fantasiful images that represented the various building and practices of the original settlers.  The Harmony Society was a Christian group that came from Germany in 1803 and bought and built on 3000 acres (see ).  Being non-violent pacificists, they refused to engage in military service.  They moved to Indiana in 1814, and again in 1824, that time to Economy, Pennsylvania.


 Some might be interested in learning that the New Harmony commune represented in my painting (1) had about 1000 individuals, (2) built houses and a factory, (3) raised crops and livestock, (4) spun cotton and weaved cloth/made clothes/shoes, etc, (5) traded cloth and other products for income from surrounding communities, (6) built schools and taught their children, (7) had a source of fresh water, all in all, created a completely independent and self-sufficient entity for themselves.  Their small community supported its needs with these various operations:






oil company

Savings institution

Clothing factory




Aside from the more bizarre religious practices of the New Harmony commune (reliance on celibacy DURING marriage – population began to shrink and the new harmonists hiring outsiders for their factories…), some aspects of this living setup seems attractive.  It would be refreshing to not have to watch money leak out of the bank account each month for rent and incidentals, be in more of a BARTER system where adequate housing was a given, affordable food available (my turn in the garden…) even with an ever-inflating market. I like the logic of a close-knit group of artists and artisans living together (with separate studios of course, good space between houses), in a less hectic and less-costly environment.


With governments and other unstabile entities trying to run things – the value of money being so unpredictible now – I ask myself where is all this leading.  Any emergency, natural and otherwise, could cause food and gas shortages (the food we buy at supermarkets is often transported from many miles away…), and could also cut electricity and water supplies. Maybe a communal approach, a settlement with it’s own electrical system (solar and wind), food and fresh water supply, is the future ticket. (Is anyone else wondering about all this??).






2 Responses to “Black President by Rick Schmidt”

  1. Gisela Hoyle Says:

    Have repeately wondered about it – and have several friends, family members and acquaintances who have looked into the possibilities quite extensively. The irony is: initially setting up a commune is prohibitively expensive! Not a reason to give up on the idea, though . . .

  2. Rick Schmidt Says:

    Hi Gisela,
    Thanks for thoughts on communal living. The only first-hand knowledge of communal life happened when I was hitchhiking up the US West Coast in late 1960s and got a ride that brought me to a secret location (near Grant’s Pass, Oregon) of a major commune. They inadvertantly offered me a small plot of land and the logs to cut and Lincoln-log into a small cabin. They said they had a doctor and MFA in busines on the premises, and I saw they had constructed a VERY impressive large log cabin lodge and created an expansive organic garden. The driver told me that there were no jobs per se, just that people only did ‘what their spirit moved them to do.’ They survived with 5 gallon canisters of food — peanut butter, etc. — brought by welfare workers when they had had a hard winter the year before. In other words, they made it up as they went along, and tried to recruit new members when they happened along. Always wondered at the fate of that 30+ member group! Now wondering what a ‘new millennium’ version of that commune would resemble, either in UK or upper West Coast US

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