SkyDragon Centre

What follows is an open letter from Kevin MacKay, Executive Director for Sky Dragon Community Development Cooperative, based in Hamilton Ontario. Please pass this along.

Hello Friends,

Well, this is the kind of message that’s never easy to send. We here at the Sky Dragon Community Development Cooperative have worked with many of you, entertained many of you, inspired and been inspired by many of you, and pissed off a good chunk of you as well. We don’t take the last point lightly, but in truth grassroots community development is a tough and gritty business, with inadequate resources, all-to-human protagonists, and intense pressures. Despite all this, in eight years of the Coop’s existence there’s been a lot accomplished, and also lots left undone.

The Coop, and the community space it has sustained, the Sky Dragon Centre, are under substantial threat right now. Our current mortgage-holder is no longer willing to finance the project, and we have until April 18th to find new financing to keep the centre open. At stake is a first mortgage in the building the Coop owns at 27 King William St.. A refinance deal for $260,000 is what’s needed to keep the centre open, and its clear that no traditional financial institution (bank, credit union) will lend us the money. In four years with our current financier we’ve never missed a mortgage payment. In truth though, we have also scraped by month to month, and have had periods where we’ve been in the red.

In the face of this existential threat, our little Coop and the community centre it supports need to evolve. The mud-puddle we’ve been swimming in is fast drying up, and its time to grow some feet and adapt to the changing circumstances.

In this sense, the Coop will change as well. The project has always been bigger than the individuals involved, and today this is more true than ever. What has been created is a unique animal – a centre that is open, radically inclusive of diversity, and yet explicitly committed to an agenda of peace, democracy, equality, human rights and political action/organizing. It was a broad and engaged community that forged the character of this space, and if it is to continue, it must continue as a radically open, transparent, and broadly-supported project. Always an agent of “the movement”, the Centre now needs to merge with it, fully and completely.

In order for this to happen, we need to find a way to Save the Dragon. This involves brave and committed citizens becoming investors. This involves even more brave and committed citizens becoming members of a re-structured Coop. We need these things, and unfortunately, we also need them fast.

For our part, it’s important to mention that the current Coop members aren’t flaky idealists who’ve bungled a good thing. On our board are very serious, hard-working people with a fair amount of skill and business sense (and horse-sense!). Without these qualities you don’t get a project like this off the ground and sustain it for five years in one of the worst economic climates in Canada. This board is still active, has great ideas, and is committed to shepherding the Coop through its transformation into a financially viable, yet truly community-owned organization. There is real value in the ethical businesses the Coop has incubated. There is real value in the building we own. With your help, this value, and the collected progressive energy it represents, will not be squandered.

And so, we embark now on a community campaign that I hope you can participate in, even if in a small way. To start, there will be a meeting at the Sky Dragon Centre this Sunday, March 14, at 7:30 pm. At this meeting there will be a 100% frank and open discussion of the Centre’s predicament, and an equally frank and open exchange of ideas, strategies, criticisms, etc. Everyone is welcome to attend, and all ideas are needed.

Of course, a meeting this Sunday is very short notice, so there will be a much larger “town hall”meeting in the next few weeks. The date and time of the town hall will be announced first thing next week, and again, it will be a completely open session for all who want to attend.

How you can help right now is to forward this message as far and wide as you can, with apologies in advance for cross-postings.

On behalf of the board of the Sky Dragon Co-op, thank you all for your interest and support. We’ve played our part in bringing the project to this point, now its up to all of us to take it to the next level…

Kevin MacKay, Executive Director