Update: On Tuesday morning, Buy Nothing co-founder Liesl Clark indicated via a post on Facebook that her organization would be willing to remove itself from the Buy Nothing Jamaica Plain page if a local admin agrees to take control.
A popular Facebook page that enabled Jamaica Plain residents to gift and receive free items and had grown to more than 4,500 members was effectively shut down Sunday afternoon following several days of online protests that spilled over into other JP online groups and IRL conversations around the neighborhood.
Last Wednesday, a longtime local administrator of the Buy Nothing Jamaica Plain Facebook page -- affectionately known as BNJP -- posted that the group would imminently "sprout" to comply with Buy Nothing rules. The Buy Nothing project, which was founded in Washington state in 2013, informs groups they must sprout along geographic boundaries when they reach 1,000 members in order to keep the sharing groups hyper-local.
Sprouting would mean Moss Hill, Egleston Square, Forest Hills and other JP neighborhoods would have their own local pages.
This was not the first time sprouting had been discussed in the JP group, and many members were once again swift to decry the move, stating that dividing the neighborhood by geographic boundaries would most likely segment JP by racial and socioeconomic lines, among other concerns, and noting that JP's small geographic area meant neighbors were in fact sharing items with each other. The co-founder of the Buy Nothing project, Liesl Clark, joined the discussion, and conversations with several members quickly turned heated.
By the end of the day, all four local JPBN administrators had resigned from the group, replaced with Buy Nothing administrators from outside JP and one new local administrator. In their goodbye post, the four local administrators said they were resigning "due to circumstances only partially under our control..."
Over the next several days, the non-local administrators engaged with the group, but many members felt they failed to provide satisfactory answers to questions about dividing the neighborhood along race and class lines. Many members were angered by the apparent deletion of comments and removal of group members by administrators. Several residents asked whether Buy Nothing might cede the page, under a different name, to the community. Instead, on Sunday afternoon, an administrator archived the page, closing it to further comments for the time being.
An effort to initiate sprouting also appeared to begin in earnest this past weekend, but the non-local administrators made a few mistakes, such as naming a group "Egleston Square and Hyde Park," reported Universalhub.com. Of course, JP residents know there is a Hyde Square in Jamaica Plain, and that Hyde Park is a different neighborhood in Boston.
On Monday night, an administrator provided an update about why the group was archived, addressing the issues of sprouting, racism, and discussed why Buy Nothing was created.
In the meantime, a new and separate Facebook group, currently called Jamaica Plain's Gift Economy Page, sprang up, and as of Monday evening had collected more than 2,200 members, who got back to the business of offering free items such as clothing, furniture and other items -- and, as was BNJP’s tradition, often providing cats and dogs in photos for scale.