With sadness, we share that Debbie Hillman passed away on March 23, 2023, after a six-month decline and four days short of 72 years of life. A pioneer of nurturing Illinois and Midwest sustainable food-farm-and-democracy systems, Debbie lived most of her adult years in Evanston Illinois, just north of Chicago where she was born. She was a founding member of the Alliance For Just Money, and an active member of AFJM’s Legislative Action Committee (LAC) since September 2021. We miss her very much.
Debbie originally found her way to monetary reform through fellow Evanston resident and AFJM founding member Steven Walsh who knew of Debbie’s work in the community related to sustainable farming and introduced her to the work of the American Monetary Institute where he now serves as lead steward and board member. Steven sponsored Debbie’s original AFJM membership.
Debbie earned a philosophy degree from George Washington University and was a self-employed gardener, a leader in the Illinois “local foods” movement, a democracy consultant, and an impassioned fighter for equality and access for all, as the Evanston RoundTable newspaper reported. She published and blogged at foodfarmsdemocracy.net, her website that is still accessible and educating all who read it. Her daughter Saya put together a beautiful tribute page for her mom that AFJM recommends all who knew Debbie—or who want a glimpse of Debbie’s unique personhood and influence—spend some moments to absorb. Members of AFJM’s LAC and Board are contributing to the Debbie Hillman Memorial Tree and one of the not-for-profits suggested on that tribute page in memory of Debbie. We encourage others who knew Debbie to do so too.
Debbie’s influence on AFJM will endure in numerous ways. First, well experienced in passing legislation at the state level (she was instrumental in the passage of the 2009 Illinois Local Food Farms and Jobs Act), Debbie knew that a short, easy-to-understand factsheet is necessary to educate both legislators and the general public on legislation and our need for it. She helped AFJM’s LAC to develop a two-page factsheet on the American Monetary Reform Act (AMRA) which we mailed to leaders in the Executive Branch and some members of Congress in January and May/June 2023, respectively, after holding a Coffeehouse in September 2022 to present it to members and subscribers. We encourage you to read this factsheet and to print and send it to your Congresspeople and to others who need to know about Just Money reform. Debbie also met with local staffers of her own Representative, Jan Schakowsky, to introduce them to the idea of and need for the Just Money reform that AMRA lays out. We encourage all of us to do likewise with our own Congresspeople.
Second, Debbie spearheaded work in the LAC and later the Board to develop an AFJM statement to disavow antisemitism, an important stance to take in relation to monetary reform work. The Board approved this statement on July 16, 2022, and presented it to the membership at our fourth Annual Membership Meeting later that month. We ask all AFJM members, subscribers, and others interested in monetary reform to read this statement and put it into practice as we do our work.
Finally, Debbie was a connector. She paid attention to experts and activists working on different but arguably compatible paths and would strategically introduce us, with collaborative movement building in mind. For instance, she connected some in AFJM with the Midwest-focused Ecology Democracy Network (EDN) to work jointly on monetary reform and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) as alternatives to bankmoney and GDP as measures of societal well-being. Of Debbie, EDN’s director wrote: “She was an inspiration and important organizer.” Debbie connected others in AFJM with leaders of the Maternal Gift Economy Movement, seeing in both vital approaches to how humans can survive and flourish within larger ecosystems of which we are but a part, and believing our two movements can learn from each other and find common ground. We are still pursuing that dual goal.
Debbie didn’t have the easiest of lives herself. She worked hard and contributed much throughout but found it took courage and grace, especially in later years, to make ends meet. Yet her contributions to AFJM will endure, and—with all of us using and building upon them in pursuit of Just Money—sooner or later they will come to fruition so that ALL who work hard in diverse ways to make a living and a life for themselves and for their loved ones can and will survive and flourish through old age until death does us part. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but we’ll see you again, Debbie, in the by and by. “In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.”