During recent Kwanzaa celebrations there was a call for collective economics. “Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.” This was explained by many as a call to “Buy Black” with others accepting that it was a call for supporting “Black Capitalism.” I want to offer a critique of this understanding from the standpoint of what would be progressive and beneficial in a transformative way to the black community.
This article is presented as part of New Economy Week, five days of conversation around building an economy that works for everyone. Today’s theme is “The New Economy Is Close to Home.”
In Northeast Greensboro residents just want a grocery store.
In the late 1990’s the local Winn Dixie that had served the neighborhoods around Philips Avenue for many years closed down. Winn Dixie and other large grocery chains divided up market territory resulting in the closing of some stores despite their profitability. The loss of this Winn Dixie turned Northeast Greensboro into a food desert.
Ed Whitfield gave the opening keynote address to the New Economy Coalition’s 2014 CommonBound conference.
Ed Whitfield speaks at the Jackson Rising Conference about low-income earners working together, job creation, shared funding, and the resources necessary to sustain the co-operative labor movement. His opening remarks touch on the idea that economic strategies must stay rooted within the community. Therefore, surplus can be shared amongst the people who need it most. Whitfield uses the cathedral metaphor for this idea, believing that building a democratic local economy is much like building a great cathedral – stone by stone.
Our friend and colleague Jessica Gordon Nembhard will publish her new book, “Collective Courage: A History of African-American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice” in May. She spoke to Colorlines.com about this critical, but often overlooked, part of the Civil Rights Movement.
Everyone at the Fund for Democratic Communities joins in remembering Chokwe Lumumba, the Mayor of Jackson Mississippi and longtime activist, civil rights attorney, and visionary leader. Here’s Mayor Lumumba on Democracy Now! in June of last year.
Going out to Metacom’s Chair, which sits overlooking Mouth Hope Bay, the City of Fall River, Massachusetts, and what was once all land that my Pokanoket and Pocasset Wampanoag ancestors inhabited, was a frequent occurrence throughout my childhood. It’s been over 400 years since Metacom, the Sachem of the Pokanoket tribe and also known as King Phillip, sat in that chair to see the land and bay. Over the past 400 years the landscape has shifted drastically, much of it due to the colonization that has taken place, which also impacts the increased shifts in climate change. If one is to sit in that chair today the current view is something like this.
People from across North Carolina are headed to Greensboro this weekend for the ReWeaving NC conference. This event brings together people interested in building a new economy based on solidarity, cooperation, and sustainability.
Several staff of the Fund for Democratic Communities are presenting, along with our friends from PB Greensboro and the Renaissance Community Coop. It will be a great space to think and dream and plan together about the North Carolina we want, and have already begun, to build.
Ed Whitfield spoke on the opening panel of the reRoute conference in Boston a few weeks ago. He used his “water holes and fishin’ poles” metaphor to discuss how the current economic system we operate within is fundamentally designed to prevent communities from developing their own wealth and directing their own future.
Thanks to Eli Feghali of the New Economics Institute for editing this piece out of the longer panel discussion from reRoute.
Many more people are members of cooperatives than you might think. There are energy cooperatives providing electricity to people across the country, there are health care cooperatives providing more affordable insurance, and if you bank at a credit union, you are a member of a cooperative! Credit unions in the United States are created as non-profit organizations “owned” by their members, who generally receive better services and lending rates than traditional banks. There is an effort underway in Congress to end the tax exempt status credit unions enjoy. The Credit Union National Association writes:
The bankers want to use the tax reform process – still going on behind the scene, with bills scheduled to be introduced in September or October – as a means to raise your taxes and tax credit unions out of existence in the process.
The American Banker Association has even launched a website and grassroots campaign asking Congress to tell credit unions, “It’s Time 2 Pay.”
Well, we think the 96 million Americans who rely on their credit union every day pay enough already. We know that a tax on credit unions is just another tax on those same 96 million credit union members.
Find out more about this effort at the Don’t Tax My Credit Union website set up by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Credit unions play an invaluable role in protecting individual and community wealth – particularly in a period of economic instability. These community-based financial institutions are beginning to invest more heavily in small businesses, competing with bigger for-profit banks. Learn more about this from CUNA at their website, here.