What If We Owned It?

The story of Black co-ops and alternative economics in the United States is one of violence and persecution—but it is also a story of hope and determination. The history of Black cooperative economics and its leaders has remained largely—and intentionally—hidden from view; but that knowledge has been brought back into mainstream awareness with the 2014 publication of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s gargantuan work of gathering and remembering the histories of Black communities that, despite the ongoing threat of violence, practiced economic cooperation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.1 Bolstered by this renewed understanding, many BIPOC communities are creating their own paths for liberation and healing by focusing on the solidarity economy in its many forms. And Black co-op leaders across the country are playing a key role in innovating new solutions to address the old systemic challenges. One space in which this is happening—the space of food co-ops—is experiencing something of a renaissance.

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