“African Americans have a long, rich history of cooperative ownership, especially in reaction to market failures and economic racial discrimination. However, it has often been a hidden history and one obstructed by White supremacist violence. When there is a narrative, the history is told as one of failure. The challenges have been tremendous, and have often been seen as insurmountable. The successes are often anecdotal and isolated, little understood, and even less documented […].”
– Dr. Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Collective Courage A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice
In March of this year, Nexus Community Partners proudly launched its first cohort for the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. The North Star Fellowship is a 4-month, cohort-based program that provides participants with a history of cooperative economics in the Black community, along with the technical skills and support for emerging cooperative business ideas. North Star also creates an important space for Black Cooperative movement building.
North Star was in part inspired by the work of Professor Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s book, “Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice,” which discusses the rich but little known history of cooperative wealth building efforts in the Black community. During her visit to Minneapolis in 2014, she shared how economically successful Black communities and individuals were systematically undermined and targeted with violence from bombings to lynching because of their participation and success in the business community. North Star reclaims this history and builds cooperative economic support for individuals and the community.
Each of the 10 Fellows (see below) came to North Star with a cooperative business idea they wanted to develop. The Fellowship is giving them a chance to advance their ideas while learning from one another, and technical and programmatic experts in the field. For example, Nia Umoja, of the Cooperative Community of New West Jackson (CCNWJ), visited with the Fellows and shared their values-based approach that drives the work of CCNWJ. Located in Jackson, MS, CCNWJ centers on land ownership, food production, folk culture, and the construction trade. Later in the Fellowship, Shared Capital will discuss different ways of capitalizing their cooperative businesses and provide one-on-one coaching for the Fellows.
Now mid-way through the program, the Fellows have strengthened their community and their optimism, have gained a deeper understanding of the possibilities that Black Cooperative Economics could present to their communities, and are thinking differently about how to build wealth in the Black community.
Meet the Fellows!
Ashley Bennett Tana Hargest
D.A. Bullock Maleta Kimmons
Me’Lea Connolly Kenya McKnight
DeVon Nolen Rekhet Si-Asar
Carla Schleicher Chaun Webster