ARE CO-OPS THE WAY?
1 December 2005
Volume 36; Issue 5; ISSN: 00064165
English Copyright (c) 2005 Bell & Howell Information and
Learning Company. All rights reserved.
AROUND THE NATION
Experts say cooperatives enable black communities to build wealth
Scholars and community activists called for more research on cooperatives
in response to a Department of Agriculture hearing in September, beseeching
officials to study urban and worker-owned co-ops among different racial groups.
Such research could lead to better information on the number, type, and growth
of black-owned and managed co-ops.
According to the National Black Business Trade Association, African Americans
spend about 93% of their income outside of their communities. Many say this
situation could be remedied by creating more black-owned and operated co-ops.
Just how could cooperatives accomplish this? "Co-ops are an economic model
that includes ownership from more than one person," says Angela Dawson,
communications director for Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund in
Minneapolis. "In the capitalistic model, there's one boss. But in the
model, there are many. Accountability and equity, as well as risk and reward,
are spread out a lot more.
"The co-op model is so attractive because it's sustainable by the community,"
Dawson continues. "Everyone owns it, and it's perpetual. It doesn't depend on
just one person and recycles back into the community."
"Cooperatives can enable African Americans to have more control of their
wealth creation, and work situation-particularly if it's a worker-owned co-op,"
says Jessica Gordon Nembhard, a member of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of
and professor of African American Studies at the University of Maryland,
Park. "Coops can also give workers more control over their finances and
There are many different kinds of co-ops, including consumer-owned and
Co-ops also exist in a variety of industries, including food, housing,
healthcare, credit, farming, utilities, telecommunications, and transportation.
The most successful group of black co-ops is the Federation of Southern
Cooperatives/ Land Assistance Fund, which is a "network of rural cooperatives,
credit unions, and state associations of cooperatives and cooperative
development centers in the southern United States," says Nembhard. Since 1967,
the federation has helped save black ownership of $87.5 million worth of land,
mobilized $50 million in resources for support of member credit unions and
(particularly in sustainable agriculture), and assisted more than 700 families
$26 million worth of affordable housing units.
"Specifically for minority communities and economically disadvantaged
co-ops are a very powerful idea because they allow us to have access," says
Resell, an urban planner at Community Design Group in Minnesota. "Together, we
do many more things than we would be able to do by ourselves."
Copyright Earl G. Graves Publishing Company, Inc. Dec 2005
For more information, Please contact:
Northside Food Project
C/o Minnesota Foodshare
1001 East Lake Street
Minneapolis MN 55407
(Until January 2, 2006)
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