Liberation through Cooperation
Together we can build a better economy, invest in liberation through cooperation.
What would it look like to create high quality, living wage jobs within Black communities in St. Louis? What if it were possible for us to create jobs that not only met the basic needs of these communities but also embodied the values of social justice, democracy, and cooperation?
We are a group of organizations who believe that we can transform our economy by creating democratically controlled and worker-owned businesses–that cooperative development is crucial to Black liberation. Our mission is to develop economic models which prioritize the wellbeing of our communities by recognizing the wealth of knowledge, time, and skills that already exist in our neighborhoods. These economic empowerment models must be built by and within our communities, drawing from the traditions of African American cooperative economics.
We’ve invited Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice to present her work as the keynote for Yeyo Arts Convergence Conference and to lead a strategic planning workshop for existing and emerging businesses and organizations which are interested in developing co-ops. The weekend will also bring a book-signing by Dr. Nembhard, coordinated with the Cowry Collective time-bank’s annual summer social.
Funding this campaign will serve to engage a critical mass of new people who can support the existing work of each of our collaborating organizations and will provide tangible tools, information, and resources to strengthen cooperative work on the ground. Your support will go directly to growing a better economy.
On Monday Feb 29 Solidarity Economy and Yeyo Arts will host a film screening and discussion about worker owned cooperatives to introduce our project and to begin to form a new network around Liberation through Cooperation.
STL is one of 8 pilot sites around the world (including UK & South Africa) working together to buildmutual aid networks that will create the legal, social, and financial means for everyone to discover and succeed in the work they want to do, with the support of their community. In March, we will host the creators of Mutual Aid Networks in Madison, WI to celebrate the launch of our own, as part of our ongoing effort to redefine work and build an economy that meets everyone’s needs.
After we’ve raised the funds, we will reimburse our organizational members for advanced payments on travel & lodging and pay for speaker fees, venue, etc. In July, Dr. Jessica Nembhard will provide a keynote address to Yeyo Arts conference events and a lead strategic planning workshop to help Liberation through Cooperation formulate a plan to create a incubator & accelerator for black co-ops in the St Louis region. We will also host a book signing and reading for her book “Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice.”
why we’re doing it
Our collaboration on this project is based in the desperate need for the creation of high quality, living wage jobs in our communities. According to an Equity Assessment of the St. Louis Region conducted by the UMSL Public Policy Research Center, the unemployment rate in 2012 for people of color in St. Louis was 12.3%, compared to 6.1% for whites. Because we are living in an economic system which disenfranchises and criminalizes African American families, and particularly African American youth, our communities are often forced to accept low-wage jobs that cannot meet their needs as their only alternative to homelessness or unemployment. Furthermore, many of the current economic opportunities provided for start-up and entrepreneurial projects are limited in their efforts and often exclude African American youth and families.
Even more fundamental than the need for job creation is the need for our communities to generate local wealth. One of the key recommendations in the For the Sake of All report, which was created to explore how the unequal distribution of wealth in the St. Louis region is related to social determinants of health like education, income, the quality and composition of neighborhoods, and access to community resources like healthy foods and safe public spaces, is to “help low-to-moderate income families create economic opportunities.”