Open Collective
Open Collective
1st Newsletter: Black Co-op Networks / Africa at Center Stage & More
Published on June 14, 2023 by Omar Freilla

Connecting Black Cooperatives Around the World
Spring 2023
Welcome to our very first newsletter!
We’re excited to share what we’ve been up to and what’s in the works. We’re passionate about connecting Black cooperatives around the world and amplifying the Black solidarity economy. In this first issue we explore the growing networks of Black cooperatives around the world, the recent historic gathering of solidarity economy organizers in Dakar, Senegal, a groundbreaking UN resolution for the solidarity economy, and climate resiliency for community land trusts in Jackson, Mississippi. Keep scrolling for stories from cooperators connecting across borders, the newest news and resources across the global Black solidarity economy, and the latest on what we’re up to at Collective Diaspora. Please share with others and reply to let us know what you think. 

across the global Black solidarity economy

A Blossoming of Black Cooperative Networks
Collective Diaspora isn't the only effort underway to bring together Black cooperators. Over the past year it seems as if Black cooperators have been forming networks at every turn, in every place, and at every scale. Last October Black cooperators from across the United States convened in Pittsburgh, PA to form the National Alliance of Black Cooperators and charted a course towards connecting the Black solidarity economy in the US. The convening took place almost 91 years to the day that Ella Baker and George Schuyler brought Black Cooperators to Pittsburgh to launch the Young Negroes Cooperative League (Oct 18, 1931). Just to the North in Toronto, Canada, Black women organizers of Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (known by names such as Susu, Esusu, Partner, Boxhand, Sol, Tonbit, and more) had already formed the Banker Ladies Council as a way to join forces and push back against repression by police and others that criminalize informal collective finance approaches common in Black immigrant communities. The Banker Ladies Council is now taking it a step further and is working on launching a Canada-wide ROSCA Federation. Hear their story at our next Black Co-ops for Change webinar on June 28th.   Meanwhile across the Atlantic Ocean in Africa, a new network of African cooperatives has taken shape. Cooperation Africa had their launch this past January, and is committed to promoting the growth of cooperatives throughout Africa, particularly for women and youth, in order to achieve equitable and inclusive development.

Africa Takes Center Stage in the Global Solidarity Economy
Over 6 days from May 1-6, 6,000 organizers from all elements of the solidarity economy across 75 countries around the world convened in Dakar, Senegal for the 6th Global Social & Solidarity Economy Forum. It was the first such gathering ever in Africa - and African cooperatives and social innovators from across the continent made sure to show up in force. Collective Diaspora was there to present on our approach and the power of networks to connect Black cooperatives across the African diaspora.This year's GSEF made history as the first solidarity economy gathering ever addressed by a head of state as Senegal’s President Macky Sall opened the main forum acknowledging the power of cooperative Rotating Savings & Credit Associations (ROSCAs) throughout Africa (popularly known in Senegal as Tonbit). President Sall identified the shift to a solidarity economy as needed to address global climate change and called out wealthy nations of the Global North for creating the existential threat of global warming that is impacting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations first and worst.

UN General Assembly Stands with the Solidarity Economy
Last April 18th, the United Nations adopted the first Resolution on promoting the social and solidarity economy (SSE) for sustainable development. Thanks to the leadership of the Senegalese government (among a handful of other countries), this groundbreaking resolution calls on governments and financial institutions to develop policies and programs that support the social and solidarity economy, which are defined by the resolution as “enterprises, organizations and other entities engaged in economic, social and environmental activities, which serve the collective and/or general interest.” Cooperatives of all types, whether formal or informal, are a core element of this sector, being grounded in collective ownership and democratic control. The resolution is an important milestone that solidarity economy organizers can use to get their governments and financial institutions to invest in cooperatives.

Black Self Determination VS Racist Water Crisis in Jackson, Mississippi
Cooperation Jackson has been working diligently to model climate resiliency in their efforts to mobilize resources to ensure that residents of Jackson, Mississippi have clean drinking water. The state of Missippi's predominantly white legislature has been bent on sabotaging the city's Black political leadership by defunding infrastructure investments. Their actions have generated a crisis for the predominantly Black city of Jackson that left residents without clean drinking water last Fall and is still being felt today. In response, after mobilizing emergency donations of water, Cooperation Jackson launched their Water Sovereignty Initiative - designing and building water catchment systems on properties that are part of their community land trust. Follow their progress on Instagram at @cooperationjxn and help them purchase more supplies by donating today.

What the Traveler Saw
Black Cooperators Connecting Across Borders

“Powerful”, “Rejuvenating”, “Reality Check”, “Heartwarming”, “Strengthened”, “Connected” - by Sacajawea Hall
This past February I traveled to Usa River, Tanzania (outside of Arusha) and participated in the Activist in Residence (AiR) program at MS-TCDC (MS Training Center for Development Cooperation). This three week residency brought together ten organizers, activists, theorists, writers, and artists from eight countries to strategize on how to advance radical visions and build power together across borders. We spent days interrogating critical questions related to liberation and how to build the revolution(s) for African people that we need. A key take away was our commitment to continue working together towards a renewal of Pan-Africanism as a viable political project. Upon our departure, we committed to continue working together towards this.While I am a child of the African Diaspora, by way of the U.S., and of Haitian Descent, I identify as an African and it felt good to be welcomed as an African instead of having to define and assert this identity amongst my comrades from the Continent. Getting out of the belly of the beast (aka the U.S.) and being held by the motherland, at the foothills of Mount Meru, in communion with comrades was even more than I had hoped for. While we shared our work, our political struggles and successes, equally important we broke bread together, rested, exercised, danced, sang revolutionary songs and chants, laughed and took tons of selfies. I have a boost of energy towards my continuing contribution to the self-determination of my people at home and around the globe. The work that I am a part of, which is developing cooperatives and building solidarity economies towards economic democracy and ecological sustainability is critical to African liberation and I’m eager to continue Cooperation Jackson’s exchange of ideas and skills and connect Collective Diaspora to the  initiatives being born out of this program.

Beat The Drum
Help Launch Jumpstart Housing Co-op (Chicago, IL, US)
In Chicago, members of the worker-owned ChiFresh Kitchen have decided to meet their own need for housing by organizing a housing cooperative for themselves and others that have been incarcerated. They’re out to raise $40,000 to buy and renovate their first property, a 3-story building in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Here is a story in the Chicago Reader about Jumpstart Housing Co-op. Learn more and donate HERE

Save Rich City (Richmond, CA, US)
Rich City Rides is a Black-led nonprofit organization in Richmond, California determined to fight gentrification and make sure that the Rich City Rides Bike Shop Cooperative and Gallery are able to stay put. They’re out to raise $6 million by June 30th to purchase 4 properties to house the Bicycle co-op, gallery, and shared workspace, and workspace. Learn more and donate HERE.

Help Decolonize Chocolate (across the Caribbean-Africa-US)
The Cross Atlantic Chocolate Collective is a new cooperative of Black cacao growers and chocolate makers whose membership stretches from across the African continent to the Caribbean and US. They’re out to decolonize the chocolate industry and keep its wealth in the Black hands that create it. Help them grow by buying their chocolates on the Equal Exchange platform. They’re also delicious, beautifully packaged, and make great presents! Buy HERE!   

Collective Diaspora News
We’ve launched a new webinar series profiling Black solidarity economy organizing efforts across the African diaspora. It’s called Black Co-ops for Change and takes place every other month. You can watch the last four webinars on our YouTube channel and check out our next session happening June 28th featuring the Banker Ladies Council talking about their efforts to connect Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCA) in Toronto and their latest project - to organize a ROSCA Federation for all of Canada.

We’re busy testing out a Black co-op consulting arm of our work and are excited about what’s in the pipeline: We’re currently working on a NY State Energy & Research Development Authority-funded project called The Bronx is Breathing to launch an Electric Truckers Cooperative and electric vehicle charging station in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx, NYC (US) in partnership with The Drivers Cooperative, The Point Community Community Development Corporation, Volvo, and many others. The project aims to reduce pollution by electrifying trucks servicing the regional food distribution center there while maximizing benefits to the community.We’ve also just partnered with African Communities Together to provide a training series led by noted Black cooperators on accountability, business modeling, and financial management for a startup interpreters cooperative.The National Cooperative Business Association has listed us a preferred vendor for their cooperative development technical assistance program.

We were really proud of our network recently when the Cross Atlantic Chocolate Collective received an order for 18,000 chocolate bars from Equal Exchange! That order was the result, not just of hard work, but of a web of connections strong enough to sidestep the ever present skepticism faced by Black co-ops and Black-led organizations. By promoting their work and bringing Cross Atlantic co-founder and convener (and Collective Diaspora steering committee member), Gillian Goddard to the US for a Black co-op gathering last year, we helped a startup Black co-op from the Global South break into the US market with their largest order ever. That kind of network building and those kinds of results is why we exist.

Global Black Solidarity Economy in the News

Resource LibraryPodcasts & Videos

Deeper Reads (Books, Journal Articles, and Reports)

No Movement Without Art
  • (Music) Collective Diaspora playlist - A collection of songs from across the African diaspora celebrating Blackness and being together.  


Upcoming Events
  • June 1 - The Inflation Reduction Act: Financial Assistance for Distressed Producers - Join the Federation of South Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund in this event for Black farm owners and land owners who currently have a direct loan with the US Farm Service Agency to learn about an update to the Inflation Reduction Action Section 220006: Financial Assistance for Distressed Producers.
  • June 1-3 - National Conference on Black Cooperative AgendaJoin this national gathering of Black cooperators from across the US, who are passionate about building and sustaining Black cooperatives. This event is organized by the Network for Developing Conscious Communities and includes a meeting of the newly formed National Alliance of Black Cooperators.
  • June 11 - July 14 - 26th Annual Rural Training & Research Center Forestry CampRegistration is now open for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives’ 26 year-old summer camp in Epes, Alabama (US) for young people ages 13-18. The camp’s focus is to help young people explore the forest while learning about conservation and careers in natural resources.
  • June 18 - Juneteenth Jubilee Block PartyJoin The Kenekt Cooperative in Atlanta, GA (US) for this celebration of Juneteenth - an annual celebration of freedom marking the day the last of enslaved Black folks in Texas received word that slavery in the US had been abolished.  
  • June 28 - Black Co-ops for Change Series - The Banker Ladies Council: Demanding Respect for African Cooperative Finance in CanadaMeet the Black women organizers defying anti-Blackness to build a Canadian federation of Rotating Savings and Credit Associations.July 1 - International Day of Cooperatives
  • August 23 - (Save The Date) Black Co-ops for Change Series: Asociación de Trabajadores Negras de Peru (Black Women Workers Association of Peru)
  • Sept 29 - Oct 13 - Return to Ghana: 5th Annual Cooperative Conference & Cultural ExchangeRepaired Nations is organizing this incredible cooperative travel immersion experience, visiting 4 regions of Ghana in 15 days. Registration is already at capacity…but there is a waiting list.
  • Oct 5-8 - (Save The Date) Global Black Geographies: Racial Capitalism and Black Urban Experiences
  • Oct 1-31 - Co-op Month (US)

Collective Diaspora, connecting , Black cooperatives, around the world