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Learning from the Past to Promote Our Future

Wisdom Circle: Collective Courage

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 21, a dozen ONE DC, Cooperation DC, and Black Workers Center members and organizers gathered to discuss Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, written by ONE DC and Shared Leadership Team member Jessica Gordon Nembhard.

The group discussion, centered around Part I of Collective Courage, highlighted inspiring examples of cooperative groups working toward collective ownership. These examples demonstrate the resiliency of Black communities to build together in the face of extreme prejudice and threats to undermine that collective strength. The group discussion emphasized the importance of political organizing and action in building economic power.

Multiple groups highlighted in the book experienced active attempts to derail or discredit them, and therefore encountered higher incidences of failure than white ventures. The Wisdom Circle posited that without political or legal backing, economic development initiatives today would also encounter similar roadblocks. However, the Wisdom Circle also discussed that by building economic power for ourselves, we might free resources and time to be able to contribute more substantially to critical political efforts to change the structures that create macro-level inequality. There was hope expressed that ONE DC and the Wisdom Circle itself will continue to foster an environment that links politics and economics in critical ways to build Black economic power and dismantle inequitable economic structures.

Overall, through learning examples of cooperative strength, we can both motivate ourselves to strive for success while applying the principles of what works best to achieve longevity in collective economic power. As education is a core element of this cooperative strength, learning of past collective efforts will help us develop better cooperative projects moving forward.

To buy your own copy of Collective Courage, email organizer@onedconline.org. Sliding scale $25- $40. Proceeds go directly to fund the organizing work of ONE DC.

The Wisdom Circle will meet again for Part II of Collective Courage on Sunday, April 3, 2016.

For more on Collective Courage, Jessica Gordon Nembhard's interview with Laura Flanders can be found here

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