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Collective Work & Cooperation

Co-Familia: Bilingual Childcare Development Center
By Silvia Inez Salazar

Organizing and buying our rent-controlled building in 2011 was a huge accomplishment that took 7 years. Our building used to be called the Norwood Apartments and today it is called 1417 N Street NW Co-operative. We converted our 84-unit building into affordable housing and no longer had to worry about being pushed out because of gentrification.

In 2015, we began to think about the need to have stable and dignified work with livable wages and benefits. Many people in our co-operative work two or three jobs in the service sector and they have no potential to be promoted or gain stable employment. We soon realized that a worker owned co-operative was the solution. A group of 16 women from the DMV area and our housing co-operative were interested in launching their own worker owned co-operative business that would provide childcare services in DC.

Although I had experience organizing my building into a co-operative, I did not know how to organize a worker-owned co-op. The support and collaboration provided by ONE DC was instrumental in getting started. Emily Sladek, Bryant Sewell, Tania Guerrero, Katharine Richardson, and Erin Kessler volunteered their time and expertise with the early phases of business planning. Luther Place Memorial Church lent their support and provided a place to meet. Professor Louise A. Howells, Clinical Instructors Jerome Hughes and Eva Seidelman and a team of law students with the UDC School of Law provided expertise with formulating bylaws and governance. The DC Childcare Collective continues to provide childcare during organizing meetings.

We worked collectively to share the basic concepts of a cooperatively owned business and more importantly, we set aside time for the women to transition from seeing themselves as employees and changing into owners of their own business. By 2018, Co-Familia Childcare Co-operative had evolved into a core group of women leaders with a vision of how their business would function. ONE DC interns Citlalli Velasquez and Esmi Huerta worked with the leaders to create visual illustrations of services to be provided. A grant from the Meyer Foundation provided funding for the worker-owners to take childcare development classes at Montgomery College.

In spite of our collective accomplishments, I was not sure about what direction to take or where we were along the co-op development lifecycle. ONE DC provided support to me and Emily Sladek with applying for a training provided by CooperationWorks! at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The training was focused on implementation and providing practical tools and skills for co-op developers. The courses and case studies presented during the training provided perspective on where Co-Familia is towards launching and what steps to follow. Learning the viewpoints of fellow co-op developers helped us understand the challenges we are facing and how common they are. As a result of the training, we can now provide Co-Familia with the support and direction they need to establish their business.

Co-Familia worker-owners are currently taking child development courses at Montgomery College and are scheduled to graduate this coming July. We plan to celebrate and move forward with renting a locale that will house the co-operative.

Dulce Hogar Cleaning Cooperative

Dulce Hogar Cleaning Cooperative, a worker-owned cleaning cooperative, became operational in February of 2019. Dulce Hogar is being supported by ONE DC, Beloved Community Incubator, and Luther Place Memorial Church.The seven worker-owners participated in a year long training process, which included logo and brand development, governance, financial literacy, and cooperative principals. Dulce Hogar has now begun taking on clients across DC and in the immediate Virginia suburbs.
Check them out or request an estimate at dulcehogarcleaning.com


ONE DC Learning Circle
The ONE DC learning circle has started study groups focused on specific types of co-ops.  As Jessica Gordon Nembhard remarks in her seminal book, Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, "[e]very African-American-owned cooperative of the past that I have researched, and almost every contemporary cooperative I have studied, began as the result of a study group or depended on purposive training and orientation of members."  We are taking this guidance, and starting study groups.
 
The Housing Co-Op study group will meet on Wednesday, June 26, from 6:30-8pm at the ONE DC office. At our first meeting, we'll set goals, decide how often we want to meet, etc. Contact Eric Fullilove (eric.fullilove@ri.org) or Gabrielle Newell (gnewell14@gmail.com) if you're interested in being part of this group moving forward. 
 
Kim Lee (klsourceinc@gmail.com) will convene the Health Co-op Study Group! Reach out to her if you want to join in this effort or learn more.
 
The monthly Learning Circle explores the principles and legacies that ONE DC moves forward. The Learning Circle continues to meet on the first Wednesday of every month, from 6-8pm at the Black Workers and Wellness Center. The next session on June 5th (6-8pm at the BWWC) will explore 400 Years of Inequality. Click here to RSVP

Contact Gabrielle Newell (gnewell14@gmail.com) for more information about the Learning Circle or to join the Learning Circle email list

Summertime Cooperation: Co-op Community Cookout

On August 4, the Black Workers and Wellness Center (BWWC) hosted ONE DC’S first Co-op Community Cookout event of the year. Following up from a successful People’s Platform event in February, Cooperation DC held a summer cookout event in order to engage in popular education about cooperative economics while gathering community and enjoying food with one another. The Black Workers and Wellness Center was a full house that day! We spent our time reviewing the Seven Cooperative Principles and understanding how they work to address shortcomings experienced in the workplace. We explored how Cooperation DC’s work fits into ONE DC’s overall vision for building people-driven power in Ward 8 and throughout the District.

ONE DC members learn about the 7 cooperative principles

As use of the Black Workers and Wellness Center expands through building renovations and new staff organizer positions, we look forward to building on the growing excitement around our co-op work by hosting more events like this in the coming year! Stay tuned for fall updates from our two partner cooperatives: Dulce Hogar Cleaning Cooperative and Co-Familia Child Care Cooperative, and from the Working World Cooperative Organizing Retreat.

7 Cooperative Principles

  1. VOLUNTARY AND OPEN MEMBERSHIP
    Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, whose services and membership are open to all due to having minimal barriers of accessibility.
  2. DEMOCRATIC MEMBER CONTROL
    Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Co-operative members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote), and are typically structured in a way that does not resemble traditional business leadership.
  3. MEMBER ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION
    Members contribute equitably to collectively own the money and assets of their co-operative. Members put profit towards any of the following purposes: developing their co-operative; benefiting members based on interaction with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
  4. AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE
    Co-operatives are autonomous, self-maintaining organizations controlled by their members. Agreements that may be made with other organizations and institutions and any funds they get from outside of the co-operative are processed in a way that keeps democratic control and ownership over the co-operative.
  5. EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INFORMATION
    Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, and worker-owners so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public, especially in the communities they occupy, about the nature and benefits of the cooperative movement and other popular and political education topics.
  6. CO-OPERATION AMONG CO-OPERATIVES
    Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the Co-operative Movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures. Co-operatives are conscious about how their decisions may affect other co-ops and are concerned for the well-being of those co-ops.
  7. CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY
    Co-operatives work in the best interest of the communities in which they reside. They are open to providing support and resources for community members in need.

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


Member Reflection: Philly Coop Learning Journey Trip

By Art Brown

For the past three months, members and staff of ONE DC organized three Cooperative Learning Journey trips visiting Baltimore, Maryland (Red Emma’s, a coop book store), New York City (Build with Prospect Construction Coop; The Working World, The Participatory Budgeting Project; COLORS) and Philadelphia (Childspace West-worker owned child care coop; Mariposa Food Coop). The purpose of these journeys was to prepare a cadre of people/workers who will invest time and commit effort to building a cooperative movement in DC. Also, a DC Worker Coop Coalition has been established and has been meeting since March of this year to initiate and coordinate a cooperative building effort.

As an added bonus to the Philadelphia Cooperative Learning Journey, participants got the opportunity to attend the US Social Forum (USSF). We took part in the Advancing the Solidarity Economy Peoples’ Movement Assembly and met with Peter Frank, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA). The PMA addressed such topics as: Participatory Budgeting, The Mapping Process of Current Local and National Networks, Urban Agriculture, Cooperative Infrastructure, Land Banking and Land Use Distribution, Divestment and Reinvestment Ethics, Loan Funds to the Grassroots and Climate Justice Projects.

The discussion with Peter Frank of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance was to gain insight into its operation and to receive guidance for the recent start-up of the DC Worker’s Cooperative Alliance. Prior to our return to DC, members and staff organizers from ONE DC held a debriefing session as a prelude to the creation of a cooperative economy in DC. The group agreed to meet on July 8th, 6:30pm at Impact Hub DC to map out next steps.

Read more

An Economic Agenda for Black Workers

Adapted from Black Worker Organizing Panel Discussion

My name is Jennifer Bryant and I’m a right to income organizer with ONE DC. I’m going to be talking today about grassroots Black worker organizing in DC and the policy agenda of the DC Black Workers Center. The Black Workers Center is a resident led space whose mission is to create and maintain racial and economic justice through popular education, policy campaigns, direct action and the creation of worker-owned coops and other worker-owned alternatives.

I want to highlight the fact that this is a Black worker-led space. We’re very intentional about centering the leadership of Black Workers, especially Black women who are so often minimized in conversations about Black employment. I think it’s important to make the distinction between organizing Black workers and Black workers shaping and guiding the policies that directly impact our lives.

The DC Black Worker Center’s policy agenda is two-pronged: one, we’re pushing for greater enforcement, accountability and transparency around the city’s First Source law which states that businesses that receive public subsidies from the District must hire at least 51% DC workers. Our second policy campaign centers on the incubation, funding and support of worker-owned cooperatives.

Our first campaign around First Source will create more quality, living wage jobs which will help Black workers avoid displacement and remain in this rapidly gentrifying city. Our coop campaign falls in line with our longer-term vision of communities where Black workers are in control of our own labor. For those that may not know, worker-owned cooperatives are businesses that are owned and operated by their workers. Studies show that compared to other small businesses they tend to pay higher wages and provide better benefits, invest more in workers through leadership and skills development, and encourage democratic, participatory and dignified work places.

For the last few months, DC Black Workers Center leaders, with support from Ria and the Consumer Health Foundation, have been organizing coop learning journey trips to visit worker-owned coops in Baltimore, New York City and in June Philadelphia. Last weekend, 7 Black Workers Center leaders met with worker-owners at a construction coop in Brooklyn, coop funders at the Working World in Manhattan and took part in the cities participatory budgeting process in the South Bronx to learn best practices as we begin implementing these things in DC. In March, we joined with a group of coop owners, lawyers, trainers, and grassroots organizers to form the DC Worker Cooperative Coalition. We created six policy recommendations for the City Council which are:

1) to pass a local definition of “worker co-op” and support public education on the model’s benefits;
2) Equip the D.C. Small Business Development Centers to support worker coop businesses;
3) Provide city-owned land and buildings to worker cooperatives;
4) Provide funding (grants, loans) to worker cooperative businesses and developers;
5) Make worker cooperatives a preferred contractor for city agencies; and
6) Provide tax benefits to worker-owned coops.

Government support has been instrumental in coop development across the country. This year, the Madison, Wisconsin City Council committed $5 million over 5 years to worker cooperative development. In 2014, the New York City Council allotted $1.2 million toward worker cooperative development. The City of Cleveland has also been supportive of local worker coops by providing land for a 3-acre hydroponic greenhouse. So it’s possible – and DC Black Workers Center leaders see coops as an entry point to move toward greater worker autonomy and community control of labor.

Our First Source campaign grew out of worker experiences with the Marriott Marquis Jobs Training Program. In 2009, ONE DC was written into legislation to develop a jobs training program for the Marriott Marquis hotel as outlined in the New Convention Center Hotel Amendments Act of 2009. We launched the ONE City, ONE Search campaign and successfully recruited over 3,000 job-ready DC residents to apply for the Jobs Training Program.

Out of the 719 residents who completed the Program only 178 were originally hired, which is about 26%. The First Source law requires that employers who receive public subsidies from the District hire DC residents for 51% of new jobs created. The Marriott Marquis fell woefully short of that benchmark. That experience was significant because it brought to light the inability of most local workforce development programs to actually produce jobs for people. Many of the people that stand to directly benefit from these programs, if they worked, are Black and Latino workers who, for a myriad of reasons, are systemically locked out of DC’s vibrant labor market.

In their 2010 policy brief titled “Reforming First Source: Strengthening the Link Between Economic Development and Jobs” the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) found that the First Source program has been largely ineffective. Lack of compliance and oversight have resulted in the estimated loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs for DC residents and the loss of millions of dollars in revenue for the city.

So we held listening sessions with Black workers to hear about their work experiences and partnered with the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University to interview Marriott Marquis Jobs Training Program grads and other stakeholders about their experiences in order to produce a report on the program. We’ve been in conversation with the LA Black Workers Center to learn how they implemented similar reforms in LA, which I believe Sean will touch on later. DC Black Workers Center leaders are now in the process of organizing a press conference to release our Marriott report and planning a direct action at the Department of Employment services to hold the city accountable on First Source. We know we can’t do this alone. We’ve been working with several local coalition partners to help build the base for the DC Black Workers Center including ROC-DC, OUR DC, the DC Employment Justice Center, DC Jobs with Justice and others. We’re also knowledge sharing and building relationships with other Black Workers Centers nationally including the LA Black Workers Center, the Workers Center for Racial Justice in Chicago, the Baltimore Black Workers Center and the National Black Workers Center Project.

To contact Jennifer, you can reach her at jbryant@onedconline.org or 202.957.4987


Reflections on ONE DC Coop Learning Journey to Red Emma’s

By Julia Eddy & Allison Basile

On March 14th, a group of colleagues, friends, and strangers gathered outside of ONE DC’s office at the New Community Church to embark on a special kind of Sunday spiritual journey. We set out for a lively worker-owned cooperative cafe/bookstore/event space in Baltimore called Red Emma’s Cafe. The idea grew out of organizing meetings for the DC Black Workers Center - a space that will, among other things, promote the creation of worker-owned cooperatives.

I call it a spiritual trip because it seemed from the conversation throughout the day that for many of us coops are a way of feeding the soul, in addition to hopefully feeding the mind and pocket. When I heard the music from the kitchen, smelled the warm roast of fresh fair trade coffee, and saw the mix of meetup groups, piercings, zines, books on revolutionary movements, and overgrowth of community fliers, my spirit felt instantly like it had come home.

Reggie and Josiah, two of Red Emma’s worker-owners, were our guides for the day. They walked us around the space and told us about their stories, the neighborhood, how Red Emma has evolved and operates today, and the transformational experience of being part owner in a collectively run business.

It was humbling and inspiring to hear the case study - how hard and rewarding it can be to create an alternative kind of company and navigate the pressures of capitalism; how humanizing it can be to engage in a truly democratic workplace and grow a radical vision.  Below you can find some collaborative notes we took throughout the day that go into more detail.

I would like to extend my personal thanks to ONE DC for organizing this learning journey and to the folks at Red Emma’s for being open to share so much of their stories.

There are several arms of Red Emma’s:

  • Bookstore, cafe, and event space
  • The Free School offers anti-hierarchical classes and a meeting space. It used to be independent entity, now is nonprofit extension of Red Emma’s. There is a list of classes happening all the time. Folks can submit a proposal for a free public class or rent the space for nominal fee.
  • Thread Coffee is independent coop within Red Emma’s.

History & Current Context:

  • Many people who work there identify as “radical” or even “anarchist”.
  • Original Red Emma’s was funded without any loans. The original worker-owners put in a lot of ‘sweat equity’.
  • They found a viable business in coffee and books and operated out of a basement for ~10 years until recently when they were able to expand into current space.
  • It’s a business AND a political act.
  • Trying to listen to the community and give the community what it wants.
  • Indiegogo campaign and line of credit with a traditional bank helped with expansion.

Philosophies:

  • Worker cooperatives are an act of resistance and rebellion. They are a political statement against market capitalism.
  • Being a part of a worker cooperative makes you feel like you have a stake in the world.
  • We need to infuse cooperative principles into our culture at large.
  • Many progressive/radical organizers/organizations neglect to build their own infrastructure and institutions.
  • Worker cooperatives can't escape capitalism. They have to negotiate with monopoly capitalism, which adds to the challenges.
  • "In a worker cooperative, we can't run to a supervisor when there's a problem. We have to figure it out ourselves!"
  • Regular trainings to support people as they transition from having a boss to having a lot of responsibility and self-reliance is important.
  • At the end of the day, a worker cooperative is also a business that needs to sell things people will buy. It's the way it is operated and owned that makes it political.

Other Nuts and Bolts:

  • $1,000 buy-in for new members - can pay one time or paycheck deductions.
  • Trying to raise salaries and figure out patronage distribution now.
  • People pay their own insurance and social security out of their wages.
  • MD living wage is $11/hr, which is what Red Emmas members make. They are working to raise it to $12.50 and $13.50.
  • Everyone is paid the same wage.
  • They have had a lot of turnover which has been hard.
  • Their first year in a new space it was hard to find that extra time for visioning
  • They are intentional and want to be more intentional moving forward about partnering with other coops - Epicurious Bike Coop, AORTA has done staff trainings for them, Thread Coffee works with international coffee grower coops.

Make DC a Worker Coop-Friendly City!

The DC Worker Cooperative Coalition (DCWCC) is a group of worker cooperative owners, worker cooperative incubators, lawyers, and grassroots organizing groups who support the development of worker cooperatives as a necessary tool for equitable economic development, and who wish to see a flourishing worker cooperative ecosystem in Washington, DC.

Worker cooperatives are businesses that are owned and controlled by their workers. Studies show that, as compared to other small businesses and traditional investor-owned businesses, they tend to pay higher wages and provide better benefits, invest more in their workers through leadership and skills development, remain in business longer given worker commitment to the businesses, and encourage democratic, participatory and dignified workplaces. There are examples of low-wage workers in New York City who have formed worker cooperatives and have seen their hourly wages increase from $10 to $25 per hour within just a few years.

In recent years, worker cooperative development has grown dramatically in a range of cities including Boston, New York City, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, and Austin, in industries ranging from healthcare to sustainable energy production. Government support has been instrumental. In recognition of the benefits of this business model, in 2014, the New York City Council allotted $1.2 million toward worker cooperative development. Just last week, the NYC Council passed a law that requires the city to issue annual reports on the amount of goods and services it purchases from worker cooperatives, and to provide recommendations on how to lower barriers for worker cooperative participation in city procurement. This year, the Madison City Council committed $5 million over 5 years to worker cooperative development. The City of Cleveland has also been supportive of local worker cooperative development, providing land for a 3-acre hydroponic greenhouse and worker cooperative.

Given DC’s struggles with high inequality and a shortage of living wage jobs, we would greatly benefit from an integrated approach to supporting worker cooperative development. While the benefits of worker cooperatives are well-documented, they are widely unknown and underutilized as an economic development tool in Washington, DC. Supportive policies and legislation could change that.

Below is a list of policy recommendations to the City Council:

1) Pass a local definition of “worker co-op” and support public education on the model’s benefits

2) Equip the D.C. Small Business Development Centers to support worker cooperative businesses

3) Provide city-owned land and buildings to worker cooperatives

4) Provide funding (grants, loans) to worker cooperative businesses and developers

5) Make worker cooperatives a preferred contractor for city agencies

6) Provide tax benefits to worker cooperatives

On Thursday, March 26th, we will co-host the Second Annual Equitable Development Symposium, which will feature New York City Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who championed the legislative effort to support worker cooperatives in New York City. The event will take place at the George Washington University Marvin Center Grand Ballroom (800 21st St NW) from 9am-3pm. We hope you can join us there.

The DCWCC would welcome the opportunity to meet with the City Council and others to explore these ideas and share additional resources we have collected from worker cooperative efforts around the country. We look forward to continuing the conversation and working towards an equitable DC with dignified, democratic workplaces.

DC Worker Cooperative Coalition

Allison Basile, ONE DC

Eva Seidelman

Community Development Law Clinic
UDC David A. Clarke School of Law

Jennifer Bryant
Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE) DC
jbryant@onedconline.org

Jeremiah Lowery
Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) DC

Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Ph.D.
ONE DC and Grassroots Economic Organizing

Josephine Chu
Zenful Bites Catering Cooperative

Melody Webb
Second Chance Legal Project of Mothers Outreach Network, Inc.

Tracy McCurty, Esq.
Black Belt Justice Center

Zachari J. Curtis
Co-Founder
Community Farming Alliance


Towards a New Gentrification Mythology

By Jennifer Bryant, jbryant@onedconline.org

Originally Presented at A.C.T.O.R. Deconstructing Gentrification Panel 1/4/2015

I studied English in college and I’ve always been fascinated by stories. In order to deconstruct gentrification, we first have to start by looking closely at the narratives we've built up around it.

One of my favorite quotes, and the epigraph to the novel I’m writing, is a quote from the Egyptian artist and writer Hassan Khan. He says: “Maybe we’re all guilty of building our own mythologies.” I love that quote because we’re constantly creating myths to make sense of, and in many cases to justify, what’s going on in the world around us.

I want to begin today by deconstructing the mythology of gentrification. There are many pieces to this puzzle but I want to zoom in on one recurring myth - and that is that gentrification is not a race issue but purely an economic issue. I want to explore this myth by lifting up a true story about a house on a tree lined street in Bloomingdale in Northwest, Washington, DC; and then I’ll end by exploring alternatives to our current model of development.

I live in Congress Heights in Ward 8. Every time I’m walking up Alabama Avenue I pass the Jewish cemetery that sits on the side of the road not too far from the metro station. It’s a visible reminder that this wasn’t always a predominantly Black neighborhood. Congress Heights was established around 1890 when Arthur Randle purchased land in the area and laid out the streets. Restrictive covenants were attached to deeds, as they were in many parts of the city, to prohibit the sale of land or buildings to African-Americans. This is why, for many years, Congress Heights was predominantly white.

Restrictive covenants were around for generations until May of 1948 with the landmark Supreme Court case Hurd v. Hodge. This case, one of the most crucial housing policy cases in the nation’s history, involved the issue of restrictive covenants in Bloomingdale right here in Washington, DC. The Hurd case is critical to understanding how race and class operate in DC, and ultimately to understanding how gentrification is a continuation of race-based housing policy.

In May of 1944 a Black couple named James and Mary Hurd bought a house at 116 Bryant Street NW. The home had a restrictive covenant on the deed that, quote, prohibited “the sale of the house to anyone of the Negro race.” A few doors down from the Hurd’s new home, at 136 Bryant Street NW, there was a white couple named Frederic and Lena Hodge. When they found out Black people were moving into their neighborhood they filed a District Court lawsuit to prevent the Hurd’s from living on their block. They argued that Black residents would bring down their property value. Because institutionalized racism is so deeply embedded in the fabric of the American legal system, the Hodges won their lawsuit, and the Hurd’s were forced to move.

Thankfully that’s not where the story ends. Our brilliant radical scholar ancestor Charles Hamilton Houston – a native Washingtonian, graduate of Dunbar High School, and former Dean of the Howard University School of Law - took up the Hurd’s case, took it all the way to the Supreme Court and won. One of his arguments was that restrictive covenants created overcrowding in Black communities which exacerbated the issues of poverty and crime and relegated millions across the country to permanent second class citizenship. That last point is significant, because race-based housing and economic policies continue to exacerbate issues of poverty and crime around the country and in the District.

As many of you know, there is a movement growing right now across the country where people have taken to the streets under the banner “Black Lives Matter”. The Ferguson Action Coalition and organizers all over the country have declared 2015 “The Year of Resistance to state violence against Black lives”. We know that there are gross inequalities in policing, that’s what kicked this whole thing off. But there are also gross inequalities in housing, education and labor. What this movement is doing, that is very important, is drawing the connections between all of these things. So when we say Black Lives Matter, we’re not just talking about state violence at the hands of police. But we understand that poverty and gentrification are forms of state violence too.

In April of last year Salon published a piece by Daniel Jose Older called “Gentrification’s Insidious Violence: The Truth about American Cities”. In it he explains that the violence of gentrification takes four main forms – cultural, political, economic and racial — and that these four pillars lead cities to go to war with themselves. He says:

“It is a slow, dirty war, steeped in American traditions of racism and capitalism. The participants are often wary, confused, doubtful...
To forge ahead, we require an outrageousness that sees beyond the tired tropes and easy outs that mass media provides. This path demands we organize with clarity about privilege and the shifting power dynamics of community. It requires foresight, discomfort and risk-taking. It will be on the Web and in the streets, in conversations, rants and marches. We need a new mythology.”

Many have posed the question, if not gentrification – what? When we step outside of gentrification mythology we see that there are, in fact, many alternatives. The central alternative is this: equitable development rooted in a solidarity economy. ONE DC, the organization I work with, has joined forces with our members who are long-time DC residents, and progressive organizations across the city to create the People’s Platform - our plan for equitable development in the city. The main push is for community control and equitable development without displacement.

This alternative is not only possible, but it already exists. Before I close, I want to lift up two ways equitable development is happening right now in the District.

Washington, DC has the second highest number of limited equity housing cooperatives (coops) in the country after New York City. Limited equity coops are a shared ownership housing model that helps to preserve affordability for existing and future residents. Unlike renting, coops provide direct control over one’s housing. They allow for long-time residents, including those on fixed incomes, to not be priced out of their neighborhoods.

Worker owned cooperatives have similar benefits, providing worker-owners with direct control over their labor. There are many different worker coop models but they are generally all democratically run businesses owned and/or operated by workers. When the business makes a profit the worker owners collectively decide how the surplus should be distributed. This is different than traditional business models that are common in the District which pay low wages and exploit workers. Currently, there are only a handful of DC-based worker owned coops; however, ONE DC has joined forces with Impact HUB DC, COOP DC and others to begin to develop and incubate new worker-owned cooperatives.

The District’s current model of development is not the only way forward. We can creatively and collectively chart a new course for this city – one that makes room for all of us, especially long-time residents. Together we can create a new mythology – one that is rooted in our collective values and honors each of our right to coexist in this city without the threat of displacement.

[1] Source: http://househistoryman.blogspot.com/2008/06/hurd-v-hodge-dc-racial-covenants-50th.html

[2] Source: http://www.weown.net/LimitedEquityCoops.htm


Affordable Housing Preserved at Bass Place

Linda Leaks, a ONE DC member and long time DC organizer, is supporting the Bass Place tenants in an effort to purchase their building and convert it into a limited equity cooperative.  University Legal Services and Martha Davis asked ONE DC to provide cooperative housing education and organizing for 5100 Bass Place Tenants Association. The Department of Housing and Community Development signed a commitment letter to approve financing for the tenants to purchase their building.


Jessica Gordon Nembhard's Collective Courage Receives Enthusiastic Reception in DC & Baltimore

By John Duda, The Democracy Collaborative

Jessica Gordon Nembhard, a member of ONE-DC’s shared leadership team, offered two area talks to mark the release of her long-awaited book Collective Courage: African-American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice Dr. Nembhard, who is also an Associate Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at CUNY’s John Jay College, and a member of the Grassroots Economic Organizing Collective, was the featured speaker in an evening program exploring the intersections of economic and racial justice at the new Impact Hub DC space on June 3rd, and spoke in Baltimore the next night at Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative bookstore and coffeehouse.

collective_courage_JGN.jpgAt the event on the 3rd, which was sponsored by The Democracy Collaborative, Impact Hub DC, and ONE-DC, Dr. Nembhard was joined by local cooperative development advocate and fellow GEO collective member Ajowa Ifateyo for a conversation on the history of African-American cooperatives uncovered in the long years of research that went into the book, as well as the way this history informs attempts to organize cooperative economic institutions in communities of color today.  According to Nembhard, our understanding of cooperatives as primarily something that get created in relatively privileged white communities is by and large a total mistake.

In part, this mistaken impression is due to the consequences of the need to keep cooperative organizing in African-American communities clandestine due to fear of racist retaliation—because co-ops were kept quiet, they also were kept out of the historical record.  Despite facing this challenge along with many others, an extensive and vital tradition of African American cooperative activity nevertheless provided a key economic base of support and an indispensible site of leadership training during the long civil rights movement.  The hope expressed in the conversation was that this important and formerly unknown history can help guide and inspire today’s movements working to use cooperatives to empower marginalized communities.

Indeed, as the updates the audience in DC heard—on ONE DC's Black Worker's Center, Impact Hub DC's new worker cooperative incubator, Community Farming Alliance's DC-based farm cooperative for people of color and women, and on Black Belt Justice Center's efforts to expand African American community ownership of land—amply demonstrated, the struggle for economic self-determination so wonderfully chronicled in Dr. Nembhard’s Collective Courage is very much alive and well today.