It is easy to dismiss the environmental movement. It seems that so many of the messages that come from environmentalists are related to things that are defined as White or ideas that are not of any concern to African Americans. It may also seem like the environmental movement is trying to “unring” a bell, making the behavior attached to protecting the environment from human harm inaccessible and unrealistic.
Mary Alice Smalls was a member of the New Riverside Café, a workers’ cooperative in the Cedar-Riverside community in the 1970s. Known as the Haight–Ashbury of the Midwest, Cedar-Riverside was a national center for counter culture, and the New Riverside Café was known as the community’s living room where customers could pay what they could afford.According to Smalls, “There were very few people of color that knew about the co-op and those that were interested were interested in alternative to capitalism. Some were more militant than others.” It was that militancy that seemed to undo the work of the cooperative. “Decisions were made by consensus, anybody could block a decision, sometimes people would block a decision for political reason that were not linked to the issue at hand.” said SmallsSmalls is a member of the Seward Community Co-op board and is the only African American board member. To her, the co-op is more than just a place to shop: “It is a way to have an alternative environment that protects democracy.”The principles that guide the work of co-ops suggest that they are designed to serve a greater good of organizing people for political and economic change. Continue Reading
“There were two African American owned co-ops in the Twin Cities,” according to Gary Cunningham, former staff of the old Bryant-Central co-op. Gary’s uncle, Moe Burton, was the energy behind the co-op that formed in 1975 on the corner of 35th Street and 4th Avenue.Decades earlier, in 1946, the Credjafawn Social Club formed the first African American Co-op, the Credjafawn Co-op, which was located a few blocks from the current Mississippi Market Co-op location at Selby and Dale.FULL DISCLOSURE: LaDonna Redmond works for Seward Co-op as Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Friendship site in the Bryant neighborhood. This is one of a series of articles written as part of her Media Skills Fellowship with the TC Daily Planet:Seward Co-op plans for second store run into questions of race, class and food justiceFriendship Co-op proposal: Opportunity for community or one more white space? African Americans in the Twin Cities co-op movementHistorical background of African American cooperatives St. Peters AME church member and Central community resident, Gregory McMoore became concerned when he learned from a Wilder Foundation report that found that you can predict the life expectancy of people by their zip code. Continue Reading
Environmental justice organizer, Anne Young, has been involved in the co-op movement since 1973. Young became membership coordinator at Seward Co-op in 1981. When she joined the co-op, it was in poor financial shape. Young is credited with leading the effort to reorganize Seward to achieve financial success. Young currently staffs the Harrison community’s effort to create the Wirth Co-op in north Minneapolis. Continue Reading
“Will the store cause a rise in rents?” one community resident asked during the July public meeting about Seward Community Co-op’s plan to open a store across from Sabathani Community Center. At the heart of the discussion were questions about race, class and food justice. How can Seward Co-op serve a community that is primarily African American and working class while it currently serves a community that is white and middle class? In other words, can a white-led co-op serve a black community?A few weeks prior to the community meeting, the Bryant community grapevine had gotten news that a local cooperative wanted to expand in the community. Continue Reading