Quick Stats

Start of Board Term: 2023

CW Membership: Organizational, with Columinate

Favorite Co-op Principle: Principle 7 – Concern for Community

First Encounter with Co-ops: Technically, the New Orleans Food Co-op

Favorite New Orleans Food Staple: Red Beans and Rice

 

What brought you into a career in cooperatives? 

To keep it real simple, it was my connection to the New Orleans food Co-op. When I moved to New Orleans, I really wanted access to healthy, clean foods. The New Orleans Food Co-op was one of the few places I could shop! After shopping there for most of my grocery needs, I got a call to run to be on the board there. Shortly thereafter, I was elected to the board! Since then, my interest in and connection to the co-op landscape has only grown deeper.

Did you have any familiarity with co-ops before you found the New Orleans Food Co-op?

I wasn’t familiar with the technical term “cooperative,” but when I heard of the co-op model, it resonated with my personal lifestyle. I grew up in a very small community in Birmingham, Alabama that was the result of a mining camp. There were a lot of shared, collective marketplaces. We had collective ways of raising the children. I grew up in those ways in that neighborhood. When I learned about the cooperative model, it resonated with how I grew up. 

If you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be and why?

I’m going to go with a colander, because sometimes we have to strain and filter out some of the things we need so we can get to the nitty gritty of it all. Sometimes we occupy spaces that are full of fluff, and the colander can shake it up and get all the fluff out of it. It gets us to the core, to the kernel, of what we need to be working on. A strainer would work too!

Follow up: you come from a musical family, and you sing. If you were an instrument, what would you be and why?

This is easy – an acoustic guitar! Here’s the reason why: the acoustic guitar sound is so versatile. It can give you the string sounds, but when you think about it, it also has an element of percussion to it. It’s a versatile tool that can be used to create a variety of harmonies and melodies. 

You live in one of my favorite cities, which is also a culinary powerhouse. What’s your favorite New Orleans dish?

It’s funny – there’s one staple dish that vegans and people of all flavors can eat. It’s the classic red beans and rice. I make sure it is cooked in my house weekly. Red beans and rice and cornbread is one of my favorite dishes. It is actually something that I cooked before I moved to New Orleans. I didn’t know it was a staple in New Orleans, but it is a staple in many southern states. Red beans and rice! That was easy.

What is your favorite cooperative principle and why?

Concern for Community, of course! Actually, this is a hard one because I really like education and training, too. But I’m going to lean into Principle 7 – Concern for Community. I think that if you really look at the way our entire economy was structured, it was structured based off of communal practices and communal living. Unfortunately, globalists saw that as a way to capitalize off of providing and meeting people’s needs. When we were in a more original way of being, we were more centered on supporting each other and being in harmony. Community for me is the center of economy, which is why businesses exist in the first place. 

What’s your favorite cooperative value?

I connect very strongly with the spirit of self-determination, so the values of self-help and self-reliance really contribute to self-determination. That, to me, speaks to people being at the center of why we have businesses, why we have an economy. People need to be in control of what’s happening to them from an economic standpoint, which shapes all other aspects of our lives. If people aren’t self-determined, we have dictatorships and other types of governments that are harmful. We don’t need that! 

This is your second year on the CW board. What motivated you to run?

First, CW was a foundation for me becoming a co-op developer, so I always want to be in support of what CW is doing. This felt like a holistic way for me to get in and support. I also think there is space to bring what CW does into more communities. I feel like me being present can serve as a connector to those spaces. I really want to lean into that before my term ends! If I don’t get to it this term, that will be my platform for a second term!

Those two things together – me being able to get on my own journey through CW’s services and expanding it out so others have access to it – are really important to me. 

In the co-op space, you’re a bit of a Renaissance woman. You’ve taken leadership roles in the New Orleans Food Co-op, Cooperation New Orleans, helped found Resolve Financial Cooperative, and have recently started with Columinate! AND you have your own financial consulting business to boot. Can you tell us more about your work?

Wow, this is a great question because that felt like a whole lot when I heard it! One revelation that surfaced for me is that those experiences are really shaping me to help share with others how to do this work. These experiences are illuminating how the many ways of doing the work can look! With my recent role of training and development, having those learning experiences of creating a cooperative, meeting my own food needs and volunteering in a cooperative space, doing community organizing and meeting my family needs and community needs, has given me a wealth of information to share with people across whatever spectrums that want to receive it. Being a trainer and a developer was important to me getting into that level of workflow. 

Some of it is scaling back, I’m shifting things into buckets. I’m stepping back a bit from Resolve, though I am still a member. I’m doing less work in other spaces so I can really lean into the training side of things and get my tools sharpened in that space! I felt like I really needed to sharpen my tools.

It sounds like you already have plans moving forward to deepen your experience with training. What’s that look like for you and what’s next?

I’ve had to do things that are really “let’s just figure it out” because of the community organizing space I’ve been in for years. I’m now moving into a different level of helping others think through cooperatives. The next layer for me is getting sharpened – I like to say sharpening my tools! Being in Columinate, being a trainer and developer here, learning the ways I can offer this service to both my community and communities across the globe, has been so useful.  I want to be more connected to the global community of cooperators and sharing how we can cooperate as a way of taking back the global economy. To me, that’s what next! Why not the world? 

I’ve really enjoyed talking with you about the co-op movement as it is currently and possibilities for it moving forward. Can you tell us about your co-op philosophy?

This one I can go on and on about! I’ll try to isolate it from an economic standpoint. When you really look at how people have created and shaped businesses historically, it’s nothing different from what you see in a modern day cooperative. But over time, businesses, and our conception of business, have been shaped by the theories of people who are more extraction-oriented. I feel like cooperatives have a set of values, principles, and practices that are people centered. They flip the script on the economy back to what it once was, which is a people-centered, commons-based economy. I’m not for some of the socio-political terms that go with this way of thinking, but my take on it is, there was a structure that worked. We should really go back to some of those ways that work for the people, not that work on them and extract from them. Cooperatives are one of the many tools that can serve to give people back the power they need to make decisions for themselves. 

If you could wave a magic wand and see one thing change for the co-op sector, what would it be?

The rich stories and histories of Black cooperation embedded throughout all histories and stories of cooperatives. 

Ooooh, going off of that, is there any story you would want to uplift here?

Oh wow, I want to lift up a recent story. This is the story of the Detroit People’s Food Co-op who have now scheduled a May 1st opening, which I know is on the heels of a 20-something year journey for food justice in the Detroit area. I’m excited to know that that work is happening. I’m excited for all the Black co-op grocery stores that are opening, working to solve food apartheid across our country. I’m grateful to see a difference from what I experienced in CCMA 2013 to CCMA 2023, which was a conference with many Black cooperators present. 

Anything else?

I would love to shout out to my family co-op that is currently in the process of forming. It’s Urban Dream Cooperative! My family has been in the practice of curating space for Black organizing for many years. It’s a cooperative for us to reclaim a space for all of our collective works. One of the things we’ve seen over the years is a vulnerability in Black property ownership. This venture is restoring artists’ capacity to actually have space to curate their art and manage their workflows in a space that they own collectively. I have office space here. We will also be sharing space with a collective of other local artists here at the Urban Dream Cooperative.