The Black Socialists of America have put together a “dual-power map” of the United States and a broad strategy that I highly recommend exploring:
“We’ve meticulously plotted every single Worker Cooperative, Small Business Development Center, Community Land Trust, and Dual Power Project within the United States that you can support right now, and will be updating as time goes on.”
Zooming in on DC in the map shows how much work is needed to rebuild the growing cooperative economy DC had in the 1970s. Today’s cooperative economy is being created in new ways along with past experiences. The Black Socialists of America vision builds on the example of Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi and Symbiosis, as well as what we have heard at the National Gentrification Summit about similar work in Newark and East New York. You can find more discussion about this vision at the excellent BSA website and in this Vice article.
Zooming in on DC, however, highlights some issues that must be engaged with, issues beyond the map. At the very end of the suggested resources page, the website states:
“The readings below mesh with and tie into our praxis and/or strategy as an organization. If you’ve made it through many of the readings listed before these, then processing what’s below will not be very difficult for you!”
In this bottom-of-the-page section they list work by Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo and Jessica Gordon Nembhard, who both have worked in DC. My discomfort with this comes from the worlds of DC, where I write histories of DC cooperatives and was brought into DC’s cooperative movement organized by women and especially by African American women. From them, I gained an education about what radical democratic practice might be. In meetings around town, I see lots of men taking charge, seemingly not aware of the centrality (and generative nature) of the radical democratic tradition of African American women and other people of color in DC and elsewhere. This is reflected in the choices made on the resource page, putting GEO‘s Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo and Jessica Gordon Nembhard in what might be called the extra reading list, those external to, though supportive of, “our praxis.”
I make this critique as a call to strengthen the cooperative and alternative economy movements by truly engaging with radical grassroots organizing and democratic practice already around us.