Join DC Co-op Stakeholders’ Group

Dear worker-owners and allies –

A group of co-op advocates – the DC Co-op Stakeholders’ Group – has been meeting for over a year to discuss how best to help start new co-ops and strengthen existing co-ops in DC.

Many ideas are being discussed, but they all revolve around designing and developing programs, policies, legislation, and a new dedicated co-op development center that will support local co-ops and start-ups.

There’s just one problem: we haven’t had nearly enough participation from existing DC co-ops, to help guide this effort!

That why I’m writing to you now – I’m hoping that one or more members of every DC worker co-op (and former worker-owners, and any that you may know) can attend the next meeting of the DC Co-op Stakeholders’ Group – this Saturday, June 16th, 12 noon, at Bread for the City, 1525 7th St. NW

If so, please reply and let me know, so we can plan for attendance.

And if you’re from a co-op that can’t send any members, please reply and let me know that too, so I can get your input and help carry your thoughts to the meeting.

More background: Originally convened by staff of the DC Government’s Dept of Small and Local Business Development, the DC Co-op Stakeholders’ Group is now becoming self-organizing, and will be posting volunteer openings for a formal steering committee soon – we’re hoping to get substantial representation from DC’s co-ops and worker co-ops on that steering committee, so please stay tuned!

The group drafted a mission statement (here: that summarizes its thoughts about how to help DC co-ops get started and get stronger. The group sees particular needs for access to fair employment and healthy food, and is thus prioritizing worker co-ops and food co-ops. We also staffed a table at last October’s National Co-op Festival on the Mall and got lots of good response and interest from local folks.

Hope to see you this Saturday at noon – and thanks for forwarding this on to any DC worker co-op members, and former worker-owners, that you may know!

PS – if you want to be joined to the DC Co-op Stakeholders’ Group Slack group, reply to me and ask, and I’ll see that you get an invite.



Jim Johnson
Co-founder and Certified Peer Advisor
Democracy At Work Network – 240-621-0921


Creating Food Co-ops

Tune in to WOL 1450 AM, June 14, at 10:30 am, for Everything Co-op, hosted by Vernon Oakes. This week Vernon interviews Stuart Reid, Executive Director of Food Co-op Initiative, (FCI). Vernon and Stuart will discuss how FCI works with communities to  establish food Cooperatives in diverse neighborhoods, and other programs and initiative spearheaded by FCI.

FCI aims to increase the number, success, and sustainability of new food cooperatives delivering access to healthy food in diverse communities across this country. It provides information, training, and technical assistance, as well as seed capital, and engages in research, to blaze, maintain and improve the development path for new food coops.

For more information on Stuart Reid, or the Food Co-op Initiative
Click Here!

To listen live online Click Here!
or Click Here! to Listen on your cell phone with Tune-in Radio

What are you doing on the International Day of Cooperatives?

On July 7, 2018, cooperators around the world will celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives. According to Wikipedia:

International Co-operative Day is an annual celebration of the co-operative movement observed on the first Saturday in July since 1923 by the International Co-operative Alliance.

On December 16, 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed in resolution 47/90 “the first Saturday of July 1995 to be International Day of Cooperatives, marking the centenary of the establishment of the International Cooperative Alliance.”[1] Since 1995 the United NationsInternational Day of Co-operatives has been observed jointly alongside International Co-operative Day.

The aim of this celebration is to:

  • increase awareness of cooperatives,
  • highlight the complementary goals and objectives of the United Nations and the international cooperative movement,
  • underscore the contributions of the movement to the resolution of the major problems addressed by the United Nations,
  • and to strengthen and extend partnerships between the international cooperative movement and other actors.

Whether or not you agree with this approach, we can use this day to think about what our part might be in the international cooperative movement. Are you planning something to celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives on July 7th?


Cornelius “Cornbread” Givens

I finally created a Wikipedia entry for national advocate for cooperatives and civil rights leader Cornelius “Cornbread” Givens:  For those of you who knew Givens or who know about him, please feel free to edit the Wikipedia entry or email me with suggestions for edits, additions, etc.:

Here is the Wikipedia entry:

Cornelius “Cornbread” Givens (1931-2008), usually known as Cornbread Givens, was a civil rights leader and a national advocate for cooperatives. He was also known as the first African American to run for mayor of a major US city, Jersey City, New Jersey.

Early life

In 1931, Givens was born in Jersey City. From 15 to 18 years old, he was stationed in the South Pacific.[1] In 1952, he and Alma Montgomery married. They had two children, Kevin and Pamela.[1] During the early 1960s, Givens owned his own home remodeling business.[2]


In 1961, Givens began his political career in the New Frontier Political Democratic Club, which began running African American political candidates.[3] By 1963, Givens was president of the club and promised to run an African American for mayor of Jersey City in two years.[4] In 1965, Givens ran for mayor of Jersey City. His campaign platform included federally-financed factories run by African Americans, history books reflecting a more accurate understanding of African American contributions, funds to rehabilitate neighborhoods and build middle-class cooperatives, and rent control.[5] He came in sixth out of seven contenders.[6]

Givens committed his life to building anti-poverty organizations run by poor people like himself. He said, “One day when I was 13, I grew so sick of poverty that I cried. I vowed then the next generation would not endure what I had to suffer.”[7] From 1964, he worked for CAN DO, an anti-poverty organization that trained teenage boys to do construction.[8] Then, he formed Poverty Organization of Rehabilitation (POOR)[9] and Grass Rooters Interested in Poverty Elimination (GRIPE).[10]

Givens became a leader in the Poor People’s Campaign. Mayor John Lindsey appointed Givens New York coordinator of the campaign.[2] During Resurrection City, a multiracial group, including Givens, decided that America’s poor needed its own “embassy,” a Poor People’s Embassy in Washington, DC.[11] From this embassy, Givens launched the Poor People’s Development Foundation (PPDF), which sought to help poor communities develop cooperatives. From 1969, Givens was the president and the board included Chicano activist Reies Tijerina, Tillie Walker, and Black Panther Mark Comfort.[12] By 1971, PPDF worked on establishing farm cooperatives in the South and linking them to northern consumers, as well as supporting community control of urban renewal efforts in Chicago.[12] The farm cooperatives formed in response to the backlash against the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Southern tenant farmers who decided to register to vote were, in retaliation, evicted from their tenant farms. Givens and PPDF worked to connect Southern farmers’ cooperatives with consumer food cooperatives, farmers’ markets, health food stores, and collective warehouses, which he set up around Newark, NJ and New York City. Members of the PPDF trucked food up to Newark and New York City to be sold in farmers’ markets and health food stores.[13]

When Mayor Marion Barry was elected as mayor of Washington, DC, Givens moved to Washington, DC. By May 1980, Barry made Givens chairperson of his new Commission on Cooperative Economic Development,which aimed to make Washington, DC, a demonstration city for cooperative development.[13] Givens envisioned cooperatives as a way to forge economic and political power among low- and moderate-income residents.[13]

In 1985, Givens told FBI agents about phony contracts that DC government employee Ivanoe Donaldson had run through Givens’ organization. Donaldson eventually was sentenced to seven years for his embezzlement and fined. Givens was never charged with any wrongdoing.[14]

DC Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon helped Givens establish the University of the District of Columbia‘s Center for Cooperatives.[14]


 1. “‘Poverty Makes You Think’ Says Givens”. Jersey Journal. March 30, 1965.
2. “Cornelius Givens One of U.S. Big Five in New Poverty Coalition”. Jersey Journal. July 2, 1968.
3. Berg, Nat (February 20, 1962). “Dem Club Plans to Run Full Ticket”. Jersey Journal.
4. Berg, Nat (September 14, 1963). “Weehawken Mayor May Be In Trouble”. Jersey Journal.\
5. “Negro Candidate Wants Negro-Run Factories”. Jersey Journal. March 19, 1965.
6. “Whelan in One”. Jersey Journal. May 12, 1965.
7. “Givens Gets Petitions for Mayor Race”. Jersey Journal. February 19, 1965.
8. Weitzman, Jerrold (February 4, 1965). “CAN DO Youths Complete 1st Chore: Project Painting”. Jersey Journal.
9. “Officials Invited to School Dance”. Jersey Journal. August 4, 1966.
11. Mantler, Gordon (2013). Power to the Poor: Black-brown coalition and the fight for economic justice, 1960-1974. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 176–177.
12. Mantler, Gordon (2013). Power to the Poor: Black-brown coalition and the fight for economic justice, 1960-1974. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 192.
13. Bockman, Johanna (2016). “Home Rule from Below: The Cooperative Movement in Washington, DC”. Capital Dilemma Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C.: 66–85.
14. Cherkis, Jason (November 5, 1999). “Dreams and Cornbread”. Washington City Paper.


Reporting from Quebec

Reporting from the Historical Materialism conference “The Great Transition” in Montreal. There are several panels on cooperatives and radical cities. Montreal and Quebec more generally are hotbeds of cooperatives, the social economy, and solidarity economies. This panel looked especially interesting. Martin Zibeau of Horizons Gaspésiens (Saint-Siméon, Canada) will be talking about:

How can a community of individuals hope to regain some control over its economy, without being “controlling” in turn? In Gaspésie, some concrete examples on the ground have been under test for a few years. The examples presented will be those of Horizons Gaspésiens, a solidarity cooperative created to serve as administrative support for a variety of self-managed projects. Among these, Loco Local is a self-managed citizen’s area open to everyone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and where trust is at the heart of the experience. Le Demi, an alternative currency created from the Canadian dollar by cutting it in half with a pair of scissors and the Gaspésie Paths (Chemins gaspésiens), a self-managed living repertoire that wants to help bring out of the shadows the fact that the social economy and collaborative is a strong pillar of the Gaspésie economy.

Carving out the Commons: Thurs, 3/22

Amanda Huron will talk about her new book, Carving Out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, DC, at The Potter’s House, 1658 Columbia Road, NW, Thursday, March 22, 6:30pm! You can find more info about the event here. Her book is an investigation of the practice of “commoning” in urban housing and its necessity for challenging economic injustice in our rapidly gentrifying cities. Amanda Huron is assistant professor of interdisciplinary social sciences at the University of the District of Columbia.

Provoked by mass evictions and the onset of gentrification in the 1970s, tenants in Washington, D.C. began forming cooperative organizations to collectively purchase and manage their apartment buildings. These tenants were creating a commons, taking a resource—housing—that had been used to extract profit from them, and reshaping it as a resource that was collectively owned and governed by them. In Carving Out the Commons, Amanda Huron theorizes the practice of urban commoning through a close investigation of the city’s limited-equity housing cooperatives. Drawing on feminist and anticapitalist perspectives, Huron asks whether a commons can work in a city where land and other resources are scarce, and how strangers who may not share a past or future come together to create and maintain commonly-held spaces in the midst of capitalism. Arguing against the romanticization of the commons, she instead positions the urban commons as a pragmatic practice. Through the practice of commoning, she contends, we can learn to build communities to challenge capitalism’s totalizing claims over life.