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Cooperativism as a political philosophy has been used by Africans in the building of U.S. agriculture since we were forcibly brought to the Americas from Africa. Realizing that our survival depended on working together and sharing resources, we pulled from the collective traditions from the African nations and civilizations we came from. For example, enslaved Black people might share a small kitchen garden to provide more variety of food than what the master would give. Those that had opportunities to earn money would pool those earnings to buy each other’s freedom – when there was a “master” willing to sell their “property.” 


Cooperativism is also precolonial and extends back to African antiquity, prior to the origin of the English word “cooperative” being widely used to describe the social movement based on economic democracy, regeneration, resistance to capitalism and the other intersecting systems of oppression that it depends on (white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, etc.). While ancient and powerful, cooperatives can also be significantly challenging to develop. Everything from fundraising, community buy-in or engagement, legal and financial filings, and building truly accountable and cooperative work cultures are huge hurdles from many people and communities embarking on cooperative development. Even more so, Blackness presents different dynamics that aren’t readily addressed in many cooperative resource offerings.

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This website aims to change that by serving as a platform for Black cooperative education, grounded in a place-based pedagogy of Detroit. As Detroit poet,  jessica Care moore, says, in her poem, “We Wear the Working Day:”


There is love inside of large movements
A migration toward dreams and prosperity manufactured
By a wish, and a promise of something greater.

Detroiters stitch and sew & blend ideas into change.

Our legacy built on the the strength of our history

We, the epitome of cool

This is how we lace, and walk and breathe through adversity

How we raise our children, wrap them in passed down


Detroit is all things love, fire and beauty. The local cooperative movement is deeply rooted in the history of the Black Power movement, the worker unions resisting industrial exploitation and the overall self-determination that people produce daily through sheer alchemy, grit and unapologetic ancestral avengement. These are our stories, lessons and offerings to the world we are building.


This is a living curriculum and will be updated periodically. If you have feedback on the content or something else, please submit your inquiry below. shakara will follow up with you, accordingly. Thank you for supporting this platform for Black cooperative development.

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This work was supported by the Institute for Food and Development Policy,
(FoodFirst), (grant #220201”)

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