Movements Moving Together 10

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A new article by a GEO cohort Ajowa Ifateyo is as surprising as it is inspiring and saddening. Surprising because it tells a whole different story of Marion Berry, a powerful Black leader in D.C. politics who was much maligned and discredited by the media.

Inspiring because we learn from Ajowa’s piece that his mayoral ambitions

envisioned an entire community development plan organized by a community-wide cooperative which would allow neighborhoods to integrate producer cooperatives, consumer cooperatives, credit unions, low-income housing cooperatives, a local charity funded by profits from the other cooperatives, and which would develop social action programs such as schools, hospital and child development centers.

That is, he was following W.E.B. DuBois’ lead in advocating a full-throated co-operative/solidarity approach for triggering bottom-up regional economic development. This in 1980! It stands in strong contrast to the narrow and overly-cautious approach of focusing only on worker co-ops that appears to be popular now among local governments wanting to experiment with co-operative economics.

The sad and cautionary part of the story involves how the powerful undertows of corruption (in this case embezzlement of the funds earmarked for this work ) and drug addiction undermined the effort. This part should not be surprising. We all bring the bright and dark sides of ourselves to whatever we do. That’s a problem, but not the problem. When we trap ourselves into keeping our dark stuff hidden, that will always undermine and destroy our bright possibilities. And we are as entrapped in that today as was Barry and his people 35 years.

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