“We are existing in a genocidal condition,” says Nia Umoja, lead organizer of Cooperative Community of New West Jackson. “We need to find lasting solutions for the deep-seated social challenges we face within our community—the distrust, the self-hatred, the miseducation, the despondency, the economic disparities—so that the most vulnerable can take advantage of the opportunities we are unable to see now.”
Founded by residents in 2013, CCNWJ quietly acquired 65 properties from absentee owners and slumlords within a sprawling, largely neglected eight-block area of West Jackson containing vacant lots, commercial and residential property, and long-term lease property. Rather than rehabbing through contractors, the association uses “neighbor labor” for “all renovations,” Umoja says. It also operates a community supported agriculture site and manages the Airbnb-listed Mulberry Tree Guesthouse.
The organization successfully assembled itself alone and under the radar, without much intervention beyond the hard work of its members. Still, Umoja admits that “nobody knows yet if the CLT structure will work for communities here in Jackson.”
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