Cooperatives are a $500 billion industry, so clearly they have capacity to build wealth. But little of that reaches Black and other marginalized communities. Of the approximately 30,000 co-ops holding 350 million memberships in the United States, only a fraction are Black-owned.
Other efforts aimed at amassing Black dollars have fallen short. The number of Black-owned banks and credit unions continues to dwindle. A decade ago there were more than 50; that number is now down to 23. And Black-owned businesses in general struggle financially.
As much pride and empowerment as there is in community ownership of food-producing gardens and financial services such as credit unions to support local businesses, research shows those sorts of grassroots efforts cannot close the ever-growing wealth gap that has been historically and systematically created along racial lines. Controlling wealth by buying and banking Black is one piece of self-determination, but undoing economic segregation may be a problem too complicated for cooperative ownership alone to solve.
That problem needs a “set of solutions,” Yakini says.
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