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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Lessons from Third Root Community Health Center

While we did succeed in providing a steadfast resource that many long-term BIPOC community members relied on for healing and community building, bringing services into a community that had been historically marginalized did not in and of itself overcome cultural and access barriers. Although Third Root aimed to serve those most impacted by health inequality, we found ourselves situated in one of the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in Brooklyn.7 And because of historic gaps in access to holistic health modalities for working-class people of color, at least half of our patrons were white, and many were new city residents.8 The irony—given our mission, given that the practices of yoga, massage, and Chinese medicine and acupuncture come from people of color, and given that the staff and owners comprised more than 50 percent people of color—resulted in pain and harm to the community and the BIPOC staff and owners. And yet our work held distinction and profound meaning for people of color, especially those at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. While BIPOC people may have had many beautiful, connected, and important healing experiences here as patrons, practitioners, collaborators, and/or one-time visitors or longstanding community members, those truths don’t erase the fundamental challenges around racial equity at Third Root— challenges that are important, if sometimes difficult, to reflect on.

We strove to rectify these gaps by increasing affinity group programming, offering free and lower cost services to BIPOC folks via application, inviting community feedback,9 and working internally with skilled facilitators to organize social justice training for all staff10—but challenging white supremacy in our own culture, language, and principles should have been a keystone of our founding and operations. As a holistic health business in a primarily Caribbean and Latinx neighborhood, the onus was on us to understand and undo our own privilege. From its inception, Third Root did plan and budget for anti-oppression training, but we failed to make this work central to our organizational culture—a core failure for an organization helming a healing space in a diverse and increasingly gentrifying neighborhood.

Read the rest at Nonprofit Quarterly


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