The idea of informally helping each other through mutual aid is prized during this lockdown, but coming together through informal co-ops is not new for Black Canadians. It has always been a tradition of the Black diaspora in Canada and elsewhere. But as we live in pandemic times, informal collectivity is now valuable and viewed with respect.
The “banker ladies” of Canada are engaged in equitable co-operative building, through rotating savings and credit associations, or ROSCAs for short. Yet we do not tell their story—even though Canadian women have been doing ROSCAs for at least 100 years, maybe longer.
ROSCAs, an academic term, are self-managed and member-driven institutions that adhere to co-op values and are rooted in mutual aid. They are usually called by their cultural names, such as hagbad (Somalia), box-hand (Guyana), susu (Ghana), tontines (Central Africa), sandooq (Sundan), equub (Ethiopia and Eritrea), and partner (Jamaica).