Forum Post: Jackson Rising: Black Millionaires Won't Lift Us Up, but Cooperation and the Solidarity Economy Might
Posted 10 months ago on May 15, 2014, 4:10 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Jackson Rising: Black Millionaires Won't Lift Us Up, but Cooperation and the Solidarity Economy Might
Thursday, 15 May 2014 10:20
By Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report | Op-Ed
"...The hundreds gathered at Jackson Rising spent the weekend exploring and discussing how to fund, found and foster a different kind of business enterprise – democratically self-managed cooperatives...."
For a long time now we've been fed and been feeding each other the story that uplifting black communities means electing more faces of color to public office and creating more black millionaires. Those wealthy and powerful African Americans, in the course of their wise governance, their normal business and philanthropic efforts can be counted on to create the jobs and the opportunities to largely alleviate poverty and want among the rest of us. The only problem with this story is that it's not working, and in fact never really did work.
It was a myth, a fable, a grownup fairy tale which told us nothing about how the world and this society actually functioned.
In the real world, we now have more black faces in corporate board rooms, more black elected officials and more black millionaires than ever before, alongside record and near-record levels of black child poverty, black incarceration, black unemployment, black land and wealth loss. The fortunes of some of our most admired black multimillionaires, like Junior Bridgeman and Magic Johnson, rest firmly on the continued starvation wages and relentless abuse of workers in his hundreds of fast food and other restaurants.
Over the first weekend in May about 320 activists from all over the country, including 80 or more from Jackson and surrounding parts of Mississippi converged on the campus of Jackson State University for Jackson Rising. They came to seek and to share examples of how to create not individual success stories, but stories of collective self-help, collective wealth-building, collective success and the power of mutual cooperation.
The hundreds gathered at Jackson Rising spent the weekend exploring and discussing how to fund, found and foster a different kind of business enterprise – democratically self-managed cooperatives. They reviewed future plans for and current practices of cooperative auto repair shops, laundries, recycling, construction, and trucking firms. They discussed cooperative restaurants, child and elder care coops, cooperative grocery stores, cooperative factories, farms and more, all collectively owned and democratically managed by the same workers who deliver the service and create the value.
Participants at Jackson Rising learned a little of the story of Mondragon, a multinational cooperative enterprise founded in the Basque country, the poorest and most oppressed part of Spain. That country now has about a 25% unemployment rate, but in the Basque country where Mondragon cooperatives operate factories, mines, retail, transport, and more, the unemployment rate is 5%. When a Mondragon factory or store or other operation has to close because of unprofitability, Mondragon retrains and relocates those workers to another of its enterprises. Mondragon's cooperative ethos makes it so different from other enterprises, one representative explained, that they're about to have to offer their own MBA program, to guarantee they get trained managers without the bloodsucking, predatory mindset taught and valued at most business schools. They heard that Mondragon is now partnering with the UFCW and local forces to establish cooperative grocery stores and enterprises in Cinncinnati.
Those attending Jackson Rising heard about the concept of a solidarity economy, an economy not based on gentrification or exploitation or the enrichment of a few, an economy based on mutual cooperation to satisfy the needs of many, to stabilize neighborhoods and communities, to provide needed jobs and services.
Cooperation, or as it's sometimes called, "the cooperative movement" is a model that is succeeding right now in tens of thousands of places for tens of millions of people around the world. It's a model than can succeed in the United States as well. The dedicated core of activists in the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, MXGM, after deeply embedding themselves locally in Jackson Mississippi and briefly electing one of their own as mayor in the overwhelmingly black and poor city of half a million, are determined to show and take part in a different kind of black economic development.