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Encouraged, inspired, and with unimaginable energy is how I landed in Detroit after a red-eye flight home from the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference. Over 500 folks from the U.S. and other countries – some as far away as South Africa, convened in Jackson, Mississippi to share ideas, information, case-studies, and conversation about building a network of cooperatives based in Jackson, and supporting the larger solidarity economy worldwide.

Participants fill the Walter Payton Center at Jackson State University for the Jackson Rising Conference opening.

Inspired by example. Encouraged by action. There are so many strong examples of the power of the people that were represented at this conference. We heard about the largest worker-owned co-op, Mondragon in Spain which has over 80,000 worker-owners, from Michael Peck. We met farmers that are members of the rural Federation of Southern Cooperatives. We learned about different methods of engaging people through participatory democracy in Jackson through the People’s Assembly and abroad. “In just six years [of this policy passing], over 41,000 communal councils, which are largely groups of families, have been set up in Venezuela that share decision-making power with the mayors on how money is spent within each community,” reported Omar Sierra, Deputy Consul General of Venezuela.

Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice in conversation with conference MC Iya’Falola Omobola.

Inspired by the work and legacy of the Honorable Chokwe Lumumba and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Cooperation Jackson is poised to make Jackson a model center of cooperative development in the U.S. “We explain it like this, getting back to what our grandparents did and then building from there,” says Nia Umoja of Cooperation Jackson. Making sure that the voices of the community are not only heard but are guiding how we move forward. Already Cooperation Jackson has acquired property, farmland, and a multitude of support to start incubating small worker-owned cooperatives within the city. The next steps are to grow the network of cooperatives and to start a cooperative school.

Antonio Cosme, of Raiz Up Collective, raised the question, “we engage with things all the time, that are made at the expense of a clean environment and fairness to workers in other countries, at what point are we going to start thinking about those systems and deconstruct those as we build ours too?” This question highlights the need to be thoughtful as we engage all parts of our supply chain, and to think in terms of solidarity with our brothers and sisters worldwide.

Members of the Detroit Delegation: (from left) Bryce Detroit, Sacramento Knoxx, and Antonio Cosme stand with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.

Energy begets energy. The Detroit Delegation represented a broad spectrum of work through numerous organizations including: East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Detroit Recordings, 5e Gallery, Raiz Up, Oakland Ave. Artist Coalition, Boggs Center, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Coming together in Jackson allows for cross-pollination between groups in Detroit and Jackson. “The cooperative model gets us in touch with our ancestry, we uplift throughout our mighty legacy the many different ways that cooperation has looked,” said Bryce Detroit.

What’s Next?

Like Cooperation Jackson on Facebook to stay informed of what’s happening in Jackson. Anyone wishing to support Cooperation Jackson can send donations to: Community Aid & Development, P.O. Box 360271, Decatur, GA 30036.

There will be a community share-out on the Jackson Rising Conference presented by the Detroit Delegation on May 29, 2014 at the D. Blair Theatre inside of the Cass Corridor Commons, 4605 Cass Ave. Detroit MI 48201. Open to all community members.

There are also two national conferences coming to Detroit that will continue the conversation of community-building and economic empowerment: Roots and Remedies (July 18-20 2014) and Re-Imagining Work (October 18-20, 2014).

Halima Cassells


Halima Cassells

I define my life's work as movement into alignment with my highest purpose which is service to my community/family through a contribution of time, knowledge, love, and creative talents which