From the Blog

Coop Roots

Posted by Samira Rajan @ Apr 28 2018
Welcome to Brooklyn Cooperative’s blog!  We decided to start a blog as a way to introduce ourselves. Credit unions aren’t as familiar to most people as banks, though our services are likely better suited to their needs. Hopefully, through this blog, we will show that.
All of us (except Cathie)!
In the serene surroundings of Restoration Plaza’s Skylight Gallery, our hands created dozens of roots as the conversation flowed. We talked about the deep emotions money brings up within people, about the differences between black-owned capitalist businesses versus cooperatives, about the tensions between a person’s long-term goals and their day-to-day responsibilities. Makeela brought in insights from her work with hundreds of Brooklyn taxpayers and related her observations regarding the role of culture and music in shaping our financial decisions.

Spaces like this and moments like these — when we can break down what history is telling us and try to figure out how to keep moving forward — are so necessary. I felt blessed and grateful to have been part of it. Thank you, Edisa!

Last Saturday Makeela and I were busy all afternoon – busy with our hands and busy with our minds – attending a Roots Party with Edisa Weeks. Edisa is creating 1865 roots for an installation called “THREE RITES: Liberty”. Here’s a good description of a Roots Party.  BCoop was invited to help direct a conversation about wealth in African-American communities. Here’s her write-up for the April 21 event. ProgramNotes_RestorationART_RootsParty_Delirious.EdisaWeeks_April.21.2018_v1

Edisa sent me this AWESOME clip of Rev Adam Clayton Powell Jr as an inspiration.  Wow!

The Reverend is absolutely right. Some of the oldest credit unions in the country are based in Af-Am communities (ASI in Louisiana and Hope in Mississippi), and African-Americans like Annie Vamper have made enormous contributions to the modern community credit union movement. Cooperative organizations offer a different type of solution for marginalized communities. Capitalistic ventures generate wealth by extracting the fruits of labor, often concentrating it in the hands of the owners of capital. Cooperative ventures also generate wealth through labor, but the coop owners keep that wealth.

There would be a lot to talk about at the Roots Party. As much as I loved being part of the credit union movement before, Edisa’s invitation resulted in a deeper appreciation of how organic the cooperative movement is for communities like ours. The credit union angle is fascinating (check out the Southern Oral History Project pieces), but we are actually a small part of the story. Starting from right after the Civil War, cooperatives were an integral part of black communities all over the country. Some of the most inspiring stories are in this pamphlet summarizing the phenomenal work of Professor Jessica Gordon Nembhard.

Samira Rajan is the longest-serving employee of Brooklyn Coop and currently the Director of both the credit union and Grow Brooklyn. She started here as an Americorp*VISTA for a single year of service back when we were Bushwick Coop in 2001, got hooked by the challenge of building a community financial institution, and hasn’t left.