VOICES: Building our Black future together

Now is our time to unapologetically re-imagine Blackness beyond the scope of a white imagination.

Historically, Blackness has been shaped by the limitations of a white imagination corrupting our lived environment through redlining and the intentional underdevelopment of our neighborhoods. It is time to ask ourselves, what is the Black future we are co-creating together? What is the community we want to live, work and play in? What steps are you taking to live into it?

For me, cooperation is essential to our Black Future. When the Black community collaborates together, there is absolutely nothing that we cannot achieve. Cooperation is a moral force on Earth, for humanity is a single garment of destiny.

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The Sankofa bird teaches us that our Black future is standing on the shoulders of our elders. Historically, our movement towards freedom from systems that deny our humanity was a struggle for human rights coupled with cooperative economic development. When we look at the pillars of the freedom movement such as Ella Baker, Thurgood Marshall, Fanny Lou Hamer, W.E.B. Du Bois, each of them understood that our liberation simultaneously required establishing our human rights while building our economic base.

Over time, economic development became disconnected from our struggle to acknowledge our common humanity. As we build our Black future together, one pathway is building a just economy that enables us to build businesses and enterprises that meet our needs and fill market gaps while also creating good paying jobs. We can flip the dollar amongst those that believe a new world is possible as we live into our interdependence amongst humanity to root Love on the earth.

By grace, I am Co-Executive Director of CO-OP Dayton, a cooperative economic development organization. Through the cultivation of intentional, deep relationships with primarily Black and working class communities, we focus on developing community-led and -owned co-ops to address needs in our community by an asset-based community development approach.

Black babies in Montgomery County are born too early and too small — factors that contribute to dying before their first birthdays at a rate twice that of white babies. We are currently supporting T.R.I.B.E., a Black-led perinatal care co-op, to address Dayton’s racially-stratified infant mortality crisis, with attention to mothers’ trauma and resilience.

West Dayton had 40,000 residents and no full-service grocery store, so we walked with the community to open the Gem City Market, a full-service grocery, to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

CO-OP Dayton also supports the Westside Makerspace, a co-op where we can design, build, repair, and prototype our own goods, sharing knowledge and skills across generations.

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We also support Guided By Mushrooms, a worker-owned co-op and commercial-scale gourmet mushroom growing facility whose amazing mushrooms are available at the Gem City Market and numerous retail stores in the region.

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

To celebrate Black Future Month at the Gem City Market, CO-OP Dayton has partnered with the Gem City Selfie Museum to host an exhibit entitled “Building Our Black Future Together.” It contains six selfie walls that utilize color therapy and art to help us heal from internalized oppression and negative thought patterns as we imagine our shared future. I invite you to come and experience the exhibit through Feb. 28 and while you are there, check out our amazing selection of meat, produce, and other fresh food items.

Today, we stand at the threshold of a new day that acknowledges the dignity and worth of every human being. “Beloved community” is a Black future, for it acknowledges our common humanity and the fact that we have a shared future on this rock floating in space.

As Dr. Martin Luther King reminds us, we must learn how to live together or perish as fools. Now is that moment of decision. Do we choose chaos or interdependence as our shared future?

Walk believing hope is here! Walk in your vision of a Black future, strive to be what you hope to see in the world.

Forward eva, backward neva.

Amaha Sellassie is an assistant professor of sociology and Co-Executive Director of CO-OP Dayton.

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