Understanding Cooperative Economics
“…They realized that their survival depended on working together and sharing resources.”
April 14, 1960. Detroit, Michigan. This date and place would be the birth of the official Motown Record Corporation. Developed and lead by the legendary Berry Gordon, Jr., Motown would become the home of stars such as The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder but it would also become the highest income grossing Black-owned business of its time bringing in $40 million (1972). From the first Black-owned business to the numerous Black-owned businesses around the U.S., it’s always been imperative for Black people to depend on and uplift each other.
Cooperative Economics is the principle of Black people building and maintaining our own stores, shops and other businesses to profit from them. The concept of cooperative economics dates back to when “enslaved as well as freed Blacks started mutual aid societies through religious and fraternal institutions.” (Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard). In the early 1900s, the traditions continued developing into co-op schools, markets and health programs leading to the Black Panther Party establishing collective housing along with free breakfast programs. The goal was to recycle the Black dollar within the Black community while building the Black community.
Understanding the Power of The Black Dollar
Black people are the highest consumers nationwide with a growth of 30% compared to other groups but receive the lowest in pay income. According to a study done in 2013, Whites made 13 times more than Blacks and within last year Asians made a whopping $506 billion while Black people brought in $135 million. With 1.9 million Black-owned businesses developed between 2002-2007 and Black people continuing their education past Bachelor degrees, how are Blacks still at the bottom of the totem pole? Companies such as Ujamaa Box took initiative to practice cooperative economics by packaging Black-owned goods as an alternative to buying from popular retail stores and encouraging people to “buy Black”. Utilizing search engines is the first step in educating oneself on Black businesses locally and nationally.
“We’re talking about how we were Kings and Queens. We discovered math and science and we mastered math and science so let’s master math and science for right now so we can have economic power.”-Lauryn Hill
In recent studies, Black women are the highest racial group to graduate with a college degree and are also the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs controlling 14% of the 30% of women-owned businesses but only 10% of these women-owned businesses have employees. More generated support and awareness could potentially bring more profit, which results in more jobs. Circulating quality goods and services amongst the group would encourage expansion outside of that; again bringing more to circulate.
(For a listing of Black owned businesses here in Columbus, click here.)
Afrikan cultures worked together to uplift and thrive together. Each individual worked for the greater good of the collective. It’s imperative to be organized and to communicate efficiently in order to be taken serious as well as providing quality goods and products in order to effectively continue to solidify our presence in business affairs. We have to do more than work for our own families and ourselves but we must create more jobs for our own people. We must cooperate.