Self-reliance and grassroots economic initiatives are snowballing in communities across the country, and most importantly, those affected by generational poverty and segregation.
Us Lifting Us Economic Development Cooperative is a black-led coop that reinvests black-owned income into black neighborhoods, in a micro-economy based on racial and community ties.
Cooperatives like this are funding innovative grassroots success stories like Cafe ULU (Website), a coffee shop operating in an un-gentrified neighborhood in southwestern Atlanta called Sylvan Hills. Notable community tenants in Sylvan Hills include six historically black colleges and Tyler Perry Studios.
The coffee shop features fair trade, organic coffee from Africa, vegan food, and grab-and-go fare, but also serves as a community gathering space and art gallery with weekly programming that features spoken-word performances, readings, and live music. The retail and sundries are all sourced from local business owners.
The Cooperative is looking to scale the coffee shop concept and open them in other cities, with an estimated price tag of $50,000 in start-up costs per location. Members of the cooperative can purchase shares in each shop with the promise of profit sharing once the shop is running.
Networks of businesses based on racial/gender identity is not a new thing. The Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party have both created cooperatives in the past, as have the LGBT community.
Bronx-based placemaking-guru and overall human-lover Majora Carter recently sat with Slate.com to record a brain-shaking conversation about self-gentrification; community-led reconstruction meant to benefit current residents. Give it a listen HERE.
The short-lived Parramore Main Street program could have provided a platform for something like this if not for it having been dissolved in 2007, just months after it had been formed. At the time, the City of Orlando went on record saying, “The city determined that until the revitalization efforts of Parramore, and the Amway Center, in particular, were further along, it was best to suspend the Parramore Main Street program.” Alluding to the idea that the district wasn’t ready for it, yet, at least until Amway had reinvigorated the district with white-sourced income. Something we’ve yet to witness, even given the promise of the future Magic Entertainment Complex.
New businesses that are sprouting up around the Orlando City Soccer Stadium (which bisects Parramore’s main drive) promise a resurgence in much-needed retail, yet if you look closely, some of those businesses will only be open during game days, choosing to shutter their doors during the rest of the week, or in the instance of the upcoming Lion’s Den, as a bar during game days and a cafe in the off days.
The Community Redevelopment Agency collects, earmarks, and redistributes tax dollars from the businesses within its boundaries towards initiatives in Downtown Orlando. But as anyone who read our “Redlining still affects Orlando’s neighborhoods” piece knows, those funds don’t necessarily affect Parramore businesses – unless they happen to face the newly renovated streetscape that leads towards the aforementioned soccer stadium. A project that cost over $4 million, $1.2 million of which came from the CRA.
So if the City isn’t going to do it, why not the residents and local business owners? That would really put the “agency” back into the hands of the community.
Let us know if we can help.