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Historical background of African American cooperatives

By LaDonna Redmond

Contributing Writer


Mary Alice Smalls was a member of the New Riverside Café, a workers’ cooperative in the Cedar-Riverside community in the 1970s. Known as the Haight–Ashbury of the Midwest, Cedar-Riverside was a national center for counter culture, and the New Riverside Café was known as the community’s living room where customers could pay what they could afford. According to Smalls, “There were very few people of color that knew about the co-op and those that were interested were interested in alternatives to capitalism. Some were more militant than others.” It was that militancy that seemed to undo the work of the cooperative. “Decisions were made by consensus, anybody could block a decision, sometimes people would block a decision for political reasons that were not linked to the issue at hand.” said Smalls. Continue Reading →

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