Community development organization Nexus Community Partners has opened the application process for the third session of its North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship.
The six-month cohort-based program is aimed at helping build community wealth by providing participants with a history of and technical assistance to create their own Black-led cooperative initiatives.
“The NSBCF is formed to do several different things,” said Danielle Mkali, program officer. “One is to uplift the history and the legacy of Black cooperative economics which has been a fundamental part of wealth creation for [the Black community] — from enslaved Africans to their descendants.
“Much of the wealth-building happened through cooperative efforts, yet so many of us are never taught about it. We’ve heard about Black Wall Street, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
The fellowship is open to individuals and groups who will learn the ins and outs of running a cooperative – from governance structures and advisory councils to financing and resources.
Program activities include regular meeting sessions and Blackonomics, a two-day regional conference in October connecting fellows and Black-led cooperative efforts. The fellowship will also give access to local and regional experts to provide added insight and connection building.
Another focus, Mkali shared, is to ensure that the cooperative fulfills a community need. “We don’t limit the type of cooperative [being created],” she said of the fellowship. “We have folks who are interested in worker-owner cooperatives, artist cooperatives and some media collectives,” she continued, noting that participants must be able to answer whether their cooperative is “providing sustainable sources of income or sustainable affordable housing or solutions to typical small business financing.”
So far, Mkali said 21 cohorts have gone through the fellowship’s first two sessions. “We are looking to recruit 15 for the next one,” she said. Past participants have included Me’lea Connelly, who is leading the effort behind Minnesota’s only Black-led credit union, Village Trust Financial Cooperative, and Kenya McKnight Ahad, director of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance.
The next NSBCF cohort runs from September 2018 to April 2019. The application deadline is July 26, 2018. For more information or to apply, visit bit.ly/nsbcf3.
Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current host of MSR Forefront, a digital roundtable series. She is the founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.