I may live in city, but I’m country at heart. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, I grew up listening to my father tell stories of growing up on a farm in Mississippi. They didn’t have electricity out in the country in those days so life was a bit different than we’re used to. More than anything else I remember his stories about cooperation. The community he lived in shared produce, the meat they cured, and even went in on a tractor so everyone could till and harvest their land. My grandfather had three mules that he borrowed out to the neighbors. They depended on each other for survival feeding each other, clothing each other, and keeping up their farm land.
I carry those stories with me and it wasn’t until later in life that I realized the community I grew up in reflected how my father grew up. I would listen to my father telling these stories on our front porch along with the other children in the neighborhood. We were a neighborhood that shared sugar, flour, carpooling, summer treats, and had multiple block parties a year. There were times that I was locked out of the house after school and it was inconsequential. I would just go to a neighbor’s house, do homework, play, eat dinner and then go home when my parents returned.
This was my life, my love, sharing and living in a village. As I grew older, a gap was created in this space. Growing up my daddy told me about what it looked like for people to not only survive but thrive in community. And as a youth I experienced that first hand on the block I grew up on. Through college and my early career I was not in spaces that had that same sense of community. The gap continued to grow until I moved to Milwaukee and found it again.
Milwaukee has been a place that reminds me of my daddy’s stories and my porch growing up. When I found a group of folks who called themselves All Black Everything (ABE), I had found my cooperative community again. We became family and supported each other however we could. A good sister-friend in ABE introduced me to cooperatives and it was like that light was finally turned on. I moved to the neighborhood of Riverwest to immerse myself in the cooperative world. I sat on the board of Riverwest Co-op and People’s Books. I have shared space, time, and life in this community. It has led me to really dive into the history of cooperative living and understand it as a traditional African practice. So much so, that I choose it as my focus for research in my doctoral program.
I am at Ubuntu because I want to continue to build places where people can feel and work cooperatively. I look forward to sharing my stories about how I got here, how it plays out in my daily life, and how WE can grow and thrive cooperatively.