Growing up in Gary, Indiana in the 80s, I saw firsthand how racial capitalism can ravage entire cities. Houses on the street I grew up are now vacant. Both my elementary and secondary schools have been closed and abandoned. Many folks struggle to provide for their families. At the same time, my organizing and life experience in Gary taught me that a different world is possible when frontline, oppressed communities come together to reimagine and create institutions that we need.
In my work today as a human rights and community development lawyer, I draw inspiration from people like Jacob Reddix, who in the wake of the great depression and massive layoffs of Black workers at US Steel, organized more than 20 Black families in Gary to start a study group and collective buying club.
Within five years, that study group created a network of co-ops called the Consumer Cooperative Trading Company (CCTC), which included two grocery stores, a gas station, a credit union, and a youth-run candy store. At the height of its organizing, CCTC had more than 400 members and published a strategic plan for Black cooperative development, Uplifting the Social and Economic Status of the Negro in Gary.
I think about organizations like the Fair Share Organization and Muigwithania, which means “come together and to move forward” in Kikuyu. Inspired by the Kenyan liberation movement, they organized against anti-Blackness, de jure segregation, racial discrimination, and provided food and other forms of mutual aid in Gary in the 1960s.
I think about my father who, at a time when it seemed all but impossible, broke the stranglehold of white electoral political oppression in Gary, to become the first Black elected mayor of a large US city and implement policies to support Black and impoverished residents.
In 2018, I joined the board of NEC because we can’t dismantle racism, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression without a fundamentally different economic system. Together, we can transform this economy and society — through solidarity, collective action and the agency of frontline, oppressed communities.
Please join me in becoming a monthly donor to NEC, because we can’t afford to wait to build the economy we need.
Board Member, New Economy Coalition
Renee Hatcher is the Assistant Professor of Law and the Director of the Community Enterprise & Solidarity Economy Clinic at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, IL. Her work and research focus on solidarity economy and the law.