CoFED partners with young people of color from poor and working-class backgrounds to build food and land co-ops.

A Wake-Up Call for Co-ops From A Charlottesville Counter-Protestor

By Dominique, CoFED Racial Justice Fellow

I’d never actually experienced the sting of tear gas before, but I thought I had prepped myself for it pretty well. I rolled into Charlottesville feeling ready. But when I jogged up to Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park, and the tear gas came flying, I was proven terribly wrong. The first tickle in the back of your throat before your throat starts to close up in protest, the slow burn that seeps into your pupils, the involuntary clenching that only stands to make it worse—little can prepare you for that. I ran through a cloud of yellow gas, trying my best to help everyone I could, coughing my lungs out and burning like hell, herding as many folks away as possible. I was surprised by how hard that gas hit me.

I wasn’t surprised by the cops who threw it in the first place. 

Or by the Nazis beating a black woman in front of the cop who threw the tear gas. Many things about being in Charlottesville surprised me, but the racism? The violence? The sheer, unadulterated savagery required to descend, six-on-one, upon a person in the middle of a parking lot? 

That didn’t surprise me at all.

America is literally built on the back of prejudice; racism, sexism, xenophobia, colonialism; these are the values that catapulted the US to success in the first place. From the laws we pass to the food we eat to the land we stand on, there is no United States of America without someone to subjugate.  So I wonder why we are surprised when reminded of that fact. I also wonder how any organization with the word “Cooperation” in their paradigm can rest easy knowing half of their collaborators are constantly in fear for their lives. I wonder how many customers your student-run food co-op is going to get when the crowd of Party City torch-wielding Nazis strolls through your campus? How much diversity can you expect in your membership when the racist mansplainer becomes a worker-owner? How much respect should I give a cooperative organization that will not cooperate with my liberation?

Make no mistake; we are being targeted. Black, Brown, Jewish, Muslim, Indigenous, Queer, Femme, Different, Other: we are all targets for a state that looks for conformity to the status quo. Cooperatives are an alternative to the system, a way to recognize the autonomy, humanity, and capability of everyone and to give us back control over the ways we live and thrive. For too long that control has been held in the hands of the few -- the white, the wealthy, the able-bodied, the cis, the Christian, the man. These dominant voices have drowned out the needs of the rest of us. Cooperatives seek to balance that scale; to give back the power, the wealth, the access to those of us who have not had it. So that we can all have power. So we can all have wealth, and abundance, and access.

I am because we are.

We must work together, every single one of us, for none of us is free, or equal, or economically cooperative until we all are. CoFED understands that there is no cooperation without community, and no community without work.

There is no hiding under the sand; no pretending this is not your issue; White Supremacy is coming for everyone, including other white people.

White women, white queer folks, white Jews, white poor folks, white rural folks; no one is safe. If you believe in the work of cooperation and horizontal leadership, you cannot stand by as your fellow leaders are oppressed. Full stop. This is why we have issued so strong a statement on this issue; cooperation requires community, and this is CoFED’s community; Black, Brown, Jewish, Muslim, Indigenous, Queer, Femme, Different, Other and Everyone and anyone who understands that economic liberation is directly tied to social justice.

There is no issue more pressing than this; we must put our wealth and our work into protecting and uplifting our most marginalized. If you can give your money, look here:

If you have time, lend a hand here:

Do what you can so we can all get free.


dominique_cville(1).JPGDominique has been a member of the cooperative movement since 2012. They spent 4 years total in Oberlin College Co-ops, including Harkness and Third World Co-op. They subsequently began working at Red Emma’s Bookstore and Coffeehouse, an anarchist cooperative based in Baltimore, MD, before joining CoFED. They are currently a CoFED Racial Justice Fellow, continuing their food justice work by providing workshops and skillshares connecting PoC to their cultural culinary roots in a symbiotic, sustainable push for collective liberation.



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