We are excited to introduce Lavasha Smith, our new program associate with the Worker Ownership Initiative (WOI)! Part of Nexus’ Community Wealth Building Strategy, WOI helps retiring business owners sell their businesses to their employees and convert them into worker-owned cooperatives.
Lavasha’s passion for cooperatives started when she was a member of the Nexus North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship in 2017. There, she learned about the historical value of cooperatives within Black communities. “Us as black people have been cooperating forever!! There’s so much generational history there,” she reflected.
Through her own experience helping to build a cooperative herself, she’s learned some invaluable lessons about Black cooperation. Cooperatives push back against white dominant culture messages that tell us we need to be independent and do things all on our own. Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks have always been doing this work, centering community and looking out for friends, family, and neighbors. She shared that:
“There’s a misconception that Black people, especially Black women can’t work together. That is not true! We CAN work together and have been doing it for generations. Working together might look different than traditional business,…[but] we keep things going with one another. It really does take a village.”
In our lives and in cooperative work, we must lean into trusting one another, while fighting those toxic narratives that serve to isolate us. Lavasha is committed to this work because cooperatives are a tool of transformation, and a powerful way for Black and Brown people to own their wealth, labor, and time.
As both a Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute Alum and a North Star, Lavasha has been connected with the Nexus community for some time. Her first month so far has been a time of growth and constructive challenge. She said, “I’m unlearning some of the ways I’m used to working; I’m re-learning how to be a part of a healthy team, and adapting to a new organizational culture. I am constantly growing alongside my team at Nexus who pushes me and listens with intent.” She hopes that through her work at Nexus, “the idea of cooperative business structures amongst Black and Brown people becomes tangible. It is feasible, we have been doing it together, and we’ll keep doing it together.”
In her free time, Lavasha enjoys cooking, being a chauffeur for all of her son’s activities, and spending time with her large family, laughing and telling jokes.