North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship

At Nexus Community Partners, we nurture the prosperity of our communities – and in this prosperity, our health, joy, peace, love, safety and the needs of future generations come first. To ensure this, we must dismantle the rigged rules, attitudes, and practices that concentrate wealth and power in fewer and whiter hands. In their place, we must turn to our distinctive cultural practices and histories so that we can foster our relationships with each other and with the land, and work cooperatively to cultivate and share this prosperity in our communities. 

The North Star Black Cooperative fellowship works to build more engaged and powerful communities by bringing worker-owners of  Black-led cooperatives together, by grounding them in the history of Black cooperative economics in the US, and by applying Black cooperative thought to build a future of Black wealth.

 

What is the North Star?

The North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship (North Star) is a seven-month fellowship focused on Black American Cooperative Economics and the history of Black cooperative economic thought and practice. We center the wisdom and experience of those who share the ancestry of Enslaved Africans in the United States and place value on the legacy of Black cooperative economics and collective care. 

Right now, the North Star Fellowship is focused on housing cooperatives, land trusts and other community-owned land models for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. 

Why the North Star?

Black Economic cooperation has been foundational in the Black American freedom movement, from the underground railroad, to funding and supporting movement organizers and spaces. We developed the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship to reconnect with our long-suppressed history of mutual aid and cooperative economics. 

 

“African Americans have a long, rich history of cooperative ownership, especially in reaction to market failures and economic racial discrimination. However, it has often been a hidden history and one obstructed by White supremacist violence. When there is a narrative, the history is told as one of failure. The challenges have been tremendous, and have often been seen as insurmountable. The successes are often anecdotal and isolated, little understood, and even less documented […]”
—Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice

More than just another program, North Star is a way to start living into a future of “Black wealth:” self-governance, spaces for healing, and an abundance of resources, including financial capital. To dismantle the rules that are rigged toward amassing wealth and power in fewer & whiter hands, we must approach Community Wealth Building from a reparative framework rooted in Black culture. We know from experience that economic development efforts that ignore culture are unsustainable  and lead to inevitable harm. Our culture is itself a critical resource for sustainable wealth creation.

What is a Co-op?

Cooperation is fundamentally about people working together and sharing ownership. Cooperatives are entities—like businesses, companies, or houses—that are owned by the people who use them and are created to meet shared needs. This can look like anything from providing affordable childcare services, or creating mutual aid networks, to establishing freedom farms.  

All cooperatives are democratically- and collectively-owned, locally-controlled, and designed to cultivate and share prosperity with their communities. 

Examples of Cooperatives: Yo Mama ‘s House, The Fields at Rootsprings, Mandela Marketplace, NICEThe Hub Bike Co-op, Sky Without Limits housing cooperative, Partnership in Property Commercial Land Trust, Happy Earth Cleaning and more. 

Curriculum

The North Star curriculum grounds fellows in Black Cooperative Economic history locally and nationally, challenges them to analyze and rethink capitalism, and supports them in building their own cooperatives, leadership skills, and networks.

As a cohort, fellows explore and receive:

  • Black feminist history : Grounding in the history of Black cooperative economics in the US + history of cooperation and Black Feminism
  • A power and landscape analysis of Minnesota cooperative and financial institutions
  • Cooperative skills and tools, like governance, decision-making structures, and conflict resolution
  • Access to financing opportunities
  • Coaching on identifying and targeting cooperative business boards to build power in the cooperative sector
  • Support in designing and creating a strategy for a cooperative economic project

Every part of North Star is led by Black folks and is centered on Blackness. From the design of each session, including altars and music, to the food we provide, like K’s Revolutionary Catering, we are intentional about creating Black space. Our trainers have included the NSBCF Co-founders Danielle Mkali and  LaDonna Redmond Sanders co-op 101, Black co-op history, and Black feminism in the cooperative movement and more, Autumn Brown on conflict resolution, Dr. Rose Brewer on rethinking capitalism, and and more cooperative developers. 

North Star Fellows will explore the power and landscape of resident-controlled community ownership models that are permanently affordable and provide dignified housing options for our communities.

Who makes a great North Star Fellow?

The North Star Fellowship seeks prospective fellows who:

  • Are interested in learning and reclaiming the history of the descendants of Enslaved Africans’ cooperative economic legacies so that you can better understand and bolster Black economic cooperation today.
  • Have been dreaming about or already belong to a cooperative with majority Black membership and majority Black leadership, with accountability to the diverse Black communities in the Twin Cities.  
    • Your co-op does not need to be fully operational to be a good fit for North Star. But, you do need to have established relationships with each other as leaders and already be working in cooperation to advance your co-op idea.
  • Have 2 or more leaders or members with decision-making power who are committed to participating in the fellowship together, and the majority of that group is Black.
  • Each fellow will receive a $500 stipend for participating in the fellowship

For More Information

Please contact the North Star Director, Nkuli Shongwe, if you have any questions or for more information at nshongwe@nexuscp.orgRegister to receive updates about upcoming North Star events.