Reclaiming our Cooperative Heritage

Southern Berkshire Clergy Association Presents: Reclaiming Our Cooperative Heritage – DuBois’ Vision, King’s Dream, Our Opportunity

A Healing Path to Racial and Economic Justice

Inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’ vision of African American prosperity through cooperative enterprises and by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s impassioned defense of all workers’ dignity, we seek to reclaim our region’s cooperative work heritage.


Join us:

Reclaiming Our Cooperative Heritage, In Collaboration With Great Barrington Green Drinks on Thursday November 2, 2017 at 5:30pm.  We’ll be at The Prairie Whale, 178 Main Street Great Barrington, where you can meet the good folks from the Artisan Beverage Cooperative.

The Artisan Beverage Cooperative is a worker owned cooperative producing high quality beverages and promoting environmental stewardship, democratic governance, sustainable agriculture, and building a strong local economy.

More at:

Last winter at the Interfaith Celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday, we learned that W.E.B. Du Bois, national civil rights pioneer from Great Barrington, was also a strong advocate of cooperative enterprises and worker-owned businesses. The MLK guest speaker, Professor Jessica Gordon Nembhard, talked about the “Collective Courage” of historic African American efforts, under very difficult circumstances, to create economic opportunity by working together, often with the support of their churches. Now we can learn about a contemporary example, a thriving worker cooperative in our region:

This community gathering promises a triple green treat:

The Berkshire region’s heritage of economic cooperation includes the pioneering advocacy for cooperative enterprises by Great Barrington’s renowned native son, W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as contemporary food coops, credit unions and cooperative banking.

Along with a brief presentation by ArtBev Coop’s General Manager Garth Shaneyfelt at 6:00pm, he and Sales Representative Liz Jensen ​will be available for informal discussions throughout the event.

This free event is a collaborative initiative of Green Drinks Great Barrington, Prairie Whale, Artisan Beverage Cooperative and Housatonic Heritage’s Reclaiming Our Cooperative Heritage Program.  Numerous local stores, cafes and restaurants currently offer various Artisan Beverage Cooperative products.


Reclaiming Our Cooperative Heritage – Three phases:

  • 1) 18th Annual Interfaith Celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Organized by the Southern Berkshire Clergy Association, our January 16, 2017 event will focus on W.E.B. Du Bois’ advocacy for cooperative enterprises in relation to Dr. King’s leadership on economic justice. Despite fierce criticism, Dr. King strongly supported the dignity of striking sanitation workers in Memphis (where he was assassinated). He also championed the Poor People’s Campaign of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Professor Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Ph.D., recent Cooperative Hall of Fame inductee and proposed keynote speaker, is uniquely qualified to bring historical perspective and contemporary activism to the MLK event. An economist and community economic development expert, she authored Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. Her research was inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois’ advocacy for African American cooperative enterprises. In 1907, DuBois published Economic Cooperation Among Negro Americans and convened a national conference on Negro Business Development and Cooperatives.

Jessica will also take part in a Community Conversation with young people, civic and business leaders to discuss developing racially and economically diverse worker cooperatives in our region. The MLK event will launch a leadership group to develop Study Circles on creating worker cooperatives. http://heroes.coop/archive/jessica‐gordon‐nembhard/

  • 2) Study Circles on Creating Worker Cooperatives The purpose is to provide in‐depth resources and forums to engage racially and economically diverse youth, working and unemployed people, educators, business civic and faith leaders. A newly formed leadership group will research/adapt the pioneering initiative of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA) to our rural area. Using the curriculum PACA already developed in collaboration with Jessica Gordon Nembhard, we will seek collaboration with diverse faith and community organizations to match facilitators for each Study Circle. https://philadelphia.coop/20bookclubs/
  • 3) New Website on “Reclaiming Our Cooperative Heritage” and Monthly Radio Program. We will publish multi‐media resources on a newly created website, providing information about the 18th Annual Interfaith Celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday and the Study Circles. We will also promulgate information via a monthly regionally broadcast WSBS radio program.

Reclaiming Our Cooperative Heritage – Du Boisʹ Vision, Kingʹs Dream, Our Opportunity

Mission:

Inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’ vision of African American prosperity through cooperative enterprises and by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s impassioned defense of all workers’ dignity, we seek to reclaim our region’s cooperative work heritage. We partner with other organizations to engage community members in research, discussion and development of racially and economically diverse worker cooperatives in the Upper Housatonic Valley region.


Please Donate to the ‘Reclaiming Our Cooperative Heritage’ Program!

  • Donate Online:



  • Donate by Mail:

Housatonic Heritage
PO Box 611
Great Barrington, MA 01230

Checks must be made payable to: ‘Housatonic Heritage’, and include in the MEMO line: ‘Cooperative Heritage’

100% of donations received through this portal are used exclusively for the ‘Reclaiming Our Cooperative Heritage’ program. All donations are tax deductible to the extent that your personal finances allow.


Historic and Current Resources include:

      • Economic Cooperation Among Negro Americans (1907) by W.E.B. Du Bois
      • Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice (2014) by Prof. Jessica Gordon Nembhard (daughter of Dr. Edmund W. Gordon, copurchaser of W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite property).
      • 18th Annual Interfaith Celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday January 16, 2017 in Great Barrington with keynote speaker Jessica Gordon Nembhard to launch a Community Conversation and Study Circles on worker cooperatives.
      • Philadelphia Area Cooperative Allianceʹs current model of study circles
      • Evergreen Cooperatives, Cleveland Ohio
      • Wellspring Cooperative Corporation, Springfield, Massachusetts

Potential Benefits:

    • As evidenced by a proven model: ʺThe Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland have become a global innovation model for creating more sustainable regional economies. Local residents earn an ownership stake as they create thriving businesses, while playing a transformational role in building vibrant neighborhoods.ʺ
    • As documented in Collective Courage: ʺParticipation in cooperative business endeavors teaches students business, math, research and communication skills, resourcefulness and problem solving, teamwork, and the facilitation skills needed to participate in democratic enterprises. At the same time, it fosters concern for community and facilitates community‐building strategies among youth.ʺ