Current member of: The Life Center Association (LCA) Housing Cooperative for 4.5 years
What roles have you served in co-ops, nonprofits, or other membership organizations (Board, staff, etc.)? I have served on the LCA Board for my entire time in the LCA. For 2 of those years I served as an executive officer (1 year as Secretary, one year as Vice President)
I have also served on the LCA Education committee (chair), New Community Search Committee, Maintenance Committee (chair), and Cost-Share Equitability Committee (an ad hoc committee tasked with designing the new LCA cost-distribution rubric)
Why are cooperatives important to you and to the Philadelphia area? I am extremely impassioned about the cooperative model. Since as long ago as my undergraduate Political Science work, I have studied the dynamics of decision making power, and the politico-economic consequences of the way that power is distributed. The mainstream business model, with its owner-employee dichotomy, is a modern feudalism. The moral impunity of “owners” within their businesses is abused and unacceptable. Yet beyond that, on the level of public political power, these entities undermine democracy: functioning as a class of nobles with specialized access to the mechanisms of state authority.
The cooperative model breaks down these problematic dynamics both on the individual level, and on the greater political scale. This city, with it's masses of dissilusioned and voiceless workers of all skill-types, is ready to again be the core of a second American Revolution. But anyone who knows Philly knows that for something good to be recognized, it has to “show & prove”. This means building more cooperative businesses, putting more products into the local economy. It means more folks making their living as worker-owners. It means building a robust economy of cooperating co-ops with dramatically increasing visibility.
Cooperatives represent the key to delivering real, secure self-sufficiency to the common person. It’s the de-colonization of our personal livelihoods. This is the importance of cooperatives to me, the Philadelphia Area, and the world.
Has experience in the following: Group process and decision-making; meeting facilitation: public speaking; writing newsletter articles; strategic planning; accounting or finances; project management; nonprofit organization experience; past or present participation on a board of directors; business or retail experience; legal issues
How will your experience, skills or unique perspectives strengthen the PACA Board? The movement for developing the co-op economy needs perseverence. Being a housing co-op, the LCA has afforded me the opportunity to navigate the many challenges presented by co-operation and non-hierarchical leadership from the absolutely most intimate context (the home life), to the equally consequential but often less deeply personal Board-Room setting. Patience and, above all, understanding are crucial in the group decision making process. These are natural gifts I'm grateful to have had all my life but my experiences working with public servants, as a musician, and as a member of the LCA, have continued to hone my capacity in these invaluable areas.
Relevant to PACA, my skills include:
- creative problem solving (e.g. helping re-design the LCA cashflow rubric)
- personal counseling and emotional support
- Formal argumentation
- Event panning & management (my house, Sankofa House, is among the most beloved cultural oases in the city)
- Crafting Compromise
My greatest asset, though, is my ability to remain “open” and to adapt to the dynamics of any situation. Foundational to this ability is perseverence: that ever-proven combination of patience and focus. I intend to bring this as well as commitment to vision, to the PACA Board.
Where do you see PACA in 5 years? I see PACA maturing more in many capacities over the next 5 years. One huge potential arena for progress is support in forming new co-operative businesses. There are so many people in the Philadelphia area who are applying their skills and life energy to the benefit of their employers and the detriment of themselves. These people are the driving force of their industries. They can and are doing the actual running of these businesses, and should be redirecting their labor to a structure that reflects their interests. Failure to percieve the feasibility of this reality is an obstacle that PACA can remedy. With the right outreach and education, we can “poach” workers from their current “employee” status, and help them set up their own co-ops using the skills they’ve already developed in their careers.
Besides that, I think there are a myriad of avenues, too many to list here, where PACA can continue to expand its role as a connection hub for the burgeoning cooperative economy. As more cooperative businesses emerge, each will boast a product that can benefit other co-ops or their members in some way. As a centralized resource for information about local co-ops, the next 5 years hold immense opportunity for PACA to facilitate invaluable alliances that will propel this cooperative economy exponentially in this coming era.
As you think about the three primary board roles—ambassador, advocate, and asker—in which role(s) do you think you will want to be most active? I have a mind that tends to gravitate towards combinations. My passion for the liberation that the co-op economy represents makes the ambassador and advocate roles stick out to me. It occurs to me that the earnest execution of the ambassador and advocate roles necessitate the adoption of the role of asker… in the sense of remaining open to new information (and recognizing what is unknown) as well as rallying action and agency from our current and future allies. Ultimately, as mentioned, I remain open and fluid, ready to take whatever shape the situation requires.