Why the Co-op Posted Welcome to Immigrants and Black Lives Matter Yard Signs

The display of these yard signs at the co-op, is an expression of support for people of color, immigrants, and refugees who face an increasing barrage of demeaning, hateful, and threatening messages and actions as a result of racism in our society. It is a way of bringing all kinds of people together to reflect on these issues. Both yard signs are initiatives to stimulate dialogue, inspire reflection, raise awareness, and support the development of a community narrative that brings people together to stand against racism, discrimination, and oppression. These yard signs help build community awareness. With over ten thousand weekly co-op shoppers we can help reach a lot of people while also showing as a community owned business, we stand with people of color, immigrants, and refugees against racism. These signs are an expression of our co-op's values and the role we have in community stewardship as a community owned business.

Co-ops have a long history of combining cooperatively owned business operations with social justice values.  In the 19th century cooperatives were active in the abolitionist movement, and in the 20th-century co-ops were part of the civil rights and sustainable agriculture movements.

Like co-op communities of the 19th and 20th centuries, we have continuing social justice challenges in the 21st century including racism and a rise in discrimination against immigrants and refugees. These are issues that impact our community.  As a community driven business, we care about that. Displaying these yard signs to express our values is one way we are supporting our community in the face of these larger societal issues. 

Black Lives Matter started as a Black dignity campaign, and that is a message we believe all can come together to support. It is also a campaign to raise community awareness of how racism and racial bias impacts many aspects of our society and institutions including law enforcement. It is a campaign against race based violence.  It is a campaign against institutional racism. It is a campaign for communities to come together to reflect on the impacts of racism on our communities all across the country. It is a campaign to bring us together in understanding so that we can all affirm the message that black lives do matter. And it is a campaign to inspire us all to work to undo racism.

We know not everyone has the same perspective on this just like any number of other things. Some have interpreted Black Lives Matter as excluding other people. It was never intended to mean no one else matters or specify that any particular others don't matter and that is not the message we intend. This campaign has also been misconstrued as an anti- police campaign, we reject that interpretation as well. We consider these interpretations not at all in line with the message of the campaign and not the message the co-op is communicating.

The Black Lives Matter sign is intended to be welcoming, affirmative and supportive as is the sign welcoming immigrants and refugees. It is an expression of the co-op's social justice values. Posting these yard signs at the co-op is just one small step to support a healthy community dialogue on these important issues. We know it takes more than a couple yard signs to address racism. We don't intend to imply we have all the answers but we feel a responsibility to be part of the discussion. Our larger goal is to support a narrative leading to a wider common understanding of how racism impacts all of us which we believe will bring people together to address it on all levels: from personal to community to the institutional and public policy level.

Race and Food Co-ops 

River Valley Co-op helped to fund a project with other food co-ops to explore the topic of race in food co-ops.  The purpose is to develop greater understanding of this issue within food co-ops and to create some tools for change. Our own Board Member Jade Barker was one of the leaders on this project. We were excited to see the recently completed result of the first phase of this project.

 

The first part of the project is starting the conversation with a variety of co-op and social justice leaders as a springboard for engaging food co-op leaders and stakeholders in these important discussions.

 

You can read more about the project addressing the issue of race in food co-ops here: http://library.cdsconsulting.coop/everyone-welcome-personal-narratives/

 

Thank you for your support.

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