In January 2020, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in the United States according to data collected by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of those, 161,548 of them were in California, but these numbers were collected before the Covid-19 Pandemic, which saw 42% of US adults reporting difficulty covering usual expenses, including housing, as of December 2020. Between 2016 and 2020, California’s homeless population increased by 37% with unsheltered homeless populations up 45% and chronic homelessness up by a staggering 64%. We hardly need to see these figures to know that homelessness is on the rise. Most of us see people experiencing homelessness everyday: crowded and messy tent encampments, folks sleeping in public places, people with mental illness exacerbated by their lack of shelter. But the burden of seeing homelessness is nothing compared to the burden of being homeless.
Pre-Covid data shows that most (61%) people experiencing homelessness receive temporary shelter through the nation’s homeless services. Unsheltered populations – those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation including sidewalks, subway trains, vehicles, and parks – are particularly vulnerable. Chronically homeless people – those who have been continuously homeless for at least a year; or experienced homelessness at least four times in the last three years for a combined length of time of at least a year – are the most likely to be unsheltered; 66% are without any shelter at all. Although chronically homeless individuals make up 19% of the homeless population, this group often represents the face of homelessness in our collective mind. This may be because California contains 51% of the country’s unsheltered population and about 84% of its chronically homeless. This is the group many of us fear or think of as “choosing to be homeless”. This is also the group most likely to suffer from substance abuse disorders and mental illness, both of which are exacerbated by homelessness (it should be noted that addiction is usually the result of homelessness, not the cause).
The reality is, more people than we think are at risk of experiencing homelessness, especially in California and especially in the wake of the Pandemic. The main reason people become homeless is because they cannot find housing they can afford. Chronic health conditions, domestic violence, and systemic inequality are also factors that cause homelessness. In 2019, 6.3 million US American households experienced severe housing cost burdens meaning that they spent more than 50% of their income on housing (economists recommend spending at or below 30% of income on housing). That number increased to over 7.5 million by July 2021 according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The number of “doubled up” people – those sharing the housing of others for economic reasons – stood at 3.7 million before the Pandemic. Some doubled up people or families have fragile relationships with their hosts or face other challenges, which puts them at risk of homelessness.
In California, the homelessness crisis is the affordable housing crisis. In January 2020, before the Pandemic, 70% of California’s homeless population was newly homeless according to HUD data. We’re talking about low income people and families who fell on hard times and found themselves without a home for the first time in their lives. I bring this up not to inspire sympathy for this group over another, but to illustrate that we, as a community, are letting thousands of our people fall through the cracks. New home construction has fallen significantly short since the Great Recession. Costly permitting processes, lengthy environmental reviews, and strict zoning laws keep new home construction at a minimum, especially in California where many property owners and communities, including low income ones, ascribe to the “not in my backyard” anti-development credo. Without affordable purchasing options, rent rates have risen as well. In November 2021, there were 1 million more renter households than there were at the end of the second quarter of 2020 according to a National Association of Realtors report. As more renters compete for housing, prices go up, which means some people are priced out of housing altogether. Currently, 1 in 6 US renters are not caught up on rent with eviction and homelessness looming. That number goes up for renters living with children and for people of color with nearly a third of Black renters facing hardships.
Since the lack of a home is the number one reason why people become homeless, providing people with homes is the number one way to end homelessness. “Housing first” models are gaining popularity among advocacy groups and nonprofits for addressing this root cause. This approach prioritizes finding permanent housing first so families and individuals can then focus on pursuing personal goals like finding work, studying for the SATs, and getting treatment for substance abuse. In other approaches, housing is often contingent upon completing treatment programs or finding work, both of which are pretty difficult without permanent housing. Rapid rehousing similarly aims to get people into housing quickly by offering short-term rent assistance and is offered without preconditions.
For its part, the city of Davis has expanded homeless services in recent years (in large part due to outcries from the community following an increase in the number of people “aggressively” panhandling and sleeping Downtown) to include a respite center and Operation Roomkey, which opened unoccupied hotel rooms during the Pandemic for people experiencing homelessness. But there are still no large-scale homeless shelters or enough emergency beds in Davis, which is home to around 200 people experiencing homelessness; 200 people who are a part of our community as much as anyone else.
Our systems and services have largely failed us, or they’ve failed enough of us for us to realize that it’s time for a new approach. There are many nonprofits, government organizations, and activists leading these approaches which include housing-first models, rapid rehousing, and addressing massive holes in our healthcare system which leave people, housed or unhoused, with substance abuse disorders and mental illness particularly vulnerable. There’s a new approach we as individuals and as a community can take as well, and it’s simpler and more complicated all at once: we need to shift our mindset when thinking about homelessness, or rather people experiencing homelessness.
Most of us think of homeless people as deficient in some way: they’re rude or dirty or they’re lazy and entitled or they’re dangerous and on drugs or they just can’t get along. But this isn’t really accurate or very helpful. With so many of us struggling it’s past time we realized we’re the ones who are here to take care of each other and it’s our duty and privilege to do so. I invite you to consider the problem of homelessness as a failing of the community, rather than the failing of individual homeless people. People experiencing homelessness are, above all, human beings. They’re also full-fledged members of the community and citizens of Davis who need our support, compassion, and respect.
Shifting your mindset doesn’t happen all at once. You can practice compassion by catching yourself thinking or saying things that maybe aren’t so compassionate: for example, “ugh, I wish I didn’t have to see those tents on my way to work” or “he’s just asking for money for drugs”. If you’d like to take your new mindset out for a spin, you are welcome to volunteer to support your fellow community members at the Co-op’s 36th Annual Holiday Meal, where we’ll serve 400-700 people from all walks of life a free hot meal on Christmas Eve. You can also donate. You’re also more than welcome to challenge your anti-development views (if you have them) or donate to Paul’s Place, a multi-functional housing center designed to serve the most vulnerable individuals living homeless in Davis by providing housing and wraparound services. You can also donate food to the Freedge (pictured at the top of this post) located at the Co-op (left of the exit doors, past the bike racks). Davis Food Co-op staff fill the Freedge daily with produce, dairy, bakery items, pantry and staples we are otherwise unable to sell. Anyone is welcome to add or take items from the Freedge at no cost. Whatever you do, go forth with a compassionate, understanding, and open heart.
“Yolo” comes from the Patwin word Yo-loy meaning “place abounding in rushes,” a reminder of the reed-choked wetlands and marshes that once peppered this land. Recent heavy rains have indeed returned Northstar Park’s Julie Partansky Pond to a place abounding in rushes, with a cold autumn sun glistening off dark pond water accented by the sharp calls of geese who just started winter vacation. But this is a small, literally hemmed-in version of the dominating topography of centuries past. Centuries, more specifically the banning of the Patwin language by European colonizers and intentional eradication of its speakers, have eroded the Patwin language as well. Linguists consider the language endangered. In fact, only one living person is known to speak Patwin as a first language.
Not unlike Yolo County’s wetlands, which are protected, maintained, and celebrated by a number of local conservation groups, the Patwin language too is kept alive thanks to the knowledge, care, and hard work of the Indigenous people of this area. In 2004, the Colusa Indian Community Council published the first edition of the Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians language book and is currently working on a second edition. “Language is the basic building block of identity,” echoed the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation Tribal Council earlier this year. Members of three federally recognized tribes, the Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community, the Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation, and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, continue to teach and learn the Patwin language.
The Davis Food Co-op, along with the rest of Davis, occupies land belonging to these three Tribes (find our full land acknowledgement here). In an attempt to educate ourselves as much as our community, we thought this time between Indigenous Peoples Day (alternately celebrated as Columbus Day) and Thanksgiving an appropriate time to share history we learned about the Indigenous communities who have lived here and currently live here.
Ancestors of the people that would come to call this area home arrived by c. 1400 BCE, many thousands of years before Europeans. Patwin means “person” or “the people” in the Patwin language and was given to this subgroup of the more northern dwelling Wintun by American reporter and ethnographer Stephen Powers in 1877. This is a salient example of white Americans shaping indigenous history. Removed by hundreds of years, we don’t know what these indigenous groups called themselves before the arrival of Europeans. Powers divided them into three tribes: the Hill Patwin, the River Patwin, and the Southern Patwin.
The Patwin lived largely as hunter-gatherers, although there is some evidence of crop cultivation. This area’s abundant oak trees provided highly nutritious, easy to prepare acorns for the Patwin. Indigenous communities also foraged for buckeyes, pine nuts from both sugar and gray pines, blackberries, juniper berries, elderberries, wild grape, and manzanita berries; Indian potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions grew here as well. With bone harpoons and nets the Patwin fished for salmon, perch, and suckerfish. Deer, elk, antelope, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, wolves, beavers, skunks, eagles, crow, quail, turtles, angleworms, and grasshoppers provided meat and fur, along with materials for building and trading. Trade between the Patwin and the neighboring Wappo, Pomo, and Lake Miwok was common and war between California’s native peoples was rare.
Like many of California’s Indigenous peoples, the Patwin used fire when hunting: fresh green shoots following a burn brought hungry game. Intentional fire setting stimulated the growth of blue wild rye, an important native grass, and took care of pests like grasshoppers. The Patwin likely existed this way for centuries practicing land and water stewardship that made life possible and sustainable.
By the late 1800s, the Patwin were displaced by ranchers, forced onto government rancherias and reservations, or decimated by disease, bounty hunters, and violence at the hands of European invaders, U.S. citizens, and the federal government. Many bands of Southern Patwin were extinguished completely. Between 1923 and 1924, Alfred Kroeber interviewed Patwin survivors on reservations north and west of Sacramento. He found no evidence of Southern Patwin heritage, leading him to believe that no Southern Patwin remained. Before the Spanish established missions in California, the indigenous population was estimated to be about 200,000. By 1870, their population declined to 12,000.
Although this story, the story of the American Indian, is familiar to many of us, we don’t often realize our proximity to it. In the 1950s, the Berryessa valley, rich and fertile, was flooded to create Lake Berryessa, a favorite hiking, fishing, and recreation spot for so many of us in Davis. Topaidihi, a Patwin village located in the valley, was completely submerged. Excavation crews uncovered a Patwin village with thirteen burial sites in 1999 and 2000 when the university began construction on the Mondavi center (read more here).
Even more important to understand is that California’s Indigenous people still live here. Hundreds of years of genocide, ethnic cleansing, environmental degradation, and forcible removal of Indigenous communities from their land does not ultimately define what it means to be Indigenous. These communities are resilient, and they are rich with knowledge and culture. There is no way to rectify centuries of oppression and extreme violence. Land acknowledgements, President Biden’s formal proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and similar efforts are long overdue, but they are a step in the right direction. Allowing Indigenous communities to tell their story, past, present, and future, is key. Below you will find information about the communities whose land we occupy, from those communities.
Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community
The Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community’s constitution and bylaws were officially adopted on November 23rd, 1941 by the 45 original tribal members. The Tribe has of course lived in this area for generations. The Tribe currently holds 490 acres of land, recently acquiring 200 of those to use for more tribal housing.
Throughout its history, the Colusa Indian Community has been a fierce advocate for cultural preservation. In 1969, construction began on a traditional roundhouse whose central pole was sourced from trees growing across the Sacramento River. The roundhouse was roofed two years later and received upgrades in 1993. The roundhouse still stands today. Please note that the Colusa Indian Community requests non-tribal members refrain from visiting or entering this religious site. In 2004, the Council published the first edition of a Patwin language book. To the same end, the Council is working on a second edition and is beginning to explore the development of a language app.
Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation
The Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation’s traditional territory covered more than 200 square miles (about 128,000 acres) and have been referred to in historical documents as the Kletwin, Hill Patwin, and Southern Wintun. Some known historic villages of the Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation include Klet, Ko-Te-Nah, Nik-me, Shoo-Koo-ee, Ke-der Hlab-be, Loo-Kus, Bah-kah-‘Hhlab-be, Cho-Che, Wi-Ko’Se, Oo-Le, Mun-Maht-Lah, To-e-de-he, and Yakut. In 1907, the Cortina Indian Rancheria (reservation) was created by the Secretary of the Interior and the Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation was forcibly relocated. Just 160 acres were given to this band of Wintun Indians, which was expanded a month later to 640 acres.
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation was forcibly relocated to a federally created rancheria (reservation) in Rumsey, California. The land was barren and non-irrigable, forcing the Tribe to do everything in their power to try and relocate. They gained a hard-won relocation in 1940 and moved to a small parcel of land in the Capay Valley. Although the land was in better shape, the Tribe still struggled to grow enough food to support its members.
During the 1980s, some ancestral lands were restored to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation while the passing of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act provided a means to promote economic development and self-sufficiency with the explicit purpose of strengthening tribal self-governance. With hard work and determination, the Tribe used its resources to build and maintain the successful Cache Creek Casino Resort (originally the Cache Creek Indian Bingo Hall). The Tribe runs Seka Hills Olive Mill and Tasting Room as well. You can find Seka Hills products like olive oil and honey at the Co-op.
With increased independence and the revenue brought in from gaming, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation have been able to reacquire traditional lands, invest in education, and embark on philanthropic efforts to serve communities in need. In 2009, the Tribe legally changed its name (formerly called the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians by the federal government) incorporating the Patwin language to connect the Tribe with its heritage and to express a sense of pride and hope for the future.
We invite our community to consider what it means to acknowledge whose land we occupy. For us it means digging deeper into our history and opening our eyes to the present. We also know that our resources can go a long way, which is why we donated $500 dollars to California Indian Legal Services this November. California Indian Legal Services is one of the oldest non-profit law firms exclusively dedicated to Native American rights. Join us in supporting their work here.
The Holidays are a great time to reflect on what we have and help where we can. This month, the Davis Food Co-op will be donating $500 to each of the following local organizations and encourages you to give too if you are able.
Founded in 2015 by a group of community members in Woodland, First In, Relief for Evacuees (FIRE Foundation) provides relief for people and families evacuated from their homes due to devastating disasters. COVID-19 presented a new challenge. FIRE stepped up to collect and distribute PPE and other medical equipment to businesses and health care organizations throughout Yolo County.
Lead 4 Tomorrow’s Family Hui program supports parents as they face the joys and challenges of raising children. In light of shelter-at-home, Family Hui moved quickly to adapt its group-based delivery model, sharingCOVID-19 information along with vital social services resources with families in English, Farsi and Spanish using virtual platforms, phone calls and texts. Through these connections, Family Hui continues to show parents that they are connected, valued, and cared for.
California Indian Legal Services
California Indian Legal Services is one of the oldest non-profit law firms devoted exclusively to the cause of Native American rights. Governed by a Board of Trustees selected by California tribes and tribal organizations, CILS provides free and low-cost legal services to California tribes, tribal organizations and Native American individuals throughout the state.
Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network
YIIN is a group of people serving and advocating for immigrants in Yolo County. YIIN is guided by requested needs of the immigrant communities based on what they deem essential necessities. YIIN also advocates and supports those who cannot speak for themselves including migrant workers, immigrant youth previously detained and those displaced by major fires. They also offer financial and legal support for those seeking citizenship.
Veterans Day should be more than just a day to honor and recognize those who have served in our military, it should be an opportunity for us as a society to collectively consider the ways in which we can improve the lives of these brave individuals. As a co-op, Concern for Community is a guiding principle in all that we do and veterans play a special role in our communities and our country at large.
While we are a nation that routinely shows appreciation for our troops and veterans, the unfortunate truth is that many veterans face hardships upon returning home such as dealing with mental health issues, encountering problems paying bills, issues adjusting back to civilian life, and more. Oftentimes, they are not provided with the necessary resources to face these challenges.
On a day that honors more than 19 million US Veterans, we wanted to take the time to recognize a couple of organizations that are honoring veterans every day of the year.
Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC)
After reading a 2006 report that found that among U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, those who are from rural America were dying at a higher rate than soldiers who are from cities and suburbs, Michael O’Gorman (a Davis resident) gathered a group of farmers to discuss how they could best support these veterans that were returning to their hometowns in mostly rural areas. Realizing that there were no groups in the country with the mission of helping veterans in agriculture, the FVC was born.
Today, the FVC helps veterans pursue careers in agriculture by developing viable employment and entrepreneurship opportunities through the collaboration of the farming and military communities. Farming offers veterans a new mission, life purpose, and physical and psychological benefits. Simultaneously they cultivate the next generation of food and farm leaders.
As you may or may not know, Farmer Veteran Coalition is our Round Up at the Register recipient for the month of November. You can support this organization’s mission by donating on your next shopping trip at the Co-op.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
A fellow co-op, the NRECA represents the interests of over 900 electric cooperatives in the United States. Founded in 1942, NRECA unites the country’s generation, transmission, and distribution cooperatives found in 47 states, serving over 40 million people.
The NRECA also abides by the seven cooperative principles and in their mission to power communities and empower members to improve the quality of their lives, they see a lot of similarities between their values and the values of our veterans. NRECA strongly believes that hiring and caring for veterans and military spouses strengthens their cooperatives and communities. That’s why they created the Vets Power Us Initiative, helping veterans to:
- Learn more about America’s electric cooperatives.
- Understand the synergy between military values and electric cooperative principles.
- Explore a variety of meaningful career opportunities within the rural electric cooperative network.
While these are only two organizations close to our heart as a nonprofit we support and a fellow co-op, there are countless others across the country that help veterans in a variety of ways. We encourage everyone to use this day as an opportunity to do some research to find others whose message resonates with you and to think about the ways that you can honor our veterans not only today, but every day.
A 2014 National Alliance on Mental Health study found that, “64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse”. Similarly, the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people experience increased stress levels during the holiday season citing lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, and family gatherings as causes.
While many folks look forward to the holidays as a time of abundance, joy, and family, just as many of us experience feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, shame, misery, and depression between November and the New Year. Life is complex and often hard, and there are so many of us who do not have happy families, happy family memories or happy holidays. Feeling the “holiday blues,” and even the holiday really blues, is perfectly normal. In fact, we’re coming up on our second holiday season since the start of the pandemic so chances are we could all use a little help taking care of ourselves. We’ve compiled steps you can take to deal with the holiday blues in ways that serve your well-being and mental health.
Practice Compassion for Yourself
“But how do I practice compassion?” 1. Accept your needs. 2. Be kind to yourself. Practicing compassion is like practicing almost anything else. You will not be very good at first and you will definitely mess up. But research tells us that the deliberate cultivation of compassion changes our brains, making us more resilient and better able to cope. Here is a guide to practicing self compassion.
Monitor Your Moods
If you know the holidays are hard for you or if you notice you are extra stressed out this year, check in with yourself to see how you’re really feeling. Sometimes I don’t know when I’m feeling angry or experiencing dread unless I have a plan in place to check in with myself. For me, it’s as easy as setting two daily reminders on my phone (midmorning & evening) and keeping track of how I’m really feeling with a word or two in a note, also on my phone. Not only does this help you recognize patterns, but it’s great practice listening to your body and emotions.
Manage Your Expectations
Sometimes, it is just not possible to find that one perfect gift or to have a peaceful family gathering, in-person or virtual. We all struggle and it isn’t realistic to expect otherwise. Managing your expectations can help you cope when those struggles appear. And be sure to give yourself and those around you some grace – we’re nearing the pandemic’s second anniversary, facing global supply chain shortages coupled with rising prices, and deep political divisions, just to name a few things that might be putting all of us on edge.
Family dynamics can be very complex, also weird, upsetting, shame-inducing, and more. Acknowledge them and accept that you can only control your role. If you find yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed, know that it is okay to take a step back and limit your exposure.
Reach Out to Loved Ones
These loved ones don’t have to be family, but they can be. The important thing is to try and stay connected. Sometimes it’s easier to communicate via email, text, or social media. If this is the case, take advantage of technology to maintain your social connections. If you have a loved one who struggles, reach out to offer your support.
Deep breathing (even just for a few minutes each day), meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help you relax. Practice these techniques often so you are used to using them when an anxiety or stress spiral hits.
Move Your Body & Enjoy It
Daily movement is a great way to ease stress. You can go on a walk, hike, run, or bike ride; you can do yoga or pilates; you can lift weights or go rock climbing. Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it. If you aren’t sure where to start, I suggest waiting until you are home alone to play some loud music and dance around your house for 5 minutes. This can also be done in the bathroom with headphones.
I am not going to tell you to eat “good” foods and avoid “bad” ones. “Eating well” looks different for everyone, but what you eat should make you feel good and it should be on a fairly regular schedule. Eating at the same times each day is a very good routine to establish – you’re letting your body know that it’s being taken care of, which can help ease stress. The gut-brain connection is a strong one.
Get Enough Sleep
Some mental health conditions can worsen with inadequate sleep. You can find tips here.
Avoid Drugs & Alcohol
Self medicating with drugs and alcohol may seem like one way to deal with holiday season anxiety and depression, but they often work to worsen stress.
Spend Time in Nature
There is a fast growing body of research that shows nature positively affects our mental health. In addition to the various greenbelts of Davis and the Arboretum, most of our streets are tree-lined. Taking a 5 minute walk or 5 mile walk with the intention of noticing and appreciating the natural world around you can help you reset in the short term and bolster your long term wellbeing too.
Talking can help. Friends, family, your therapist, or a support group (find free support groups in Yolo County here) are all good options. If you or someone you love is experiencing a crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255; use the Crisis Text Line by texting NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7 crisis support via text message; or call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) M–F, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. PT for free mental health info, referrals and support.
A Quick Guide to Culturally and Environmentally Appropriate Halloween Costumes
Halloween activities are estimated to reach pre-pandemic levels this year. More and more people are buying candy in anticipation of handing it out, decorating the house, and buying costumes to wear to a gathering. Nationwide costume spending is anticipated to reach 3.3 billion compared to 2.6 billion in 2020, and candy and decorations are following the same pattern. All of this is leading to a festive 31st! However, this increased consumption causes a harmful aftermath. The gross majority of Halloween costumes are “cheaply” made. They are predominantly polyester, a fiber that is excruciatingly difficult to recycle and repurpose, and takes over 500 years to decompose. An investigation, by environmentalist charity Hubbub, found that an estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste was generated on Halloween from throwaway costumes in 2019. 2021 is estimated at $200 million more than 2019! This is a LOT of polyester in our landfills
- Buy second hand. Boheme has a huge selection of costumes. Local thrift stores, SPCA, Goodwill and All Things Right & Relevant may also have a Halloween section set up.
- Use clothes you already have. Our staff made wonderful Mystery Gang costumes last year with clothes that they will wear year round.
- Make your own costume. Make it from second hand clothes, or purchase sustainable fabrics (like cotton, linen, and flannel) to make your costumes.
- Keep your costume for future years, or wash and donate.
What is cultural appropriation?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, cultural appropriation is when someone adopts a culture that isn’t their own and does not acknowledge or respect the culture being used for their own benefit. Examples can be hair, clothing and impersonating, like using popular African American Vernacular English terms, to fit a persona. An unfortunately common example is mimicking Indigeonous cultures.
How to avoid offensive costumes. What if my child wants a specific costume?
There are three main rules to follow:
#1: Avoid a costume that is mimicking another person’s culture or physical appearance.
#2: If you wish to dress as a specific person/fictional person of a different culture be sure that #1 is followed, however it still may be offensive. Imagine every person who sees you in the costume, will everyone be okay with it? If not, it’s best to pick a different costume.
#3: Be sure it is done with good intent and not for personal gain, and educate your friends and children. “We should pick a different costume, this one might hurt someone’s feelings”, it is never too early or late to teach empathy.
This topic gets a little trickier when referring to specific fictional characters. Creators of the film “Black Panther” have said children of any race can dress up like the superhero, and when “Moana” was released, the voice of the titular character, Auli’i Cravalho, encouraged people to dress up as the Polynesian-based princess. The appropriation occurs when adults and children mimic physical characteristics, like hair and skin color, traditional practices, like tattoos, piercings, vernacular/language and clothing, and when done with less than wholesome intentions, like gaining popularity and mocking.
Resources and Additional Reading
The cooperative business model offers communities a highly effective way to meet their needs for goods and services while prioritizing people over profit. And in 2021, you can find cooperatives in nearly all sectors of the U.S. economy. Increases in consolidation across many industries along with changes in the marketplace in recent decades present competitive and economic challenges for many businesses and consumers. In response to these challenges, economic cooperation is on the rise. According to a 2020 report by the Democracy at Work Institute and the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, worker cooperatives have seen 35.7% net growth since 2013. That same report found that a majority (56.8%) of worker-owners are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). BIPOC communities in the United States have a rich history of cooperation, a history often left out of narratives about the cooperative movement. To celebrate Co-op Month, we’re sharing some of that history.
Cooperation is nothing new. Early human societies practiced cooperation as a means to increase the group’s chances of survival. Pooling resources led to more successful hunts and harvests. In fact, early agriculture relied on mutual aid among farmers to defend land, harvest crops, build barns, and share equipment. These early forms of informal cooperation, really of working together, laid the foundation for the cooperative business model which took shape in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Then and now, cooperation is a means to survival, and this especially true for BIPOC communities in the United States.
According to Dr. Jessica Gordon Nemhard in her book, Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, Black folks have utilized cooperation since the first Africans arrived as indentured servants in the early 17th century. By the late 18th century, Black people were pooling their money to pay for land, burials, elderly care, childcare, and even freedom for one another through mutual aid societies. Mutual insurance companies, buying clubs, and collective farming are other examples of early Black corporativism.
Women often founded and ran Black cooperative efforts. As men left to join the Union Army, Black women in South Carolina took to the Gullah/Geechee Sea Islands in the Combahee River region to grow cotton on abandoned farms. These women formed an intentional community which collectively farmed the area throughout the war and several years after. Eventually, hundreds of women farmed the colony, securing food, shelter, and income for themselves and their families.
The 1880s saw a steep increase in formal cooperative efforts among the nation’s Black communities. When the Southern Farmers’ Alliance refused to admit Black farmers except in separate chapters, Black farmers started the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Co-operative Union which had more than one million members by 1891. The Union stressed mutual aid as well as political participation. Its members also started many new co-ops, often short lived, but vital in training activists and leaders, improving lives, and leading to more new co-ops.
Pictured above: Wedge Community Food Co-op, Minneapolis
These Black co-ops siphoned money away from white-owned businesses, which was met with retaliation, often violent, from white community members. But cooperation has always been about survival. In the face of racism and active sabotage, cooperation offers Black communities a way to improve each other’s lives in very real ways. “Cooperation is a powerful tool against discrimination,” says Gordon Nemhard. It is during the oppressive and violent Jim Crow era that many Black-owned consumer co-ops were established. Grocery stores, gas stations, credit unions, insurance co-ops, housing co-ops and other formal cooperative efforts offered Black U.S. Americans a means to survival, community, and resiliency.
Not surprisingly, North America’s Indigenous communities have been practicing cooperation for thousands of years. Indigenous cooperation efforts include communal hunting and keeping water sources clean and grazing lands accessible for nomadic groups. These informal cooperative efforts led to formal ones including credit unions, rural electric and telephone co-ops, and mutual insurance co-ops. “Cooperatives are a logical fit with tribal communities. There are shared, common values within the memberships of both tribal and cooperative communities,” says Pamela Standing, Executive Director of the Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance and of the Cherokee Nation. These formal cooperative efforts are valuable in aiding community development among some of the country’s most remote and marginalized communities.
Latinx co-ops have grown significantly in recent years, but have long been influential in the cooperative movement in the US. Prospera in Oakland and Green Worker Cooperatives in the Bronx have trained generations of activists and strongly influenced models of cooperation throughout the country. Although the Latinx community is made up of folks from many different countries and cultures, examples of cooperation can be found throughout their history. The Zapatistas of Mexico, worker take-overs of businesses in Argentina, and fair trade coffee cooperatives in Nicaragua are just a few examples. According to a report funded by the Cooperative Education Fund, 31 US states have at least one Latinx co-op. Latinx co-ops show significant diversity across industries, membership types, and regions. According to a 2009 report by the International Labour Organization, cooperatives are particularly strong during times of economic crisis. Communities with a wide range of cooperative businesses (worker co-ops, credit unions, consumer food co-ops, housing co-ops, etc.) are therefore better protected from economic shocks.
It is from these cooperative traditions, among others, that the Davis Food Co-op was formed. When 10 Davis households started a buying club in 1972 they sought to bring their community greater access to natural foods without having to support the corporations that dominated the grocery industry. It is with deep gratitude and respect that we look back on our cooperating forebears, many of whom were women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We remain firmly grounded in this truth as we look forward to the growth of the cooperative movement in our community and across the globe.
National Co-op Grocers (https://www.grocery.coop/food-coops/history-of-co-ops)
Collective Courage: A Short History of Black Co-operatives in America (https://provender.org/a-short-history-of-black-co-operatives-in-america-african-american-cooperation-for-change/)
For Native American communities, a “new” business model builds on a culture of cooperation (https://ncbaclusa.coop/blog/for-native-american-communities-a-new-business-model-builds-on-a-culture-of-cooperation/)
$1 is Worth More in the Hands of the Food Bank
With the proper resources, connections, and operations, Food Banks turn $1 into $6 or more.
“With 42 million people in the U.S. at risk of facing hunger due to the pandemic, donating your extra or purchased dry and canned goods through a food drive might seem like the best way to help your neighbors need. But, the best way to support your local food bank is actually through donating money.” – Feeding America
Note From the Author
This blog is in no way trying to stop you from donating food. If donating food is what you want to do, do it! At the end of the day, the food bank needs food and your donations of food and/or money are greatly appreciated by the food bank and the people in our community. I only ask that you consider donating money and if you choose to donate food, donate good food!
The Food Bank is Better at Buying Food
The Food Bank has connections with large and/or local supplies and grocers. Larger quantities and better prices are an obvious win for the food banks. Some food banks claim to turn $1 into $6 when purchasing food! Instead if buying and donating a can of Tuna, consider donating the $2. The Food Bank may be able to buy 3 to 5 cans of Tuna with the same amount of money.
Money does not Need to be Sorted and Stored
Food Drives have an obvious appeal of handing over a tangible item. However, a large box of random non-perishable items takes time and money to sort. A large part piece of operating a food bank successfully, is ensuring that the distributed food can be made into a meal. This means that meals plans and nutritional needs are essential when prepping distribution boxes. This is much easier to do with large quantities of the same or similar items, which is not always the case in food drives and small scale food donations.
You Don’t Know What the Food Bank Needs
Along with better pricing, the food bank can use the money to buy the items that they need at the moment. If everyone donated peanut butter, then they can use the monetary donations to ensure everyone gets all the items they need. The Yolo Food Bank keeps nutrition in mind when accepting and prepping donations for distribution. With monetary donations, the food bank can buy the food necessary to ensure a complete nutrition plan.
Things You Can Do to Help the Food Bank
- Plan a monthly donation: this provides a steady flow of income that makes operating easier. Food Banks get a flood of donations during the holidays, which is great but can make it difficult to predict their future funding.
- Host a virtual food drive: this allows people to donate from the comfort and convenience of home while doing good!
- Consider Volunteering: if donating cash is not your thing, consider donating your time. Sorting all the inconsistent and miscellaneous donations is time-consuming!