Smile Politely

Common Ground’s Board of Directors issue statement of solidarity

From the email blast:
The Board of Directors of Common Ground Food Co-op stands in solidarity with those in our community and across the US and the world who are protesting the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks, and calling for an end to police violence against Black people. We stand with them in opposing structural racism and white supremacy throughout our society, and this means taking a hard look at ourselves and the co-op we care so much about.
The cooperative movement is often said to have begun in 1844 with the Rochdale Pioneers, a group of English mill workers who came together to provide better-quality food for themselves and their families at prices they could afford. Black-owned cooperatives, starting with mutual aid societies in the 19th century which evolved into food co-ops, credit unions, and agricultural co-ops in the 20th, have a long history in this country. Black leaders and activists like W.E.B. DuBois, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Ella Baker consistently advocated for co-operation to help Black Americans capture the fruits of their labor and build wealth in the teeth of vicious economic exploitation throughout the United States. We know of two attempts to establish Black-owned grocery co-ops on North First Street, one in the early 20th century and one in the 1960s, as Champaign’s Black citizens sought tools to fight back against the segregation in the North End that inflicts economic, political and physical damage on them to this very day. Unfortunately, we have only bits and pieces of what was once here – a brief article in the Urbana Courier, a listing in a directory. Common Ground is the only consumer co-operative in Champaign County, but we were certainly not the first, and we need to learn more about our history.
Common Ground Food Co-op was established in 1974 out of a desire for a better, more equitable, and healthier food system. Seeking an alternative to buying from multinational food corporations, our founders chose to organize Common Ground as a cooperative, where people unite together to meet their common needs through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise. However, our commitment to local food production and ethical business practices does not exempt us from the reality of segregation in this society. It is hard for a business to pursue multiple Ends at once, but we have to learn how to actively break down the barriers of race and class.
Why is our co-op, like many food co-ops across the country, so white? On our doors we say “Everyone welcome,” but are we really doing all we can–as owners, as board directors, as employers–to ensure that that’s the case? How can we make sure everyone in our community has access to healthy, sustainably produced food? We pride ourselves on being a community grocery store, but too many of our Black neighbors don’t think of this as their store.
Our board is committing itself to making our co-op more racially inclusive. We invite you to join with us in doing the following:
Learning about anti-racism:
Supporting Black businesses in our community:
Taking action and donating:


Common Ground Board of Directors

Top image by Megan Flowers.

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