Grounded & Rooted: The National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda

The opening plenary session panel that included LaDonna Redmond Sanders (far left).

Attending the National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda in St. Paul, Minnesota was an inspiring and enriching experience. Held from June 13-15, 2024, this conference brought together a diverse group of Black cooperatives, economic practitioners, and social entrepreneurs, all united by the goal of fostering economic empowerment within communities of color.

The conference opened with a plenary session that included LaDonna Redmond Sanders, a member of NCBA CLUSA’s Board of Directors and a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant with Columinate. Her comments set an empowering tone for the event, expressing gratitude to attendees and outlining the objectives and theme.

“True progress is born from collective dialogue and strengthened through collaboration. As we come together in this space, let us embrace diverse perspectives, engage in meaningful conversations, and forge new projects,” Redmond Sanders said.

She also reminded attendees to take advantage of the unique opportunity the National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda provided to share experiences and success stories about the power of Black cooperative enterprise.

“As we forge new connections and cultivate relationships, we create a vibrant tapestry of inspiration and growth. Let us celebrate the triumphs of others and share our victories, for by showcasing success stories, we inspire and empower one another to reach even greater heights.”

Her words resonated with the audience, highlighting the importance of collective effort and the transformative potential of cooperative enterprises in building sustainable economic futures.

The Power of Black Cooperative Enterprise

Each session of the conference was a deep dive into the core aspects of cooperative development. One session focused on building organizational capacity, equipping attendees with practical tools to navigate challenges and seize opportunities. Participants learned how to enhance the resilience and effectiveness of their cooperatives, ensuring long-term success in a competitive business environment.

Youth engagement was a significant focus, with skill-building workshops tailored for young participants. These workshops covered essential topics such as financial management, business planning, marketing, leadership development, and conflict resolution. The energy and enthusiasm of the young participants were palpable, underscoring the importance of preparing the next generation to lead cooperative enterprises.

A standout session was the digital transformation discussion introducing participants to the revolutionary impact of digital technologies on cooperative operations. From cloud computing to artificial intelligence, the session explored how these technologies can enhance service delivery and member experiences. The discussions on e-commerce and online marketplaces provided valuable strategies for expanding market reach and optimizing sales channels for cooperatively produced goods and services.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter delivered and outstanding keynote address.

The Mayors Union Depot Pop-up

On the second day, the conference was graced by a keynote address from St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. His address was a testament to his administration’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and prosperity. Mayor Carter shared stories and examples of innovative approaches to economic development, social justice, public safety, and environmental sustainability. His vision of St. Paul becoming one of the co-op capitals of the world was both bold and inspiring, resonating deeply with the audience.

Twin Cities Tour

The conference closed Saturday with a great tour, including a visit to the George Floyd Memorial. This visit was a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. The tour also showcased the historic Rondo neighborhood and the Rondo Commemorative Plaza, a place rich with history and resilience.

The visit to the Sabathani Community Center was equally impactful. As one of Minnesota’s oldest African American-founded nonprofits, Sabathani Community Center offers a comprehensive range of services, helping over 50,000 South Minneapolis residents move from surviving to thriving. The tour of their senior apartment building showcased their commitment to providing dignified and respectful housing solutions.

Across the street from Sabathani Community Center was NCBA CLUSA member Seward Community Co-op, a bright and inviting grocery store that offers a wide array of healthy and organized food options. The co-op’s atmosphere and commitment to community-oriented services were a perfect conclusion to the tour, embodying the spirit of cooperative enterprises.

The National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda was a profound experience, filled with learning, inspiration, and a deep sense of community.


NCBA CLUSA’s Brandon Johnson (left) with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (right).
NCBA CLUSA member Seward Community Co-op’s storefront.
Conference attendees had the chance to tour the Twin Cities, and took a group photo at The Sabathani Community Center.

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