On Friday, March 6th, a Willy East neighborhood family experienced a tragic loss of life. As noted on Saturday, March 7th, on the Willy Street Co-op Facebook page: “Willy Street Co-op is moved by the outpouring of support for our grieving community and we stand in solidarity with the family, friends, and neighbors of Anthony Robinson, Jr. We look forward to continuing to engage in the collective efforts to affirm that black lives matter.”
Since then, your Co-op reaffirmed and stepped up our already ongoing efforts to explore how to truly embody what it means to be a just, community-based business.
Support for the Robinson Family
Offering support for neighborhood tragedies is nothing new to the Co-op, and we have done so again, by donating $400 to the Robinson family’s funeral costs. We were in contact with the family directly, making it possible to ensure that we were helping in the most useful way possible.
In addition, we received phone calls from Owners requesting that we provide free food and services to demonstrators and neighboring families in grief. Answering the initial requests that came in were tricky; we were unable to keep up with requests that required short turn-around, and we have a strict donations policy that ensures charitable giving is implemented fairly, and so continuing to honor short-term requests was unsustainable without the assistance of our community. If you are interested in helping a grieving family or organization demonstrating during this time, please consider purchasing a gift card for them. Please contact customer service at Willy East at 608-251-6776 to find out how.
CHIP/Race to Equity Team Matching Campaign
From March 23rd-29th, thanks to our Board of Directors and Owners who have donated their abandoned equity for charitable purposes, we were able to launch a week-long matching campaign with our customers. Customers participated in CHIP at the registers per usual, supporting all of the nonprofits who participate in Community Shares of Wisconsin, and then the Co-op matched the donations for the entire week, pledging the match to the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families Race to Equity Team. WCCF is also a Community Shares nonprofit. Abandoned equity is kept in foundation funds at Twin Pines Foundation, and so WCCF Race to Equity Team will be receiving the matching funds in early July to use to forward their pledge to not rest until they can “report that Madison and Dane County have genuinely become places where the opportunities to be well, to learn, to work, to prosper, to be safe, and to be respected are equitably distributed across every community within our county.” Thank you to all of our customers who participated in CHIP March 23rd-29th, and helped us pledge a match to the WCCF Race to Equity Team. As March 29th was too close to our Reader publishing date, we are unable to report the final matching total here. It will likely be available on social media and reported out in our May Reader edition.
Committee for an Inclusive Co-op
Since the middle of 2014, managers have been participating in a variety of trainings and events centered around improving inclusivity both in the workplace and at the store. Last summer, all managers participated in the YWCA Creating Equitable Organizations training, and various managers followed-up with that training by attending both the inaugural MadREP/Urban League Diversity Summit and the 2014 YWCA Racial Justice Summit. A few managers are also participating in Sustain Dane’s Step Up: Equity Matters Series. Since then, managers have been discussing how to use lessons and practices learned to take equity and equality training to the next level: staff-wide. In the last two months, the General Management Team and Directors signed the Step-Up Pledge, indicating leadership commitment. The pledge states:
“I understand that my attitude and my perspective make my world what it is. I choose to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and empathy each and every day and in each and every encounter. While I know it will not always be easy, I commit to the challenge. I commit to change. It is in this spirit that I agree to the following:
- I pledge to be courageous in my honesty and my truth.
- I pledge to participate with good intentions in this safe place where my community and I can grow and flourish.
- I pledge to be open to new ways of seeing the world and of sharing the world with others.
- I pledge to work towards curiosity and not in judgment.
- I pledge to step up boldly and lead by example even when it feels uncomfortable.
- I pledge to trust myself, my intentions and the goodness of others.
- I pledge to build a beautiful and diverse culture inside myself and my community.
- Sometimes our steps will be big and bold, and other times they will be small and soft. Both kinds of steps take a brave heart, and are necessary and important. In fact some of the smallest steps create the biggest impact on our growth.
- I pledge to STEP UP today and every day for a better world.”
We have also started a staff Committee for an Inclusive Co-op (CIC), currently comprised of managers and Human Resources staff who had the YWCA training, and have also signed the Step-Up Pledge. On March 26th, the Employee Council will be asked to sign the pledge as well, before we take the pledge to all staff. The Committee’s next steps include spreading the word to staff about efforts being put forth and how to get involved; developing a committee charter and avenues to participate; clarifying our vision for an inclusive, socially just organization; considering avenues to perform a staff cultural audit; identifying best practices; developing a strategic plan; and implementing and evaluating action steps taken.
Allied Community Co-op
The Race to Equity report indicated that some of Dane County’s small, predominantly African American neighborhoods were found to be disproportionately distant from a full service grocery or other quality food outlets. As previously reported in the February Reader, your Co-op is continuing to provide mentorship to the Allied Community Co-op (ACC) in the Allied Drive neighborhood. We are helping find a community solution to accessing food and goods within walking distance and we wish to help in a way that can eventually lead to neighborhood ownership and employment opportunities. An ACC Food Committee has been developed and consists of ACC neighborhood and stakeholder members, and staff from both Divine Orders Catering and our Co-op. The committee is currently exploring using ACC as a community buying club and structuring the club to grow into a full service store. The Co-op will keep you informed as more information becomes available.
Co-ops and Racial Justice on a Global Scale
Cooperatives and our ancestor mutual aid societies have long been tied to social and racial justice. Building business identity around community need supports avenues for community participation and social and economic sustainability. We encourage free and democratic speech, the right to information, sharing in ideas, and active participation both in the workplace and society. Cooperatives seek a common ground that is mutually beneficial to all, and we are proud of the discussions our community is working to have with each other, with our community leaders, with public services, and at our dinner tables.