The Black Liberation Cooperative Academy (BLCA) is a 10-session program for New Orleans’ Black workers, organizers, community leaders, entrepreneurs and families to share in learning, lift up Black cooperative history, create our own economic opportunities, meet collective needs, and develop successful collaborative economic practices.

Contact us with questions at BLCAneworleans@gmail.com 

Program Details

This program is organized by the Cooperation New Orleans Loan Fund.

Program Dates:

  • ​Saturday October 23, 2021  Welcome to Black Liberation Cooperative Academy

  • Saturday November 6, 2021 Remembering and Reclaiming Cooperativism as a Black Technology Pt. 1 

  • Saturday November 20, 2021 Remembering and Reclaiming Cooperativism as a Black Technology Pt. 2 

  • Saturday December 4, 2021 Dreaming Beyond Racial Capitalism 

  • Saturday December 18, 2021 Worker Ownership & Democratic Governance, Presentations 

  • Saturday January 8, 2022 Decision-Making & Business Model Canvas 

  • Saturday January 15, 2022 Group Presentations 1

  • Saturday January 29 2022 Group Presentations 2 

  • Saturday February 12, 2022 Non-Extractive Loan Fund & Technical Assistance Labs

  • Saturday February 19, 2022 Closing & Celebration

Questions? email BLCAneworleans@gmail.com

 

Goals and Curriculum 

How can we as black people create our own economic systems that provide us the opportunities to take care of our families? What can we learn from our ancestors about creating a sustainable livelihood for our families outside of a capitalist economic system that was never designed for black people to survive let alone thrive? Together we will explore cooperative economics as a path toward black liberation in New Orleans and beyond.

In BCLA we will:

  • Learn cooperative business development and business management skills

  • Connect with our cultural histories of cooperative economics and its connection to black liberation

  • Understand and share our needs with one another 

  • Share knowledge of tools for trade and alternative economies such as cooperativism, mutual aid, social aid and pleasure clubs, susus and bartering

  • Build a shared analysis of the capitalist system and local economic and political system, visioning what is needed to transform the post-Katrina New Orleans economy 

Tentative Program Dates:

Saturday October 16, 2021 Welcome to Black Liberation Cooperative Academy

Saturday October 23, 2021  Remembering and Reclaiming Cooperativism as a Black Technology Pt. 1 (in-person)

Saturday November 6, 2021 Remembering and Reclaiming Cooperativism as a Black Technology Pt. 2

Saturday November 20, 2021 Dreaming Beyond Racial Capitalism 

Saturday December 4, 2021 Worker Ownership & Democratic Governance, Presentations

Saturday December 18, 2021 Decision-Making & Business Model Canvas

Saturday January 8, 2022 Group Presentations 1

Saturday January 15, 2022 Group Presentations 2

Saturday January 29 2022 Non-Extractive Loan Fund & Technical Assistance Labs

Saturday February 12, 2022 Closing & Celebration

 

Frequently asked questions

What is the Black Liberation Co-op Academy?


The Black Liberation Coop School is designed to ground Black community leaders, organizers, and workers in cooperative economics principles and practices as a launching point for building community-centered worker-owned businesses. An intensive 10-session training and support program, participants will learn cooperative leadership skills, historical lessons from cooperative economics in the Black freedom struggle, and business development tools. The program includes in-person and online training, guest speakers, and the opportunity to apply for non-extractive financial services. (Loan approval is not guaranteed through participation.)





How will this course be structured?


Saturday October 16, 2021 Welcome to Black Liberation Cooperative Academy Saturday October 23, 2021 Remembering and Reclaiming Cooperativism as a Black Technology Pt. 1 (in-person) Saturday November 6, 2021 Remembering and Reclaiming Cooperativism as a Black Technology Pt. 2 Saturday November 20, 2021 Dreaming Beyond Racial Capitalism Saturday December 4, 2021 Worker Ownership & Democratic Governance, Presentations Saturday December 18, 2021 Decision-Making & Business Model Canvas Saturday January 8, 2022 Group Presentations 1 Saturday January 15, 2022 Group Presentations 2 Saturday January 29 2022 Non-Extractive Loan Fund & Technical Assistance Labs Saturday February 12, 2022 Closing & Celebration

We are currently planning for this course to be on-line Zoom offerings. While online sessions will be recorded, we ask that participants plan to attend sessions in real time as there will be a focus on small group work and break out sessions. Please note that the schedule will have a break around the end of the year and will reconvene shortly before Carnival season. In addition to a team of co-facilitators, the academy will also have an additional staff person in each session to tend to any accessibility needs, run tech, etc. We aim to make sure the structure of the class doesn’t create unnecessary barriers to participation, so if you are excited about participating but have any concerns, just let us know!




Who should apply to the Black Liberation Co-op Acaemy?


The Black Liberation Co-op Academy is open to Black people living in New Orleans, Louisiana, including workers, organizers, community leaders, entrepreneurs and families. We especially welcome applications from native New Orleanians, formerly incarcerated individuals, women, queer and trans folx, and others who have been historically excluded from participation in the mainstream economy and opportunities to build wealth. We encourage individuals and groups with businesses or business ideas to use this space to develop concrete business skills and an understanding of group dynamics to advance their project as a worker-owned cooperative. You do not need to already be in business and you can absolutely be at the idea stage. BLCA is designed to support teams in the early stages of their business, including the idea stage.




Can groups apply to the BLCA together?


Yes, we encourage any and all Black members of a cooperative team or project to do the program together if you can. A worker cooperative is owned and managed by its workers, and your cooperative planning will be strongest if a group of workers participates together in creating it. Each member of a group should complete an application form and indicate the name of the group.




How much does it cost?


There is no fee to participate. Participants will receive a stipend of $600 upon completion of the program.




Where will the coop academy be held?


The Co-op Academy will be held virtually through Zoom. Computer and Internet access as well as downloading the Zoom app (free) are required. We are committed to working with participants need additional supports to attend the online portions of the training.In person locations are TBD. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases this summer and fall and make adjustments if necessary to keep folks safe.




What do I have to do to complete the program?


We ask that participants commit to completing the program. Completion means:-Attend 7/10 sessions-Watch recordings of any sessions you have to miss-Active participation in sessions (for example, actively participate in small group work)-Read and respond to communications from the facilitation team-Prepare and deliver a presentation on your business or project-Complete Business Model Canvas project, creating a simple business plan-Complete program evaluationsSessions will be recorded, however watching a recording does not count toward attending the session.




How will BLCA be accessible for participants?


We are committed to making the Black Liberation Cooperative Academy accessible for anyone that can make the commitment to participate. We are offering stipends to all participants recognizing that participation may require time away from income-generating activities. Because the Co-op Academy is a space for us to learn together, we ask participants to actively engage in the sessions. Being present may mean being at a desk with your camera on. We also recognize that we are human. At times we can be more present during an online meeting when we take care of our bodies with the camera off. We encourage participants to find the balance that works for them to actively engage in virtual sessions. During interviews with applicants we will discuss accessibility needs, including access to technology, and identify how we can support accessibility. We will offer an orientation to the technological tools we will be using to those who request it. Cooperation New Orleans is committed to language justice, and while we do not have the capacity to offer English/Spanish interpretation for this inaugural cohort, we plan to offer English and Spanish interpretation in future cohorts.




What happens after the course ends?


We invite all BLCA participants to stay engaged in cooperating and building a vibrant cooperative ecosystem, and to get involved in the Cooperation New Orleans movement and the Cooperation New Orleans Loan Fund. We invite co-ops that align with our values to consider applying for a non-extractive loan through the Cooperation New Orleans Loan Fund. You can read more here.




Applicant Interviews


All individuals and/or team members must complete the application and we will follow up to schedule a 45 minute interview over the phone or Zoom. We will do interviews on a rolling basis starting in mid August through the end of September. The earlier your team applies, the sooner we can interview you. Applicants will be notified by October 1 if they are accepted into the BLCA cohort.




Who is offering this free academy?


Cooperation New Orleans Loan Fund is offering this course. Our mission is to develop worker-owned cooperatives and the structures to support them, with a focus on poor and working class Black, indigenous, and immigrant communities.The academy is being designed and co-facilitated by Cooperation New Orleans Loan Fund Steering Committee members Tamah Yisrael, Toya Lewis, Sian ÓFaoláin and Lila Arnaud.




How is this academy different from other Coop 101 courses that I can find online?


BLCA is rooted in New Orleans. We encourage you to make use of any and all resources available, and to share those resources with the community of cooperators in BLCA. This academy focuses specifically on building relationships - between the participants and within the cooperative ecosystem here in New Orleans. While there will be sessions on business 101, this course starts off with the group creating its own definitions of what Black liberation looks like when it comes to community economies and self-reliance.




How do I/we apply for the co-op academy?


You can apply today using this form! Applications are due by Labor Day, September 6th. We will review your application and contact you to set up an interview with you and/or your team. We may also reach out via email or phone with further questions, or to follow up on any of your access needs or requests for more information.





 

BLCA is a unique program that centers the rich history of Black entrepreneurship and community development in New Orleans as a space to build upon the shared knowledge, experiences and expertise of participants. We encourage individuals and groups with business ideas to use this space to develop concrete business skills and an understanding of group dynamics to advance their project as a worker-owned cooperative. Our intention is that BLCA participants will be inspired and resourced to build a strong cooperative economy in New Orleans and beyond.

 

 

Meet Our Facilitators

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Tamah Yisrael

Toya Lewis

Sian Miranda Singh ÓFaoláin

Lila Arnaud

Tamah Yisrael

Tamah Yisrael is a Project Officer with Cooperation New Orleans and the Chief Solutions Officer of  TMH Financial Services LLC  providing business development, bookkeeping and management services to small businesses, nonprofits and social impact enterprises in the Greater New Orleans Area.  As Executive Director of Builders of the Highway Foundation, a national nonprofit, merging the Neo Jazz School of Music under its umbrella, developed a Cultural Community Center and organized a national outreach network. Also, a partner and Business Manager of Yisrael Records Inc. an independent record label producer of jazz and contemporary music as well as management of local artists such as the Yisrael Trio. 

She advocates for culture, social justice, and strategies to develop cooperatives and collaboration. She served as the President of the board of directors for the New Orleans Food Co-op for 4 years and is a member of Cooperation New Orleans. Additionally, she has been recognized by the Metro Birmingham NAACP’s Salute to Outstanding African American for her contributions to the culture and to the youth of the community. She is also a graduate of the Foundation for Louisiana’s TOGETHER Initiative LEAD Community Training Program, the UNO Community Development Finance program, Cooperation Works Art and Science of Co-op Development. She continues to serve the community on various committees and working groups to build a more equitable society.  Her goal for the Black Co-op Academy is to connect, share and learn with leaders on Cooperative Economic practices to co-create an ecosystem to meet the needs of the people of the community.

Toya Lewis

 Toya Lewis (anything said in love) is an Organizer, facilitator and extremely proud New Orleans native dedicated to building a more harm reductive world by facilitating people in owning and accounting for and utilizing their power to grow their better selves and a better world through popular education and somatic led commitment and intentional practice birthing. With a background in workplace and community strategic campaign organizing development, Toya experienced working with people on a large spectrum including Black workers, organizers, advocates, lawyers, artists, and  political decision makers. From living with the identity as a Black queer woman, to completing trainings with (BOLD) Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity, Emergent Strategies, Jobs with Justice, the People’s Institute and the Organizing institute, Toya is equipped to hold a body of folks willing and ready to consent to a somatic process led facilitation or training. Toya will offer the Black Liberation CoOp academy a digestible and enjoyable way to consume knowledge needed to live and build cooperatively.

Sian Miranda Singh ÓFaoláin

 Sian (she/her) is a mother and a fundraiser & organizer in movements for economic justice and racial justice. Raised in upstate New York and Atlanta, Sian is grateful for the people of New Orleans and noticing that making/finding her home in New Orleans is bringing her closer to her African and Taíno Caribbean roots. For Sian, cooperation is about sharing resources, knowing that people have the capacity and brilliance to work together to address any challenges we face with creativity and joy. Shifting the economy to one that is people-centered in this time and place means we must center and invest in the leadership of working class Black New Orleanians. Sian has been involved with building Cooperation New Orleans since 2019 and is supporting BLCA as a member of the facilitation team and as a member of the Resource Mobilization working group. 

Lila Arnaud

Lila is excited to build community and support with tech and good vibes at this year’s first Black Liberation Co-op Academy. Like many of us, Lila learned the importance of sharing and caring for one’s community from her mother, Lidia, an educator and cooperativistx who worked to develop cooperatives in the Dominican Republic in the 1970’s and 80’’s. 

 

Raised in the cooperative principles, Lila approaches her work as an educator and public health practitioner through the lens of a cooperativistx. Lila has over 10 years of experience in facilitating, developing and implementing community education programs in Louisiana; and is a proud member of the BanchaLenguas Language Justice Collective and Cooperation New Orleans Steering Committee.

Lila’s intention for this year’s academy is to continue to learn and celebrate the ways in which descendants of black and indigenous people engage in cooperative economies in order to provide for their families in spite of an unwelcoming and oppressive capitalist system.