The Cooperative Community of New West Jackson (CO-OP NWJ) is an 8-block community nestled in a blighted, high poverty, disenfranchised area of West Jackson, Mississippi. A community on the brink of extinction, us residents began a new grassroots movement in 2013 to rebuild our neighborhood from the inside out.
Through a cooperative model building true economic opportunity through resident-driven enterprises as an answer to generational poverty, systemic exclusion, and years of misguided charity work, our community is beginning to redefine what we consider an asset, understand the power of our cultural narrative, and find solutions for ourselves through working together.
A cooperative neighborhood plan came together based on our shared priorities:
(1) We need to clean up.
(2) We need to make money.
(3) We need things for youth to do.
Although the words make it seem quick and simple, it was, is and will always be a work in progress. Years of distrust, oppression, and neglect mean every step forward comes through continuous conversations, relationship building, and the delicate balance of internal growth to external pressures.
CO-OP NWJ is a grassroots effort to transform a neighborhood marred by violence, drugs, abandonment and neglect, now targeted for new economic development, into a sustainable model community by securing property in a community land trust and employing a creative reuse strategy to incubate cooperative enterprises based on the underutilized skillsets of residents.
What we are attempting to do is not a reactionary fight against impending gentrification, but a proactive measure to build and strengthen people in place to prevent displacement and build real wealth to alleviate poverty.
Our community and its work will rise and fall only as much as we hold ourselves to our values:
- All people have value.
- Our story is an asset.
- We can be the leaders of our vision.
- Only through cooperation will we succeed.
- We are family. And family is community.
- We have our own answers and the power to control our lives.
- The work can never outpace the people.