Worker-Owner of Woke Foods
Co-op Academy Teaching Assistant at Green Worker Cooperatives
How did you get into this work?
In 2015 I moved back to NYC after working in my home country of the Dominican Republic. I returned to NYC to work in education and was an AmeriCorps volunteer but after experiencing different challenges with the nonprofit I was placed in, I decided to leave. Some of the challenges I faced where lack of “diversity” or openness to talk about racial dynamics, not being paid enough, which affected my mental and physical health. I decided to start Woke Foods days after leaving the nonprofit as a way to make money and support my livelihood. Simultaneously, I was exploring ways to heal my mind and body with food & herbs, immersing myself in urban agriculture and food sovereignty, organizing with friends and facilitating workshops centering racial equity. Given where I was in my life I wanted to create a project or be in space that was prioritizing racial and gender equity, economic justice, and food sovereignty. A few months later, I asked two women to join me in doing the Coop Academy at Green Worker Cooperatives to learn about worker coops and transition Woke Foods into one.
What does ‘solidarity economy’ mean to you?
Solidarity economy means funneling money into local small businesses, prioritizing the ones owned by people of color, women, and queer and trans people. It means creating programs and funding opportunities for low-income people with low or no credit to either start cooperative businesses or upscale their small businesses without worrying about how they will survive and support their families. It also means understanding and holding the complexity that worker cooperatives create ways to be more equitable businesses but we are still operating under capitalism and not necessarily ending it.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this work?
The idea I mentioned above about creating funding for low-income people comes from my lived experience of struggling to manage Woke Foods because I did not have a home to live in, credit to apply for loans, or money saved up to invest in the business. I did, however, have the experience, skills, and grit.
Why do you think it’s important for cooperatives to help other cooperatives?
Because we need to create an ecosystem for ourselves. Partnering with other coops is one of my favorite parts of the internal work that happens at Woke Foods. We bank at Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union and now Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union. We recently started to hire BK Packers to do our deliveries, which has been great! We are also talking with GreenFeen composting coop, to handle our food waste. Woke Foods is looking forward to creating more partnerships with other worker-owner cooperatives.
What is your ‘theory of change’?
Fractals! In the book Emergent Strategy by adrienne marie brown she shares the idea of fractal, “the idea that patterns repeat across scale – the spiral on your finger echoes the spiral of the galaxy, how do we become the small, scale version of the large scale changes we seek?”
I truly believe that if we as individuals and in small collectives became dedicated to practicing the values and imagining the world we want to live in with action we can have it become real. Adrienne has shared that capitalism was created in the imagination of a white man and people trusted this new system without proof it would work. It doesn’t work but we still keep practicing it every day. She continuously challenges us to imagine new systems outside of capitalism, punitive law, and racism and ask that we trust each other as we try new ways, such as cooperative economics, transformational justice, and liberation.
I am here for imagining and practicing new ways.
Where can we find more information about the work you are doing in the future?
Visit the websites and social media pages of the places I work @ and my own:
What is the best way for people to get involved and support your work?