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Non-Extractive Loans

Community-Centered Investments In Three Parts

In partnership with Art.coop


Course Description

1. Welcome!

“There has to be a better way to trust working-class creatives with loans for their businesses. Creatives are reliable!”
It's hard to believe that teenagers are allowed (even encouraged!) to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt, but it’s nearly impossible for creatives to get ethical loans for their small businesses. In response, there are many working-class, queer, and BIPOC creatives following culturally-rooted economic practices to remake the ways we access money. What happens when this scales up beyond a neighborhood or a close group of friends? Let’s find out! It’s happening now.

In this lesson, cultural worker Chris Myers and artist Cierra Peters discuss the inequities of lending in the United States and introduce non-extractive funds, an important piece of the Solidarity Economy movement because they place people and the planet over profit. 

This introduction consists of a 4-minute video, hours of research opportunity, and a moment to test your knowledge.

2. Boston Ujima Project

“When we’re talking about things like investment, and lending, and care, and solidarity, at root is inherently valuing people.” –Nia K. Evans
The first democratically managed investment fund in the country places BIPOC arts and cultural organizing at the heart of its work. In 2018, after years of conversation and organizing work, the Boston Ujima Project launched the Ujima Fund, a democratic investment vehicle raising capital to finance small businesses, real estate, and infrastructure projects in Boston’s working-class BIPOC communities. Ujima, named after the Swahili word for collective work and responsibility, uses a participatory budgeting process in combination with traditional underwriting to put economic development decisions in the hands of community members. In this module, you meet Boston Ujima Project team members Andre Bennett, Paige Curtis, JaNoah Daley, Nia K. Evans, and Cierra Peters. They present a vivid description of Ujima and its Good Business Alliance, connection to creatives, and underlying motivations.

This lesson consists of a 11-minute video and over an hour of research and reflection.

3. Getting Started: Making A Non-Extractive Fund

“What would a people’s economy look like if we designed it, created it, and nurtured it ourselves? What kinds of art or businesses do we love, want, and need in our communities?”
Consider the difference between how a bank treats you, and how you treat someone you love who needs help making a creative project. Starting a fund as large as Ujima’s is beyond the scope of this mini-course, but you can start on your own block, in your own creative community. Consider such examples as neighborhood mutual aid groups, the resource sharing of free and enslaved African American communities, and giving circles. You can learn the basic vocabulary of investment and the components of a loan while also remembering your ancestors' practices. Popular educator Chris Myers and Ujima team member Cierra Peters introduce a type of rotating savings group called a sou-sou to get you started.​​

This lesson consists of a 4-minute video, and several hours of reflection and actionable steps.

Course Contents


Chris Myers
Actor, Writer, Producer, Cultural Worker

Chris Myers is an actor, writer, producer, and cultural worker, born and based in New York City. His performance work has been featured at leading cultural institutions, networks, and streaming platforms. As an organizer and popular educator, he teaches class politics to artists as a founding member of Anticapitalism for Artists. He is the recipient of two Obie Awards—one for acting and one for his organizing work—as well as a CUNY Segal Center Award for Civic Engagement in the Arts. Education: Juilliard.

Cierra Peters
Artist, Writer, Communications Director of Boston Ujima Project

Cierra Peters is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work spans video, installation, writing, and experimental publishing, and she is the Director of Communications, Culture & Enfranchisement at the Boston Ujima Project, a cooperative business and investment ecosystem supporting communities of color. Cierra has given talks at deCordova Sculpture Park, Harvard Law School, and other institutions. She recently curated Combahee’s Radical Call, a year-long exhibition celebrating Black feminist organizing in Boston, and in 2021 built a residency at MassMOCA called Converging Liberations for artists of color. 


We acknowledge your time and care.
We acknowledge the original stewards of the land.
We acknowledge our ancestors and your ancestors.
We acknowledge and thank all those who have struggled for workers’ rights and racial, economic, and environmental rights and emancipation. 

Course material: This course was made through a partnership between Art.coop and CreativeStudy and the participation of Boston Ujima Project. The video scripts for this course were written by Caroline Woolard in collaboration with Cierra Peters and feedback from Heather Bhandari, Nati Linares, Marina Lopez, and Sruti Suryanarayanan. We also asked for course feedback from Julia Clark, Raymonii Cowan, Rice Gallardo, Mei Kazama, Ann Tarantino, and Dexter Wimberly. 

Thank you to Commons.art, Grantmakers in the Arts, MEDLab, New Economy Coalition, and Traveling University for their support.

This series is made possible with financial support from the Mellon Foundation.

We stand on the shoulders of those who use solidarity and cooperative economics in the struggle for liberation. These are some of the folks who lead the way for us: Ella Baker, James Baldwin, Grace Lee Boggs, Barbara Dane, W. E. B. Du Bois, the Combahee River Collective, Fannie Lou Hamer, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Robeson, Shirley Sherrod, Nina Simone, Comandante Ramona, Elandria “E” C. Williams, Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, and many others.