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.
- Identify inequities in lending and challenge the misconception that creative work is a bad investment.
- Introduce learners to the concept of non-extractive loans.
- Compare and contrast non-extractive and extractive funds, using examples.
- Expand the understanding of how creative people participate in alternative economies.
2. Boston Ujima Project
This lesson consists of a 11-minute video and over an hour of research and reflection.
- Introduce Boston Ujima Project and members of its team to learn about the inspiration and motivation behind the organization's democratic and equitable work.
- Identify and explore the Ujima Fund and its Good Business Alliance.
- Demonstrate the care, thought, and structure that goes into a non-extractive fund and how creative communities are integral to its success.
3. Getting Started: Making A Non-Extractive Fund
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.
- Define what an investment is and identify the key components of a loan.
- Inspire action on a small level, within close-knit communities.
- Demonstrate how to conduct a sou-sou.
- Define Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
- Fully understand the basics of what constitutes self-employment and expenses on your taxes.
- Track expenses successfully as a self-employed and/or W2’d individual.
- Alleviate stress and confusion related to taxes.
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 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 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, Open Collective Foundation, and Traveling University for their support.
This series is made possible with financial support from the Mellon Foundation and Open Collective.
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.
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Image © James Adams
NO DEBT! Non-Extractive Loans