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Looking Back at Black History Month

Updated: Mar 5

Now that Black History Month is over, CDF wants to draw attention to four Black cooperators recognized during the month of February whose work continues to contribute to progress in the cooperative movement. Take a look at the continuing impact of Terrell Cannon, Dr. Allie Felder Jr, Father Albert J. McKnight and Clark Arrington.


Terrell Cannon is making sure that the voices of home care workers and their clients are heard in Philadelphia, the Capitol in Harrisburg, and beyond. Terrell is Director of Workforce Development at Home Care Associates (HCA), a worker-owned home care cooperative in Philadelphia. She recognizes that workforce development is more than job training, it includes creating a policy environment that sustains livelihoods, families and communities.


Terrell credits the worker-centered culture of HCA in providing the encouragement and career opportunities needed to grow personally and professionally. Attracted to its worker-ownership model, she joined HCA as a caregiver in 1993. Since then she’s advanced to certified nursing assistant, home health aide (HHA), peer mentor, specialty HHA, case manager, and trainer. “The co-op model has encouraged me to seek higher education and provided me with the knowledge and tools to better serve my consumers and community through advocacy and community outreach. Working in a co-op has provided me with the ability to do what I love while being supported and empowered to achieve my personal goals.”


Terrell is making history by empowering home care workers to stand-up for their communities, jobs, and families.


As director of the CLUSA India office, Cooperative Hall of Famer Dr. Allie Felder Jr. helped strengthen and develop countless co-ops and programs involving supervised credit, hybrid seed production and distribution, co-op education, milk marketing, and oil-seed processing. He recruited NRECA to help start 5 rural electric co-ops electrifying thousands of Indian Villages. Fedler also secured soybean oil for the National Dairy Development Board of India to establish the oilseeds growers co-op project and developed a dairy co-op to provide low-cost, high quality milk to populated areas. He helped the National Cooperative Union of India develop new training methods and materials. In honor of this work, the Prime Minister of India recognized Felder with a certificate of honor from the National Cooperative Union of India.


The continued success of the Indian cooperative movement is a testament to Allie's foundational work.


Cooperative Hall of Famer, Father Albert J. McKnight, a Catholic priest, organized and led a peaceful economic revolution among low-income families in the rural South by promoting the power of cooperatives.


In May 1968, Ebony Magazine published "The Quiet Revolution of a Parish Priest" an article that captures the dedication and urgency of Father McKnight's work to create an inclusive economy through cooperative development:


"As his co-op task force eagerly recruits farmers in hundreds of communities, and as the products from successful co-ops move toward big city markets, Father McKnight looms as one of the most important leaders of the South - Not only in the realm of economics, but also as a political force. While he has captivated his farming flock with financial projects, he also has inspired them to seek other means of helping themselves - primarily by using the ballot. The results of his urging has been scores of (African Americans) running for office for the first time and a new thrust toward organizing voter leagues and voter registration campaigns. This, too, is part of his greater objective, for the quiet cleric insists: 'There is a close connection between economic control and political participation, for those who control the financial processes of a region also control the politics. The poor in acquiring economic prestige, acquire a greater voice in politics and a freer rein to exercise their civil rights."


The Ebony Magazine article on Dr. McKnight reminds us of the economic hardships and overt racism faced by rural southern Blacks.


Deeply committed to civil rights and economic democracy, Clark Arrington spent almost 50 years implementing creative ways to finance cooperative development within a system built for investors, not workers.


Creative, engaged, bold and strategic, Arrington turned theoretical ideas of worker ownership into bylaws that codified and clarified the practice of internal capital accounts for worker-owned cooperatives while working with The ICA Group. He pioneered the use of non-voting preferred equity shares to attract outside capital to Equal Exchange without sacrificing democratic control. Today preferred shares are widely used by consumer and worker cooperatives.


As the General Counsel at The Working World, Arrington brings his legal insight and knowledge of securities law to develop innovative legal and financial structures that stand the tests of pragmatism and legality. His work with Seed Commons, The Working World’s network of loan funds, combines local control with the power of shared capital and resources to support local cooperative businesses.


Clark is making history by advancing cooperatives through innovative financing and governance structures strongly rooted in the law.

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