On October 1, the Star Tribune published an article outlining a leadership crisis at Village Financial, the organization scheduled to be the October SEED grant recipient at Seward Community Co-op. The conflict involves a Seward Co-op board member as well as a number of board candidates. This news understandably brought up a number of questions and concerns within our co-op community, especially among staff.
The Seward Co-op SEED Advisory Team, which is comprised of cashier representatives from each of our three business units, met on Thursday, October 3 to address the concerns. The team reviewed the news article as well as a public statement made by the board of directors at Village Financial.
After much discussion, our staff-led SEED Advisory Team made the difficult decision to discontinue the October SEED program round-up for Village Financial and instead continue the current preemption for East African businesses on Franklin Avenue who were affected by recent hate crimes in our community.
We understand that this decision has a great impact in our community and do not take it lightly. We want to be clear that Seward Co-op is deeply committed to the vision of a Black-led financial cooperative in Minneapolis and want to do what we can to support this work. The decision is not an attempt to take sides in the conflict; rather, the decision is based on the potential impact on Seward Co-op staff. Staff members on the Advisory Team felt that it was not fair to expect cashiers to respond to inquiries about an extremely high-conflict situation in our co-op community. Our cashiers have hundreds of conversations per day about our SEED recipients and whether customers would like to round-up—the burden to respond to or explain this conflict would be an unfair burden on these co-op employees.
The Seward Co-op SEED program is one way that Seward Co-op lives its Ends Statement to “sustain a healthy community,” and our selection process is entirely driven by staff. We are heart-broken by this conflict in the co-op community and by the violence in our immediate neighborhood. We sincerely hope for resolution and safety for everyone involved, and hope that Black economic liberation will be realized. We will continue to look for ways to support this work.