Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
One of my favorite poets is Antonio Machado.
I think this poem captures my first and most important learning of the conference sessions.
There is no road. You make the road by travelling it. I came hoping for a clear path and left realizing we are already on the path. We have already begun building the CPA. Build the business plan yes, use it as a guide and to show people that you know what you are doing. But don’t wait for every detail, every piece of information. Take the first step. And then the second. And keep walking. Sometimes the road will be blocked, and we will have to find another way. But keep walking.
Felipe and Kate and so many others demonstrated this. Find what people need, make some phone calls, build a relationship or two and it will happen.
The second takeaway was the amazing power that exists in this network. I had already learned this in our small cohort, but hearing from so many other voices showed the wealth that is out there, handed to us, if we only ask. So asking is a key part of this process. Ask the churches what they need; ask the vendors what they can do and what they need to survive, ask others for their wisdom on HVAC and electricity and composting. Ask. It felt like many of the right people were gathered. We the seekers. The vendors. Those who are already building wealth within the African American community. The investors and capital movers. The ones who are grounded in prayer.
Inclusivity and transparency. There must be no hidden contracts. No side deals. No missing costs. It is all right there. Reminds me of what I was taught by my father…the code of the west…all you have is your integrity and your handshake is a vow of truth and a promise to do what is right.
People in the coop are proud to be in the coop. Everyone I spoke with had a story of how this made a difference for them and their company or organization. Of how this empowered them and gave them confidence. Of how they felt part of something bigger that was having an impact.
And hope. Together, we can transform markets and communities and the way economic power is wielded.