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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Pause. Take a deep breath.

If you can, look around. What do you see?

If you can listen. What do you hear?

What are you feeling?

Mark this moment.

A new normal is here.

Just last week, on Monday, December 16, 2019, almost a full year after Boston Ujima Project launched the Ujima Fund, the nation's first democratically governed investment fund, we marked the end of a 3 week voting period, during which 145 Ujima members (53% of Ujima members who can vote) voted directly on our first investment from the fund. One hundred forty-five Boston residents -- of whom, more than eighty percent identify as Black, Indigenous/Native, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern or Northern African, Mixed Race, or Person of Color -- had their say. They decided on the direct, positive impacts they wanted to see in their neighborhoods. And what they decided, collectively, has happened, is happening. This happening, this process cannot be undone. An expectation has been set. It is now a permanent of our shared story.

A new normal is here.

There is an economy in Boston that is governed by Boston's Black, Brown, and Indigenous people and communities. It provides good green jobs for Boston's hard working communities. It employs people of color, people who identify as womxn, people who identify as transgender, and people who identify as gender nonconforming. It is CORI friendly. It is majority owned by people of color. It is worker owned. It keeps food waste out of landfills. It is carbon neutral, working to become carbon negative. This is the economy Ujima members uplifted when they voted to invest $100,000 in CERO Cooperative, a worker owned, Dorchester based, commercial composting company.

In 2020, as we accept new members, and as older members, who want a say, see the direct role of their votes, more Boston residents will decide. And what they decide will happen. And the economy we govern may also include tech, and affordable real estate for housing and business, and community owned infrastructure, and affordable childcare, and community land trusts, and urban farms, and sit down restaurants, and coffee shops, and art spaces, and wellness spaces, and supermarkets, and ethical check cashing, and youth spaces, and gathering spots, and bookstores.

Throughout 2019, Ujima and community members devoted a month of study to many of the above named, currently unmet needs, as identified by Boston residents, to determine what it would take to meet these needs ourselves. This study will continue in 2020 and Ujima members will choose which unmet needs are priorities and finance their provision.

The economy we govern may also include participatory processes that determine where the city's investments are held. Earlier this year, Ujima co founded a new citywide Divest-Invest network that is uniting campaigns against fossil fuels, prisons, military, and housing displacement to target Boston's city financing and pension holdings. Ahead of a hearing in March, the coalition experienced an early victory with the city's announcement of an Environmental, Social, Governance Initiative, committing up to "$150 million of the City's operating funds to be invested in the short-term fixed income securities of companies that maintain strong corporate ESG practices," and the Community Bank Investment Initiative, "which will commit at least $100 million of its operating funds to be deposited in Boston's community banks and local financial institutions." Ujima's Divest-Invest work will continue in 2020, pushing for the creation of a public oversight committee and a statement of values regarding pension fund investments.

The economy we govern will influence other economies. In September, Ujima began a collaboration with Right to the City Boston and Center for Economic Democracy on a pilot design of a resident led process for hospital community benefit dollars on behalf of Boston Medical Center. This pilot design process will continue in 2020 and may result in a full process by which Boston residents can actively shape the programs that serve them. Also in 2020, Ujima will embark on collaborations with local, ethical developers to democratically allocate space and other resources, and with other local organizations to democratically prioritize needs and responses within their communities.

The economy we govern will be connected. In 2020, Ujima will launch a new class of membership for Black communities who want to create democratic ecosystems where they are, starting with Albany, NY; Atlanta, GA; Cincinnati, OH; Los Angeles, CA; and New York, NY.

The economy we govern has been directly invested in by us. With a minimum $50 investment, we pooled our resources, and together raised $1.5 million from 193 investors. In 2020, we will raise an additional $3.5 million from Boston residents, Massachusetts residents, impact investors, supporters in other states, and philanthropic foundations. Not only is everybody an investor, everyone's investment is equally valued.

A new normal is here.

Your vote, your donation, your investment, your attendance, your purchase, your support, your participation created this new normal.



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