Village Juneteenth MPLS

Village Financial Cooperative hosted a celebration this Thursday, June 13th, to celebrate Juneteenth and the amazing community that’s built up around their visionary mission. Tents were set up, tabling material meticulously arranged, and grills lit to make outstanding food for everyone who would be joining them. The event, DJed by J. Blasé, featured great music and several stunning performances. Members of New Black City put on a powerful dance performance to get things started, then the UNL Drill Team carried their energy forward into an impressive drill show.

Village Financial Cooperative, a community development financial institution, is aimed at paving the way to prosperity for all people. The organization, featuring a predominantly Black team of organizers and community builders, is working to create a financial institution that works for its members in ways that traditional credit unions don’t.

Their work started in 2016, after the murder of Philando Castile, when a group of organizers came together to build new ways to protect Black communities from systemic oppression and violence. In 2017, they started collecting pledges from community members saying they would move their money into Village Financial when they open. In the first two years, they gathered over 2,000 pledged members at amounts ranging from $5 all the way up to $250,000. At the event on Thursday, they announced that they’re hoping to open their doors this year, pending the required federal insurance.

One other way that Village is working to create wealth in their community is through the acquisition of vacant lots in the twin cities. Of the two lots that Thursday’s event was held on, one was owned by the Association of Black Economic Power (ABEP), and speakers said they had plans to acquire the other. ABEP, working with another organization Building Relations In Community (BRIC), has been canvassing in the neighborhood surrounding these two vacant lots, and will be conducting community meetings, to find out what the neighborhood sees as good use of the empty land.

This move puts the decision making power in the hands of the people who live in the neighborhood, rather than outside developers. Shiranthi Goonathilaka, speaking at the event Thursday, said this was one way the group was looking at addressing systematic oppression, specifically related to Black communities, as they build their credit union.

Thursday’s event was a celebration of community and liberation, and one that seems to be on course to repeat itself in the coming years. From the performances to the food to the people, everything pulled together remarkably well to create a welcoming and joy filled environment that clearly reflects the freedom and power building that’s central to the mission of the organization behind the event. To find out more about Village Financial Cooperative, and to pledge membership for when they open, visit villagefinancial.org today.

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