After seven years of kitchen-table and Zoom organizing, a multi-stakeholder, cooperative, community-owned grocery store is taking shape in Louisville, KY. In October, the metro council of Louisville’s combined city-county government voted to allocate $3.5 million to help make a co-op grocery a reality.

There are still many steps to take. The grocery store has over 600 member-owners; we need more. We secured $3.5 million from the city; we need to raise another $3 million. And, of course, there are always contingencies with public money. We are under pressure to meet agreed-upon timelines for site preparation, store design, permitting, and construction. If we fall short, the money from Louisville’s city-county government could be rescinded. But we are getting there.

Construction is anticipated to start in the third quarter of 2023. In 2024, the Louisville Community Grocery should open its doors in Smoketown, a downtown neighborhood and the first of the city’s Black settlements.

It’s been a long journey to get here. This is our story.

The need for the Louisville store reflects familiar watermarks of racial capitalism. Like many cities, Louisville is highly segregated by neighborhood. Through the middle of the 20th century, discriminatory practices by the federal and city governments and the local real estate industry prevented Black residents from purchasing homes outside of designated Black neighborhoods, which were redlined. Smoketown, just east of the city’s downtown core, is one of these neighborhoods.

Louisville is known nationally for its busing initiative, which was intended to integrate the county school system. In 2007, the US Supreme Court deemed this initiative unconstitutional. Subsequent efforts to create a diverse student body have been impacted by funding constraints and political and parental pressures and foundered, leaving the schools as segregated as ever.

Most notorious perhaps, is Louisville’s longstanding record of racism and the Louisville Metro Police Department’s regular misconduct. The state police bill of rights makes holding police accountable for acts of racism difficult, and a previous effort to establish a civilian review board failed. During months-long protests spurred by Breonna Taylor’s murder, the police department indiscriminately tear gassed, shot rubber bullets at, and harassed peaceful protestors. In one incident, an LMPD officer shot rubber bullets at a young Black woman. In another incident, the Kentucky State Police, who were assisting LMPD, killed a beloved business owner in the Black community. Black protestors were captured inside a church for hours, and the Kentucky General Assembly’s only Black female representative was arrested and charged with rioting.

Read the full article about grocery co-ops and food justice by Lisa Markowitz and Ariana Levinson at Nonprofit Quarterly.