This Week's Guest:

Air Date: February 15, 2024
Cooperative Advocate, Worker Co-ops

Ashley Walden discusses her Cooperative Journey, and How She has used “The Arts” to Impact Lives and History


In honor of the 2024 Black History Month theme of African Americans and the Arts, Vernon interviews Ashley Walden, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Unlock Creative. Vernon and Ashley discuss her cooperative journey, and how she has used “The Arts” to impact lives and history.

Ashley is a proven leader, change agent, and visionary. She is a focused executive who effectively manages day-to-day operations of multi-layered organizations while keeping equity and inclusiveness at the forefront. Ashley has 18 years of experience in nonprofit management and community-based arts business administration. She is a diligent producer driven by authenticity and a love of people.

Unlock Creative is a social enterprise whose mission is to nurture, grow, and sustain Black creative leadership. Ashley is also the Founder and current President of the National Black Women’s Creative Cooperative, a worker-owned limited liability cooperative and mutual aid network of Black women creatives whose mission is to liberate Black Women from oppressive and toxic work environments, generate wealth owned and stewarded by and for us toward a goal of political and financial freedom.

Ashley built her career at Alternate ROOTS, a nearly 50-year-old Southern-based regional arts service organization for artists, cultural bearers, and organizers. She held several roles including Managing Director, Program Director, and Director of Strategic Partnerships. Ashley was the Associate Producer for Cornerstone Theater Company based in Los Angeles who creates socially relevant plays with communities throughout the USA. She has also been a Lecturer at University of California at Longbeach, an Assistant Professor of Theater at Kennesaw State University in GA, and served on the Board of Directors of Appalshop based in Whitesburg, KY.

Our host, Vernon Oakes, is a consummate advocate for cooperatives. He is a Past President of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives, and he’s served on several boards and committees to advance the interests of cooperatives. Recently, he served on the Limited Equity Cooperative Task Force, established by Anita Bonds, At-Large Member of the Council of the District of Columbia. Vernon is an MBA graduate of Stanford University, who has used his business acumen to benefit the community, by promoting the added value of the cooperative business model. 

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