This Week's Guest:

Air Date: February 29, 2024
Cooperative Advocate, Worker Co-ops

Lauren Ruffin discusses her Cooperative Journey, and How “African Americans and The Arts” Impacts Lives and History


In honor of the 2024 Black History Month theme of African Americans and The Arts, Vernon interviews Lauren Ruffin, Director and Lead Strategist of the Art Program at Michigan Central. Vernon and Lauren will discuss her cooperative journey, and her feelings about how “African Americans and The Arts” impacts lives and history.

Lauren Ruffin is Director and Lead Strategist of the Art Program at Michigan Central, a 32-acre innovation campus in the heart of Detroit. She is also Associate Professor of Worldbuilding and Visualizing Futures at Arizona State University where she explores the unprecedented and rapid political and social changes taking place in every facet of our lives, largely due to advances in technology. Her research centers on the best practices organizations and companies should embed to ensure that their platforms are safe, equitable, profitable, and joyful for all users, and particularly users from Black and Indigenous, disabled, and queer communities.

Prior to these roles, Lauren co-founded CRUX, an immersive storytelling cooperative that collaborates with Black artists as they create content in virtual reality and augmented reality (XR), and has served as co-CEO of Fractured Atlas, the largest association of independent artists in the United States. In 2017, she started Artist Campaign School, a new educational program that has trained 74 artists to run for political office to date. Lauren has served on the governing boards of Black Innovation Alliance, Black Girls Code, and Main Street Phoenix Cooperative; and is on the advisory boards of ArtUp and Black Girl Ventures. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in Political Science and obtained a J.D. from the Howard University School of Law.

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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