Everything Co-op kicked off its recognition of Women’s History Month, with a focus on this year’s theme of “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” In our first installment, Vernon interviews Melbah McAfee Smith, retired Executive Director of the Mississippi Center for Cooperative Development, and a 2009 inductee into the Cooperative Hall of Fame. Vernon and Ms. McAfee Smith discussed her experiences working with cooperatives to address issues experienced by the communities she worked in. They also discussed her hopes to pass on her family’s legacy of farming to the next Generation of she and her brother’s Grandchildren.
Melbah McAfee Smith worked for nearly 40 years as a trusted co-op developer in some of the most impoverished areas of the country. She started her career with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, returning to her home state to lead the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives and the Mississippi Cooperative Development Center. Her visionary leadership and hands-on, grassroots approach to building communities have helped bring health care, economic development, and social justice to people in need through the cooperative model.
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.