Ujima Fund Investor Report Interview: Louise Baxter
December 13th, 2021 -- Sustainability. Legacy. Futurity. This quarter for our Winter 2021 Investor Update, we sat down with a group of four esteemed Ujima Fund Investors.
Louise Baxter is a long-time ally and advocate for working-class communities. Having spent most of her early years traveling around the globe, she settled in rural New Hampshire before moving to Boston in her later years. She’s worked in various non-profit and educational spaces. In the past, she’s volunteered with City Life/Vida Urbana, Boston Bicyclists Union, Green Justice Coalition, Public Good Public Transit. Reclaim Roxbury, and Right to the City. She’s currently apart of the T Rider’s Union (ACE), Mass Senior Action Council, Boston Ujima Project, and remains involved with neighborhood groups.
Nia K. Evans: Louise, tell us your b-side. What’s something that someone would be surprised to hear about you?
Louise: Well, I came down from New Hampshire, and I had no car there. That’s why I support the T. In those days, the interstate buses stopped in every small town, so I could come down for job interviews. Otherwise in New Hampshire you couldn’t work and go to school without a car, but we couldn’t afford a car. Also, I’ve worked with homeless families doing employment training services.
Can you talk about why you invested in the Ujima Fund?
I believe in the mission, and solidarity. I remember being really impressed by the workshops. You’re not like the hippies, or some of the liberal white people in la la land, who think everything’s going to go perfect. I like that Ujima is more practical. You all realized that you had to analyze what you were doing, and consider what’s right with people who have financial knowledge. I don’t want to invest in Wall Street because I don’t want to have people laid off just for me to make a profit. I also really believe in community, and I like the businesses in Ujima’s Good Business Alliance that are out there with good business standards, and care about the community. I like it that you go to the community before you make decisions because you want to make sure the community supports your work.
We really appreciate that we have older people in our network, that despite what they’ve seen, positive, negative and neutral, they see something in Ujima. What are some other kinds of initiatives, organizations, ideas that you’ve experienced within your lifetime?
Well, City Life / Vida Urbana is a group I really admire because they help people fight eviction, and other issues. I like New England United for Justice, because they work with people on the ground. I really like the T Rider’s Union and ACE (Alternatives for Community and Environment). They have a huge impact on the T, and they get involved with other things in the neighborhood. And I worked with South Boston Against Drugs. They’re not around anymore, but we worked with the police to help with drug addiction. [Additionally, Mass Senior Action Council.]
How do you think about your personal legacy? What would you like your legacy on this earth to be?
I don’t think about it so much, because I see what I’m concerned about, what needs to be done, and I just do it. As far as my legacy goes, I just want to live out my ideals.
What do you think about notions of longevity, maybe for a Ujima as an organization, or maybe for the movement, and collective effort?
Long term, I would like to see more collective effort, and see people have more voice and positivity. I want to have more voices in society and across all communities.
Do you have any reflections on sustainability? How would you define it?
For me, it’s about building from renewable sources close to where you are, using what you have, and not exploiting others.
When you look ahead to the future, what are you hopeful about?
More people getting together, more equity, and less materialism. I’m glad I grew up appreciating what I had. I remember in South Boston, people used to sit on the steps of their homes and they sort of built a community. So I would love to see more community, less exploitation of resources and not wasting so much. People can get by with a lot less than they think, and we know that wealth, after a certain point, doesn’t make you any happier. As long as you have a roof over your head, a little bit of extra money to do something, and you’re not worrying about where your next thing’s gonna come, to food — that’s all that matters.
When you look ahead at the Ujima Fund, what are you most hopeful about?
I would love to see more people voting and participating in the Ujima Fund. We want a majority rule, so I want people to see the importance of voting. Even if people don’t think their contribution is important, it all adds up. I used to belong to a community group once, and they complained because we approved something, and they said if they told us before we wouldn’t have approved it. The community never spoke up. There are times majority rule may hurt [the] minority. That’s why we also need our [Ujima] Good Business Standards and core values. Going to individual neighborhoods helps this some but not totally. [The] good thing about Ujima is it keeps evaluating itself and seeing what effect [its] actions have.
When you think about the Boston Ujima Project and the solidarity economy as a whole, what are you hopeful about?
The changes Ujima wants to see are designed to be more cooperative, and are concerned with everyone from top to bottom. Ujima wants to invest in people that you think are doing good or helping the community, not people [who] are exploiting it, or resources. Black lives do matter, and Ujima is a core piece of the movement to end exploitation in society. ■