Farah Tanis, cofounder and executive director of Black Women's Blueprint (BWB), is working to provide Black women with more economic options.
BWB, a Brooklyn-based organization, uses "solidarity economy" principles, wherein in-need members barter and exchange goods and services, from child care to carpooling. "The core of our system is, 'Your struggle is my struggle,'" says Tanis, 42.
"We've created a community where we can sustain each other. 'Do you have children? Do I have a car? Let's barter babysitting for car service.' Most of us are just making ends meet."
The group’s system is working. Just ask Christina Jaus, 39, who is unemployed and can't afford medication for her acute arthritis. "One of the women I barter with grows natural herbs and plants that serve as alternative medicine," says Jaus. "In exchange, I drive her to drop off her herbs to different customers."
Tanis, whose organization now has about 200 members, was purposeful in her decision to form a bartering system that was give-and-take, instead of going the nonprofit route and providing free services. "I believe that method—just giving someone something—can really disempower people," she says.
To read more about Tanis' barter system and other trending topics, read "10 Things We're Talking About This Month" in the October issue of ESSENCE.