Black Lives Matter

A group of protestors hold

Black Lives Matter.  Equal Exchange stands in solidarity with people fighting for racial justice, against police brutality, and those bravely working to create necessary change.  The horrific and senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee and so many others, and the uprisings these deaths have sparked, have moved so many of us to action.

We know that for many of us, as individuals, organizations and businesses, the regular daily routine has been disrupted.  Protests and calls to action have swelled in many cities where we live, work, and have allies.  We are choosing to take this interruption as an important moment to reflect.  We reflect on our core values, and on the connections that thread us together.

Equal Exchange was founded on a vision of changing the existing power structures, to create more fairness, equity, access, and hope.  The way we do that in the world is to connect small farmer communities to consumers and to use an alternative democratic structure in our workplace.  But these are just two components of the complex and layered work that needs to be done to change power structures.  These efforts counter the “normal,” commonly-accepted way of doing things. We stand committed to racial justice, countering the unfair “normal” way things regularly function at many levels in this country, those that systematically oppress people of color.  We recognize this moment as an opportunity to speak up externally, as well as one to reflect and act internally.  We are accepting this opportunity.  

For us all to succeed, we must continue to fight for change together.

About The Author

Equal Exchange

34 COMMENTS

  1. wanda boustead | 19th Oct 20

    As I recently wrote to equal Exchange in an email, I have been a customer with them for well over 15 years. Always felt good about my shopping experience. Coffee, CoCoa , Teas and Christmas fruits. I exclaimed my concerns about their promoting a Marxist and Ant – American Organization. They informed me they stand behind the organization and without even saying “sorry to see you go”, They basically told me goodbye. Well, now I wonder about their legitimacy in equal rights and equality of the Farmers they represent. When I hear about Global Agricultural struggles and concerns of these small co-ops, that hasn’t effected Equal Exchange’s revenue. Any way I am saddened to leave. Have found my Fair Trade , Small Farmer Co-op Coffee else where. I will continue to support fair Trade and Small Farmers across the Globe, but not with this Company until they stop promoting Political Ideologies, especially one that does such exceedingly enormous harm to our society.

  2. Wendy | 9th Oct 20

    I’ve been using your cocoa for years, and I love what you do to empower farmers across the globe. But I strongly dislike your Black Lives Matters stance, as I believe America is the best place to live. Police brutality accounts for a minuscule fraction of harm against black people. The BLM organization cares nothing for black lives. Get priorities straight. We should be focusing on domestic issues that actually can improve black lives, like education (school choice), keeping fathers in the home, and ending abortion. I liked it better when your company focused on supporting people actually suffering unjustly in other countries.

  3. John | 3rd Oct 20

    Dear Kate and Equal Exchange. I purchased your coffee and when I took it home and noticed the fist on the bag. My stomach jumped. I do not know what your intentions were to use this symbol but it can be mistook for black power, which is very divisive. It made me look further into your organization. I love that you are for helping fair exchange, this is a wonderful mission. However, when I went to your website, the first in your face message was not help farmers, but “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” l love all people. I have close relatives who are Black and I love them very much. I know of many people who jumped onto the BLM train when it first became more popular this year. I even thought about jumping on. But as it goes, if you take away ALL the feelings and emotions that surround this sensitive issue and purely look at it rationally, when you honestly look deeper into the organization itself there is some very unsettling statements on the BLM website and statements by the founders. When you look further into who is being funded by BLM itself, (meaning the organization that are involved with BLM and where does the money go) again very alarming. When you take into account the actual statistics it does not add up and not worth supporting. Can you really say that you have looked at these possibilities in an objective way? This is my challenge to you, should you accept it – Make a list of possible statements on BLM website and comments by the founders that could be perceived as being against America (there are lots of Americans who buy your products); Where does the money go that is given to BLM; What are ALL THE FACTS around each case (not just what the media shows) and what could the cops AND the person of interest have done differently? When you can answer these questions thoroughly, then you can make an informed decision whether of not you still want to affiliate with BLM. You don’t have to believe everything I do and visa versa. Ultimately, this is America and everyone has the right to believe what they want, that’s one of the great principles of our constitution. In my humble opinion, you resolving this matter will greatly cause more Americans to buy your products and which will enhance your original mission to improve the lives of your farmers and their families, PERIOD. You are a business after all, and when you profit you can choose who the profits will go to. Make a difference, I look forward to buying and recommending you in the future. Thank you.

  4. Jane Sleigh | 2nd Oct 20

    I’ve been enjoying your chocolate for years but have only recently applied to become an Action Forum member. Stay strong in the face of all the above criticism. I’m with you. Many thanks.

  5. David Head | 1st Oct 20

    Just wanted to say that I”M glad to see that you are supporting Black Lives Matter. I have recently been going to BLM demonstrations outside a Quaker church. Occasional people drive buy and give us the finger, and a pickup truck with three white guys started yelling Trump, Trump, and white power, white power, but most people seemed very supportive.

  6. Diane Morris | 28th Sep 20

    I ran out of cocoa while baking brownies today. I was ready to order again until I saw that you have chosen to affiliate yourselves with BLM. You need to do your homework. Do you know their history, who they are, and what they stand for? They ARE NOT dedicated to improving the lives of people of color. Don’t rely on the media to tell you the truth about BLM. I believe all lives matter, and that’s the reason I have spent hundreds of dollars purchasing products from you and encouraging others to do the same. I will no longer be purchasing from you nor recommending your company to others.

  7. Kenzie | 9th Sep 20

    Hello Kate!
    Thank you so much for supporting Black Lives Matter. I don’t think that these ignorant people understand that the movement is about ending police brutality against all people but, starting with the people that have most affected by it for decades. It’s so interesting how people care more about a few cases of vandalism over peoples lives. Anyways, I love your autumn hot chocolate recipe and have recommended it to a lot of people. Hope your’e having a great week!

  8. Paul Kreuter | 9th Sep 20

    I think that when you have high ideals, people naturally support and applaud you. In this case you have mistakenly thrown your support behind a Marxist organization that is bent on destroying America. The reaction of people rejecting your “high ideals” is worth considering. Perhaps you got it wrong. As for me, I will no longer buy your coffee.

  9. Cynthia | 8th Sep 20

    Thank you Kate for being an ally. Please know that some of us appreciate you staying in the arena ..fighting the good fight. It grieves me to see so many responses that are rooted ignorance and vitriol. Thank you!

    • Kate Chess | 9th Sep 20

      Thanks, Cynthia. I’m an admin of this blog; my responses here are not just my own but are based on the words and ideas from a resolution passed by the Worker-Owners of Equal Exchange in June!

  10. sarah | 8th Sep 20

    I was just about to switch from another brand and try your coffee I found on Vita Cost. So glad I came here first to check you out and see your support for the terrorist organization BLM… this marxist organization was founded by a convicted cop killer and domestic terrorist and it’s systematically attempting an insurrection against our law enforcement, against our government, against our country. It is definitely not doing anything positive for the black community anywhere.

    • Kate Chess | 8th Sep 20

      Your response doesn’t seem related to the statement posted here — if you’re interested in knowing what, exactly, we support, please read more carefully. The claims you’re making are not true.

  11. Elizabeth | 2nd Sep 20

    What a shame…BLM isn’t a civil rights group and has little to do with equalizing treatment within society. I expect you mean black lives matter as all lives matter. But BLM? Why refer to riots as “protests and other calls to action”.That is a disservice to your readers. I’m bummed that you couldn’t just stick to your knitting. You want to quietly address racism within your own company? I think that’s wise. But loudly advertising that you’re aligning yourself with a Marxist organization is not. I’m a long time customer…no more. Please tell your hard working tea and cofffee growers that I’m sorry.

  12. A | 2nd Sep 20

    Unfortunately, there is no objective and civil means to discuss these matters. Organizations take hard-line stances and any opposition is quashed rather than seen as dialogue and understanding. As a long-time supporter of EqualExchange, I was surprised to see a bald, and for me unsupported, statement of “solidarity” with BLM from an organization that professes to be inclusive.

    Police shooting data sources show that twice as many whites are shot and killed by the police as are blacks (according to one of the few data sources, the Washington Post’s Fatal Force). While this likely runs contrary to the ‘message’ suggested by some in the BLM and associated groups, the data reflects larger problems:
    1) militarization of the police
    2) apparent lack of accountability for police use-of-deadly-force
    3) the lack of objective data sources to track these serious uses of government power.
    None of these issues are race-based alone. Why aren’t police killings even systematically tracked by the government? We track crime data.

    I grow saddened when organizations like EqualExchange use their voice as an entity, which should be inclusive, to promote needlessly divisive issues or take stances not supported by data.It raises questions about the objectivity and integrity of EqualExchange on other issues. I would love to see open and objective dialogue about these issues rather than the needlessly divisive, hard-line statements. This forces people to choose sides rather than discuss and heal.

    • Kate Chess | 2nd Sep 20

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, A. It’s unfortunate that this is perceived to be a divisive issue when the facts are clear: Black Americans are more likely to be killed by police violence than other Americans. It seems you have misread — or are misrepresenting — Washington Post/Fatal Force’s data. According to their website: “Although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/)

  13. Dr. Jefferson | 26th Aug 20

    Many of you do not understand why people are saying black lives matter. If you are not black the phrase could actually offend you. Think anout this…How do you justify a police officer shooting a unarmed man in the back 7 times? Or the Good old boys shooting a man in the back bcz they felt he didn’t belong in the neighborhood?
    Yes its not right to tear up your neighborhood. Be glad its material things not lives. These killings are just plan HATRED. Yes all lives should matter. Imagine being black and getting pulled over for a traffic violation. For a black person this is very frightening. Many times I’ve said if I get pulled over Im gonna lay face down on the ground and hope I don’t get kicked. Then it happened my husband and I were pulled over. Only I couldn’t lay on the ground bcz I knew there was a patch of poison ivy there. So now what should we do? Fearful of dying we rolled the windows down and placed our hands high up on the windshield. Of course the cop approached us with his hand on his gun. Aside….Hubby said the cop was watching him in the store and followed us in his car b 4 pulling us over.
    Well when he saw our hands on the windshield it was all he could do to maintaine a straight face. “Where ya’ll heading?” he asked “home” we said. “Where ya’ll coming from?” “C. farm” we replied. Now my arms are getting tired but I don’t dare move. What where you doing there? Hubby said buying a lotto ticket. “What you gonna do if you win?” …. “Buy a new truck” my arms are really hurting now but I dont dare put them down. Well this conversation went on for some time, and finally ended with him saying. ” you didn’t stop at the STOP sign long enough next time count to 10. It was a good twenty minutes before he let us go.
    My God why don’t you understand its important to say out loud “black lives matter” I have personally helped cops heal so they could pass the shooting portion of their exam. We know your lives matter so plz include us by saying out loud “Black live matter too”.
    Need I say more?
    Equal Exchange thanks so much for not being afraid to stand up for equality for all. Those of you who said you purchased from Equal Exchange because they supported indigenous people take a good look at our leader. I quote. Beat them get them out of here I’ll pay your lawyer fees.’ Oh yeah ‘I can stand in the middle of the street and shoot one of them and get away with it’… you say blm divided the country. You didn’t say who really started it. Be honest, open your heart to the truth. We can rebuild broken cities but we cannot bring back the dead. Never put materialistic things b 4 life. People are tired of being hunted and killed in broard daylight. You worry about blm breaking glass? Im not saying its right I am saying I understand.
    We need good leadership or else the anger is just going to escalate.
    Need I say more? I pray to GOD to PROTECT AND HELP US HEAL.
    I too place large orders and will continue to do so. With Corona virus being what it is Indigenous people really need our support now. Previous negative comments just goes to show you what some people are really made of.

    not checked for typos

    • Kate Chess | 27th Aug 20

      Thank you for sharing your lived experience, Dr. Jefferson! We really appreciate your support.

  14. Christopher Lowder | 25th Aug 20

    Hmmmm….was expecting to order more coffee today but I was not expecting to see all of this. It is very important we take a stand for the less fortunate, poor, etc. in our communities and world. But, it is unfortunate so many have bought into the lies ported and financed by organizations that admit on their own websites they want to distroy America and the true founding of it.
    I have not been a fan of social media for over 3 years and your lead with supporting BLM and everyone hiding behind their computers is why.

    Unfortunately, you will lose more customers than you will gain and you have been very misguided. I hope you someday find your way again. In the meantime, I will ‘choose’ to purchase my coffee somewhere else too.

    Thank you for the way you seem to have cared about the poor coffee farmers you have been supporting. That I have appreciated.

    I am hopeful you take to heart some of the comments shown like Amanda and others, because they are spot on and were not rude. That being said, you should go into some of the black communities and talk to those whom have worked hard having building their business, some for generations, some of whom now BLM has torn down. You might get some truth, at least in America, about capitalism in the black community verses what you read, heard or someone told you.

    I hope you and others realize there is only one race, the human race. Many ethinicities. All great people of one blood color and all have bad seeds in them too.

    • Kate Chess | 27th Aug 20

      Hello Christopher. Gaining or losing customers wasn’t on our minds when we made this statement. We feel that an outspoken stance in favor of racial justice for Black Americans (and all people) is compatible with our ongoing primary mission to support farmers around the world.

  15. Amanda | 18th Aug 20

    Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter. I agree with the sentiment, but the BLM organization is not about bringing people together–it’s creating further divide in our country. Do better. Support actual caring about people, not a political organization that couldn’t care less about people. We have purchased a lot from you recently and I came here to make another large purchase today, but your statement has turned me away.

    • Kate Chess | 27th Aug 20

      Hello Amanda. Our primary mission is to support the work of small-scale farmers, bringing people together. This post is not a statement of affiliation with any organization, but an affirmation that Black lives matter. So do other people’s lives, of course, but the ongoing violence against Black people shows the need to speak up for Black lives in particular. I’m sorry to hear this has turned you off.

  16. Anon | 18th Aug 20

    Yep, I was all set to support your organization and your coffee. Bought my first bag on Amazon. But then I saw how you support BLM terrorist group. The BLM movement is completely taken over and funded by EVIL people who HATE AMERICA, they kill and destroy, and in turn fund DIRTY POLITICIANS. You may want to do research on organizations, look into who funds them, who they fund, and watch their actions, before you promote them on your website.
    It been nice, your coffee was good, but so is the organic fair trade at Sprouts.
    Peace

    • Kate Chess | 27th Aug 20

      Hello Anon. I’d like to make clear what we are promoting. This statement is in solidarity with those who are protesting ongoing violence against Black Americans. “Black lives matter” are words we’re proud to say. Equal Exchange is not affiliated with any of the chapters of the Black Lives Matters organization, which is a decentralized network of activists (not a terrorist group).

  17. RSpae | 7th Aug 20

    Thank you Equal Exchange!

  18. Jan | 5th Aug 20

    All lives matter as well as black lives. So sorry you support such a horrible evil organization. Bye bye. Thank God you are not the only coffee company.

    • Kate Chess | 27th Aug 20

      Hello, Jan. As you can see, our statement doesn’t mention the organization Black Lives Matter. We agree that the lives of people of all races matter, but we feel it is particularly important to state that Black lives matter and to stand in solidarity with those working for racial justice.

  19. George | 20th Jul 20

    Kate,

    Virtue signal much? According to your message here, “we committed to taking steps to confront racism within our organization.” Really? Were you racists before this? How long has that been going on? Do you have a “Hate has no home here” sign on your front lawn too? I suggest you cease accepting racist capitalist $$$ and join the Peace Corps.

    I have three family members that are LEO’s. You are ignorant, not to mention insulting, of their dedication and sacrifice to the public. Before you spout rubbish about your “feelings” on the current situation, perhaps you should research statistics to determine the actual problem. Don’t bother, you’ll just embarrass yourself.

    For years I have purchased your products and turned on many friends to them. I’ve sought them out (with some difficulty) as they are not widely available. I am sick of being preached to by Corporate tools like you. Just conduct your business and your life as you feel you should and leave us alone. I can hear you now saying to yourself, “good, we don’t need this person’s business.” Well, I am happy to oblige you. Too bad your poor farmers will suffer because of your inability to control your “feelings.” You are hardly the only dark chocolate provider out there. Definitely was my preference but, no longer. Adios!

    • Kate Chess | 23rd Jul 20

      So long, George!

  20. D | 15th Jul 20

    So you decided to delete my message rather then address it ? If this one will be deleted as well I will put this onto my social media platform. SUPPORT CHILD TRAFFICKING OR STARVING BLACK KIDS IN AFRICA???

  21. D | 14th Jul 20

    I would have loved if you’d actually say how many lives are lost on the streets by thugs of the same color and not just by police . That would be caring looking at a whole picture and not a tiny piece of the puzzle, I would have loved to read how you donate to children in Africa who die for starvation since you have BLM on your main page , so do you ? Do you care enough to help in Africa? or this is just political ? If yes Then I would stop purchasing your lovely product even though I couldnt agree more with helping small farmers world wide.

    • Kate Chess | 16th Jul 20

      Hi D. Black lives matter around the world. We purchase fair trade products from farmers in Latin America and Africa, some of whom are Black. (The conventional chocolate industry too often involves forced labor and child labor, but fair trade is a way to help; read more on our blog here: https://blog.equalexchange.coop/chocolate-update/) Also, we recognize that the world economy is underpinned by racist capitalism that is especially harmful to Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color. As worker-owners, we’ve resolved to take an active role in pushing back against that. I hope this clarifies our stance for you.

  22. H. Carst | 8th Jul 20

    Black lives matter to me too! But the organization has torn my town apart. I’m not with that.

  23. Rachel | 27th Jun 20

    As this company relies heavily on BIPOC communities, what are you as a company actively doing to support this movement and combat racism and anti-blackness, other than reflecting and proceeding with business as usual?

    • Kate Chess | 16th Jul 20

      Thanks for asking, Rachel! On June 11th, worker-owners at Equal Exchange passed a resolution in defense of Black lives, in which we committed to taking steps to confront racism within our organization and our communities. We’ve formed a group to explore specific actions which has met several times — we have a meeting scheduled today! We hope to share some of the concrete things we’ll be doing soon.

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