To our friends, family, and community,
To say that it has been a difficult three weeks here in Minneapolis would be an understatement. We are saddened and angered by the murder of George Floyd in our city, as well as the countless other deaths of Black Americans around the country before and since then. We have spent the last four weeks listening to the Black leaders in our city and across the country, who have been fighting for racial justice and equity for decades. Our executive team and board members have individually been reflecting and acting in our communities as we all personally and collectively uphold that black lives matter at all times and in all places.
We are reflecting on what has happened and how we fit into the systems of racism that these current events put a spotlight on. We are a Minnesota-based company founded by white, college-educated professionals. Vetiera Fair Trade has always been deeply rooted in principles of environmental justice and community-led development in Haiti — a country created through the only successful colonial slave revolt in world history. We recognize that our own white privilege has afforded us educational, professional, economic, and social opportunities that are not always available to people of color and will never fully understand the experience of being Black in the United States or around the world.
At the heart of our mission, we are committed to eradicating poverty and malnutrition in rural Haiti by empowering farmers through sustainable agriculture. We have always strived for equity and justice in our work, but there is so much more work to do. The foundation of our work in Haiti is a commitment to ending environmental racism; Haiti disproportionately suffers from climate change, deforestation, and soil erosion because of its legacy as a slave colony and historical resource exploitation by its colonizers.
In addition to our work in Haiti, we are reflecting on how our U.S.-based team operates and what more we can do to dismantle systemic racism in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and the United States at large:
1. We are re-dedicating ourselves to amplifying the voices of people of color in our work; our public-facing channels are valuable tools for educating ourselves, our followers, and our communities about important environmental, economic, and social issues. We promise to use our social media, website, speaking opportunities, and more to highlight African American, Haitian American, Haitian, Latinx, and Native entrepreneurs, scientists, doctors, and activists who have been doing this work far longer than we have.
2. We are going to be more intentional about educating ourselves about oppressive systems, diversity and inclusion, and environmental racism. By making books, documentaries, articles, podcasts, and training materials part of our meetings on a monthly basis, we hope to both make ourselves more ethical, anti-racist business leaders.
3. We are a company that buys raw materials from both our partner farmers in Haiti and other suppliers from around the world; we have always prioritized fair trade, ethical, and sustainable suppliers in our work. To continue holding ourselves to these high standards, we are going to revisit our supplier standards to ensure they best represent our mission and support diverse small businesses.
4. We are committed to diversifying our board as we grow. As we expand as a company, we are growing our connections with Haitian and Haitian-American business professionals who we hope will join our board and advise us to become more effective in our work. As a small organization, made up of unpaid executives and board members, we recognize that this will take time and effort to implement — which makes it all the more important to dedicate ourselves to this goal.
Through these actions — and more to follow — we promise to do better. Recent events have shown that even the most well-meaning individuals and organizations need to do more to combat systemic racism in the United States. We humbly invite you to join us in this lifelong journey to make our city, our state, our country, and our world more just and equitable for Black communities; please reach out to us at any time with questions, feedback, and ideas about how to achieve this together.
Jesse Abelson, Dalton Schutte, Leeore Levinstein, Elizabeth Alonzi, Becca Desens, Brie LaPlante