Mike Houston, General Manager:
I want to acknowledge the recent murders of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers across this country, as well as the countless acts of violence that have come before. I acknowledge the tremendous place of privilege from which I write and pledge to continue to use my platform to advocate and fight for meaningful change.
I condemn in the strongest terms all state-sponsored violence – physical and emotional – inflicted upon the people of our country. The right to assemble is being trampled by those elected and hired on behalf of us all to protect it. The right to exist is being ripped from people of color, furthering a legacy of pain and anguish. As a human, I detest the injustice I have seen for the decades of my lifetime, as well as the lack of will for true social change. As the person responsible for the safety and well-being of our staff, I will continue to serve in my role with the level of seriousness it deserves.
The Co-op has spent years being intentional about building and promoting diversity among our staff. You have seen the flags that represent the 30 countries our staff members hail from up at Customer Service. But, our commitment to equity goes much deeper than hiring a diverse staff. The administrative and managerial staff is majority-minority, just like the county in which we live. Most of those staff members were promoted internally into those positions. A pathway to better wages, more responsibility, and on-the-job training is crucial to creating a just workplace. Three years ago, our staff organized, unionized, and advocated for a living wage. While we see ourselves as still very much on a journey to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workplace, other stores view us as leaders in this area.
The staff of this store and the community we serve didn’t begin tackling these issues 15 days ago, and we won’t be done with them 6 months from now. Ensuring a just workplace is always going to be a part of our work. Plus, the fight for food justice is a reason this co-op exists.
To us, food justice means everyone has access to and can afford healthy food. Necessarily, it means the fight for a living wage for all, as well as a social safety net that provides for those in need. Food justice means an opportunity for those who are historically and systematically disenfranchised to grow or make food to sell. That means access to capital, support of these businesses as they grow, and the knowledge and infrastructure required to be successful. Food justice means environmentalism and sustainability.
We will continue to support, sell, and cultivate relationships with small minority-owned businesses, especially those not given an opportunity to sell elsewhere. We will continue to support food recovery and access organizations with our time, our knowledge, and our dollars. We will continue to push and advocate for changes, like the recent extension of online SNAP sales in Maryland. This co-op has owners living in the streets and owners in the halls of power, and we will continue to call on both to push for a more just world.
I know many of our owners have a desire to help and are looking for places to put time, energy, and resources. I will suggest two of the many worthy local causes. If you want to educate yourself, sign up for the DC Urban Garden Network email list – they are as plugged in as anyone to food justice resources in our area, and their newsletter is excellent. If you want to donate, Maryland Hunger Solutions does excellent work in the fight to end hunger in our state.