Controversial Black Lives Matter gelato pulled, Calgary company apologizes
CALGARY -- Calgary-based Righteous Gelato has removed a Black Lives Matter edition of its frozen dessert line less than a day after it announced it as a fundraiser for the movement.
In social media posts that have since been deleted, the company said $5 from every jar of the chocolate mint chip flavour would be donated to "support efforts to combat systemic racism and advocate for radicalized and marginalized communities."
The jars also included a label depicting a Black Lives Matter protest — artwork that was designed by Mandy Stobo, a white woman.
The founder and CEO of Righteous Gelato, James Boettcher, is also white.
Reaction to the labelling was swift.
"You cannot just take a black person’s issue that does not affect you then capitalize on it," said Adora Nwofor, an activist with Black Lives Matter in Calgary. "This is part of our oppression."
“Why would you put on a tasty treat a picture of somebody saying I can’t breathe, black lives matter, (and showing) people looking sad and oppressed,” said Shuana Porter, founder of Unity Black People Allyship Movement.
Porter also expressed the need for broader representation of Black people in businesses, and boardrooms.
“That is who we need to hiring in our offices: black community leaders. Not just a black person. Not just ‘oh you’re black, you come along, I’ll give you the job,’ it doesn’t work that way.”
"Showing up in a brand-new space and commodifying the discourse dilutes the intent of the message, Black Lives Matter," said community activist Eric Peters. "It co-opts the movement that so many Black people, and their allies, have been advocating for a long time."
He took to Twitter saying it was only a matter of time before this egregious type of commodification happened.
“These types of actions are performative. Performative allyship isn’t helpful. You have to want to challenge how you do things and commit to being better. Anything less than that is superficial and belittles the actual issues primarily for your benefit,” said Peters.
Community activist Daudi Kawooya says the Black community should’ve been more involved with this effort.
"Unfortunately a lot of individuals are still struggling and suffering, and if we want to create an inclusive society for all Canadians, we need all citizens to be involved to be part of the solution."
He said that many may see Black Lives Matter as a trend, but says that it has been happening for years.
"It’s also just as important to not only be involved in the protest but make sure you are involved in a community session because this is where you get an (understanding) of the situations and issues and how you can help."
In a statement to CTV News, Boettcher said, "I am sorry you haven’t heard from us sooner. We hear you. We can do better and we will.
"While our intentions were from a place of love, we truly failed, and we are wholeheartedly sorry."
The statement also said the company should have included organizations doing specific work with the Black community, it should have chosen a Black artist and the choice of chocolate as a flavour was "ignorant."
"There is no quick fix to the problems our world is facing with racism, and there is no quick fix for our failures in trying to help."
Boettcher then recommitted the goal of fundraising for the Black community with 100 per cent of profits from the online store for the month of June. All the labels from gelato that has already been ordered will also be removed.
The label artist also sent a statement to CTV News which reads:
To those who called me out for this: You’re absolutely right, and thank you. I recognize that I should have declined their ask and instead encouraged them to provide a paid opportunity to a BIPOC artist. Thank you for educating me, even though it’s not your job. I hear you and will do better. I hope you accept my heartfelt expression as a sign of my intention to help and do good.
To those looking to take a stand against racism, Nwofor had a simple message.
"Educate yourself. Listen to Black people. Have open opportunity."