This year, we are committed to cultivating open communication and conversations that address the problematic history of “Thanksgiving”/Thankstaking, and the capitalist frenzy that surrounds Black Friday.
Instead of offering sales or markdowns, we will be redistributing 15% of our total sales from November 27th - 30th to two incredible organizations, The Amah Mutsun Land Trust & Black Farmer Fund.
Photo caption: Landscape photo shot by Chloe Jackman on Mi-Wuk land.
Why are sales/markdowns exploitative?
One of the main side effects of modern day capitalism is exploitation. Businesses are built with a goal to maximize profits for shareholders and investors, which in turn, prioritizes profits over people. This notion leaves those at the "bottom", the workers, with only a small share of the wealth. Many of these low-wage workers are from Black and Brown communities, which have historically, and continue to be, exploited.
Markdowns only further perpetuate exploitation. Because prices are designed by brands to be marked down and still make a profit, the average customer may not be aware of how small of a percentage the worker actually makes on the sale of a garment. Fair pricing should be connected to the labor that was put into making the product. We acknowledge that surviving as a business is necessary. However, if we normalize fair pricing and challenge the expectation for sales set by modern capitalism, we can take one step toward building a more just economy. We envision an economy in which all people are treated with respect and compensated fairly.
When having conversations about Thanksgiving…
It is important to acknowledge the first people to encounter the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag Tribe. It is unfortunate that while most of us know so much about the Pilgrims’ journey because of the way we have been taught history, most of us don’t know the name of the community that was first colonized in what is now known as the United States of America. This is one simple example of how Indigenous people, or Native Americans, have experienced centuries of dehumanization, genocide, and erasure. Addressing histories of exploitation takes deconstructing the systems we operate in. One simple step we can each take is acknowledging the land on which we each reside. Native Land is a mobile app to help you learn more.
Black Americans, descendants of American Chattel Slavery, were taken captive and brought here to America for textile and agricultural work—building the wealth of this country. The dehumanization, exploitation, and abuse that Black people have had to endure for centuries continues today as Black Americans still face injustices and inequities in most spaces. Despite directly contributing to the wealth of this country, when enslaved Black Americans were freed, they did not receive reparations. Today, Black Americans collectively experience one of the highest poverty rates of any group in the United States. Our acknowledgement of this horrific truth and examination of how we can provide support without causing further damage, is a necessary step if we are to be part of creating real systemic change.
This campaign focuses on redistributing to land-based organizations because we believe it is important to acknowledge the original stewards of this land and return it to those who have historically cultivated regenerative and healing relationships with the Earth. It is important to hold space for reclaiming and healing, recognizing the trauma and genocide that is widely celebrated through what has been painted as an endearing holiday of gratitude. By participating in this campaign, we hope to cultivate the necessary conversations that lead to long term change.
A little bit about the important work of organizations we have chosen to amplify:
The Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT), an initiative of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, is the vehicle by which the Amah Mutsun access, protect, and steward lands that are integral to their identity and culture. The AMLT returns their tribe to their ancestral lands and restores their role as environmental stewards. “Due to our difficult history and generations of physical, mental, and political abuses, our land stewardship practices were disrupted, and much of our culture was lost. AMLT serves not only in the re-learning of our history and restoration of indigenous management practices, it also serves as a vehicle for healing. By restoring our traditional ecological knowledge and revitalizing our relationship to Mother Earth, we also restore balance and harmony to the lands of our ancestors.”
The mission of Black Farmer Fund is to create a thriving, resilient, and equitable food system by investing in black food systems entrepreneurs and communities in New York. The Black Farmer Fund will also serve as a bridge for black communities to participate in creating a food system that benefits those within and outside of black communities. “We are defining wealth beyond financial and intellectual capital to include social capital and ancestral wisdom, to mitigate against climate change, exercise governance, strengthen solidarity, and preserve cultural and ancestral ways of being.”
You can amplify and support the #ReclaimBlackFriday campaign by:
- Directly supporting Indigenous or Black land-based organizations. You can find the direct links to each organization participating in this capaign here here, but there are many others you can support as well!
- Purchasing products from Black and Indigenous creators and businesses, and businesses that are taking the Redistribution Pledge - including tonlé!
- Tune into the panel or Instagram lives hosted by Reclaim Collaborative on deconstructing America’s history and future.
- Share content created by Indigenous and Black leaders to raise awareness on the problematic history of Thanksgiving and ways to consider redistribution during these holidays and beyond.
While tonlé doesn't currently make profit, we don't participate in extractive types of markups and margins typical in the fashion industry, and most of the leadership team of our organization are BIPOC, our business does have primarily white owners and investors - and it is important to acknowledge that fact, especially around a holiday that celebrates the forced removal and genocide of Indigenous people, and the day following it, Black Friday - which epitomizes the worst forms of extractive capitalism. White individuals have contributed to and benefited from harmful cycles of exploitation. It is, therefore, the responsibility of white individuals to help dismantle the systems that cause harm.
We are proud to co-sponsor this initiative alongside Reclaim Collaborative, Art of Citizenry, Chloe Jackman Photography, Meow Meow Tweet, Bryr, Ethical Style Journal, and Revivall. We are thrilled to be alongside these brands as well as Sotela, Windy Peak Vintage, Passion Lilie, Rebekah Vinyard, Rosemarine Textiles, Biome Slow Craft Collective, Slow Made, Coco Cooper Denim, and Grey Jays all taking the redistribution pledge.
Redistributing wealth is a small way we can help give back the stolen wealth and land. It is by no means the only way nor is it a panacea. If you are interested in learning more deeply about the history of this holiday and the here are a compiled list of resources to dive into:
- Racism and the Logic of Capitalism
- From Capitalism and Racism: Conjoined Twins
- Truthsgiving: The True History of Thanksgiving
- Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in Schools
- CNN Visits Tribe for National Day of Mourning
- Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe welcomed Pilgrims, but loses land on eve of Thanksgiving
- Pre-order ESJ's magazine issue 7 to support their work and gain in-depth knowledge on these topics.
Don't forget to also listen to the podcast version of the panel discussion available now on Art of Citizenry Podcast:
Special thanks to Manpreet Kalra at Art of Citizenry, Katie Pruett at ESJ, and Faye Lessler at Sustaining Life, and Charlie Amáyá Scott of Diné Aesthetics for all playing an integral roll in bringing together this writing and the resources listed in this post.