This November 22nd to 29th, we are participating in the redistribution pledge as part of #ReclaimBlackFriday, a campaign by Reclaim Collaborative designed to redistribute a percentage of total sales from Black Friday weekend to Black and Indigenous-led environmental organizations.
Thanksgiving is steeped in America’s history of genocide and theft from Indigenous people. Over time this occasion has become inextricably bound with the ensuing weekend of frenzied consumerism which further contributes to issues of racism and classism in this country. With pandemic supply chain challenges and a climate crisis at hand, overproduction and the extreme destructiveness of extractive capitalism has become even more glaringly evident. It has never been more important to return land and resources to those who have cultivated a healing relationship with the earth and all her inhabitants.
Image @tory.stolper, model @mikailahthompson. Mikailah is a Black and Indigenous artist, activist, and beadworker who modeled in our AW 2021 photoshoot. See Mikailah's beadwork and consider supporting her work at beadworkbymikailah.com.
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN
tonlé doesn't currently make a profit or participate in the extractive markups and margins typically found in the fashion industry. Although most of the leadership in our organization are BIPOC, we do feel it is important to acknowledge the fact that our business has primarily white owners and investors- especially around a holiday that celebrates the forced removal and genocide of Indigenous people. As white individuals have contributed to and benefited from harmful cycles of exploitation, white individuals are responsible to help dismantle the systems that cause harm.
Though by no means a panacea or the only solution, the focus of the redistribution pledge is on land-based organizations. We believe it is important to acknowledge the original stewards of this land and return it to to those who have historically cultivated regenerative and healing relationships with the earth. We also want to hold space for reclaiming and healing- recognizing the trauma and genocide that has been repackaged as an endearing holiday of gratitude. By participating in this campaign we hope to be a part of cultivating necessary conversations that can lead to long-term change.
Image @tory.stolper, model @mikailahthompson
WHY IS BLACK FRIDAY EXPLOITATIVE?
One of the main side effects of 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 actual workers- with only a small share of the wealth. Many of these low-wage workers are from Black and Brown communities who historically, right through to the present, continue to be exploited.
Steep markdowns only further perpetuate exploitation. Because retail prices are initially set by brands so that they can be marked down while still making a profit, the average customer may not be aware of how small a percentage the worker actually makes on the sale of a garment. Fair pricing needs to 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'd be one step closer to building a more just economy. Our vision for the future of fashion includes 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 very few 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 by 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.
Thanksgiving is a day nominally recognized as a time for family and gratitude, but in fact, is a celebration of some of the most horrific aspects of the United States' history and founding. It is not surprising then, that Black Friday, the day that follows is marked by frenzied and mindless consumerism. While Black Friday is purported to be rooted in gift-giving, it instead has allowed consumers to practice willful ignorance to the realities of the so-called “supply chain,” and who their purchases are really affecting. While the average customer is not the cause of the world’s woes, we can each examine and use the power and privilege that we have to make change. We can each purchase with more care for the people behind the products that we buy, and pay more attention to how our purchases hurt the earth and those most vulnerable. While conscious consumerism is not the only answer, it is a step in a journey of understanding how extractive capitalism has jeopardized what is most important: our communities and the environment on which we all depend.
The Reclaim Black Friday campaign asks customers to not only consider how to purchase more consciously, but also examine the ways that we can contribute to systemic and cultural change to rectify the underlying harms that caused the environmental and social crisisees we are now facing. Keep following along here and on our blog for more resources on how to educate yourself, contribute to your community, and help heal the earth for our collective future.
Image @tory.stolper, model @mikailahthompson
THE ORGANIZATIONS WE HAVE CHOSEN TO AMPLIFY THIS YEAR:
With the recent move of our US office to Seattle we decided to redistribute a portion of our funds to Real Rent Duwamish as an acknowledgment of the land we are on and who the original stewards of that land are. Real Rent calls on people who live and work in Seattle to make rent payments to the Duwamish Tribe. Though the city named for the Duwamish leader Chief Seattle thrives, the Tribe has yet to be justly compensated for their land, resources, and livelihood.
tonlé is committed to not only making a redistribution this week but an ongoing contribution. If you live and work in Seattle, you can do something today to stand in solidarity with the First Peoples of this land by paying Real Rent. All funds go directly to Duwamish Tribal Services (DTS) to support the revival of Duwamish culture and the vitality of the Duwamish Tribe.
The second part of our distribution is going to Black Thumb Farm with the foundational belief is that everyone deserves access to healthy, fresh foods. Their mission is to educate young people on sustainable farming methods that will aid them in the fight against food injustice in their communities as well as provide them with a trade that they can utilize throughout their lives. They aim to give children and young people of color, particularly BIPOC, access to a safe, green space where they can explore their own passions and connection to the land. They teach and train young people the art and skill of farming alongside workshops and classes that teach valuable life skills like budgeting, resume building, access to higher education, and more. They hope to send youth into the world feeling confident, secure, and ready for whatever is to come, with a belief that it all starts in the soil.
YOU CAN AMPLIFY AND SUPPORT THE #RECLAIMBLACKFRIDAY CAMPAIGN BY:
Directly supporting Indigenous or Black land-based organizations. There are links to each organization participating in the Reclaim campaign here, but there are of course many other groups to amplify
Purchasing products from Black and Indigenous creators and businesses, in addition to businesses taking the Redistribution Pledge
Educate yourself on the real history of the United States and 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
Redistributing wealth is a small way we can help give back stolen resources and land- though it is by no means the only way. If you are interested in learning more deeply about the history of this holiday and the harmful side effects of modern capitalism, here are a compiled list of resources to dive into:
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.