Searching for a more diverse natural products industry. It starts with a story.
Stories. Stories are the foundation upon which America is built. As children we are taught about the stories of the past in history class. We often learn about the point of view of the victors. Sometimes our curiosity leads us into the stories of the losers of conflicts and of villains. But often overlooked are the stories of the daily hustle. Those sometimes mundane tales of the day to day. The stories of the people doing the hard work that ultimately changes the world.
When I think about Black History Month, my first thoughts go to my childhood and the daily experiences I had living in a mixed race neighborhood. I think about my history with the color black and the concept of a "black" person. To this day, the concept of defining someone by the color of their skin incites a fire in my heart that demands change. Because I know better. I know the words of Martin Luther King to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt. "Judge a man not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character." And I know this to be true of women as well. So let me tell you a story about my childhood friend and her mom and how her mom's example of being the change you wish to see in teh world, quietly inspired so many actions and aspirations in my life.
I probably met her 45 years ago, the same time that Black History Month became a monthly celebration. I was just a newborn and my family lived across the ally from her and her family. She was about to give birth to a new baby girl herself and so she and my mom became quick friends. Years went by and her baby and I became friends, too. Such good friends that she would eat dinner with me and then I would run across the ally and eat dinner with her. We were inseparable. Without any world influence we believed each other to be family, sisters. We had two lovely widowed woman as our neighbors that would give us cookies in exchange for painted rock animals that we made for them. Daryl and Aunt Louise. My dear friend and I truly believed that Aunt Louise was part of our family, too. We only knew love and kindness and loyalty.
All that changed as we grew older and the world told us that she had "black" skin and I had "white" skin. We fought it. We were crushed the first time we realized people were staring at us because of the color of our skin. We were baffled that "Aunt" Louise wasn't our Aunt and she "couldn't be" because she didn't have the same color skin. Even as we grew into teens, we fought the petty prejudice that outsiders to our self-created bubbles inflicted. But the one thing that didn't change, was the steadfast grace of my best friends mom, Mrs. G. She was always smiling. Always held her chin up, proudly. She welcomed me into her home as one of her children and scolded me like one of them, too! She introduced me to her families traditions as she silently worked to create new traditions for her own family. You see, she was a working black women in the 1970's and 1980's with four children and husband. She was a woman ahead of her time. She gracefully balanced raising her kids, being a loyal wife, keeping a clean and tidy house, dutifully attending church each week and setting a living example of what a good person should be. But that alone didn't define her. She worked a full time job and put dinner on the table every night. This woman NEVER complained. She was often tired, but she always had time for a kind word of encouragement or to fix me a plate of food. What I didn't realize in my youth, was the trail she was blazing. The trail I follow today. She was being the change she wanted to see in the world.
In 1976 this woman would not have considered herself a revolutionary. She just wanted a peaceful home to raise her children in. She went to work each day with that peace in her heart. While she probably felt the weight of discrimination and the changing world on her shoulders, she never let us see it. She was fearless during a time when women, and brown skinned women specifically, were just beginning to find a voice in this country. What she may or may not have known is how closely I was watching. I'm not sure I really knew until her passing several years ago. But I was watching. And learning. And growing as a human being because of her kindness and grace. Because of her fierce loyalty to her family and her unyielding faith. Now, it's time for me to start paying it forward.
I hope to continue her work to create a world of grace and kindness supported on a foundation of hard work and silent hustle. A world where diversity is celebrated and everyone is welcome to the table. It just so happened that my friend and her mom are classified as black. And I am classified as white. Both are terrible descriptions of us. I prefer to live outside the black and white designation that some man created for me. I prefer to live in the peach and brown and burnt sienna world. The world of bronze and mocha, of cream and rich espresso. And that is the world my longtime friend has taught her three strong, independent and individual brown skinned boys (now young men) to create. That is world that I am teaching my sweet and courageous peach skinned daughter to thrive in. And all this happened because my mom and her mom shared a story.
Today, my story and the stories of the black-owned businesses below continues as a revolution. The New Organic Revolution. I'm working with a team of passionate people to create more transparency in our food supply and for the products we put into and on our bodies. Part of that revolution is a push to create a more diverse natural products industry. When I began this leg of the journey, I was immediately taken aback at the lack of diversity in our distribution channels and on a national level. Thousands of clean natural products companies but less than a handful owned by black-owned businesses. Even fewer owned by black woman-owned businesses. But instead of getting angry, I pictured the grace and steadfast tenancy of Mrs. G. And I decided to fight the best way I know how. Open my heart and my store to as many black-owned businesses with natural products as I could find and give them a platform to reach more people and tell their stories.
Partnering with local businesses is just one way to support the leveling up of the natural products industry. Creating new colors and striving to live outside the black and white world is a life long journey. So I hope you will follow me and Nuts 'n Berries as we journey into a future of greater equality, more support for the local businesses and the individuals risking it all to bring us new healthy products and be part of a new story that honors the quiet leaders that sparked a revolution.
This February and every day we celebrate local and national black-owned businesses with a passion for health and wellness. Join the New Organic Revolution as we make a conscious effort to build a more diverse natural products industry, together.
Did you know that while more than 12% of our population identifies as black, far less than 12% of the food and wellness manufacturers are black-owned businesses. At Nuts 'n Berries we are working to change this fact by making an added effort to seek out healthy black-owned businesses in our local community and share their stories.
Don’t settle! We don't plan to! Keep checking back every week in February and all year to see the new businesses we are supporting. If you find a black-owned business that is non-GMO, organic, fresh and local send them our way so we can keep spreading the love. Email co-owner, Mari Geier at [email protected]
Pay it forward
Shop on PURPOSE. Our mission at Nuts ‘n Berries is to provide greater transparency and truth in the healthy products you put in and on your body. We believe these black-owned businesses need more attention because they purposefully choose the highest quality ingredients and provide an example for all small businesses. But we only survive as small businesses when you spend your precious dollars with us. So make it your purpose to seek out these companies when you are shopping at Nuts ‘n Berries.
Meet the people
All month we will be highlighting some amazing people behind the products. They are leading the way in the greater Atlanta community, celebrating the progress of years of civil rights work and fighting for a tomorrow where true equality is achieved for all.