Our franchisee in Charlottesville, VA has been part of the Ben & Jerry’s family for 22 years and has owned and operated the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop in Charlottesville for the last 11 years. He shared his reflection on the events of last weekend with the entire Ben & Jerry’s franchisee community, and with his permission we wanted to share it with you, in the hopes that it can provide some perspective and healing as we all move forward together.
What the heck is going on in Charlottesville?! We are a small town in central Virginia, centered around the University of VA, home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and a proud community of 50,000. Like many cities in the South, we struggle with some of the values that come from our heritage. Earlier this year, our city council approved the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, and the controversy over this decision led to the events of this past weekend.
The hatred, intolerance, bigotry, and ignorance on display in Charlottesville have no place in our home, in your home, or in any home. I was aghast at the images we saw beginning Friday evening, and the invasion of those who sought to divide our community with violence. I can’t begin to describe how it feels to hear emergency sirens for hours, watch riot police and armored Humvees in our streets, and to watch this bizarre parade of armed individuals walk proudly through our town.
I lack the words to describe the impact the loss of life has had on myself, on Charlottesville, and on our team at Ben & Jerry’s. It’s feels as if we’re mourning the sister we never had, we’re mourning a friend we never met, we lost one of our own to this hatred. We lost two brave state troopers who came to our town to keep us safe and to try and restore normalcy when chaos took hold. We are deeply saddened by this loss and our hearts grieve for the lives lost, and those who were hurt during this tragedy.
I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the Ben & Jerry’s community, a brand that has taken a stand against intolerance and in support of racial justice. For our shops, the journey towards racial justice began in earnest at the beginning of this year, and I know that many in our community were uncomfortable with taking on this issue in our shops, with our teams, and in our communities. I would include myself in that group, feeling apprehensive about tackling an issue so big, so divisive, and one I didn’t fully understand.
My feelings today are quite different, as the reality of this divide in America couldn’t be more apparent. We all have to do more, we all have to try harder, we all need to push ourselves to spaces that are difficult and unfamiliar in an effort to better understand and develop the mutual respect we all deserve as Americans.
Over my 22 years with Ben & Jerry’s, Peace, Love & Ice Cream was always a message of joy and a way to celebrate our euphoria. Now I see it as so much more than that, as a message of hope that our children will live in a world with more peace, more love, and a little bit of ice cream as well.
Thank you all so much for your kind thoughts and support.