It has taken us a few days to process what has happened over the last week and figure out how to respond as small business owners. It goes without saying that this is personally deeply upsetting to me and Garrett, my partner of 10 years now. As we have been sifting through our own emotions and responding to the people in our communities who are hurting we’ve struggled with knowing how to best represent the complex feelings and perspectives of 25 people. We like to think of our company as a family drawn together out of mutual respect for all life and a desire to be of service to our community and the planet the best we can. When we are using our “Back to Eden” voice we make a point to avoid speaking for the people employed by us because we appreciate and honor each one of them, for their voice, their passion and their own unique expression of themselves. Besides, the world we live in right now is so complex that using our social media presence to address every tragedy the befalls humankind would certainly detract from the food and all the good work we aim to do as a dedicatedly vegan business with a commitment to social change, equality and justice.
With that all said, there are moments in our lives when we are called to step out from the curtain as business owners and use our platform to speak towards the collective’s best interest. As our country has been grappling with the unrelenting injustices suffered by all people of color and the transgender community most visibly only recently we haven’t been able to keep up with the frequency of these attacks on America’s promise for equality let alone say anything more relevant to the situation than what is being said. And in these situations we believe that we need to be listening to those most affected by gun violence, police brutality, racial injustice, poverty and mental illness. But, for the public record, black and brown and trans lives do matter if we haven’t said it here before. When you are in the business of peddling baked goods there isn’t a lot of time to personalize every thing that rightly calls for our attention so we largely have let our food and actions and commitments to our local community speak for itself.
But this feels like one of those times when the world is in as much pain as it is, we can’t help but weigh in with our perspective as the proprietors of this little bakery you have come to love. It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows us or our story of how we came to be in business when I say that we are a proudly gay owned "ma and pop” operation started right out of the garage of our NE Portland home. Garrett Jones, our Co-Owner and Culinary Director, and I met 10 years ago, it was the definition of love at first sight, and I was fully moved in by the end of two weeks. Immediately upon coming together we knew that our union was going to bring big things, for our lives personally, and for the communities we would bring together and serve. Garrett, a longtime vegan with a passion for feeding his friends, also had a desire to be some sort of entrepreneur in service to people needing access to good clean food. Admittedly I was always less interested in being a business owner and only hoped that my Environmental Ed degree (that I am incidentally still paying off 16 years later) would somehow serve me in making a difference in the world of humans and non-humans alike. So when we came upon the idea to open the bakery you could say it was done with one’s person’s genuinely one-of-a-kind talent and passion for vegan food and another one’s totally blind leap of faith. The journey we have been on as a couple and as small business owners in order to get to this point in our lives where we can truly be of service and plant something back has neither been easy nor without an incredible amount of blessings, support and non-monetary reward.
So some people would be within their right to ask, why now are we using our voice and platform to speak out against hate crimes and bigotry? As two white gay men living in the relatively safe haven of Portland, Oregon still enjoying our white male privilege are we only personalizing it because the gay community was the target? It is true that we have been struck by how easily it could have been one of us in that late night club (if I had only ever been to Florida) and we do know people who knew people there that night. But that is not the only reason we feel the need to be vocal and get active in response to what is happening in our country. Every time a woman is disrespected instead of being celebrated for the goddess she is and we get to learn about it we take that personally. Every time a person of color is made to feel less than or unsafe in their own skin we take that personally. Every time one of our transgender brothers and sisters is assaulted or made to be afraid for their life simply for existing the best way they know how we take that personally. And every time a child is gunned down at school or in their own neighborhood no matter whether their parents are nothing like us or are our best of friends we take that personally too. All life is sacred and we are all so intrinsically connected whether we realize it or not that what happens to you happens to me. This is a big part of what makes being vegan such a joy for us as we feel this deep down in our bones for all living beings on this planet.
The devastating attack on the LGBTQI community in an Orlando nightclub last Sunday that left 49 people dead and many more injured was not the deadliest mass shooting in American history no matter what the news media might want to tell you. No, that honor, it could be argued, goes to Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 when as many of 300—mostly unarmed—Lakota Sioux men, women, and children were killed at the hands of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment. The truth is our country has been at war with itself and just about everyone else since its inception and the body count due to gun violence against unarmed citizens is beyond comprehension let alone calculation. Our inability to look at our own predilection towards violence and brutality towards our fellow human beings is enough to drive one mad into the dregs of nihilism and as a couple of vegans it is not lost on us how true the words ring “we are what we eat”. We consume violence and brutality on the daily (and in some cases three times a day) in more ways than one and the world seems to get crazier and scarier by the minute. What’s the correlation?? Maybe that’s one question we need to be asking ourselves.
But for the queer community, what happened in Orlando was, as I see it, a watershed moment in the fight for justice and equality, much like Stonewall was for the generation of LGBTQI pioneers that preceded me. For a little while there things were admittedly feeling pretty good. We finally had a president that seemed to understand and be on the side of the people. As gay people, gaining the right to marry who we love was something many of us never thought we would see any time soon or at least not in time for those brave fighters, who paved the way for us to feel as safe and free as we do in 2016, to see it. While we have been beyond frustrated with the delay to take action on climate change among many other unkept promises or broken trusts we recognize that we have made great progress as a nation in the last 8 years. If this election hadn’t become such a downer we would say that things were looking up for America. Again as I see it, the choices we’ve been given are love, fear and hate and super delegates be damned love is winning. I applaud you if you been able to remain sane listening to it all.
Maybe you are feeling it too but suddenly on Sunday around 2am EST when the beat was pumping and queens were looking their glittery best something shifted and we are all being called to wake up the f*** up and look at the world we are creating. Together. As. One. Human. Family. People we love, when they are reminded that we are waiting to hear from them try offering their support by telling us that “all lives matter” and this loss of life is no more tragic than any other when that is what we have been trying to tell you all along. The queer people, the black and brown people, the women people, the original people of this nation of “ours” have been trying to tell you this with the walk they walk and the mirror they sometimes hold up for you to see yourself in. When we are doing your hair and makeup, or educating your children or caring for your dying parents our “gay agenda” is only to reveal within you just how beautiful and in your power you can be as a human being. You have likely heard MLK’s words “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice every where.” Well this is what intersectional justice is all about. If you aren’t familiar with the term it is time to get so. We all need to be fighting for each other’s right to feel safe whether that’s in the home or in a crowd, walking through the city or in nature, and an attack on a gay bar, which might just be the only place we and the allies that surround us truly feel safe to be our most expressed selves, strikes at the heart of the transformation that awaits us all on this planet we call home. Now is the hour when our true characters are being revealed and we, as a company trying to walk our talk and simply as human beings, want to make sure that we are doing whatever we can to stand on the right side of history. There is a revolution afoot and it is one completely driven by a love for all beings. It may be time for us all to get on board.
Are you hearing the call?
So, I am not about to put all this out there without at least attempting to plant some seed of regeneration if not for me than for the 7 generations to come.
You might ask yourself, when the world is as messed up and as complicated as it seemingly is, "I am only one person, what can I do?” Well, the best I can come up with right now is to lean in to that shiny, happy future you have in mind for you and all your loved ones.
But don’t just stop there. Put your heart forward for all of us, the ones you know and the ones you don’t know, the ones that make sense to you and the ones you think you can’t relate to at all. Use your voice, your hands, your sweat and tears, use what quite possibly might be your one and only chance at a life here on Earth to advocate for and comfort those whose voices are often silenced or shouted over. Let everyone know that nobody is in this alone and ask anyone you can what you can do to help. Call your gay friends/family if you haven’t already. Or as I might put it, call your family. Most of all listen to what the plants and animals are saying to us, listen to the land that is so thirsty for us to step into our birthright and steward this garden we were mistakenly told we lost. Peace is under your feet if you choose it.
With all the love, strength, positivity and forgiveness we can muster,
John Blomgren, Co-Owner and General Manager
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
~Some Words to Keep You Going~
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.