The conversation about inclusion and systemic racism has developed quite a bit in our community since the Annual Meeting of 2019, when we were rightly challenged about racist aggressions that we were perpetuating in our store. Although we had begun some work on our understanding, we clearly had much to learn, and I recommitted our organization to a more rigorous and focused attention on inclusion and equity.
Every November we hold our annual meeting, a time when all shareholders – the owners – of the Brattleboro Food Co-op are invited to come together to listen, learn and participate. Whether in person or virtual there are usually about 100 people in attendance. In addition to the GM and Board officers’ reflections on the prior year, we engage with each other on timely issues that are typically a catalyst for the expression of passionate feelings and thoughts among Co-op members. People are not members of the Co-op by accident! There is intention behind a decision to be a member.
Hi everyone, I’m Grace, a voice that you have not yet heard in the monthly Food for Thought Board of Directors column. I’m new to the Board, relatively new to Brattleboro, and… while it pains me to say it… new to the world of food co-ops. I thought sharing my story of how I got on the Board might resonate with some of you and inspire you to come to a Board meeting and maybe even run for the Board of Directors yourselves.
I had no idea what I was going to write about until Grace, a newly elected board director, shared a link to in The Commons titled “Not a word, but an action.” It was the subtitle that ensured I would read the article very carefully: “What does ‘community’ really mean, especially for those who face moments of being outside of it?”
At our January 2020 Board meeting, our General Manager Sabine Rhyne said she was, “deep into her own learning cycle,” in response to the difficult discussion about race she facilitated with shareholders at the November Annual Meeting. I appreciate Sabine’s candor and the level of trust and respect she and BFC Board Directors have for each other. I am grateful that she shared this self-reflection with us, and thank her for providing me with a topic and a title for this article.
Last year I wrote my first Co-op article on the topic of a welcoming community. To recap: In that article I spoke about my move to Brattleboro. It was a difficult time in my life, and I was seeking ways to make connections and find affiliation. One of my first decisions was to become a shareholder at the Co-op. I learned I could receive a discount by working two hours a month. Still groping to find my way I worked on average ten hours a week! I didn’t have other commitments and The Co-op was my “go to” place; I developed cordial relationships with Co-op employees, especially with those working the front end. I not only received a discount for my Co-op shopping, I also began to find the connection and affiliation I was seeking. Now I am a Co-op Board Member!
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was a workshop led by Dr. Jude Smith Rachele on November 3, 2018 at the Shaker Museum in Enfield, NH.
If you haven’t been to the Shaker Museum in Enfield, it’s worth a trip! Eight of us from the Brattleboro Food Co-op joined about 40 others from a number of regional co-ops for a workshop on diversity held at the museum. Represented were people in diverse roles: general managers, human resource managers, board members, Co-op staff, one staff member from Neighboring Food Co-op Association, and one Cooperative Development Services (CDS) consultant.