One of our company’s core values is Cultivate Connection. We believe we are enriched by being our best selves and valuing the humanity in one another and our community. When you walk into our shop, we hope you feel seen, respected, valued, and beautiful. We believe this feeling is a basic right; something which should be simultaneously sacred and commonplace.
In our country, this feeling is not one enjoyed equally by us all. Because of long and continuing legacy of individual and systemic racism, people of color in the United States experience a daily reality vastly different than white Americans. As a company and as individuals, we find this troubling.
Black Americans are almost three times more likely to be denied a home loan than white Americans1. Black Americans are more likely to be stopped by police while driving, more likely to be searched after that stop, more likely to be ticketed, and more likely to be arrested after that traffic stop than whites in almost every state where this data is collected2. Black Americans earn $0.75 for every dollar white americans earn, and hold 10x less household wealth than whites3. There are many statistics like these. But more important than statistics, there are millions of stories, experiences, and lives. Stories from friends; experiences of neighbors; lives of fellow Americans.
We’re not sociologists; we’re jewelry people… but we’re also just people–people who look at their community, their city, their state, their country and know things could be better. As a white-owned company, we know we benefit from privilege and we know that part of moving the needle on inequality is acknowledging privilege and being an ally.
This is why we’re releasing a very special addition to our Bridge Cuff series: the Selma Bridge Cuff. We’ll donate 100% of profits from this cuff to a social justice non-profit. As long as we sell it, betsy & iya will not keep a dime of profit from these Selma Bridge Cuffs. We’re currently donating to the McRae-Gaines Learning Center in Selma, AL.
Selma, Alabama is extremely important in the Civil Rights Movement. It is where people have shown up to stand against injustice, to fight for their own lives, to say in words and actions that we must all be equal in this life. On March 7, 1965, the conflict known as Bloody Sunday occurred on the Edmund Pettus bridge where armed police brutally attacked peaceful demonstrators as they aimed to march 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery for civil rights, specifically for voting rights at the time. The attack did not stop them. They came back on March 21 that same year and successfully marched all the way to Montgomery to raise awareness for civil rights. On March 11, 2013, the bridge was declared a National Historic Landmark.
In 2015 on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, then president Barack Obama along with former president George W. Bush, Representative John Lewis, and many Civil Rights Movement activists with about 40,000 in attendance reflected on the history of this important place and bridge, and together marched across the bridge to honor the past and current efforts towards civil rights in the United States.
In thinking about this special product launch, it was really important to us that this not be about us as a company, not about us “good white people,” not about a pat on the back. It’s about us as a society. It’s about you and your friends and family and neighbors and your neighbors’ friends and family and the vast web of lives and love that is this country... It’s about your choice to buy a piece of jewelry that tells a story, that displays your values, that turns hate and hurt into something beautiful and free and contributes to the work of addressing injustice and inequality. It’s about unity. It’s about seeing our differences, and valuing our humanity.
We hope that when you wear this cuff, it will remind you of the beauty in us all and the long path to equality. We hope that you will remember the history and present day of Selma and the civil rights leaders of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If you’re white, we hope this cuff will remind you of your privilege. We hope that it will encourage you to make yourself uncomfortable, to speak up when you see bias or behavior that harms people; that when you look down at your wrist or get a compliment on your bracelet, you’ll think about being a good ally or tell the complimenter why you wear this cuff. If you’re a person of color, we hope that when you wear it, you’ll feel the power and the love of all the people who are out there also wearing this bracelet. We hope you’ll feel seen, respected, valued, and beautiful.
There are ugly forces in the world today; forces that hurt people. As a society, we have a choice: look away and be quiet or look inside and act. Do something. State your values. Resist hate, bias, racism, and privilege. Cultivate connection. The path to social justice and equality is not a short or direct one, but we create incremental progress when we choose to take steps on this path. We hope you'll join us on the walk.
Betsy, Will, and the whole b&i crew
Designer: Betsy Cross
Models: Maya Harper, Kyra Rickards, Wintry Verraneault