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Pride, Solidarity and Ben & Jerry’s

Pride, Solidarity and Ben & Jerry’s

Two years ago this week, in the early hours of the morning, Omar Mateen opened fire on a gay night club in Orlando, killing 49 people. Waking up to the news the next day broke my heart. This was not only an abhorrent attack and loss of life, but this was an attack on my community.

The next day after work, rather than going home to celebrate my mum’s birthday, I made my way to Old Compton Street to join thousands in a vigil. The heart of gay London came to a halt, and was silent. A place usually so full of love was filled with sadness and a sense of loss.

As 49 balloons were released for each of the victims, the London Gay Men’s Chorus began singing Bridge Over Troubled Water, with thousands joining in. It was a moment that I’ll never forget. These scenes were repeated in hundreds of cities across the UK and the world. It really showed me what a special LGBTQ family I have.

Whilst we should never forget the tragedy that happened that day, June is also Pride month across the world. It’s a month to celebrate the LGBTQ community: what we have contributed to the world, and how far we have come in the fight for equality. But it’s also a time to fight for the rights of those not as fortunate as us.

It’s now common to see brands such as YouTube, Apple, Barclays, Twitter and Spotify getting involved in Pride Month. This for many is a positive sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community and a clear commitment towards equality. However, some critics question how committed brands really are, and whether the rainbow colours are a gimmick to suit current public opinion.

For example, there have been brands that have changed their logos on social media to a rainbow in countries with good LGBTQ records, but mentioned nothing of Pride or LGBTQ solidarity in less accepting countries. This can seriously bring into question a brand’s integrity. What would these companies have said 10 or 20 years ago? Would some of them have distanced themselves from the LGBTQ community during the AIDS crisis?

A company that firmly supports the LGBTQ community is Ben & Jerry’s. They recently fitted a water-light hologram of a rainbow in Warsaw, in place of a floral rainbow they originally put up in 2015. The floral rainbow was torn down seven times by nationalists and opponents of LGBTQ rights. The new installation, titled ‘Rainbow’s Return’, has a water vapour canvas which cannot be damaged in the same way. Martyna Kaczmarek, brand manager at Ben & Jerry’s Poland, said “Through this rainbow display of light, love and strength we’d like to show the LGBTQ community that their love is unbreakable and equal.”

I think this campaign is very powerful and a big middle finger to the fascist groups in Poland who destroyed the old instalment. Not only have Ben & Jerry’s supported marriage equality in Poland, but they have done so all over the world – often in eye catching ways. In Australia, they stopped serving two of the same flavours together until marriage equality was reached.

Ben & Jerry’s have a long history of campaigning for LGBTQ rights and should be applauded for their long standing support. Other companies take note: being an ally requires direct action, not just superficial gesturing.

Callum Jewell
Account Executive (Ents)

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