Reflections from Antiracism, Equity & Inclusion Committee Members

We recently asked the Antiracism, Equity & Inclusion committee to reflect on their work this past year. Read below to hear our committee members sharing their thoughts on how our work has affected them.

It has been a highlight of my career to work with the American Cider Association’s Antiracism, Equity & Inclusion committee. There were so many outcomes I didn’t expect, but most of all, that the work we were doing together on this committee would have positive ripple effects across the organization. The practices we use on this committee are helping the ACA advance to the next level throughout all our programming. It’s become a launchpad for organizational growth. This committee deserves so much credit for helping ACA raise the bar for how we pursue and measure success for the entire cider industry. I’m now a believer that doing the work to pursue more equity and inclusion is a mechanism for broader change in any organization. My gratitude for everyone on this team is endless!

Doing this work has become a very grounding part of my weekly routine. During a time with so much change and instability, feeling more and more connected and aware of the world around me has given me a strength and drive to move forward that I honestly needed in order to get through these past 15 months. 

In a lot of ways I feel like my eyes are opening wider and wider with every article I read, every question I ask. But it’s not just active learning. It’s learning to be quieter so that I can hear other voices around me. It’s admitting out loud that I am racist and coming to terms with that myself. I have spent 34 years growing up in a racist society, how could I not be? It seems so obvious now. But if you asked me ten years ago if I was racist, I would have been offended and started listing off all the reasons I wasn’t. 

Shifting your understanding of what you’re seeing and experiencing, to think critically about your own life and separate out emotions and intentions and perceptions from reality and facts…it’s not easy. There have been moments over the last year that I really questioned myself. Am I performative? Am I a true ally? What does it even mean to be an ally? How can I live a happy life surrounded by and engrained in systems that are designed to keep certain people down? Am I “qualified” to be doing this work? But these questions are in some ways the point. If you’re questioning yourself, then that means you’re actively engaging with these hard topics. This journey is never ending, and sometimes I have to remind myself to take it one step at a time. I’m a goal oriented person, but at this stage in my own journey, the process is the goal. Sometimes that can be incredibly frustrating for my own sense of accomplishment or productivity, but it’s also more rewarding than any specific goal I’ve ever accomplished.

In the last few months my husband and I got a puppy and two kittens. We love these little ones more than I can put into words, and that love has made me think a lot about what it means to really take care of and support each other. Our unconditional love for our pets is something that won’t always be perfect; it doesn’t guarantee safety or the absence of accidents, it doesn’t mean I always treat them perfectly, and I don’t stop living my own life in order to meet every possible need of these little ones. There is always a balance to keep. But it means that their basic needs are met, and when something does go wrong that we will be there to get through it together as best we can. It means we genuinely want the best for them, and want to do our part to make that possible. Then I think about our society as it is now. There is no unconditional love for people. In fact there’s nothing but conditions placed on society’s support and love. Then I imagine a society that treats all human beings with unconditional love. It’s not perfect. Tragic accidents still happen. Terrible acts are still committed by individuals. But as a society, we collectively protect each other and unconditionally commit to growing as a collective group through whatever sphere of influence we have. In all facets of life, there is attention to a shared understanding of the greater good and basic human rights. For the first time in my life, I think that future is possible. It will never be perfect, but it can be a whole lot better. But we have a whole lot of work to do to get there! 

I continue to be both humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to learn and be part of this work with the American Cider Association and the other members of the AEI Committee. 

Through a somewhat non-traditional path, I found my way into serving as a member of the ACA’s Antiracism, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and it’s been amazing to see how the committee’s vision and mission has grown over this past year. While the cider industry has had DE&I challenges, it’s been refreshing to serve on a committee that doesn’t shy away from those stumbles, while taking actionable steps to improve the diversity, equity, and inclusion landscape for the industry. Additionally, it’s been great to work with so many passionate people from varied backgrounds. The committee’s newsletter, spearheaded by Olivia Maki, also has helped to invigorate the conversation around building a just, equitable, and inclusive environment in cider and beyond. I look forward to what our committee will do in the future!

This past year being on the ACA’s Antiracism, Equity and Inclusion Committee has been a labor of love encased in a fragile box. Meaning, it was a relief to know that the ACA is dedicated to making change regarding diversity in the industry. However, with so much going on inside and outside of the industry that is working against that type of change, it can feel like an exercise in futility ready to collapse at any moment. 

That is one of the main reasons I am so happy about being on this committee in particular. Even before all of the events of the past year, this team was dedicated to making significant and meaningful change to the perception of the cider industry internally as well as externally. As someone more connected to the consumer side of the industry I can attest that it is exciting to see that shift in perception and to be a part of that change. 

I think the first step to any change is having a genuine group of people that believe in the goal. I can say with 100% certainty, we have that group of people and are positioned to do some awesome work for the cider industry.

Being a member of the AEI committee has increased my personal sense of community within the cider world. Not only am I proud that Blossom Barn Cidery is a part of the ACA, I’m thrilled that so many others in the organization are resolute in their commitment to equity, antiracism, and inclusion. It’s not easy work but it is necessary. Thanks to the work of the committee and Michelle’s leadership a lot of progress has been made in a short period of time. Cheers!

The road ahead to a just and equitable cider industry is a long and winding one. Serving on the AEI committee has given me the opportunity to work alongside a group of individuals that care deeply about the cider industry and the mission of our committee. I’m grateful to them and the ACA Board for allowing us this platform. Roughly one year ago following the murder of George Floyd we as a committee came together to recognize that we needed a more active approach to our DEI work and launched a number of initiatives, including our monthly newsletter, to be able to put words into actions. We are learning and unlearning, stumbling and picking ourselves up, and I look forward to the work we are going to continue to do. 

A few years ago, I certainly would have said I recognized forms of systemic racism, particularly those that restricted resources and opportunities to various disenfranchised groups in our communities. As I reflect on that awareness now, I am sorry to say that I could not have been more complacent or obtuse. The more I study social justice, the more I see that my challenge was not recognizing racism, but rather understanding how blind I can be to the reality that systemic racism and broad socio-economic biases (beyond what Ibram X. Kendi might call “the mirage of race”) are profoundly pervasive, enduring, and even actively worsening. Provoking insecurity, my lack of insight can feel deeply troubling at times when I reflect on my own behaviors. But the process is also encouraging in a fashion, because I feel that only with insight can we begin a journey toward addressing the issues that so trouble our communities.

For helping me along this journey, challenging my perspectives and offering their own, I’d like to thank the ACA and our committee on anti-racism, equity and inclusion. However, I’d like to distinguish in my thanks Olivia Maki for her incredible work in curating a fantastic monthly collection of resources on anti-racism, equity and social justice over the past 12 months. The newsletter for me has been alternately challenging, radically informative, and thoroughly uplifting. Drawing from wide ranging media platforms, I’ve been witness to moving personal perspectives, crucial academic positions, and expressions of the effects of racism in film, music and literature. These perspectives don’t typically tumble out of the algorithms for the average middle age white guy’s newsfeed, but I believe that is precisely the reason they are so valuable. The newsletter has been a remarkable starting point for my studies, and I could not encourage my own peers enough that if these ideas make you uncomfortable, then study more, fact check, listen to critiques and opposing viewpoints, and discuss.

To the latter point, I appreciate our cider community’s efforts to create a safe and inclusive space for just these types of discussions, and would refer you to the recording of the NYCA’s discussion on reparations and Brooke Glover’s article on the ACA board’s work as just two examples of the ways our community is working toward goals of equity, inclusion and social justice. Though I’ve considered it my first priority to listen and study during the past 12 months, I feel richer for being a part of this community and can appreciate that we have much yet to accomplish in our small corner of the craft beverage industry.

Cider is a small industry, and it can feel at times isolated from the broader world. On first glance, the work we do at the ACA may appear inward looking, in a bubble of orchards, fermentations, tastings, and good cheer. In prior years, some of our members, myself included, may not have seen how racism directly affected the cider industry. Some may have wondered why a panel on diversity at CiderCon was even necessary. This work on antiracism has forced me to confront my own color blindness and acknowledge that this is not a distraction but a necessary centerpiece to the work we do at the ACA and the work we do in our own companies and communities. We have been challenged to affirm what is most important to us and what kind of people we aspire to become. Institutions and cultures can feel slow to change. Even when there is intention, the how of changing can get bogged down in the efforts, and inertia threatens forward motion. When feeling stuck or at a loss of how to move forward, I have found inspiration in the stories presented and efforts undertaken by so many in the food and beverage industry as highlighted by the monthly antiracism newsletter. I am thankful to be a part of a community pledging to do this work together.

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