“We don’t hire homies to bake bread, we bake bread to hire homies.”
I have often written about my love & admiration for Father Greg Boyle (Father G) and the work he has done with the gang population in Los Angeles with Homeboy Industries. It is not an easy thing to promote the dignity of people who have been involved in violent criminality, finding kinship in mutual love and respect.
This line — “We don’t hire homies to bake bread, we bake bread to hire homies.” — is a perfect description of the complex dynamic of running a business that is, at its core, motivated to employ a marginalized population.
At dignify, we sell blankets. I (Shelley) focus on the marketing aspect, and Wayne (my husband) focuses on the operations, like ordering new goods and sending your packages. Ashley, our part time lifesaver, picks up the pieces we leave behind. We sell blankets, and that’s all we do.
But, why do we sell blankets? I’ve shared before about the meaningful stories of women in North America enjoying their vintage kantha throws. And that is an enormous benefit — we sell blankets for the meaning and kinship that people receive when they wrap themselves with a throw they have bought or received as a gift.
But also: we sell blankets to hire women.
Robin, who has managed the operations at Basha, our producing partner in Bangladesh, has shared with us about the plight of the Rohingya refugees flooding to Bangladesh from Burma.
“People have escaped Burma after having their homes burned, their children, husbands, family members slaughtered in front of them. Many women were gang raped and left for dead. Around 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh creating a real crisis, as they come to a country that is already lacking space and resources for their own population. This creates a situation where prostitution, human trafficking and crime flourishes.”
Robin’s vision for Basha is that they will always respond to this type of need.
“We never want to stand by and let girls and women be sold and raped and exploited. We know even a little work, even a small income, even a small opportunity gives women a chance to feed their children, protect their family, say no to the traffickers and pimps.”
It may be only September, but believe it or not, the “holiday season” is right around the corner. I try to maintain dignity on all levels of our business, from the production through to ads. But, we also want to sell blankets. A lot of blankets. Because, in addition to supporting our own life & family, we want to respond to the needs of vulnerable women in Bangladesh. To respond to the needs of the Rohingya.
We don’t place orders, ship containers, photograph products, and wrap parcels to sell blankets. We sell blankets so that at the beginning of that process, there is a woman who can come to a safe, loving workspace, and do her job with dignity.
This fall & holiday season, I am hoping that we can continue to sustain (and grow!) our ability to provide this work for women. Let's do it!
This dignify post draws from Derek Thompson's October 7th article in The Atlantic.
Thompson's article explains the practical challenges in 2021 for consumers as well as for retailers.
Here's how some of these points relate to dignify right now and in the coming months:
Mystery novels have often appealed to people with jobs that are never fully resolved (doctors, pastors, social workers). In this cultural era of many-problems-few-resolutions, reading a good mystery can be a refreshing break.
Our 12-year old daughter is the most avid, prolific reader I know! We teamed up to create a list of mysteries for all ages of independent readers. The recos below are listed with increasing age levels in mind, but no specific age parameters (as a mature, well-read, near-teen, she has read up to Agatha Christie on this list).
Our 11-year old computer is showing creaky signs of age, just about ready to go to sleep (and never wake up). But, we feel that it has served us well. When I compare it to other expenses over the years, the laptop is — at about a $100/year investment — one of our best value-for-dollar belongings.
When shopping for items like this, how do we choose well? How do we discern what brand/style/variety is built to last? Or, how do we determine even if “built to last” is relevant to the purchase?