AN OPEN LETTER TO HUMANITY
It has been 20 years since I last got out of bed and wondered if I would survive the day. It has been seven years since I walked into a restaurant and was told to leave because of my skin color. It has been a year since I wondered if my job would be in jeopardy because of mental health. It has been zero days since I worried if my son and his boyfriend would be safe in public settings. It has been zero days since members of marginalized communities in America have experienced these, and many other situations. It has been zero days since people who enjoy exceptional privileges have ever had to consider, think about or experience this. Bridging that gap is an exercise in allyship.
While a rare few allies are anointed, most are not. The majority of allies made a decision somewhere along the way to embark on a mission to place the value of inclusive humanity above themselves. Sometimes that decision is self-evident. Sometimes it derives from a traumatic experience. Most of the time it is born out of a greater love. All of the time it is an improvisational and messy process.
In introducing the Ally Cooperative brand to you, I believe it important to not only share the vision and values of the brand, but also several of the core principles that shape who we are, and why we do what we do. This includes sharing key questions faced on the journey to create a socially responsible lifestyle brand that delivers on our brand values and commitment to the communities we serve. It is with this commitment to authenticity and transparency that I lay bare our truth at Ally Cooperative.
Our intention from the very beginning has been to create a platform that combines art, music, fashion, and a modern lifestyle brand that honors and serves the communities that inspire and shape our world. Ally Cooperative strives to inspire generations, provide harmony, align values, and share cultures, with integrity and clarity.
We realized early on that the decision to create a commercial enterprise to further this objective could come with a set of assumptions. Because the greatest way to eliminate assumptions is to operate with transparency, it feels important to share both personal motivations and brand aspirations at this early stage in the business.
CHANGING THE PERCEPTION: “The Woke White Guy”
I am a cisgender, straight, caucasian, able-bodied male. By all conventional norms, I am the epitome of unearned privilege in our society. By unearned, I only mean to say that each of those factors is not a result of any choice or effort on my part. While I wasn’t born with a “silver spoon” in my mouth, I was born with factors that, in our society, afford me privileges I neither earned nor worked to achieve. Countless millions navigate our society without these privileges.
From my perspective, I had the opportunity to move forward in my life in one of several ways. I could choose to actively use my privilege to bolster my personal success. I could choose to ignore or dismiss my societal privilege. Or, I could choose to share that privilege through allyship. My choice was clear. For many years I have been working to bring diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to the forefront of business. To expand that mission, and normalize the idea of allyship, Ally Cooperative was born.
Many who enjoy the privilege I previously outlined don’t share that privilege until they’ve been personally impacted in some way-the “woke” moment. Perhaps their child lives with neurodivergence or identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Or maybe they experienced a change in their physical ability. Regardless of the circumstances that changed in their life, they have come to realize that they do have a privilege that can be extended, through allyship, to communities that experience discrimination, bias, and reduced opportunity–not because of any circumstance they’ve chosen, but simply because they are viewed as different–as others. Does this make those individuals “bad” for not sharing their privilege, until personally impacted? No. It makes them imperfect humans–just like the rest of us.
Yes, I adopted two wonderful children. Yes, my eldest is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Yes, I always supported that community but having a child in the community shined a light on the need for expanding allyship. Yes, one could say this represents the “woke white guy” moment. One could also say that everyone has to come to their truth in their own time, and in their own way. So, coming to awakening and taking action on it is both good and vital to allyship.
CHANGING THE PERCEPTION: “Profiting From Disadvantage”
It can be said that the epitome of privilege is exploiting those on the other side of the opportunity divide for one’s own personal motivations or self-enrichment. As a person who acknowledges experiencing the privilege outlined earlier, this perception is of great concern to me, as it possesses the power to undermine the incredible work that Ally Cooperative can do to serve those communities. What can be said to belay that perception?
Early on, the decision was made that our effort to elevate the concept of allyship to a regular and normal course of action among society, we must meet future allies where they are. Quite honestly, the undertaking of normalizing allyship is daunting. The decision to produce wearable products that clearly display the brand name felt–and still feels-important in this objective. The use of fashion as an expression of identity has evolved to also include expression of values and social causes. It is used to inform, inspire and educate.
So, what of profiting from elevating this dialogue? I find this is the perfect opportunity to share the charitable fiscal objectives of Ally Cooperative.
At launch, we will be donating 10% of profits to five incredible organizations aligned with our values of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and allyship. The remaining 90% of profits shall be invested in growing Ally Cooperative.
As soon as fiscally viable, based on the growth objectives of the company, donations will increase annually to our goal of 80% of profits.
When viable, we intend to establish the Ally For Humanity Foundation, which shall serve as the community enrichment and impact partner for Ally Cooperative.
CHANGING THE PERCEPTION: “Exploiting the Disadvantaged”
It isn’t unreasonable to imagine a more cynical view of Ally Cooperative could cause some to believe that we are simply exploiting those who need true allies the most. While it is my greatest hope that even the most cursory evaluation of Ally Cooperative would dispel this notion, I would like to address it more transparently here.
Some of the most inspirational and talented humans on the planet are members of the communities we strive to serve. To this end, we’ve established “The Collective” to engage and empower those humans. “The Collective” are artists, designers, and collaborators from disadvantaged communities who create and design many of the products we offer. We provide a platform to share their work with the world and an additional (or sometimes only) source of income. They are celebrated. They are elevated. They are allies.
We’ve also established an intersectionally diverse commission to share those who inspire us in various ways, from spoken and written word to visual art, performance art, athletics, activism, music, and daily life. In addition to celebrating our inspiration through our digital and community outreach initiatives, we invite nominations from our community of those that inspire them. We are partners. As allies, we empower both the communities we serve and the communities we collaborate with. We see the world through an open lens and strive to extend our privilege to bring opportunity and advantage to those in need of allyship.
Ultimately, the list of reasons to pursue the Ally Cooperative endeavor far outweighed these and other questions contemplated. As we embark upon the efforts to fulfill the aspirational mission of Ally Cooperative, we are keenly aware that we will encounter many questions and decision points along the way. We commit to approaching each with the same clarity, objectivity, and transparency afforded during our founding.
Ally is both a noun and a verb. It is as much about a state of being as a state of doing. An ally does not sit idly by while the world grows more divided. An ally takes action. An ally does good for good’s sake, not for the optics. An ally builds trust. An ally builds communities. An ally builds a better today, tomorrow, and future.
I am giddy with excitement to bring Ally Cooperative to the public domain. Not because of the commercial prospects, but because of what those commercial prospects can do to elevate the human obligation of allyship to regular and normal existence in our society. I’d love to hear your story. I’d love to learn how we can better serve you. I’d love to have you join us on this journey. WE ARE ALLY & SO ARE YOU.
TOGETHERNESS > Otherness.
Founder, Ally Cooperative