I founded Madison Eats Food Tours over eight years ago with the intent and mission to serve and support our community, particularly small businesses, minority-owned businesses and locally-owned businesses. I founded MEFT on my passion for connecting diverse communities through food and stories and for contributing to the economic sustainability of the cities and countries in which we work. Madison Eats Food Tours stands against discrimination for any reason, including but not limited to skin color, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and legal status. Black lives matter.
This has been a time for reflection for many. The protests these past two weeks – stemming from a long history of systemic racism and oppression – have been a call to action and caused me to further consider the work we need to do as a company.
I have been operating in a manner I believed to be sufficiently supportive of our Black community. I am now seeing that what I considered to be a sweet spot in which I felt my efforts and impact were “good enough” was actually a place of comfort. It was a place reflective of my implicit privilege and bias and good intent, but it was not enough.
Speaking up about the issues, our past and future work as a company, and our failings, is the only way to truly serve our community and foster real change. I realize that any response or statement that I give in this moment is inadequate, and I will make mistakes, but it is a privilege to choose silence. I will respond, listen, learn, and continue to show up for this work.
I intend to be more clear moving forward about how we will be taking action to support our Black community. It is my responsibility to be anti-racist in every decision and action we make as a company.
The steps I am taking immediately and in the near future are as follows:
- I am donating $2 from each sale of our Hawaiian Backyard BBQ collaborative bag with Christine’s Kitchens to Freedom, Inc. So far we have raised $100. In addition I am donating money I earned from a photography class to the same cause. At this time that donation is $30.
- All future collaboration bags/food kits will include products from at least two businesses owned by people of color and at least one of those will be a Black-owned business. At least 50% of the products will be from minority-owned businesses. This includes our current Grill out Kit for Dad.
Some of the steps I am taking in the future are as follows:
- I will be working to include more Black-owned businesses on our current tours – both public and private. At this time we currently regularly partner with just one Black owned business on our public tours. 30% of the businesses we regularly partner with are owned by people of color and 55% are minority owned.
- I will intentionally seek Black people to be part of my team as we hire or contract for future positions. Currently 30% of our team are people of color, one of whom is in a lead position as a guide, and our company make-up is 100% minority.
- I will add monthly tours that take people specifically to the businesses in neighborhoods that are not walkable/on our existing tour routes to tour and support Black owned food businesses.
- I will dig deeper to foster on-going relationships with the business owners so that we can best tell their stories.
- I will include more of the diverse history of Madison including First Nations, Black and immigrant histories, as well the histories of other minority groups in our scripts as I relaunch tours.
- I will include training for our guides to talk in further depth about Madison’s diverse cultural history and culinary history, including Black and Indigenous history and other minority groups. We will seek out voices representative of those communities (whether written or in person) for our training.
- As I add new neighborhoods and tours to our regular offerings, I will seek out Black-owned business partnerships.
- I commit to financially supporting organizations that support Black, Indigenous and people of color in our community on a monthly basis, and half of our giving budget will go to organizations that support our Black community (once our tours are back in operation and profitable). I will pursue partnerships with organizations that will foster a deeper and more long-standing connection to our communities of color to learn how we can better serve them.
- I am rewriting our company’s missions and values to reflect and clarify my beliefs about inclusion and diversity, and I am working on our partnership process, hiring process and tour design to reflect those guiding principles.
This is just the beginning and I will keep you updated as we implement these changes. I am approaching this work with humility. Thank you and I hope you will join me in this work.
Otehlia Cassidy, owner, with full support of our team