We Are Not A Cause
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote those words from a jail in Memphis in 1963. He believed, as we at Ajiri Tea believe, that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” And Martin Luther King Jr. believed, as we believe, that there can be no genuine equality—no real justice—without economic equality.
In many ways, Sara and I were children when we started Ajiri Tea (she was 21 and I was 19 years old). And like the children or young adults that we were, we were caught up in the unfairness of the world. I don’t know if we would have started Ajiri Tea had we been older—had we learned to chalk up inequality as “the way of the world,” and learned to convince ourselves of our privilege as being deserved. But we weren’t adults used to accepting this world. We were hopeful. We were armed with an education and idealism. And as adults, and especially as women, we still aren’t used to accepting the way of the world.
Nelson Mandela said, “ . . . overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
We are not a charity. And the people we work with are not a “cause.” We are working, albeit on a small-scale, and slowly, to some sort of lasting justice. That justice looks like Sheila graduating from high school and going on to law school. That justice looks like Dorothy building a house, paying for her children’s education, and investing in livestock. And that justice only happens with you picking up a box of tea. It only happens because you place orders, send donations, give support. It only happens because you believe that we are “tied in a single garment of destiny.”
We are not a hashtag movement. We are not wearing black to galas and tweeting in solidarity. We will not fade out in the afterglow of a dying iPhone. We are a real community working with real people, addressing real needs. Through thousands of tea leaves picked, and thousands of labels handcrafted, through long nights, and hundreds of uniforms bought, through tears over homework and the joy of graduation, we’re still here. And most marvelously, you are too.
Asante sana (thank you),
Kate and Sara