Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market releases apology after controversial statement

<p>People walk through the aisles of vendors at the Bloomington Community Farmers&#x27; Market near City Hall in 2018. Some community members responded angrily to a statement made by the Broadening Inclusion Group of the market Friday on Facebook.</p>

People walk through the aisles of vendors at the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market near City Hall in 2018. Some community members responded angrily to a statement made by the Broadening Inclusion Group of the market Friday on Facebook.

The Broadening Inclusion Group of the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market released a disputed statement Friday on the market's Facebook in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The group released an apology statement Saturday.

The statement expressed anger about the deaths of Black people in the U.S. It expressed sadness for the deaths of George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Black people killed in protests as well as Black police officers killed in protests and victims of Black-on-Black crime.

“All black lives do matter and our hearts are in pieces,” the group said in the statement.

The Broadening Inclusion Group is a subcommittee of the Farmers’ Market Advisory Council, which reports to the Board of Park Commissioners. The group is composed of resident volunteers, said Yaёl Ksander, communications director for the Office of the Mayor. The Parks Department did not endorse the statement, according to a comment on the Facebook post from the Office of the Mayor.

The Broadening Inclusion Group's statement ended with a claim to commit to diversity, equity and inclusivity and agreement with the statement from the Farmers Market Coalition, a national organization the market claims to be a member of.

Some community members responded in outrage, calling the post racist and calling for further boycotting. The farmer's market has been a source of tension for about a year after it allowed a vendor with ties to a white supremacist group to continue selling at the market

Marcia Veldman, the market’s coordinator, said she can understand why people think the statement is racist.

“In retrospect, clearly we should not have posted that statement on our Facebook page because some of the comments in it were very troubling,” she said. “I will say that as a volunteer group, their intentions were good. The outcome was disturbing.”

Abby Ang, founder of No Space for Hate Bloomington, said she felt that the Broadening Inclusion Group failed to create an inclusive environment because the statement did not explicitly mention racism or white supremacy. She said she felt it made community members feel unwelcome.

The post has over 700 comments, some calling for group members’ resignation.

“I think it’s a very clear message that the Broadening Inclusion Group has failed in its mission,” Ang said.

The Farmers Market Coalition commented that the FMC is not in agreement with the statement.

“We are disappointed and disheartened to see this statement from Bloomington Community Farmers Market,” the FMC said in the comment. “As many on this thread have noted, it does not uphold the values of diversity, inclusion, and equity that this committee is meant to affirm.”

The FMC also commented that the Bloomington market is not a current member of the FMC as claimed.

The Broadening Inclusion Group released an apology statement Saturday signed by six of its nine members.

“The language was offensive and clearly compromised the main issues our community is working to address, which are systemic racism and police brutality against black people,” the group said in the apology statement.

The group also said in the apology statement not all group members were able to thoroughly examine the original statement before it was posted.

Wil Stahly, one of the group members, did not sign the apology statement and stood by the original statement. He said he thinks everyone but one member of the group approved the original statement before it went out.

Stahly said he stood by the statement because he said it expressed that all Black lives and death matter regardless of how Black people are killed.

“I think it’s kind of tragic that in certain situations, people will rally together, come together and support Black lives, but then we have Black men and women and children of all genders who are dying every single day that no one cares about,” Stahly said.

He said one example is Michael Parker, a Black man who died from a gunshot wound Sunday in Bloomington.

“This ties into the statement because it does specifically mention those Black men, women and children who are aimlessly lost and shoot other Black men, women and children,” Stahly said. “That’s exactly what happened.”

Ang said she feels that group members should resign and the group should disband.

The Broadening Inclusion Group still exists but seven of the nine group members have resigned since Saturday and their Thursday meeting was canceled, Ksander said. One had already informally resigned.The Farmer's Market Advisory Council will discuss the Broadening Inclusion Group at their Monday meeting.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story mistakenly said the Farmers' Market Advisory Council is a part of the parks department and misnamed the committee having a meeting Monday. The IDS regrets these errors.

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