Ben & Jerry’s is using its popular ice cream to encourage voter turnout in Black communities.
The ice cream company announced Tuesday that it was rebranding its Change Is Brewing ice cream flavor, debuting a new look and focus. Instead of its racial justice reform initiative, the mission of Change Is Brewing will be to help protect voting rights and encourage young Black voter turnout ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections. The rebranded ice cream is being distributed at historically Black colleges and universities and in large cities and rural communities across Southern states as part of the Black Voters Matter Fund’s “We Won’t Black Down” tour, which kicked off Sept. 14.
“The ultimate goal is for us to really be able to build a nation of democracy that we both desire and that we deserve,” said LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund.
As with the initial launch for Change Is Brewing, Ben & Jerry’s collaborated with Black entrepreneurs for the rebranding. It hired multidisciplinary artist Laci Jordan, who designed the ice cream container, and tapped BLK & Bold Specialty Beverages for the ice cream’s coffee ingredients. The limited-time dessert, which is expected to hit shelves in the next few weeks, is a mix of cold brew coffee, marshmallows and fudge brownie pieces.
Some companies have faced backlash for incorporating Black culture and initiatives into their products. In May, Walmart was criticized after the release of its Juneteenth-themed ice cream, which many on social media called out as a form of cultural appropriation. With the Change Is Brewing initiative, however, Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield said, the focus isn’t to make sales but to support the Black community.
“We’re trying to partner with people that are doing the work and not taking advantage of anything,” Greenfield said.
The company’s involvement in voting rights and racial justice initiatives for the Black community isn’t new. In 2016, Ben & Jerry’s tapped the Rev. William Barber II, a prominent social activist, to help launch its Empower Mint flavor, which aimed to create awareness about North Carolina’s voter ID law. Greenfield said that there’s still more work to be done and that he hopes the “We Won’t Black Down” tour will counter those setting up roadblocks for Black voters.
“In the current political climate, there are a lot of burdens that are being thrown to make it more difficult for people to vote,” Greenfield said, “and we’re trying to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to have their vote counted.”
Brown said giving the Change Is Brewing ice cream out to marginalized communities helps engage voters and allows for conversations about important topics that are concerns of many Black voters, like the cost of living and health care. She said her organization is fighting voting restrictions the closing of polling sites in places like Georgia.
“You would be amazed at how powerful ice cream is in terms of a discussion for people to … talk about what they care about,” Brown said. “What their fears are. What their desires are.”
The “We Won’t Black Down” tour is headed to North Carolina and Texas next.