Merriam Webster’s dictionary provides us with this definition:
As citizens of the United States, we are often wrapped up in this idea of freedom. Freedom is indeed a touchstone that many North Americans value as a central part of the United States identity. With that said, freedom in the U.S. is just about as complicated as our definition of it is. The United States is certainly ahead of the curve in many ways in terms of how our nation maneuvers freedom of speech, religion, and freedom to live and exist as one desires. However, we have not achieved these freedoms without a cost, and they are certainly not without restriction as some people would like to think.
When America was founded on the basis of land claimed from Native Americans, we begin with a basis of creating a free land while we also took away other’s freedoms. As American history progressed, we began to see people of color and women face unequal and unjust treatment in our land of freedom. Even today, we see the freedoms for minorities continue to be gilded.
As a global company having had the privilege to spend years overseas, we have encountered a lack of freedom that is entirely offensive to the perspective afforded us by an upbringing in the United States. Having friends that were abducted from their homes as children and forced into soldiery, friends who were sold into sexual slavery by desperate or unknowing parents, friends who have had land and homes stolen from them by relatives as the result of a husband’s death. The systems of justice our poor friends are excluded from is simply unfathomable.
As a result, the U.S. seems a sort of utopia to those living in many nations. The freedoms many of us experience daily in the form speech, religion, education, clean water, and the right to vote. Many of these freedoms are things that we all take for granted. We often undervalue the freedom to engage in civil dialogue, to question and to be curious about issues and the world around us.
When we begin to think about the types of freedoms and privileges we experience every day in our “American experience” -- we can’t help but be thankful. Thankful for those who came before us and fought in wars and upon the civil and political stage for these freedoms that have shaped the nation that we are privileged to live in today.
As we remember to give thanks this July 4th, may we also be aware of our influence and responsibility to help others walk towards the freedom we so enjoy all around the world. Much of that freedom directly depends upon political and economic transformation, and we have a role to play in that transformation - whether we realize it or not.
When Yobel Market was founded 10 years ago, our co-founders chose to found the company upon the request for well-paying jobs made by their friends living in nations like Uganda, Thailand, Indonesia, and Mexico.
The name YOBEL is itself is a Hebrew word meaning: freedom, release from captivity, cancelation of debts, stabilization, redemption for the poor and restoration of the land.
Every time Yobel Market places an order for handmade goods produced by artisan cooperatives around the globe, we are motivating freedom for the individuals who made those goods. Freedom in the form of dignified self-employment, freedom in the form of fair wages, freedom in the form of knowing where their next meal is coming from, freedom of knowing your children are safe at night.
Many of the artisan groups we partner with provide additional freedoms. Freedoms from literal slavery in the form of safe homes, trauma counseling, life-skills training, protective childcare, clean water, and nutritious foods. Yobel Market goods aren’t just made ethically. They go beyond economic demands and address needs that are often unspoken. Within our partner artisan cooperatives, the people behind our products are finding Community. Belonging. Healing. Dignity. Worth. Life beyond trauma.
When it comes down to it, isn’t that what we all seek? Freedom. From the things that hold us captive and keep us from living deeply present, abundant, and grateful lives.
So how do we put our good intentions into action in order to help ourselves and others walk towards freedom? Start where you are, with what you have, doing what you can (Arthur Ashe). Don’t look at the good others are doing and think you need to do that very thing. Do what resonates immediately with you, on a heart and soul level. That could be bringing a meal and kind word to an elderly neighbor. It could be being intentionally present with your young kids. It could be texting a friend a word of encouragement. It could be volunteering with your favorite nonprofit, or giving money to an organization reuniting families on the border. It could also mean seeking freedom for yourself.
Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly, with a cheerful heart. When you are giving of yourself and your resources in the right direction, it will always be accompanied with joy, and not a sense of begrudging loss.
And hey, if shopping for freedom is your thing, check out our website and see how Yobel Market is supporting communities in 25ish nations (including our own) in our communal walk toward life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Happy Independence Day!
By: Bailey Gent & Sarah Ray
PC #1: Shining Light International
“We need jobs, and we need a way to put our children in school.” This statement, spoken by internally displaced Ugandans, resonated with Yobel co-Founder, Sarah Ray.
If these strong, resilient, hardworking, motivated individuals had access to dignified work, they would be able to provide many things for themselves that charity would seek to do for them. Things like school fees, clean water, nutritious foods, secure housing, clothing, and transportation. Jobs sounded like a good way forward.
Yobel is proud to be the sole purveyor of Ethnotek products in the United States! Co-Owners, Clay & Emily Ross were initially drawn to this incredible company’s techno-hip bags because of their high utility features (like this camera bag designed by photographers) and strong ethic toward both people and planet. As a conscious consumer, you can feel good that Ethnotek’s slow-production materials are sourced in person from the villages where they are created. Each artisan piece is purchased directly from the person who made it, for a fair price.