New Chocolate Cafe Removes Signage After Brand Accused of Being Linked to Slave Trade

Window signage for an upcoming Portland chocolate cafe, 1670 New American Chocolate House, was taken down on Tuesday after a local artist visually linked the company's branding to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

And the improvements we made to the window display pic.twitter.com/TiG7WDKEBQ

— Molly Alloy (@MollyAlloy) November 12, 2019

Words and a dotted arrow were pasted over the cafe's logo of three colonial ships by multi-disciplinary artist, Molly Alloy, reports The Oregonian. There was also a graph added that showed slave sales by decade between 1670-1701.

Through social media, Alloy posted an open letter to the cafe on Monday—slated to open by year's end—tying their branding to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

"As artists and community members we felt compelled to resist the erasure of all this context; we could not passively support the giddy perpetuation of wealth built on violence that your window display flaunts," she wrote.

"So, we adjusted the display to create the opportunity for truth and learning; a potential site for collective dialogue."

Alloy, a practicing artist and co-director at the Washington County Museum, saw the business while riding home on the bus and snapped a photo with her phone.

"There are no excuses in this day and age for such complete erasure of historical context. An hour of research that I conducted with my collaborators was more than enough to broaden my knowledge of what ships like this and the chocolate industry in the colonies were really up to in 1670; it's horrifying."

"Many people who walk by your display will immediately understand that a ship of that silhouette, transporting cacao in the year 1670, would be closely connected to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and likely to also transport human beings in horrific conditions," she stated.

"So what is the story that you are trying to tell us by using this as your branding?"

Cacao
"If the full truth of the time and industry your brand celebrates does not suit you, I eagerly hope you find a name and concept that have a different story to tell about why your business belongs in our community," wrote Alloy. nazimpressions/Getty

After Alloy's alterations, the cafe sign read, "In 1670, The New American Chocolate Trade Increased Demand for Enslavement of Africans." The dotted arrow connecting the trio of colonial ships made the sign appear to depict the triangular trade "Colonial Greed," "Abducted People" and "Genocide and Stolen Land for Export Crops."

"Let's not forget that the cacao plantations and chocolate houses that inspire this brand were on land stolen from indigenous peoples in a period of ongoing and systematic genocide up and down the American continents," she wrote.

"And that the land we are on today is also stolen; and that Native people today are still violently and systematically oppressed."

She went on to point out that 1670 was the year a public house selling chocolate opened in Boston, which corresponded to a rise in "the enslavement of Africans for cacao production to meet the rising demand of this new market."

A worker was seen scraping all signage, both the original signs and Alloy's additions, off the windows of the Portland business on Tuesday morning.