J.P. Coen is not a hero, if you ask us..
On Thursday, June 18th, we placed a statement in the form of street art, next to the statue of J.P. Coen at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. The statue is on the corner of our soon-to-be opened Chocolate Bar. The Beurs van Berlage is a logical place for our Super Store and Chocolate Bar because cocoa was traded there 400 years ago, however the owners of the building recently drew our attention to the controversy surrounding the statue of J.P. Coen. J.P. Coen is not someone to be celebrated if you ask us. He is responsible for approximately 15,000 murders of residents of the Banda Islands, in present-day Indonesia, for not recognizing the Dutch East India Company’s nutmeg monopoly. Coen also beheaded 44 leaders of Banda because they were suspected of conspiracies against the Dutch.
As a brand dedicated to eradicating modern slavery and illegal child labor in the cocoa industry, awareness and education play a big role in our mission. So as Tony’s we felt that we needed to raise awareness of the statue’s history and address the issue with a Black Lives Matter reference. Opening our Chocolate Bar without addressing this did not feel like the right thing to do. We think it is important to highlight the real story behind this statue and to shed light on the Dutch colonial past. We want to make history visible and not shy away from it, so that we can learn from it.
The Black Lives Matter movement shows how much inequality there still is in the world and we want to continue to speak out actively about it. We want choco fans who come to the bar to also learn something about the history of cocoa and its painful historical context. Because, in the end, it is about our mission and not about chocolate. We fight for an equal and fair world, and that starts with speaking out for an just society. In the Chocolate Bar you will therefore also find information about the historical place and the statue outside its entrance.
That morning, after Tony's placed the street art on the wall below the J.P. Coen statue, things escalated as our Chief Chocolate Officer was arrested by the Dutch police for defacing a monumental building.
Fortunately, he was released later in the morning thanks to the Beurs van Berlage not pressing charges. The street art was temporary, and it has since been removed. In close consultation with the Beurs van Berlage, we have decided to place a joint statement next to the statue of J.P. Coen. In this way we can provide the audience with even better context behind the statue.
We cannot rewrite history, but we can write the future.