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Keti Koti should be a national day off

30 juni 2020

On Wednesday July 1st it's Keti Koti. Therefore all Tony's who work in our offices in the Netherlands and Germany will have the day off. Huh?! Yeah, maybe that went a little fast.. we'll explain. On Wednesday July 1st is Keti Koti. Now you might think, Keti what? Keti Koti, which is Surinamese for "broken chains.”

Keti Koti marks the date when slavery was abolished in Suriname and in the Dutch Antilles in 1863. However, enslaved people would not be fully free until 1873, after a mandatory 10-year transition period during which time they were required to work on the plantations for minimal pay and without the state sanctioned torture that was part of slavery. In the Netherlands, Suriname and in The Dutch Antilles historical slavery is commemorated and the abolition of slavery is celebrated on July 1st.

Our mission is to end modern slavery and illegal child labor in the cocoa industry. Slavery and modern slavery are certainly not the same thing, but the inequality in the cocoa chain today is a direct result of our past colonial rule and oppression. As a Dutch brand, we feel a responsibility to raise awareness of the other side of Dutch history. Our Dutch slavery past is one of the largest human rights violations we know. What happened then is terrible and should never happen again. No form of slavery is justifiable. Not then, and not now.

July 1st is a national commemoration in the Netherlands, but not a national day off. We believe that it should be, in order to recognize our shared past and celebrate freedom together. A day to recognize our responsibility as Dutch people and the inflicted pain on the black population, which has been scarred for life by this history. From the Dutch government, this would also be an acknowledgment of the often-concealed slavery past, and a first step towards making apologies and taking full responsibility for all harm caused then, and the negative effects it has on society today.

We have decided not to wait for government recognition and action, but to take responsibility ourselves. We call upon the whole industry and governments to do the same. In the US, Tony's now have the day off on Juneteenth– also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day – a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who were enslaved in the United States. In the United Kingdom Tony’s are free on International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on 23rd of August.

The team is encouraged to use these days to examine how our history affects us today and especially how we can do things better.

Image by Brian Elstak

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