Both Ben and Jerry were in Durham this morning. On the campus of North Carolina Central University, the ice-cream impresarios announced their Vermont-based company’s latest flavor: Empower Mint, a blend of peppermint ice cream, fudge brownies, and fudge swirls.
Empower Mint is part of a larger effort the company is making this summer to register voters in states where voting rights have been rolled back. North Carolina is one such state.
“The biggest fraud of all is the idea that voter fraud exists,” co-founder Ben Cohen told a rain-soaked crowd at the Greek Bowl, adding that there have been just two cases of voter fraud in North Carolina this century. “It’s a thinly veiled attempt to create a roadblock between black and Latino voters and the voting booth.”
Cohen went on: “As Martin Luther King said, there comes a time when silence is betrayal. North Carolina once had proud voting-rights laws: a long early-voting period, same-day registration, pre-registration for sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. This law” — HB 589 — “gets rid of all that. North Carolina is justly proud of being first in flight. Let’s not let it be marred by being first in discrimination. By releasing this flavor here today, we’re hoping to make North Carolina first in the empowerment of its citizens.”
Co-founder Jerry Greenfield noted that the company would be partnering with local groups across the country with two primary goals: “the reauthorizing of the Civil Rights Act and the actual issue of registering voters.” Kiosks for registering voters will be set up in Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops, and the company’s trucks will tour the country this summer, offering information about voter registration along with free ice cream.
Here in North Carolina, the company will be working with the NAACP and Common Cause, among others.
In introducing Cohen and Greenfield, the NAACP’s Rev. William Barber noted the date: May 17. “We chose this day on purpose. In 1954, this is the day the Supreme Court overturned the flawed, racist principle of ‘separate but equal,’” Barber said. He reminded the crowd that the NAACP’s appeal of the HB 589 ruling had been fast-tracked to federal court in Richmond. “June 21,” Barber said. “Remember that date, too. We’ll be up in Richmond, making our voices heard.”
Here’s a close-up of the pint. No word yet on when it will be available in stores.
More on Empower Mint, and the company’s voting-rights efforts, here.