Ten Questions with Peace on Fifth founder London Coe.
By Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
Not every store offers an education while you shop, but that’s exactly what Peace on Fifth does. Through Peace on Fifth, founder London Coe sells fair-trade gifts and slave-free chocolate while educating its customers on human trafficking. We sat down with Coe to discuss why she started the store and why it’s important for the Dayton community.
1. I became interested in fighting human trafficking after hearing a lecture on the subject. It turns out I knew about the subject, but I wasn’t aware of that term. Any time you hear about crop workers in Florida picketing to receive their wages or massage parlors shut down for prostitution, there is human trafficking involved.
2. Human trafficking involves many kinds of labor and sex. The most popular news items of late have been about sex trafficking. The typical age of entry for girls is 12 to 14 and for boys is nine to 11.
3. Two of the biggest factors contributing to human trafficking, in particular labor trafficking, are poverty and lack of education. Poverty directly impacts someone’s ability to speak on their own behalf. Lack of education also directly impacts the propensity for someone to be trafficked.
4. Women and girls are hit hardest by human trafficking. When females have access to education, they go from being a piece of livestock to a piece of pride. When men earn enough money to educate their daughters, this becomes a mark of wealth and success in some
5. My work in labor trafficking is about educating people that whatever you buy, it costs what it costs. The only way to reduce the cost to the consumer is to not pay someone involved in production, and this often means not paying the poorest laborers. This creates and sustains poverty, desecrates communities and invites slavery.
6. I didn’t want to stop spending money. Part of the pride of this country is that we are consumers fueling our economy and the economies of countries around the world. Instead, I wanted to change how I spend and encourage others to do the same, so I started Peace on Fifth.
7. I started researching products that were not made with slave labor. This required me to trace a product back through all stages of its production and supply chain to be sure that no slave labor went into it.
8. Our first product was a bar of chocolate from the Philippines that we could trace back to the bean. Another product was soap that didn’t contain palm oil. Palm oil is problematic because, even if it is grown sustainably, its cultivation strips areas that grow palm oil of their resources, leaving the land and the people barren. This forces workers into slavery.
9. Initially, the store was only supposed to be open for two months. I put my own money behind the project and said, “If I ever can’t cover expenses, we’ll close.” That was three years ago. And although I haven’t paid myself, our doors are still open.
10. In our gift store, every hand that creates the soap, the candle or the chocolate we sell, was a hand working in love and freedom instead of fear and slavery. Shopping at Peace on Fifth means you share in that freedom, and, if only for that purchase, you end your participation in slavery. Where you shop is a behavior you can change. I’m a big believer in changing the world through your own behavior.