Festival features music, films and fair trade fun

By Kristin Riegel

Tired of the same old parties on campus? In need of some hot accessories before you leave for Spring break? Want to meet new people and enjoy good music? Then on Saturday, March 1 the Fair Trade Festival hosted by the Dancing Monkey Institute is the place for you to be.The Dancing Monkey Institute (DMI), a non-profit alternative trade organization based in St. Paul, is dedicated to more than just selling fair-trade artisan crafts; it is about changing American’s consumer tendencies and creating a culture in which fair-trade is seen as a standard for all purchases.

On March 1 from noon to midnight, the Dancing Monkey Institute will be hosting a Fair Trade Festival which will feature food, films, live music, and the jewelry from the collaborative efforts of Dara Hoppe ’10 and SAFRA (Seeds and Handicrafts Made from Amazonian Forest Resources).

SAFRA, a women’s cooperative in the Eastern Amazon, was founded in the summer of 2007, when Hoppe traveled to a rural agrarian reform settlement as part of the Kathryn Davis Wasserman “100 Projects for Peace” program. In addition to founding SAFRA, Hoppe hosted a series of jewelry making workshops that taught women how to create jewelry from seeds collected from the Amazon rainforest.

Despite Hoppe’s project only being funded for the summertime, Hoppe stated that sustainability was an important aspect of the project from the very beginning.

“The ultimate goal is for me is to set up a relationship with fair trade stores so that the co-op I started in the Amazon will continue to have a store to sell their products,” Hoppe said.

In order to solidify the sustainability of her project, Hoppe has developed relationships with cooperatives such as DMI that promote fair-trade. Partnering with Mark O’Brien, a member of DMI’s Board of Directors, Hoppe has supported initiatives to help change American consumerist tendencies.

“I’ve formed this partnership with him [O’Brien] to help achieve these goals he and the DMI have . . . at least on the small scale,” said Hoppe.

According to Hoppe, one of the DMI’s long-term goals is to create a fair-trade department store which would sell everyday fair-trade products along with clothing and artisan crafts.

“This [warehouse] could be somewhere you could go for all of your needs,” Hoppe said. “It would be somewhere where you could be guaranteed that the workers who made these things were paid fair wages and worked in humane conditions.”

Although the department store idea has not moved past the design stage, the DMI is nevertheless pulling out all of the stops to celebrate fair-trade at their Fair Trade Festival.

“The event is going to be really cool,” said Hoppe. “There are going to be orgs selling fair-trade items, a panel discussion on the Columbian Free Trade Agreement, film screenings, and two live Samba bands. I would definitely encourage everyone to come and check it out.”

Transportation will be provided to and from the Fair Trade Festival. Vans will be leaving from Weyerhauser Hall at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, and 8:00pm. For more information about the event or to learn more about the Dancing Monkey Institute, visit dmifairtrade.org.