By Lorraine Glowczak
Imagine a smooth, cool Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that contains equal amounts of dark chocolate, white chocolate and butterscotch, a variety of nuts with a hint of the colors red and blue sparkling within it. The name of that ice cream flavor is “Unity” and it is so delicious it is difficult to not eat the whole pint. It may even be tasty enough that our eyes will open to what we all have in common rather than those few things in which we vehemently disagree.
Rebecca Cummings, First Vice Commander of the American Legion as well as a member of the Windham Town Council, invented this sweet concoction after she heard President Trump calling for unity among the nation. “When the President asked us to unify, I was inspired and tried to do my part,” Cummings explained.
Her inspiration to narrow the great divide among the nation created a vision to invent a good-natured and delightfully charming way to encourage unity. Cummings knew she had an idea. How can a person not be joyous and more agreeable when eating ice cream?
Cummings got to work immediately on her ice cream flavor. After testing it on her family, who most likely ate too much of the tasty creation and approved with certainty, sent her idea to Ben and Jerry’s for consideration. This was her pitch to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream in February 2017:
“Introducing my ice cream flavor, ‘Unity’. Equal parts of red and blue to represent the two major political parties. Equal amounts of dark chocolate, white chocolate and butterscotch to represent our beautiful and blending skin tones and a couple of nuts because each political party, and our own families, have a few.”
When Cumming sent in her concept, she had also applied and received a provisional patent. Briefly, a provisional patent application has a pendency lasting 12 months from the date the provisional application is filed. It is to establish priority rights as soon as you have an invention that can be patented. For more information on provisional patents, contact an attorney.
Crickets. That’s the sound and response Cummings received from the well-known ice cream manufacturer recognized for its advocacy and creating positive and social change.
Not to be deterred by their silence, she sent her ice cream idea to other larger companies. Still, there was no response. “My family said maybe my politically motivated flavors weren’t as clever as I thought,” Cummings said.
Discouraged, she discontinued the provisional patent which expired early this year, and stopped making Unity ice cream, believing that her family was correct in their assessment.
But then, it was officially announced this past Thursday, November 1 that Ben and Jerry’s created a flavor reflecting the conflicting perception of our times, “Pecan Resist”. This was their press release announcement:
“Together, Pecan Resist! Alongside all those nutty chunks, this pint packs a powerful message under its lid: together, we can build a more just and equitable tomorrow. We can peacefully resist the Trump administration’s regressive and discriminatory policies and build a future that values inclusivity, equality, and justice for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, refugees, and immigrants. Pecan Resist supports four organizations that are working on the front lines of the peaceful resistance, building a world that supports their values.”
It is obvious, and perhaps rightfully so, that Cummings felt betrayed. “The flavor, ‘Pecan Resist’ includes many of the same ingredients as my ‘Unity’ flavor.” Cumming said. “If this was a song, the similarities would be obvious. I can’t prove Ben & Jerry’s stole my idea - or was inspired to make a divisive version of my creation but I can prove that I created ‘Unity’ and that I reached out to Ben & Jerry’s (and others) to do what our President asked. My flavor was about taking our differences and coming together to create something sweet. That’s what America is all about and that is what makes us great.”
A call to Ben and Jerry’s regarding why they chose the concept of “Pecan Resist” over the more unifying and positive term of “Unity”, has yet to be answered as of this printing.
Despite her disappointment, Cummings refuses to have her passion and spirit dampened. “Now I have bragging rights in my family,” she joked. “I’ve got a wicked Mainer story to tell at Thanksgivings – although perhaps slightly exaggerated with a few embellishments. It will definitely be told in a Maine accent.”
But on a more serious note, Cummings would like to ask everyone to reflect on her experience. “Average and everyday people are doing whatever they can to heal and unify their families and their communities. Sometimes the naysayers are a little louder and have more limelight, but it is your choice as to which path you choose. People need to ask themselves, which flavor of life they will choose. One random act of kindness or one sweet idea could change it all. As for me – I will choose unity.”