Oakland's Fortune Cookie Factory supports, educates community with Black Lives Matter solidarity cookies

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- During a time when conversations about race can be uncomfortable, Oakland Fortune Cookie Factory in the East Bay is stepping outside it's comfort zone in showing solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement, one cookie at a time.

Inside their boarded-up storefront along 12th Street in Oakland's Chinatown, if you pay close attention through the hum of machines that are more than sixty years old, you'll see the Fortune Cookie Factory is going through somewhat of a renaissance.

"We make everything by hand. It's extremely labor-intensive process," says Alicia Wong, who with her husband Alex Issvoran run the factory with her family by their side.

But amid the sea of batter and familiar looking cookies we are used to, in their traditional folded crescent shape, there are cookies of a different color. Meticulously tended by immigrant women the factory employs.

"We want to change what people think and how people see a fortune cookie," says Alicia who continues on to say "The fortune cookie itself I believe can be a vehicle for anyone for anything. Unlike any other dessert out there, it can encapsulate an idea and spread it out there."

The couple lead me to a side room where rows of brown and black cookies line a sheet pan, ready to be drizzled with chocolate, or stenciled with the shorthand of BLM or a fist raised high in the air. The typical cookie has become a Solidarity Cookie.

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"The Black community has been suffering centuries of injustice and violence, so it is I believe everyone's responsibility to fight that. We wanted to take action and help this movement, so we developed a fortune cookie specifically for this movement."

But there's more to this cookie than what's on the outside. (Special Belgain chocolate and acivated charcoal.) It's what's on the inside that's starting a conversation.

"When you open it, not only are you rewarded with a delicious treat you know there's a thought-provoking message on the inside," says Alicia.

Quotes from civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and from the book "How to be an anti-racist" and other resources to get educated.

Jenny Leung, executive director of the Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco believes that through art and culture, such as a fortune cookie a conversation can begin.

"There's a lot of tension in the Black and Asian communities, but it's from a lack of understanding. Art and culture is a great starting point to have a conversation and it's a way for people to talk about really big issues like discrimination and racism in a way that's non-confrontational."

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Not only will Alicia and her husband hand out the Solidarity Cookies to protesters on Juneteeth and other upcoming marches, but fifty percent of proceeds will be donated to groups like the NAACP, charities such as the Innocence Project and local community organizations.

It's their way of showing this Chinese American creation is not just a snack or after dinner treat. But a vehicle to bring people together.

"If you were a person in America, it is your sole duty and responsibility to help your fellow citizens no matter what race.," said Alicia, who then mentions she is in the process of translating the quotes and messages inside the Solidarity Cookies into Chinese so they can be read by more people.

You can learn more about Oakland's Fortune Cookie Factory and order cookies directly here.

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