Crystal Cossette Knight was shaken by the death of George Floyd earlier this summer. She saw a need to raise awareness about racial injustice, so she baked up Justice Pies.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a mother, wife, and theatre nerd. I’m married to the crazy talented Jeff Knight, and together we are trying our hardest to raise our kids to be good humans. Our daughter Olivia is 11 and our son Adrian is 8. I work full-time for FBS, the creators of Flexmls, and my side gig is Sugarplum, my baking business. I’m also an ensemble member of Theatre B and I love all things musical theatre. If anyone wants to have a long discussion about Hamilton, I’m your girl!
How did you get started baking?
Like many people, I had always done some basic baking. Chocolate chip cookies, brownies, boxed cake mixes here and there. About 15 years ago my aunt contacted me with a part-time job opportunity I could do from home in my spare time. She owns the Blue Ribbon Group in Minneapolis, which coordinates and runs state fair baking competitions across the country for clients like Pillsbury, Gold Medal Flour, and Ghiradelli. I took state fair winning recipes, baked them at home, updated the recipes as needed, and took photos of the baked goods for use on the statefairrecipes.com website and to provide to the clients. It was during this time that I made my first pie from scratch and I loved the process so much that I just kept baking.
When you think pie you don’t also often think of justice. What inspired you to bring the two together?
Being bi-racial, yet white-passing, I have been thinking a lot about my own identity and my own biases since the murder of George Floyd. After discovering the Racism in ND Schools Instagram account, I thought back to the racism I’ve experienced and how I’ve stayed quiet about those experiences. I realized that I have not been actively anti-racist as an adult and I was feeling a bit helpless about what I could do to make a change, especially amidst the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Then I remembered an Instagram account called The Sweet Feminist and how she decorates cakes with feminist messages. While I do bake and decorate cakes, I gravitate more towards decorating pies. It occurred to me that an instagram account that shows pies decorated with the names of all the black individuals killed by police could bring awareness to just how big of a problem we have in this country. It’s going to be a lot of pies, sadly. While discussing my plan with my husband, I asked him what we should do with all of the pies because as much as I love pie, I didn’t want to actually eat them all! I considered giving them away, and then I had the idea that I could bring awareness and sell the pies to raise money for organizations that are fighting racism.
What is the mission of Justice Pies?
To bring awareness of all the black lives lost from police brutality because of systemic racism in our country.
What does justice mean to you?
To me, justice means two things: 1) That all people are treated equally, and 2) That those in power (in this case, police officers) who unjustly take the life of another person should be punished accordingly. I can’t claim that I am an expert when it comes to speaking about social injustices or the law, but I do have a heart, and it has been utterly heartbreaking to hear story after story about black individuals dying at the hands of the police. It’s become pretty evident that those in the BIPOC community are not treated equally on many different levels, especially when it comes to how they are treated by the police. In addition, we’ve seen police officers not charged for these murders. Breonna Taylor’s murder is the most recent example of this.
Who inspires you to do this work?
There are a number of people. I’ve watched my husband start projects, collaborate with others, and be a part of numerous organizations all to better our city. For example, his Fargo ASL bike rack design has helped bring awareness to the deaf and hard of hearing community. As a white man, he is digging in to his own identity and giving space to BIPOC individuals when possible. He’s had hard conversations with me about race and is incredibly supportive of Justice Pies. I’m also inspired by my grandmother, mother, and sister, all of whom are very strong women who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. My sister is an activist and I ran the idea of Justice Pies by her to make sure I was going about it the right way. Finally, I would be remiss to not mention the many BIPOC people in our community who have always been speaking up about race issues and who work to create a better world for everyone, people like Prairie Rose Seminole, Rachel Stone, Wess Philome and the whole One Fargo team, and the Black Lives Matter Fargo-Moorhead group.
There’s that saying “think globally, act locally.” Racism and police brutality are issues that affect many communities. How do you see your work with Justice Pies in Fargo having a bigger effect?
If one person sees my Instagram account with the names and faces of the many black people who should be alive today, and they realize this is a much bigger problem than they thought, then I’ve succeeded in my goal of bringing awareness. I also hope that I can inspire others to do whatever they can to take a stand against racism. If you feel helpless, like I did, and want to speak up against racism, remember that you can think outside of the box about how you can amplify your voice and the voices of others.
Where can people purchase a Justice Pie?
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Instagram account. If you want to be added to the list of people who would like to purchase a pie, just let me know. When I have pies ready to bake, I reach out to the people on the list to see if they would like to buy one, that way the pies are as fresh as possible. I bake 6-inch pies (a perfect size if you want a pie to yourself!) and they can be purchased for $20, but you can donate more if you would like. Proceeds generated will be donated to organizations that are supporting our BIPOC communities and fighting racism.