More than 30 years ago, Ben Cohen
enriched the palate of folks everywhere when he and long-time friend and partner, Jerry Greenfield, opened an ice cream parlor in Vermont. Ben & Jerry's frosty desserts have melted in mouths across the world, and the company is arguably the best loved ice cream maker on the planet.
Last night, the man responsible for so many eaten feelings joined viewers at Miami Beach Cinematheque
for a screening of Ingredients
and Q&A session with audience members in hopes of continuing to enrich lives, this time not with ice cream, but stamps and awareness.
The screening of the award-winning documentary, directed by Robert Bates, was part of the Cinematheque's Cinema Green Series
in collaboration with Environmental Coalition of Miami and the Beaches
. It was the first time Cohen would see the film, but definitely not the first time he'd heard of its subject matter. Since selling his company to Unilever in 2000, he's made the jump from ice cream CEO to activist/philanthropist/one super-pissed-off-at-the-government dude.
|Cohen and ECOMB committee|
"I was working on a campaign to shift national budget priorities out of the Pentagon and into education and healthcare and housing and poverty programs, and that was really hard. A lot harder than selling ice cream. It doesn't taste as good as ice cream; it's not as fun as ice cream; and going up against the Pentagon is tough. They're really big and they have a lot of heavy duty weapons and they have a lot of money, so compared to that, this campaign about getting money out of politics is incredibly popular. It's just about as popular as ice cream, really," Cohen told New Times about his major life-change.
The campaign he is specifically referring to is his latest project, Stamp Stampede
, which kicked off its national tour right here in Miami. The initiative's mission is to pass a constitutional amendment to "get money out of politics" and Cohen is doing it one dollar bill at a time.
With a mode of transport too whimsical to ignore and the assistance of Aaron Rubin, who will be driving the Stamp-O-Matic Stamp Mobile across the country, Cohen is leaving a trail of ink on every willing dollar.
"The system is referred to by a lot of people as legalized bribery, and it is...The amendment we're supporting says corporations are not people and money is not speech...So many environmental organizations and organizations interested in other issues as well, like the NAACP and the Sierra Club, are all starting to realize they're never going to really make any headway on the issues they're concerned about until we get money out of politics," Cohen said.
The Stamp Mobile is a 12-foot-high, 14-foot-long, 6-foot-wide, carnival spectacle where anyone can stick a buck in the slot and watch it go through the conveyor 'til it comes out the other side freshly stamped. Cohen's machine makes Willy Wonka look like a bitch.