How a DC-area business owner uses ice cream, social media to support community

When Victoria Lai, owner of D.C.-area dessert shop Ice Cream Jubilee, first learned a gunman killed eight people at three Atlanta-area spas last month, she became saddened at the realization of another mass shooting.

Shortly thereafter, Lai recalled reading that one of the police officers said the shooter was having “a bad day” and joked about the “China virus” on his Facebook page. Then, it became personal.

“It was chilling to realize that a police officer might see an Asian woman, like me, for being Chinese before seeing her as a victim or as someone who needs help,” Lai told WTOP.

Immediately, Lai knew she needed to find a way to support the Asian American community.

It’s a position she has found herself in before, starting last May, when former President Donald Trump called the novel coronavirus the “China virus” or “Kung Flu.”

Ever since, Lai has donated some of the sales from her Asian American inspired flavors to the nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Lai, who launched Ice Cream Jubilee after originally making ice cream in her kitchen, has been an advocate for all communities of late.

The shop, with locations in D.C. and Northern Virginia, has also donated to causes such as Black Lives Matter and provided ice cream to first responders during the pandemic, she said.

And in a recent Instagram post, Lai said she’s planning to donate 10% of all sales of Asian ice cream flavors to Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“When our community is hurting, because there are tragedies that befall us, whether it’s a virus shutdown or racially motivated attacks, we want to be there to support everybody,” Lai said.

“I think that it’s my role as a business owner, especially as an ice cream store owner, to show that no voice is too small to speak up against racism.”

While Lai said there hasn’t been “any uptick in negativity at Ice Cream Jubilee” in the last month, or, more broadly, the last year, she said she has experienced microaggressions throughout her life.

But instead of detailing her experiences, which she fears would “impose my perception of what happened to me onto other people,” Lai uses her ice cream and social media platforms to support the community.

Last May, when Lai said the rhetoric around the coronavirus resulted in a spike in hate crimes, she drew from her cultural experiences to introduce new seasonal flavors.

Now, the flavor lineup includes Red Bean Almond Cookie, Matcha Green Tea, Citrus Sichuan Peppercorn, Roasted Barley Tea and Coconut Lychee Lime.

In a social media post after the March 16 Atlanta shooting, Lai shared statistics from AAJC, writing “silence is unacceptable.” She also sent an email to customers with the subject line “We support anti-racist initiatives.”

In addition to using her platforms to spark meaningful conversations, Lai caters her flavor lineup to current events. She recently introduced a cherry blossom-inspired flavor and announced plans to support the Nationals with baseball season underway.

For Lai, Ice Cream Jubilee is more than an ice cream shop. It’s a chance to support the D.C. community.

“If I can use my ice cream as a platform to demonstrate that we all in our little way can make the world a better place by raising a little bit of money, by voicing support for a just society, by bringing up conversation and showing people where to find resources that they need to learn more, then everybody can,” Lai said.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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