Three D.C. pastry chefs have launched an effort that’s become an international bake sale raising money for nonprofit community groups working against racism.

Through Bakers Against Racism, professional chefs and home bakers are making and selling desserts, then donating profits to a group of their choice that supports black people in their community. The project was launched the first week in June and has more than 3,000 bakers in more than 200 cities in 16 countries.

On the first day they put the word out on social media, 100 chefs signed up.

“Calling all bakers, chefs, home bakers & cooks,” reads the Instagram post, which went up June 4. “We are armed to fight racism with the tools we know how to utilize, our FOOD.”

Days later, there were more than 1,000 participating chefs.

“After that, it just snowballed out of control,” said Paola Velez, executive pastry chef at Kith/Kin on the Wharf, who with two other D.C. chefs started what might be the world’s biggest bake sale.

View this post on Instagram

CALLING ALL BAKERS, CHEFS, HOME BAKERS & COOKS!!!!!!!!! @bakersagainstracism is a call to action: to fight and stand up against the unjust treatment of BLACK people in the United States. We are armed to fight racism with the tools we know how to utilize, our FOOD. JOIN forces with us virtually on all social media platforms launching pre-sales on June 15th and pickups on the 20th to stand up to injustice. We are asking for national participation! You only have to donate 150pcs of a dessert to sell, and then donate the majority of the proceeds to a charity that supports black lives. Your small contribution can create BIG and lasting change. For graphics, documents and resources email us at bakersagainstracism@gmail.com *Art by Chef @robrubba * #jointhemovement #blacklivesmatter #BAKERSAGAINSTRACISM

A post shared by #BLACKLIVESMATTER (@bakersagainstracism) on

It works like this: Bakers contact the group on its website to join in the bake sale. Bakers Against Racism then sends participants instructions on starting and precautions to take during the pandemic. Each baker is expected to make a minimum of 150 pastries or other goodies and send a majority of the proceeds to an organization that promotes social justice in their community. Once all the baked goods are sold, bakers will record on the website how much they’ve raised.

Bakers are sending donations to local chapters of Black Lives Matter, nearby nonprofits and organizations that support communities of color.

View this post on Instagram

#bakersagainstracismparis

A post shared by #BLACKLIVESMATTER (@bakersagainstracism) on

Raisa Aziz, a home baker who lives in Northeast Washington, is preparing to make 250 almond shortbread cookies at home and donate the proceeds to the Okra Project — which provides home-cooked meals for black transgender people — as well as the Loveland Foundation, which helps black women and girls seeking therapy.

“In these times, but also always, I do feel that we should be using the time, talents and resources we have, however we might be, to give back in some way,” Aziz said.

The bake sale ends Saturday, by which time all of the pies, tarts, croissants and other sweet treats should have been be made, sold and delivered or picked up by the customers.

The idea for the project came in late May after Willa Pelini, a pastry chef who works at Emilie’s on Capitol Hill, saw the success Velez had with a pop-up Dominican doughnut shop at Union Market in March called Doña Dona. Velez donated a portion of her proceeds to a group that provides legal counsel for immigrants in the D.C. area.

Pelini messaged Velez about possibly teaming up to raise money for Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Velez had raised $1,100 dollars through her work with Doña Dona in May but said “it wasn’t enough to make change.” Velez and Pelini wanted others to join for more impact.

“It can’t be just us. Let’s take a risk. Let’s involve other people. Let’s decentralize it and make sure that other bakers can join it, because all of us are furloughed. All of us are unemployed,” Velez said, recounting what she told Pelini.

Velez created a Google Docs folder with information to share with any pastry chef or home baker who wanted to be involved. She called up Rob Rubba, the chef and a partner at the not-yet-open Oyster Oyster in Shaw who has a background in graphic design, to create a logo. After a few days of planning, the three pastry chefs launched their idea.

So far, they’ve raised more than $78,000 from donations and T-shirt sales, Velez said. But most bakers won’t report their sales until after Saturday, when most orders will have been completed. Meanwhile, the group’s hashtag on Instagram, #bakersagainstracism, has more than 6,800 photos of pies, pastries and cookies from pastry chefs around the world who are asking their followers to place orders and donate.

View this post on Instagram

#bakersagainstracismnyc

A post shared by #BLACKLIVESMATTER (@bakersagainstracism) on

“It takes zero dollars to start something like this. I used Google Forms, you know?” Velez said.

The team’s Instagram account for the project has more than 28,000 followers, but chapters also are popping up in Berlin, Kansas City, New York, Paris and San Francisco to help organize the effort. Velez said people on five continents are participating.

Rachel Anderson, a pastry chef in Saint Paul, Minn., learned about the project a few days ago on Instagram from other women in the restaurant industry. Before the statewide coronavirus shutdown in March, Anderson, 33, was a pastry chef at a restaurant in St. Paul, but now she’s investing her time in her small business, a wholesale bakery called Vikings and Goddesses. She is using donated rhubarb from a local nonprofit to make and sell about 100 rhubarb crisp pies through a coffee shop with locations around the Twin Cities. Each pie sells for $35, but people are welcome to donate more.

“We honestly have such a small business that we’re trying to just stay afloat,” Anderson said, adding that she has a staff of three, plus her husband. “When this came up, I feel like it was a good use of our skills and what we know how to do.”

All proceeds from the rhubarb pies are going to Appetite for Change, a nonprofit that grows and makes food, distributes meals and offers job training in North Minneapolis. Anderson said the bakery has raised about $2,000.

In Brooklyn, Auzerais Bellamy is participating in Bakers Against Racism through her small business, Blondery, which sells mail-order blondies. A portion of the proceeds from the store’s Brooklyn Blackout blondies, which Bellamy describes as a “death by chocolate,” is donated to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Bellamy, 29, said sales have been through the roof in the past month, driven by people seeking to support black-owned businesses like hers. Blondery sent an order to Netflix last week, she said. Bellamy said she’s “super thankful” for the campaign and doesn’t want to stop the momentum.

“I hope that after Bakers Against Racism is done, people continue to support us,” Bellamy said. “It shouldn’t be a trend. It should be something that we do all year round.”

In the District, Rubba, Pelini and Velez are focusing all their efforts on Saturday, when thousands of participants will be baking, selling and delivering their orders.

Once the massive transcontinental bake sale is behind them, Velez said, Bakers Against Racism will continue to work to promote black causes and black-owned businesses.

“It’ll adapt and pivot just like the rest of everything in this world,” she said. “But I don’t know what that looks like yet.”

Read more:

Have a story for Inspired Life? Here’s how to submit.