My dear coffee friend, come, sit. It’s time for us to have “the talk.”
It may seem like we’ve had this talk before—the one that involves race and how it intersects with coffee culture, but trust me when I say we’ve barely scratched the surface. We’re living in a time where having difficult conversations about our social climate are becoming unavoidable. They shouldn’t be avoided to begin with; people in the United States and beyond aren’t being afforded the most basic of rights in 2018.
Nearly two years ago, I presented an examination of what this looked like as a barista through my personal lens as a Black woman. Many of the things I experienced still stick with me. Some of them are haunting and others, just pure annoyances.
Since first publishing The Chocolate Barista in 2016, the resulting ripple effect has been mostly positive. I have been able to connect with other Black coffee professionals who knew my experience intimately. They were living it themselves, but many had never vocalized it. There’s now a strong, growing community of us supporting each other through camaraderie and amplification of each other’s ventures. We now have a Black man on the Barista Guild of America Executive Council—an historic first. Groups like I See You and the Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective are hosting events centering coffee professionals of color, driving home the point that we’re still fighting for visibility, representation, and access to opportunities in the industry.
And I put a strong emphasis on still. While there has never been more dialogue surrounding social issues in coffee, race rarely gets much airtime. More often than not, the role of race in coffee culture goes largely ignored. And yet, we have such a rich opportunity right now to change all that. To examine the role that race plays in issues across the coffee industry, from gender discrimination—you can’t ask Black women to pick which identity to fight for over the other—to issues of gentrification, identity, and the creation of global coffee shop culture.
The microphone is far too often passed over us when the opportunity for dialogue comes. We don’t want to be spoken for—we want to speak.
In a special live podcast event from yours truly, creative director Michelle Johnson (The Chocolate Barista) and produced by Sprudge Media Network, I invite you to come join a conversation about race and coffee culture. The panel-style discussion will cover a range of topics from workplace dynamics to the Black consumer experience, and also dive into how we make coffee culture all our own, led by us, for us.
This is Black Coffee.
The event takes place on Tuesday, April 24th from 6-9pm at the Clinton Street Theater, a classic cinema and live theater venue in the heart of Southeast Portland, Oregon. Ticket pre-sale is now available. Hosted by Ian Williams (Deadstock Coffee), Gio Fillari (Coffee Feed PDX), and myself, you’ll hear from Black coffee professionals and enthusiasts alike, all with unique perspectives that span intersectional identities and roles on the retail end of the value chain. Special guests include D’Onna Stubblefield (Counter Culture Coffee), O.M. Miles (IKAWA), Zael Ogwaro (Never Coffee), Adam JacksonBey (The Potter’s House), and Cameron Heath (Revelator Coffee Company).
We’re excited to partner up with several sponsors for this event, including La Marzocco USA, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Oatly, and The Ace Hotel Portland. Ticket proceeds will be donated to our charitable partners, Sankofa Collective and Brown Girl Rise.
Black Coffee tickets are $10 pre-sale, $15 at the door. We’re offering a limited number of VIP tickets that include an invite to the after party at Sprudge Studios, and a special “come down” event the following morning.
We hope you can join us April 24th in Portland! This could be the start of something special, and you’ll be able to hear it all in a podcast presentation following the event. Much more details and additional partners to be announced in the coming weeks. Follow Sprudge for more details.
Original poster art by Taylor McManus (@tmcmanusillustration) with many thanks.
Michelle Johnson (@thechocbarista) is the publisher of The Chocolate Barista, and the marketing director at Barista Hustle. Read more Michelle Johnson on Sprudge.