On Friday, January 12th at Charlotte’s Latin American Contemporary Art (LaCa) Projects, Charlotte Coffee Collective will host an intersectionality panel led by Summit Coffee’s Coléa Henderson. The panel’s mission is to elevate marginalized voices within the Charlotte, North Carolina coffee community, providing an opportunity for coffee pros to listen and learn from the experience of their non-white and/or LGBTQ+ peers, who experience a unique set of overlapping challenges both in and out of the workplace. The event is free to attend; all that organizers ask is that attendees bring a writing utensil and an open mind.
This event happens Friday (tomorrow) as we go to press here at Sprudge—the event is all ages and requires no RSVP, with more information available via the event's Facebook page. Participating panelists include Lane Wilson of Summit Coffee, Maura Raymond of Amelie's French Bakery, Kenya Augerson of Not Just Coffee, Lara Americo of Comic Girl Coffee, and the aforementioned event leader, Coléa Henderson. To learn more in advance of the event I spoke to Henderson digitally from Charlotte.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Hi Coléa. Before we talk about the event, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m the Operations Manager at Summit Coffee-Huntersville. I’ve been in coffee for three years, and I enjoy my coffee with a few spoonfuls of education, a generous pour of intersectionality and inclusivity, and some steamed almond milk. When I’m not making coffee, I’m probably napping or practicing yoga.
How did you end up getting involved with Charlotte Coffee Collective?
My long-time friend, Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp, asked me to be one of the organizers of the Charlotte Coffee Collective and I realized that this was my chance to truly diversify the Charlotte specialty coffee scene. I wanted to create safe and welcoming spaces for people who exist in the same—and different—marginalized intersections I do, and for them to know that we have every right to take up as much space as we want in the community.
Can you tell me about the event?
The event is for the Charlotte’s specialty coffee community leaders, which tends to be a pretty homogeneous group of white cis/het men. While, obviously, there are Charlotte baristas who don't fit this mold, it can often be challenging to see their presence in the sea of monotony. The coffee professionals I invited to be on the panel, along with myself, are people who are members of the trans/queer community and/or are people of color who all have some sort of leadership role within the local specialty coffee community. We are a shift lead, a director of operations and education, a director of beverages, an operations manager, and an owner.
What does the term “intersectionality” mean—and what does it mean to you?
Intersectionality means making sure that literally everyone’s voices are not just heard but are regarded as valid and as part of the human experience. Equally.
“There are many, many different kinds of intersectional exclusions―not just black women, but other women of color. Not just people of color, but people with disabilities. Immigrants. LGBTQ people. Indigenous people. The way we imagine discrimination or disempowerment often is more complicated for people who are subjected to multiple forms of exclusion…The good news is that intersectionality provides us a way to see it.”—Kimberlé Crenshaw
What specific topics do you plan to discuss relating to intersectionality?
Primarily, we'll be discussing how to ensure that your employees and customers are safe from the everyday challenges they regularly face as part of a marginalized group of people. We’ll also be focusing on what we can tangibly do as people in power who are the employers and managers of what is hopefully a diverse staff of people.
Will there be any informational resources presented outside of the panel?
This discussion will take place after we front load attendees with definitions of terms that they may encounter during the rest of the panel. We'll also finish the night out with a Q&A to make sure we didn't miss anything.
What inspired you to host this event?
The overwhelming homogeneity of the Charlotte specialty coffee community can be exhausting to exist in, since I'm constantly surrounded by it and expected to function highly in it, yet almost never feel the honest reciprocity of the community trying to understand lives other than theirs. That is what inspired me to create it.
Why is this event so important, especially in the Charlotte coffee community?
Charlotte coffee needs diversity because marginalized people are actually the majority of the world.
Are there any sponsors or people you want to shout out to?
The panelists who are willing to put their existence on display for the betterment of the community: Maura, Kenya, Lara, and Lane.
Event poster image by Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp. Photo of Coléa Henderson used by permission.