Thursday, October 1st, 2020 marked the launch date for the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity, “a robust, global community of coffee advocates driven to bring about more equity and diversity into the coffee community.” This momentous moment that took place in that most 2020 of formats: the Zoom Webinar.
Across a focused hour of presentation and conversation, CCRE founder Phyllis Johnson outlined the organization's intentionality, introduced the coalition's global slate of board members, and took open questions from attendees. “There isn’t an organization like the CCRE that exists in the industry before today,” Johnson told the group. “We talk about trying to produce better coffee, working towards farmer empowerment, gender equality, all these things, but nobody is looking at race; it is the elephant in the room, the root of so many challenges we face.”
“We are like no other organization,” Johnson added. “We unapologetically look at how race has played a role in coffee’s history, and the absence of how racial equity has spread through the supply chain in consuming countries.”
CCRE inaugural Board Members announced at the event include:
Levi Booser, Bellwether Coffee, USA
Jsoiane Cotrim, IWCA Brazil Founder, Brazil
Matthew Daks, Volcafe Specialty, USA
David Dávila, Davila Kafe, USA/Guinea
Areli Barrea de Grodski, Little Waves Coffee Roasters, USA
Brian Gaffney, PricewaterhouseCoopers, USA
Gilbert Gatali, Roots Origin, Rwanda
Cheryl Hung, Dig Insights, Canada
Phyllis Johnson, BD Imports, USA
Tymika Lawrence, Atlas Coffee/NKG, USA
Harper McConnell, Starbucks, USA
Candice Madison, Royal Coffee, USA
Mbula Musau, Utake Coffee, Kenya
Brett Struwe, Sustenance Coffee, USA
Andi Trindle Mersch, Philz Coffee, USA
Stephen Zimmerman, Coffee Enthusiast, USA
Guest speakers at the event included Ezra D. Baker, host of the No Free Refills podcast; David Robinson, son of Jackie and Rachel Robinson and founder of Sweet Unity Farms in Tanzania; and Cindy Ludviksen, Chief Commercial and Experience Officer of the Specialty Coffee Association.
Johnson and the team at CCRE, including Candice Madison and Brian Gaffney, laid out a one year timeline for the coalition's growth and action, including hiring its first staffer and undertaking a range of educational and outreach initiatives. “If there's anything to take away from 2020 it's that we have to engage every single member along the supply chain,” said Madison. “Interrogate your own privilege and bias. Farmers aren't this homogenous group that we in coffee hold up. These are individuals.”
“We are trying to help color in the consumption side of coffee,” added Gaffney, “because it drives equity across the whole value chain. A $3 latte is not just ‘Stuff White People Like'.”
Also announced at the event are a range of social media accounts through which the coffee industry and coffee drinking public can follow along with the organization's work. They include a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn presence, along with a general inquiry email.
“We are not a malicious group, we are your partners,” said Johnson at the event's conclusion. “We're here to make things better.”
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network.