As Starbucks closed its doors to some 8,000 stores this afternoon for staff-wide racial bias training following the unwarranted arrest on April 12 of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks, several prominent coffee purveyors and activists gathered for a roundtable discussion and black-owned coffee shop tour under the banner #coffeewhileblack.
The roundtable, held at Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Philadelphia and followed by trips to other black-owned shops, was organized in part by Oakland-based roasting and retail company Red Bay Coffee, whose staff is composed entirely of people of color, women and formerly incarcerated people.
While issues of race, racism and supporting the black business community specifically were addressed throughout the roundtable, the discussion also resembled a master class in entrepreneurship, with panelists who have managed to operate socially conscious, financially sustainable and community-supportive businesses in a specialty coffee landscape in which the vast majority of coffee businesses and related supply businesses are white-owned.
The entire stream of the roundtable is available on Facebook, with the conversation getting going in earnest around the 12:00 mark.
The conversation touched on a number of practical considerations for any specialty coffee business owner, including: advice on how to maximize impact on the local community or the black-owned business community through purchasing decisions; strategies on how to find vendors who live up to your company’s values; hiring practices; opportunities offered through cooperative economics; how to support under-advantaged people or people of color throughout the supply chain; and strategies toward consumer education related to specialty coffee.
The panel included Red Bay’s Keba Konte, Amalgam’s Ariell Johnson, Blew Kind of Philadelphia’s Fanny Lou’s Porch, longtime activist Pam Africa, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill of Philadelphia’s Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, and Shantrell P. Lewis, the co-founder of the site Shoppe Black, which just happens to have a handy list of 47 black-owned coffee shops and tea houses that might provide consumers some alternatives to shopping under the green siren.