June 11, 2021
Today, marks one year since publishing the open letter to the U.S. coffee industry on racism.
The letter was a call to action. During ongoing tragedy and racial unrest, I asked for your consideration of the underrepresentation and state of Black individuals in the U.S. coffee industry, as well as an examination of their current day and historical contributions.
This generation rightfully stood up, rejected empty solidarity, and called out actions that were performative or meaningless. I’m grateful to those of you who called out companies that attempted allyship without having a leg to stand on, holding up past records of harm and complicity. You demanded receipts for claims of ownership.
Although difficult, such actions were necessary. They placed our industry on notice, and the message was clear: Racial equity is a must.
What I Am Doing
Over this past year, I hope that you’ve gained greater insight and accepted opportunities to stand against anti-Blackness and racism. We can all do something, and together we can do much more.
We made some changes at BD Imports: I carved out a few hours in my weekly schedule to mentor entrepreneurs, many of whom are Black individuals. We became more intentional about engaging business opportunities and seeking out services and relationships from Black-owned companies, or those who exemplified diversity and inclusion in some meaningful way.
We considered racial equity in our supply partners, as racism and oppression extends beyond U.S. borders. While staying committed to working at home, we understand that it is a global challenge.
I continued to write and speak on the topic as much as my schedule allowed. My company’s greatest achievement was employing a talented recent graduate from a Historically Black College and University who happens to be my daughter, Maya. This young lady was my inspiration for writing the original letter, as well as this follow-up.
Last but not least, as a result of the open letter, I founded a nonprofit: The Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity.
What We Are Doing Together
I never planned to leave this work to you alone, my dear coffee friends. In the letter, I said that this work takes all of us, and many of you agreed. Fifteen incredible individuals joined me in taking on this challenge, agreeing to help build a foundation for the CCRE by serving on the organization’s board of directors.
The CCRE’s vision is simple and clear: We envision racial equity in the U.S. coffee industry.
Since our launch last October, we’ve been busy building a framework for a solid organization. This work is noncompetitive; it is collaborative with authenticity at its core. It has brought together some unlikely partnerships, resulting in some of the following initiatives, activities and reflections. These are things we can do together:
- Though our webinar series, we dispelled the idea that Black and Brown individuals are missing and without interest in coffee. We engaged the young, the experienced and everyone in between in our discussions, and they all had valuable perspectives to share.
- Black coffee entrepreneurs are entering the industry and expanding.
- We have established a scholarship and received funding to showcase the contributions from the past while supporting efforts going forward.
- Next week, we will be announcing a racial equity program with a large green coffee trading company.
- There has been an increase in companies developing programs to support BIPOC entrepreneurs. Diversity and inclusion task forces are coming together; buyers are examining their supply partners; contributions are being made to support equity-driven programs.
- We are reading new books, listening to podcasts and developing curriculums to unlearn what we’ve learned while gaining new perspectives on history.
- We celebrated Black History Month this past February, and many more people are aware of the significance of the upcoming Juneteenth.
When we accept these actions and reflections collectively, we can begin to see that coffee refuses to be defined in one way by one group of individuals, and that there is great value in multiplicity.
I urge you, my coffee friends, to keep the focus on you and your actions within this larger movement. Let’s continue to each take small, incremental steps to improve our own environments and workplaces. Taken together, these steps will advance all of us, and the coffee industry at large.
Thank you for giving me space in your heads and hearts. Thank you for your trust. We have a way to go, but I’m happy to be on this journey with you.