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Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity Gives Inaugural ‘First Sip’ Awards

CCRE Awards

At the inaugural “First Sip” awards ceremony at Chicago’s Bronzeville Winery. Press photo by James Washington, courtesy of the CCRE.

The Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity (CCRE) held its inaugural “First Sip” awards ceremony last week in Chicago, honoring trailblazers in coffee who have contributed to equity, inclusion and diversity.

The nonprofit, which was founded by Phyllis Johnson of Atlanta-based coffee importer BD Imports in 2020, introduced three new awards through the program: The Rose Nicaud Award; the Innovators Award; and the Local Heroes Award.

The program was held in conjunction with the 2024 Specialty Coffee Expo, which drew more than 17,000 coffee professionals to the city. (See DCN’s complete 2024 Expo coverage here.)

Named after a woman born into slavery who eventually opened the first coffee stand in New Orleans’ French Market, the Rose Nicaud Award was given to Ghost Town Oats Co-Founder Michelle R Johnson.

“From co-founding her own Oat Milk brand, Ghost Town Oats, to penning an open letter addressing the systemic challenges Black baristas face, her efforts have sparked meaningful dialogue and led to positive changes in the coffee industry,” the CCRE wrote in an announcement of the awards.

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The Innovators Award was presented to Memphis-based coffee and music company Cxffeeblack, whose founders Bartholomew Jones and Renata Henderson are currently raising funds for a new roastery and headquarters. The award specifically honored the brand’s barista exchange program.

The Local Heroes Award was given to longtime coffee roaster and entrepreneur Greg Stivers of Chicago’s own Stivers Coffee.

“As a true pioneer in the industry, he has consistently pushed boundaries and set new standards,” the CCRE said. “He has earned his peers’ admiration and respect and fostered a significant business relationship with Chicago French Press, a Black woman-owned coffee company.”

While honoring the work of the coffee professionals named above, the event also served as a fundraiser for the CCRE, a group that has provided scholarships and internships for existing and aspiring Black coffee professionals. The group says it is also launching a podcast, “Brewing in Equity,” designed to “deepen the dialogue around racial equity in the coffee industry.”

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