I’m writing as a representative for the barista who makes your coffee every morning. Equator Coffees, along with hundreds of cafes around the nation, is raising money for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in our cafes this weekend. Equator is taking direct donations and will match the first $500 received from our communities at each of our five cafes. While some may see this collaboration of over 400 cafes coming together across brands and state lines to raise money for an organization protecting civil liberties as a stretch, but when you think about what coffee culture means historically and currently, it is a natural fit.
Like many people on our retail team I got my first job in the cafe because it was a place I felt comfortable. I would skip classes in high school to go sip big bowls of café au lait at the coffee house by my University. It was here I was able to connect with people of all ages and with diverse backgrounds. At my local cafe I found my favorite poets and learned what political activism meant. It was here I was at home. At my cafe no one cared that I was a "weird" girl with blue hair who would rather read old novels then go to a dance. Being a barista was my first full-time job, and although I’ve held many jobs in the coffee industry over the past 14 years, I still identify as a barista when people ask me what I do.
The more I studied and learned about the profession the more I realized my comfort in the cafe is something that is historically normal. Cafes were called Penny Universities in England in the 17th century, because for the price of a cup of coffee, common people could mingle with the elite to discuss politics and philosophy. More recently I’ve heard cafes, and the conversation that takes place in them, called “The Internet In a Cup.” A very apt description of these places that are still at the heart of our communities. I love how real and rebellious conversations can get over coffee, to the point that monarchies and oppressive regimes have tried to ban or limit cafes throughout history. To these types of regimes it is dangerous to have people of all colors and classes connect, especially over something intellectually stimulating like coffee. To some talking openly with your neighbor is an act of civil disobedience.
To me cafes are a representation of the best of America. Everyone is welcome, and conversation is encouraged. Connecting with people of different ideologies is wonderful, and civil discourse is part of what makes our country fundamentally great. The issues I find myself personally having with the current administration is not about a difference in ideology or beliefs. It is how executive orders passed down have sought to repress differences, stifle discourse and to physically keep people who are perceived to be different out of America. This does not align with the cafe I grew up in, nor does it align with the ideology of Equator Coffees.
Equator thrives due to our diversity and open communication. Just look at the baristas who make your coffee every day. We come from six different countries. We speak six languages. We are immigrants and people with generations of American forefathers. We have GEDs and Masters degrees. We are parents and young people still living with our parents. We are homeowners and sharing a studio apartment with our best friend. We are married and single. We are gay. We are straight. We are queer. We are Equator Coffees & Teas.
Our cafe staff is as diverse as it is because of the leadership of Equator. We are owned by out and proud business women who fight for equality at all levels. They have become business leaders and roll models in the LGBTQ communities and champions for all Women. Being involved in programs that help people around the world and doing what’s right is as ingrained in our company's DNA as buying and selling the best quality coffee.
When I look at cabinet leadership (and other appointed positions) being put in place it doesn't look like the America that I know and see every day. Straight white males are the minority in our company, especially in positions of leadership. Representation is a very important tool for access and protection. Without diversity in our highest leadership I worry we are in for a fight to protect the diversity of our beautiful country. This is why supporting the ACLU was an easy choice for us. Until now all the fundraising we've done in cafes and most of our social programs have been directed internationally. We have always look for ways to support our farm partners since they can be the most underpaid and underrepresented part of a traditional supply chain. Right now America needs our help. Needs your help. Needs the help and support of a well engaged populace.
Getting involved and keeping the ACLU well-funded is a good step towards protecting fundamental American rights for all Americans. Thank you for helping us make an impact.
Director of Retail
Equator Coffees & Teas