Last June, Everyman Espresso hosted a bystander training for customers and baristas, teaching attendees strategies to diffuse unsafe situations involving harassment, discrimination, and potential harm.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
In June, Everyman Espresso hosted a training focused on empowering individuals to be active bystanders. Bystander training, or bystander intervention, generally refers to the idea that people can intervene in a situation of harassment or violence in order to reduce its occurrence. Generally, harassment and other potentially unsafe situations are handled by the victim of the aggression, and bystander training gives observers tools to intervene and help those who are being harassed.
It might seem like a cafe would be an unlikely space to hold a training like this, which was open to both baristas and customers alike, but co-owner Sam Penix is clear that Everyman is a community hub and that all patrons and staff should feel safe. “I think it should be pointed out firstly that Sam Penix still sees part of the identity of café culture as intertwined with community,” shares Denman Anderson, a barista and attendee of the event. “Be it arts, a meeting place, or activism, that sentiment is pervasive through the Everyman name. As such, it makes perfect sense for the 13th Street location to host a workshop on helping bystanders learn how to step in when faced with aggressive or dangerous situations in public,” Denman notes.
The training, which was hosted by The Accompany Project and The Arab American Association of New York, aimed at giving attendees an introductory lesson in bystander prevention and intervention. “In this interactive workshop, bystander intervention and de-escalation will be presented in the context of harm reduction and self-defense. Participants will identify verbal and non-verbal techniques and tactics to de-escalate conflict,” the website notes. “Participants will also learn the four Ds of bystander intervention—direct, distract, delay, and delegate.”
The event started with a few icebreakers, which served not just to warm up the group but to encourage them to pay attention to what’s happening around them. “Decisively proactive, the organizer got everyone on their feet, and threw us into engagement via several icebreakers,” Denman shares. “Of course, little known to most of us, they served a dual purpose in learning to pay attention to one’s surroundings. Using real-world scenarios, personal anecdotes, and hands-on activities, we were constantly moving and thinking, which goes a lot further than simply listening to a person talk through bullet points.”
Being aware and reading the room were some of the biggest lessons of the training. “The main lesson I took from [the training] that I can immediately begin to practice is tied into something we are already doing: reading the room. Always being aware of what is happening—and [in] the event of an altercation, being able to de-escalate the issue,” notes Christian Brown, a barista at Everyman Espresso. Most baristas practice this everyday, but knowing what to do in potentially unsafe situations can be unclear or difficult to gauge. “Though this bystander training was geared towards the kind of bigotry the U.S. has seen on the rise currently, these skills can be used in any number of situations where the average person might feel that someone is being threatened in one way or another. In the end, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience both in idea and execution,” Denman notes.
This training is meant to be the first in a series to be hosted at Everyman. “This bystander training arises from and ties into two notions which became very clear to us in the wake of Donald Trump’s election,” notes Sam Lewontin, general manager at Everyman Espresso. “First: It is, and has always been, very important to us that our cafes be safe spaces, especially to people who have historically had a hard time finding them. The current political climate has made it even more important for us to give ourselves better tools and more knowledge with which to actively create those spaces,” and Everyman has been clear that they plan to jump in head first to address issues of harassment and discrimination and create a safe environment for their staff and guests.
Creating safe spaces requires active engagement, and choosing to take a stance against discrimination and bigotry openly, and that’s another reason why Everyman will continue to host these trainings. “It is, and has always been, very important to us to actively fight racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia—really, bigotry and violence in all their forms—in our communities,” Sam notes. “The shops we’ve built and the communities that have formed around them are our best platforms for doing so.”