Cafés Take Action for Black Lives: Part One

Cafés across the United States are supporting and raising funds for Black causes, and uplifting Black voices.


Cover photo courtesy of @maryclairephoto

A couple weeks ago, we explored how cafés and coffee businesses can be actively anti-racist. Now in a two-part feature, we’re looking at several cafés that are doing the work of uplifting Black experiences, donating to justice-oriented causes, and finding other ways to show up to the Black Lives Matter movement. These cafés were recommended by the folks at Oatly, who either matched their donations, or donated product directly. Today, we’re looking at one café that is supporting the community at “ground zero” of the movement, and another that had a special Juneteenth pop-up celebration.

After the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis started a wave of protests around the world, Peace Coffee found themselves suddenly very close to the heart of a city in outrage and grief. Their flagship café is within two miles of the third precinct, which employed the officers that killed Floyd. “The area surrounding us was really ground zero for the uprising,” says Lee Wallace, owner and CEO of Peace Coffee. 

Adjacent to the café was a studio that an artist repurposed for use as a healing, quiet sanctuary for BIPOC folks. When food donations started showing up there, they reached out to Peace and asked if the café, which was temporarily closed, could be used as a free food pantry. “So I gave them the keys,” Lee says. “They lock up the back door at night. We have an employee who goes over and unlocks everything in the morning.” 

Peace Coffee’s Wonderland Park flagship café has been repurposed as a free food pantry. Photo courtesy of Lee Wallace.

Even before the Minneapolis uprising, the surrounding area was in danger of becoming a food desert because of store and transit closures due to COVID-19. According to Lee, repurposing the space to benefit and enrich Peace’s neighbors is precisely what it means to be a café.

More about the community volunteers behind the food pantry can be found in their statement: “A group of Scrappy Queers (QTGNC) came together with the support + guidance of community, SPIRAL Collective, MN Healing Justice Network, Femme Empowerment Project, Herbalists 4 RJ, Women for Political Change, RLM Art Studio, Peace Coffee, Indigenous Breastfeeding Circle, Lotus Birth & Bodywork, amazing local farmers, chiefs and so many dear friends. With no steady funding or support from larger orgs/funders—we do what we’ve been doing for generations—caring for ourselves and our communities w/ food, laughter, art, plant medicine, first aid, resources & humanness.” 

You can donate to the food pantry directly via Venmo: @gabs-semansky or Cashapp: $spiralmn.

For Atlanta’s Black-owned Gilly Brew Bar, a Juneteenth pop-up at their soon-to-be second location was a celebratory and necessary community event. “The Juneteenth Pop-up at 333 Peters Street Station was a much needed celebration,” says founder and CEO Daniel Brown. “Despite the journey 2020 has taken us [on], I knew I wanted … rest … I also wanted to get the word out that we’d be coming to the Castleberry Hill area. I knew that it had to be on June 19, jubilee day. That’s it, the party was liberating.”

A scene from Gilly’s Juneteenth celebration pop-up at their soon-to-be new location in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood of Atlanta. Photo by @maryclairephoto.

Oatly helped sponsor the event, which included free drinks to the first 50 guests, and pastries from Apple-Butter Bakery, co-owned by Daniel’s wife Shellane Brown. The celebration was an amazing way to kick off the new location and commemorate Juneteenth. 

When asked how other cafés can contribute to Black Lives Matter funds or causes, Daniel says, “Any café donating or fundraising should do research on the organization they choose to give to. If none resonates, I’d highly suggest visiting a local Black-owned business near you, meet with the owner, and give to that business directly.”

Stay tuned for the second installment of cafés supporting Black causes. 

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Mark Van Streefkerk is Barista Magazine’s social media content developer and a frequent contributor. He is also a freelance writer, social media manager, and novelist based out of Seattle. If Mark isn’t writing, he’s probably biking to his favorite vegan restaurant. Find out more on his website.