Cafés Take Action for Black Lives: Part Two

Several U.S.-based cafés support and raise funds for Black causes, and go beyond donating.


As conversations about race and justice for Black lives take a necessary and long-overdue central role in the U.S. and abroad, cafés and coffee businesses are making donations to Black causes, reflecting on their social responsibilities, and finding ways to get involved beyond just giving money.

In part one of our feature, we explored a café that repurposed their space for use as a free food pantry for a community at ground zero of the uprising, and took a look at a memorable Juneteenth pop-up celebration at Gilly Brew Bar. Today we continue our coverage of coffee shops and businesses that are giving back, and going beyond more than donations to be actively anti-racist. These are only a sampling of the many cafés doing commendable work, and hopefully inspires everyone who is part of a coffee community or business to support racial equity in ongoing capacities. Check out our article Five Ways to Be Anti-Racist at Your Café for more tips. 

Plenty of cafés have stepped up and made donations to Black causes and justice initiatives. OTIS Craft Collective in Lafayette, Colo., donated $1,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative. Bard Coffee in Portland, Maine, donated to ACLU of Maine and Black Visions Collective, and Cambridge, Mass.’ Broadsheet Coffee has designated $1 of every bag of their Headliner blend to go to social justice causes, starting with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Paper Moon Coffee Co., with locations in San Jose and Santa Clara, Calif., raised funds for the Marsha P. Johnson Institute in two ways: $1 from every Rainbow Latte sold went to the Institute, and they also raffled off a pourover kit (including a Chemex with filters, Baratza grinder, Fellow kettle, and a bag of coffee) at $5 per raffle ticket, or a pack of five tickets for $20. At the time of writing this article, Paper Moon has raised $900 with raffle tickets and $165 with Rainbow Lattes. Not bad considering business has been inconsistent due to COVID-19. 

Of all these listed, Oatly generously matched all donations up to $2,000. 

One of Paper Moon Coffee Co.’s Rainbow Lattes. $1 for every one sold went to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Photo courtesy of Wendy Warren. 

Vivid Coffee Roasters in Winooski, Vt., donated 10% of their sales in the first month of June to Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington and Harmony Edosomwan—an activist who has helped organize the local movement for the last few years. Vivid founder Ian Bailey also participated in Bakers Against Racism, an initiative where local bakers or pastry chefs contribute to a food box, with 100% of sales going to Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington. At the time of this writing, Bakers Against Racism raised over $4,500 for BLM Burlington.

Though business is hardly back to usual, Paper Moon Coffee Co. was able to raise about $900 for the Marsha P. Johnson Institute through a raffle. Photo courtesy of Wendy Warren.

Ian points out that simply raising funds and making contributions isn’t enough. “I think it’s important to have a long-term response so that when the hashtags are done, we’re still having this conversation and we’re still committed to this. Some of my heroes in coffee are people like Trish Rothgeb and Nick Cho and Tymika Lawrence, and Michelle Johnson and Jenn Chen. They’ve been having this conversation for a while, and they’ve been very vocally stating, ‘This is where the coffee industry needs to go,’ and we’re not there yet. I think it’s very important for us to have a long-term, committed response to this current conversation that’s a hashtag right now.”

Vivid Coffee Roasters in Winooski, Vt., donated to Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington, and a notable activist in the area. Vivid founder Ian Bailey is exploring ways to support BIPOC entrepreneurship in an ongoing way. Photo by Vivid Coffee Roasters. 

For Ian, a continued commitment to anti-racism looks like engaging with Black and POC entrepreneurs and small-business owners. More than having non-Black companies or individuals giving to a particular business or cause, Ian envisions something like a fund that’s overseen by a BIPOC team that makes decisions about where that money goes themselves. 

Praxis Coffee Roasters in Austin, Texas, donated all profits from the month of June to Be the Bridge, an organization that promotes racial reconciliation and healing. Praxis cofounder Seth McCain is also active in the local coffee community, which is raising awareness about social justice issues in the workplace. “Outside of giving, we’re actively dialoguing with the Austin Coffee Collective, among other shops here in Austin, and bringing in outside consultants to bring in programs and resources to help us,” Seth says. “We’re actively in this. We’re behind the Black community and we want to show them our support, not just financially.”

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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.