Small businesses and citizens return an act of hatred with symbols of LGBTQ+ love and celebration.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Molten Java
For a small American town whose yearly Pride parade attracts over 1,000 attendees from across the Northeast, Bethel, Conn., and its residents experienced a disappointing shock when Molten Java owner Wendy Cahill (she/her) found the symbolic rainbow flag burned to a crisp on her café’s front porch one Saturday evening—a flag that she had personally displayed at the entrance of her business. Last month, Wendy reported to her Facebook audience about the incident, explaining how uncharacteristic this was for Bethel.
“I love this town. I hesitated thinking that this incident would make anyone question the overwhelming support, kindness, and sense of community we have,” Wendy wrote in the post. “It’s a town full of amazing individuals and I feel very lucky to live and work here. So, no, this incident doesn’t represent where we live but it’s important to know that it happens here … even here.”
Since the incident, this small but significant act of hatred has been returned by overwhelming support and love from the Bethel community. Within hours of the Facebook post, Molten Java customers brought replacement Pride flags, and the café received an increase in pay-it-forward donations—including a $100 donation by a former customer from across the country. “That simple act of kindness made so many people’s day, and it always makes mine when I get to tell a customer that their drink has been paid for, especially with all of the uncertainty so many of our customers faced this year with unemployment or the pandemic in general,” says Riley J (she/her), a barista at Molten Java.
Molten Java isn’t the only business currently decorated in Pride flags. Throughout the month of April, all of Bethel has shown multi-colored gratitude as flags have been distributed across the town. Folks near and far have also reached out to show their support and exemplify coffee’s true abilities to connect people, no matter the distance. “We received many calls from cafés all over the state showing support, and I can’t wait until the day I can try all of their yummy coffee!” says Riley.
With a little less than a month to go until June Pride parades commence, Molten Java has kindly requested pay-it-forward donations to be redirected toward Bethel’s own upcoming Pride parade, which was actually started by student Hailey Gesler when she was just 12 years old. In spite of an unfortunate event, the act has truly shown what Molten Java’s dedicated community is truly capable of. “Having come out in the late ’80s and being an activist for so many years, I’ve often said that the 15-year-old me could never have imagined a community so willing to learn about, support, and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community,” says Wendy. “Their response in the last few weeks went above and beyond what I’d already seen. In the end, despite how I felt in the hours after the flag was burned, I’m grateful and humbled by how good people can be.”
You can also help Bethel have their biggest Pride parade yet by donating here.