Peace for Armenia: Coffee Industry Stands in Solidarity

Highlight Coffee and others in the L.A. area are showing support for Armenians as they defend their homeland and people against Azerbaijani aggression.

BY EMILY MENESES
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

In the spirit of solidarity, coffee shops across the Los Angeles area are standing up and showing their support for Armenia, a nation currently under siege. On July 12, Azerbaijan invaded and attacked Armenia, stoking the fires of a century-long conflict and posing the threat of a second Armenian Genocide. Though Armenians across the globe are calling for peace, Azerbaijan continues to act aggressively, with a force that outnumbers the Armenian population by more than 7 million.

A street in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city. Photo by Levon Vardanyan, courtesy of Unsplash.  

Azerbaijani leaders ultimately want to gain total control of the land through erasure of its Armenian population, and Azerbaijan is currently being backed by powerful countries like Turkey, Israel, and the United States. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, stated his plans to “fulfill the mission (their) grandfathers have carried out for centuries,” an allusion to the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s (a genocide that Turkey still fails to recognize to this day). Though many American news outlets are painting the conflict in a neutral light, it’s important to note that Armenians have been indigenous to the region for thousands of years; they’re defending a place they’ve called home since time immemorial. This is more than a land dispute—it’s a threat to the Armenian population’s very existence.

Many small businesses in the States are rising up to show their support for Armenia, and while many of them are owned by Armenian immigrants, non-Armenian business owners are also stepping up to the plate. Located in Glendale, Calif., Highlight Coffee is one of many cafés that has raised funds to support the cause. For a week in October, the shop donated a portion of each sale made to the Armenia Fund, an L.A.-based humanitarian organization dedicated to serving the Republic of Armenia.

“Our first location is located in the city of Glendale, which has one of the largest diaspora populations of Armenians in the United States,” owner Frank Kim says. “Through our years of being part of this community, we’ve learned and sympathized with our Armenian friends, of their tumultuous and tragic history. For over a hundred years, the Armenian people have suffered and fought for recognition of the horrible genocide that was carried out against them. My wife Angie and I, being first and second generation Korean-Americans, can definitely empathize with denied tragedies and trauma against our native people.”

Highlight Coffee is one of many cafés showing support for Armenia. For a week in October, the café donated a portion of all sales to the Armenia Fund. Photo courtesy of Highlight Coffee.

“Currently the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh—an area that has been populated by Armenians since at least the 5th century BC and currently has 99.7% population of ethnic Armenians—has been under siege by attacks from neighboring forces to drive out the native Armenian population,” Frank continues. “Our team loves and appreciates the communities we have been blessed to be supported by. We feel we have an obligation to our friends and neighbors to recognize their struggles and help where we can. It wasn’t much, but we were thankful to be able to donate a portion of all our sales for a week, towards peace for the Armenian people.”

Highlight Coffee was just one of a list of restaurants and cafés in the Los Angeles area that are donating to the Armenia Fund. Arts Bakery & Café, Momed, Uptown Coffee, and Urartu Coffee also hosted fundraisers, collectively raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. The combined effort of these small businesses shows that even though it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to humanitarian issues, we can collectively make a difference—and it’s important to stay informed and active in the fight for global justice.

Armenia still needs all the support it can get, so if you’d like to aid the cause, you can research businesses that are raising funds (here’s a list to get you started!), or donate directly to organizations like Armenia Fund, Armenia Support Fund, The Paros Foundation, and My Step Foundation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Los Angeles, Emily Joy Meneses is a writer and musician passionate about culture and collective care. You can regularly find her at Echo Park Lake, drinking a cortado and journaling about astrology, art, Animal Crossing, and her dreams. Explore her poetry, short stories, and soundscapes on her website.

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