The new coffee events group building community for queer people and their allies will hold its first event this Saturday, December 2.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
While “inclusivity” may be a bit of a buzzword in 2017, it isn’t always backed up with action and substance. San Francisco Bay Area coffee professionals RJ Joseph and Ellan Kline built on this observation to create Queer Coffee Events (QC), a new event organization “for queer people and allies in coffee to build community, have fun, and learn,” according to its website. QC’s debut event will be this Saturday, December 2, at the Counter Culture Training Center in Emeryville, Calif.
For RJ and Ellan, QC is a forum for not just including the queer community, but showcasing their voices. “We want to foster spaces where queer people, especially those who are marginalized in other ways, are not just included but actively centered and prioritized,” says RJ. “Marginalized coffee folks are already doing such amazing work despite the various institutional barriers we face when trying to access coffee events and education. Imagine what we can do when we’re able to organize spaces where we don’t have to fight.”
The organization has emerged in a time where myriad passionate discussions are being held in the wake of the Specialty Coffee Association’s Deferred Candidacy Policy, announced in response to the public outrage at the organization’s decision to host several 2018 World Coffee Competitions in Dubai. For RJ and Ellan, creating QC now helps provide a forum for different voices in a time when they’re needed. “The recent failures of SCA to prioritize the needs of various marginalized groups were a good catalyst for getting people together and creating positive spaces where we can collaborate and have fun,” says Ellan.
The first instance of this fun will be the December 2 event in Emeryville, which will include a panel called “”The Future of Coffee: Where We’re Going and What it Will Take to Get Us There.” RJ will moderate, with panelists including Rosi Quiñones of Royal Coffee, Dani Goot of Bellwether Coffee, Izi Aspera of Wrecking Ball Coffee, Paba Mihindukulasuriya of Alchemy Collective, and Umeko Motoyoshi of Sudden Coffee. “I think that in addition to an awesome panel, the first event is going to include a lot of blowing off steam and celebrating,” says RJ. “A lot of us, myself included, have never been in a room full of coffee people where writing your pronouns on your name tag is the rule rather than the exception, so I think that’s going to be really liberating.“
Umeko says she’s excited to support QC because of the organization’s ability to “decentralize power” and give groups in different communities forums for their voices to be heard. “I’m thrilled to see QC take this decentralized approach—it is organic and kind, and has enormous potential to heal,” Umeko says. “It’s absolutely crucial that we normalize queer leadership, leadership by people of color, by women—but I personally don’t want to be matched up to the established templates. I don’t want to be the next fill-in-the-blank. By decentralizing, we create space to reimagine leadership, to reimagine community.”
While Queer Coffee Events is launching in the Bay Area, RJ and Ellan are excited to watch it grow to different communities. “We’ve already had friends reach out to us about QC events in Philly, Dallas, Ohio, NYC, and Grand Rapids,” says RJ. “One thing we’re really clear on is that we don’t want it to be exclusive to big metro areas with large, thriving queer coffee populations; we want it to be a catalyst for creating space that doesn’t currently exist, as well as supporting and growing space that does.”
RJ adds that Queer Coffee Events also wants to support and partner with other organizations providing voices for different groups of people. “If you’re creating a community event or organization, get in touch and we’ll help in whatever ways we’re able to; we can amplify your posts, lend you our Code of Conduct and/or help you tailor it to your needs or create your own, or even support financially in some small way if possible,” RJ says.
For more information on Queer Coffee Events, visit the website, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, or contact them via email at email@example.com. For RJ and Ellan, involving others’ voices in QC will hopefully help the organization expand and grow. “I want QC to be an event that others can host, but also a starting point for people to think about what they want to see in their local communities,” says Ellan. “However we can help make that happen, we’re game.”