Seattle Kicks Off Series of Coffee Town Hall Meetings Across the Country and Abroad

The first of several community-organized meetings to discuss the SCA Deferred Candidacy Policy and decision to move forward with WCE competitions in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, takes place in Seattle


On Tuesday, November 14, in Seattle, the first of several “town hall” local coffee community meetings was launched in response to the announcement of the Specialty Coffee Association’s (SCA) Deferred Candidacy Policy and the choice to maintain commitment to holding World Coffee Events (WCE) competitions events in Dubai for the 2018 competition season. The Seattle gathering, organized by Laila Ghambari of Cherry Street Public House and 2014 United States Barista Champion, sought to draw the community together to discuss the contentious situation, as well as potential actions at a community level.

A good representation of Seattle’s diverse coffee community attended, including 22 SCA members. The event was structured into three parts: First, there was an opportunity for people to share their perspective on the situation if they hadn’t had the opportunity or hadn’t felt heard previously. Second, a discussion was launched about specifically how attendees felt the SCA had failed them as a community. Third, those in attendance talked about which direction the community could go in, and what the desired result will be—i.e., “where do we go from here?”

Around 50 people gathered for a coffee town hall meeting in Seattle on Tuesday to discuss the SCA’s recently announced Deferred Candidacy Policy and decision to continue forward with coffee competitions in Dubai planned for 2018.

Shared perspectives largely aligned with the social media backlash that has occurred since the announcement. The crowd agreed that the SCA’s message seemed to be, “LGBTQIA community, we don’t care about you, and we’ll have these competitions with or without you.” Thoughtful questions were raised regarding the structure of competition location awards, U.S.-specific representation within the SCA post-unification (as the U.S. does not have a National Chapter), and LGBTQIA representation on the SCA board of directors and the WCE board. These issues brought to light a drastic need for better transparency at all levels of the SCA’s operations, as well as a far more diverse board of directors.

The question of where do we go from here? is crucial. Paraphrased from shared thoughts at the meeting, allyship is those with privilege making a fuss and causing a scene until those marginalized in our community are equally included. While there are valid points to be made from a global perspective of this situation, those in attendance at the Seattle meeting agreed that the question from the U.S. specialty-coffee community at large should be, “What does our response to this issue bring to the table in the broader discussion of equality?”

Laila Ghambari (pictured) organized the Seattle event on Tuesday. For a complete listing of other planned town hall meetings around the country and abroad, see below. We will continue to update this list as details and additional meetings are announced.

Since the announcement of the Deferred Candidacy Policy, the reactions from businesses and community members have ranged from withdrawal of memberships, support, and/or sponsorship to continued involvement in hopes of creating change through participation. Many of those businesses and community members have hoped their actions send a message that is contrary to that of the initial SCA statement, i.e.: “LGBTQIA community, we do care about you, you are absolutely integral to our continued growth as a specialty-coffee community, and we are so sorry our leading organization has failed you.” The final position of the attendees of the meeting in Seattle was that the commonly offered “we are all the SCA” mantra is only accurate if everyone has the opportunity to participate equally. Continuing this conversation is essential to finding a solution for inclusive global coffee events going forward.

A growing number of similar town hall meetings have been announced and continue to take shape around the United States and in London, and the organizers hope to come together after the meetings to decide on a collaborative plan of action. If you are planning a town hall meeting in your community, or know of one that should be included on this list, please message us at Thank you, all!


Wednesday, November 15

New York City Joe Coffee (141 Waverly Place location), 7:30 p.m.
Charlotte, N.C. Comic Girl Coffee, 516 E. 15th St., #13, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 16
Portland, Ore. Buckman Coffee Factory, 1105 SE Main St., 7:30 p.m.
London Origin Coffee (65 Charlotte Road location), 7 p.m.

Friday, November 17
Washington, D.C., The Potter’s House (1658 Columbia Road NW), 6:30 p.m.

Monday, November 20
Philadelphia Joe Coffee (1845 Walnut St. location), 7 p.m.
Los Angeles: Location TBD, 7 p.m.
AustinSpokesman Coffee (440 E. St. Elmo A-2), 7 p.m.


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