Sign Up For the (un)learning club: coffee & colonialism

Tomorrow is the final day to secure your spot for the coffee-oriented book club that’s exploring slavery, colonialism, racism, and coffee’s role in all three.


Cover art by Annie Spratt for Unsplash

The organizers of the first race-centered coffee book club are not the experts on race. However, they’ve gathered several recognized and respected voices in the industry to lead discussions that explore how colonialism and coffee have been inextricably intertwined since history first recorded it—or didn’t.

Over 170 coffee professionals reached out to participate in the (un)learning club: coffee & colonialism two months ago, which is organized by Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp and Nora Burkey. The book club is primarily for U.S.-based white coffee professionals (although non-white members are welcome to participate), and is a chance to learn about the realities of historical colonialism, along with how racism and white supremacy have affected modern society, especially within the coffee world.

With sponsorships by Oatly, Rancilio, and Baratza, the (un)learning club will take place from September 1 to January 2021. In addition to reading material proposed by upcoming speakers, the club will carry on via Zoom and include bimonthly lectures, along with small-group discussions encouraged outside of these lectures. There are four themes that the readings will fall under: slavery, coffee, and colonialism; post/neo-colonialism in coffee; racial injustice in the USA today (and beyond); and “What can we do?”

Much of the reading to come has been proposed by participants and upcoming speakers, who were recruited by the organizers’ networks inside and outside of coffee. Nine of the 11 speakers have confirmed their presence at these lectures, in which they will also share their own sets of resources for participants to read and explore on their own; all speakers are being paid for their time. The current roster includes:

– Phyllis Johnson, founder of BD Imports
Bartholomew Jones, founder of CXFFEEBLACK
Erika Koss, research associate at the University of Nairobi, Kenya & Ph.D. candidate at St Mary’s University, Canada
– Namisha Parthasarathy, co-owner of Aramse Coffee
– Madeleine Longoria-Garcia, educator and espresso technician at Pacific Coffee Research
– Anika Manzoor, executive director of Youth Activism Project (who will be co-facilitating with a young BIPOC activist)
– Ambar Hanson, community relationship officer at Mortenson Family Foundation & board member of Latino Economic Development Center
– Vincent Mwangi, Programs Associate at Mama Hope
Nora Burkey, founder of The Chain Collaborative

Outside of these speakers, there is no leadership in the (un)learning book club. In hopes of remaining autonomous, everyone is encouraged to work together to facilitate discussions, suggested reading material, and enlightenment. To sign up and participate, email by August 28—this Friday!

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.