Strange Matter’s Across the Bar Event Provides Open Space for Conversation

Taking place November 30, Across the Bar provides an open space for Michigan POC and their allies in the coffee industry to exchange experiences, discuss issues, and network.

BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

At the Lansing, Mich.-based multi-roaster café Strange Matter Coffee Co., important conversations take place every day, as the shop’s staff members interact with customers about their days, vital issues in the world, and much more.

Crystal Gause, Strange Matter’s events/community outreach coordinator, points to a particularly impactful conversation that took place on a Monday morning earlier this year. “I’m making a pourover for a customer and chatting to a regular (another person of color) about the state of the country,” Crystal says. “We talk about the upcoming election, we talk about art, we talk about coffee. I finish the pourover and he gets up to leave and thanks me for the listening ear. I realize I needed that as much as he did—a safe space, even if just in the span of a cup of coffee, to talk and be heard.”

Across the Bar is an event meant to honor the conversations people of color and allies have everyday with their coworkers, customers, and colleagues.

Shortly after that conversation, Crystal took action and decided to launch Across the Bar, an event taking place November 30 at Strange Matter that bills itself as “an open space for Michigan POC + allies in the coffee industry to share community, exchange experiences, and network.” The event’s Facebook page further sums up its goals: “Believing coffee shops to be unique and direct discursive spaces in social culture, ATB draws from marginalized communities in the industry to keep the conversation going after hours.”

The free event will feature an open group dialogue facility by MSW candidate and Strange Matter barista Algeria Wilson, followed by a casual hangout with music by DJ Problematicblackhottie. “I think there are two parts to successful community engagement: idea exchange and excitement,” says Crystal. “My coworker Algeria had previous experience in group facilitation and restorative justice, and seemed the best to kick off the discussion for ATB. Problematicblackhottie, a former barista and current DJ, is someone I’ve worked with before, and I knew she would provide the right vibes for folks to relax and groove.”

Crystal Gause, pictured above, organized the Across the Bar event after a particularly cathartic conversation with a customer while working behind the bar.

As far as what attendees may take from the Across the Bar event, Crystal says it’s all about jump-starting important conversations on a local level in an inclusive fashion. “Nationally, I feel like the coffee community is starting to reconcile its problems and have serious conversations about the treatment of folks of color in the industry (big nod to The Chocolate Barista for serving as a wonderful agent of change),” Crystal says. “I think there’s a lot of space for that in Michigan, where most shops are male and white. We just have to know who else is out there.”

While this is the debut Across the Bar event, Crystal foresees there will be more events in the future: “We’re using this first event to garner interest and information, and then plan to use that to make the next one better.”

Across the Bar takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. on November 30 at Strange Matter Coffee Co. in Lansing, Mich. RSVP is required for the free event—RSVP at the event’s Facebook page.

About Chris Ryan 233 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.