Black coffee shop owners meet in Philadelphia to talk retail racism

Justin Udo
May 29, 2018 - 1:32 pm
Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse

Justin Udo-KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — On the same day Starbucks closed thousands of its doors for a few hours so employees could undergo anti-bias training, Black coffee shop owners opened up about the importance of inclusive and fair business models as a way to advance racial justice.

The viral video showing two African-American men wrongfully arrested for sitting at a Rittenhouse Square Starbucks in April had an impact on more than just the coffee giant's leadership.

In response to the Starbucks training, Ariell Johnson, owner of Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Kensington, played host to a racism-in-retail round table, with other Black coffee shop owners from around the country.

"When I saw the Starbucks video, I was relived, because those two men walked away," Johnson said. "So often when we see those videos, we are looking at bodies laying in the street."

During their discussion, the shop owners talked about the importance of coffee shops in black communities.

"People of color black people, are creating spaces for us where we are welcome," Johnson said. "We are taking steps to make sure that people who feel unsafe or unwelcome in other places — that they do feel safe and welcome in our space. We want people to know that we want you here."

Johnson said the roundtable conversation led to positive ideas about hiring and training practices, and she hopes Starbuck's training is having the same effect. 

"Your hope is that they come away and they're treating everyone, no matter who that person is, with human decency," she said.

The roundtable also let the coffee shop owners talk about how they could positively affect their communities outside of their businesses.