Starbucks Founder, CEO Hold Closed Door Meeting With Philadelphia Faith Leaders

Cherri Gregg
April 19, 2018 - 12:16 am

Photo credit: Cherri Gregg

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Starbucks' Founder Howard Schultz and CEO Kevin Johnson spoke with Philadelphia faith leaders Wednesday in a closed door meeting at Mother Bethel AME Church in Society Hill. 

About three dozen clergy, activists and community leaders gathered to discuss the recent arrest of two Black men at a Starbucks in Rittenhouse Square and the changes, the leaders hope will follow.

"I was very appreciative and I think we learned a lot," says Howard Schultz, Founder and Executive Chairman of Starbucks, on his way out the door. "We came here with contrition and compassion and this is just the beginning of an enduring conversation and we're going to meet again."

The meeting, which was organized by P.O.W.E.R., an interfaith, activist group of clergy that held a recent sit at a local Starbucks following arrests.  The leaders are hoping to use the incident to push for racial justice in the areas of gentrification, wages, race discrimination and much more.

"It was a fruitful conversation, and there has been some commitments," says Rev Gregory Holston, executive director of POWER. "I think the continual dialogue is necessary to really press upon them the systematic and institutionalized racism that they in fact profit off of, and we will continue to challenge and challenge and challenge Starbucks leadership."

READ: Starbucks CEO Meets With Two Men Arrested Inside Center City Store

"I think they're listening and I think they have the resources to make a difference," says Hugh Taft-Morales, clergy leader at Philadelphia Ethical Society, who spoke at the meeting. "High expectations have the danger of no follow through, so I think it's key that we follow through immediately."

"The proof will be in the pudding," says Rev. Dr. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. "If things happen based on the conversation today, I think Starbucks will be a better company as a result."

To close the meeting, the group locked arms with Schultz, Johnson and other company leaders.  They said the locked arms is symbolic that the clergy will continue to press Starbucks for change.

Starbucks announced this week it will close 8,000 stores for an afternoon in May to conduct anti-bias training.