Starbucks, in a move at racial reconciliation after the unjustified arrest of two black men in one of its Philadelphia location, enlisted the star power of rapper Common, who appeared in a series of videos shown to employees on Tuesday. The coffee company shut down all of its 8,000 stores nationwide for a four-hour training session it administered to all of its in-store employees.
The rapper has had success as part of a generation of artists whose music focused on social justice and civil rights issues in the late 1990s. His musical contribution to Selma, the historical drama based on the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Alabama won him a 2015 Oscar.
“Starbucks was just a microcosm of how black people have been dehumanized and I wanted to be a part of that conversation,” he said on Good Morning America on Tuesday.
Common’s involvement with Starbucks’ may come as a surprise to many but it is worth noting that he already has an established relationship with the coffee company. Back in 2015, the rapper and Starbucks’ Executive Chairman Howard Schultz teamed up to launch the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, to hire and engage at least 100,000 youth who face systematic barriers to employment and education by the end of 2018.
For the training, Starbucks commissioned a short film by Stanley Nelson about race in America. At a point during the film, “a black man faces the camera and talks about his own experiences” of racial profiling in retail stores, NPR reports.
Carrie Teeter, who manages a dozen Starbucks stores near Columbus Circle in Manhattan:
“I have to make sure that my hands are visible when I walk into certain places, so they make sure I’m not stealing,” the man says. “I watch my tone to make sure I don’t come off as threatening. Just leaving the house some days, it’s enough to just keep you at home. Just keep you away from everything.”
DINING WHILE BLACK (#DININGWHILEBLACK)
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, both 23-year-old entrepreneurs, walked into a Philadelphia Starbucks where they sat, waiting for a business meeting. Nelson immediately asked to use the restroom and the manager insisted something must be purchased to get access to utilize the bathroom. According to 911 accounts, Starbucks staffers called the police approximately two minutes after the men arrived. In an all too familiar scene, Nelson and Robinson were told to leave the store and when they refused, they were handcuffed and arrested in a video that has gone viral
Starbucks’ Chief Operating Officer, Rosalind “Roz” Brewer, who is black, called for the coffee giant to hold itself accountable and make changes to prevent a situation like this from reoccurring.
“Watching that video was quite painful,” she said. “As an African American executive myself with a 23-year-old African American son, it was very difficult to watch. The police should not have been called in this situation. And this is a teachable moment for all of us. And we take full responsibility to make sure that our company remains great. You know, good companies acknowledge their mistakes, and learn from them, and then make the necessary changes to become a better company.”
PUSH TO PATRONIZE BLACK-OWNED STORES
While Starbucks has taken proactive steps to right its wrong, first with a public apology to the detained men, coupled with a $200,000 grant for young entrepreneurs in the city of Philadelphia, there continues to be a massive push for customers to patronize black-owned coffee shops around the country.
In New York, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams jump-started a Black Coffee in Brooklyn Tour (#BLKCoffeeInBKTour) to support the 37 black-owned coffee shops in the area, with a commitment to visit every single one of them.
Ariell Johnson, who became the first black woman to own a comic book store in Philly’s Kensington section said she is starting to see new faces in her store.
“I’ve seen some new faces, so I think that people who weren’t aware of us before, are aware of us now and are venturing out,” Johnson told the Philadelphia Tribune. “Over the long term I think we’ll see kind of an uptick in our coffee traffic but we have yet to see people pouring in the door.”
HERE ARE 60 BLACK-OWNED ALTERNATIVES TO STARBUCKS:
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books – Germantown, Pennsylvania
Watts Coffee House – South L.A.
Stellar Coffee – Portland, Oregon
Red Bay Coffee – Oakland
Trill Tea – online
Serengeti Tea and Spices – online
Village Tea Co. – online
Sweet Unity Farms – online
Northwest Coffee Roasting Co. – St. Louis
The Commons – Detroit
The Narrow Way Cafe – Detroit
Detroit Sip – Detroit
Beyu Caffe – Durham, North Carolina
Plus, 47 more black-owned coffee shops, courtesy of ShoppeBlack