The Café : A Microcosm for Social Change

by Tanner Morita

For so many, the café is a place where you can snag a cup of coffee and make use of the free WiFi to settle in for a few hours of work. It's a comforting place to pop in some headphones and tune out your surroundings with the latest album of your favorite artist, or stream the newest episode from one of the many podcasts you follow. Maybe there's a book that has kept you up way later than you need to be, and the line between the thrill of the story and the buzz from the caffeine is getting blurred with every sip. These scenes are common to all that frequent cafés across the country and around the world. But what is more integral to the café experience than posting a picture of some dope latté art is the community that inevitably forms around this beverage. Community is interwoven into the DNA of the coffeeshop.

Coffee was my first experience with the hospitality industry. Being a people person, I found myself making conversations with regulars and learning about their lives and families. I was able to meet people from all walks of life that may not have normally talked with me. I started to see that part of what I loved about this job was taking care of the people, period. Sometimes care was just a quick cup to get them to their meeting on time. Sometimes it was taking the time to listen if someone honestly responded to "How are you doing today?" These are the experiences that lured me in to this profession years ago, and it is what motivates me to stay when making cup after cup wears on me emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  

Recently, it seems that the resiliency of my community has been continually tested. The polarization of the political atmosphere has made it more difficult for people to hear reason in debates with those from "across the aisle" (Debate meaning both sides are equally argued and both sides actively listen, with the intent not to proselytize but to grow in understanding and share in pursuit of truth. This definition may be a pipe dream, but hey, some of the greatest moments in history started with a dream). The second term of our first African-American president is coming to an end. We may see the election of our first female president. We have seen the rise of anti-establishment candidates. We have seen both the young and old, the wealthy and poor, and the majority and marginalized cry out for a change in a "damaged and broken system". My community specifically has been turned upside down with the deaths of Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr. The #BlackLivesMatter movement, fueled by the unnecessary killings of African-Americans by police, is growing day by day as more people realize that these events are a symptom of the institutionalized racism that exists in our country. So many people are desperate for change, for a voice, for someone to listen.  

Cafés act as social equalizers. For centuries, cafés have been a place for people to gather and discuss politics, religion, and philosophy. The scene of a wealthy politician and person of the commonwealth engaging in intellectual debate over a cup of coffee was just as relevant and revolutionary in the 18th century as it is today. In light of the recent events in Charlotte, it has been amazing to see different