3 Black Wake Grads Are Changing The Face Of Specialty Coffee.
Around a year ago I asked my wife Chel Loyd, WFU class of 2008 and my fraternity brother & friend Julius Cave, class of 2005 to come together and form a specialty coffee company with the goal of making a serious splash in the coffee industry but we had to do so in a way that would elevate our community and bring awareness to the issues that we care about. Like many artisan and craft industries, coffee has its cultures and subcultures and these divisions run deep in coffee and highlight the schisms that exist in American society along racial and economic lines. Dope Coffee started as a brand that would fuse Hip Hop and Coffee Culture together but soon morphed into a dissertation on race, class and socioeconomic stratification. Our goal was to create a coffee company that would give voice to the issues of today while maintaining the steady sense of cool and pride that drips from Black culture. Our challenge was how to create a company that elevates communities of color through coffee and capitalism while also building bridges outside of our community. We struggled with how to address unity for all while preaching a positive message directed at a singular group. The conflicts seemed many but the solution was in the values that we learned at Wake Forest - a tricky concept for humans to master called Pro Humanitate!
As an undergraduate at Wake, I learned that the phrase loosely translates into “for humanity” or pro-humanity. Dr. James Powell, a Classics professor at Wake Forest says "Pro Humanitate calls us to consider what we are as human beings and what constitutes genuine human flourishing." Dr. Powell’s question gets to the root of the situation for me, what constitutes genuine human flourishing? These are the thoughts and concepts that perplexed and rocked my brain as an undergraduate student. I was the poor kid that “Crossed 52” from the East and Southside of Winston-Salem to the rather cushy Northwest side of town and when I began looking at my community, I noticed that we weren’t flourishing the way that other communities were flourishing. The more I look around America and the world, I see that generally speaking, people of color are not flourishing and it has to be our life's work to change that situation and this is where Dope Coffee comes into our lives.
Dope Coffee is founded upon a few key principles, the first is that we are here to be a force for good in the world. Beyond that, we represent a culture of people who haven't always had a voice on the national stage and now it's time to talk. We created Dope Coffee as a way to bring light to challenges that we see in our communities. We have many shortcomings and stumbling blocks in our community, some that are borne out of ill intentions and others that are borne of unfortunate situations. One thing that our community is doing, however, is waking up from the trauma that has been inflicted upon us and when I look up, I see a landscape that exists that does not reinforce the fact that people of color and their image is of value, especially here in America. We can intentionally build ourselves up in a way that fosters dialogue and resilience, we can save ourselves.
By now you may be wondering how exactly this ties into specialty coffee and it's very simple, WE LOVE COFFEE and just like any other premium product is that there is a huge racial divide and flags planted into the ground on who belongs in the culture and the community and who doesn't. With coffee, the situation goes a bit deeper. Coffee is often described as something “we don’t do” as people of color. When approached by Starbuck’s CEO Howard Shultz to open cafes near communities of color, Shaquelle Oneal famous replied, “Black people don't drink coffee” and he has been regretting his decision ever since. Magic Johnson went on to partner with Starbucks and made over $100 Million investing in Starbucks near communities of color. I've had conversations with people of color who earn well into the 6 figures and although they consider themselves to be specialty coffee consumers, they still carry the assumption that coffee is something that is not consumed and enjoyed by people of color at large. My take is that most of us are staying silent about our enjoyment and love for premium products because it isn't part of the narrative yet.
So what does Dope Coffee plan to do about it?
First, we will exist. Like anything else, you have to be in the fight to win it. Dope Coffee has staked out a very definitive position in the coffee game, we believe that there needs to be more faces of color around coffee and that the industry needs to talk to these people in a way that gives respect to their culture, economic buying power and preferences. We need to create spaces to exist without fear or pressure, a space where we can exist as we wish and still see ourselves in our best light. I did not think like this before attending Wake Forest, it was the hours of lecture at Tribble Hall, the dialogue and engagement with our classmates and professors that shaped our mind around concepts such as humanism and Pro-Humanitate. We had to get outside of our comfort zone and be bold, the problems facing our community are unique and very few people seemed up to the challenge of making it a priority but Dope Coffee has been for the culture since day one and will continue to push for the upliftment and elevation of our culture, we now see that we can be for humanity even if that means starting at home and working on our community first.
Dope Coffee Company is an E-Commerce Coffee Company which will be launching a brick and mortar soon in Atlanta, Georgia.
You can find our products online at www.realdope.coffee
Try a free sample of our coffee! https://www.realdope.coffee/products/dopecoffeefreesample
We also need your support to keep going! Please donate to our GoFundMe campaign at www.gofundme.com/dopecoffee
* We are seeking investors
More info at www.realdope.coffee/pages/investdope
Reference - Dr. James Powell https://prod.wp.cdn.aws.wfu.edu/sites/43/2018/01/WF-Mag-Fall-13.pdf