The Anti Gentrification Coffee Club

The four horsemen of the gentrification apocalypse are as follows:

According to Maurice Henderson II (the founder of CxffeeBlack, also known as Bartholomew Jones), craft breweries, ladies walking their poodles, Whole Foods, and coffee shops are indicators to the “gentrification population” that a community is ready for harvesting.

This is ironic for Henderson and his wife, Renata Henderson (Memphis’ first black female coffee roaster). According to Henderson, coffee is the “traditional African medicine” of Southern Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti. Coffee’s origins can be traced to Africa.

“Coffee is such an amazing ritual in the motherland, but we rarely see this perspective in shops that enter our communities,” says Henderson. “There are, in fact, spaces that are almost anti-Black. Despite the fact that coffee is literally and historically black.”

Henderson delves into the history of how coffee became a multimillion-dollar industry through the slave trade in Brazil, Haiti, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and how West African slaves were used to cultivate coffee into the industry it is today.

The irony intensifies for the couple as they ponder how something that is historically Black, discovered by Black people, and cultivated by Black people across the globe has become uncommon or even “unexpected” for Black people to work with or even be in ownership positions. Especially when these coffee shops are in neighborhoods populated by people of color.

“There are these shops in these neighborhoods, but you never see anyone from the neighborhood inside,” says Henderson.

Before “the gentrifiers come in,” the Hendersons wanted to see what it would be like for their neighborhood to have its own coffee shop. The city planned to invest in the intersection of Summer Avenue and National Street.

Henderson asserts, “It’s odd.” “Our neighborhood has the best Latin American cuisine in the city, and yet a Chipotle was recently constructed on Summer in our neighborhood.

“What if we made a place for ourselves? What would that entail? Could we return coffee to a tool that actually empowers Black and brown people and benefits our community? “We initiated this experiment,” says Henderson.

The experiment resulted in the Anti Gentrification Coffee Club at 761 National Street. According to Henderson, the experiment evolved into a gathering place for local artists, boarders, and activists.

The Hendersons hired members of their community as well as individuals who fell in love with the shop. They desired to create a space where their neighbors could enjoy coffee experiences that were “culturally congruent.”

Read more •

Suggested Reading