This Shoreline coffee shop provides a safe space for Black youth

When Darnesha Weary’s family came to Shoreline in the late 1990s, it was a mainly white city with few Black households. There were very few Black-owned companies.

Weary and her husband started a coffee business with a cause last year, in the midst of the epidemic.

Even though the business is closed for the day, Black Coffee Northwest is always bustling. Darnesha Weary, the owner, welcomes adolescents as they arrive on a recent Thursday afternoon. They’ve arrived to begin step team practise.

The sofa, tables, and chairs in the coffee shop have been shoved aside to make space for the step team. Approximately a dozen young kids will soon be stomping, clapping, and moving in time.

When Weary and her husband Erwin established Black Coffee Northwest in October, this was one of the images they had in mind. They wanted a restaurant that offered outstanding coffee, among other things, she adds.

“I enjoy coming in here when the music is playing,” Weary remarked. “It’s vibrant, the young that are here are able to be themselves, they’re able to be loud, or they’re not concerned if they just want to plug in their phones and sit in a corner, like just to come in and feel secure, and feel seen.” That’s exactly what we were hoping for.”

It’s the sort of place she wished she had when she was younger. Weary was born in South Seattle but moved north with her family when she was a child.

“When I first came out here, I was the only brown person in every space,” she explained. “It was really difficult for me in school and in the community. I’d never be able to discover something that was quite right for me.”

So, while they lived on the north end, they spent much of their time in South Seattle.

“My mother used to take us to the south end all the time… She wanted us to be near others who looked like us, so she encouraged us to engage in activities there.”

Shoreline’s population has shifted throughout time. Black people now account up more than 6% of the city’s population, up from slightly under 3% in 2000.

Weary’s effort to establish that safe haven was difficult and stressful. For starters, the epidemic made indoor gatherings impossible. However, they did host several events in their parking lot. Then, a month before opening day, there was an arson attempt. The coffee shop was also forced to close for a few days earlier this year after vandals vandalised the premises with swastikas and received email threats. The Wearys responded by holding several online sessions with the community to discuss their goal.

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