Last fall, the St. Petersburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. came up with an idea where people of different races could come together over coffee and have a conversation. They approached the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area about partnering with them, and the first “Coffee in Common” discussion was held in October 2019 at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg.
Over the past eight months the event has taken on a new urgency and attendance has more than doubled.
“Black women, especially the women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., have been at the forefront in the fight for racial and gender equality for many decades,” said Chapter President Dr. Shameka Jones. “The incidents of police brutality as seen recently in the case of George Floyd, in addition to many other examples of racial inequality in America, have reached a new level of visibility to the public. However, for many Black Americans this is definitely not new news.”
“We had 35 or 40 people at our first event but over the past eight months we’ve seen a significant increase in attendance,” said Linsey Grove, president of the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area. “And we’ve met our cap of 115 participants for this week’s event.”
That event, “Coffee in Common: Interracial Friendship & Allyship,” will be held – virtually this month – on Saturday, June 20 from 10 a.m. to noon and will continue the conversation about race in an environment that both women say is a safe and honest space for everyone.
“It is our hope that more people in our community attend the Coffee in Common series to engage in these much-needed, crucial conversations,” said Jones. “We provide a safe space for people of different races to come together to learn from each other, address disparities, and become part of the movement to end racial injustice.”
Grove says that Coffee in Common is a mix of stories and data: the data is provided to back up the stories and the stories humanize the data.
“Sometimes the conversations are uncomfortable but we have to learn how to have difficult conversations with each other about race,” said Grove. “It’s not something we talk about and we are often taught not to talk about it, but doing so provides a better understanding of how systemic racism affects all aspects of life. White people need to hear from people of color about their experiences and sometimes those experiences are traumatic.”
Grove also stresses the importance of action and voter outreach, particularly in underserved communities. The League, along with Delta Sigma Theta and other partners, has begun a vote by mail campaign in low voter-turnout communities to make voting by mail easier and increase voter confidence.
In addition to conversation, participants at the in-person events enjoy a special roast created just for the Coffee in Common series from Hogg Batch Coffee, a local coffee roasting company owned by twin brothers Duane and David Hogg. Those attending can also explore the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, which Grove calls an “incredible partner.”
Coffee in Common is taking a break in July and August but will return in September for more great coffee and conversation.
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