Isaac Cambell


AFROPUNK BLKTOPIA: Brewing Change: Coffee Conversations

July 5, 2024

AFROPUNK joined the conversation on what it takes to make sufficient change in today’s world with thought-leader Rashad Robinson, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Stevona Elem-Rogers, moderated by Lynae Vanee to share the grounds for revolutionary change on the AFROPUNK BLKTOPIA “Brewing Change: Coffee Conversations” panel. 

As history has shown us, coffee shops have community bastions that have helped foster grassroots movements, providing a space for activists to organize, exchange ideas, and mobilize for social change.

In the “Brewing Change: Coffee Conversations” panel discussion, Vanee, a NAACP Image Award nominee discussed amongst industry leaders how to invoke real change in our ever-evolving world, and more importantly in a landmark election year. The conversation centered around the importance of education, cultural presence, and collective action in empowering Black communities.

“In terms of New Orleans, it’s sort of an honor and [something to] think about the place that we are at and its connection to cultural power and political power,” says Robinson.” He helms the organization, Color Of Change which was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “Black folks were literally on their roof, begging the government to do something and left to die. And the thing about those moments is they often illustrate things that we already knew — geographic segregation, generational poverty, the impacts of choices that have been made for us, our planet. But at the heart of this moment, no one was nervous about disappointing Black people.”

Within the systemic issues Black people face, the consensus among the panelists was that in order to evoke change, power is needed: people power and cultural power is needed. “The reason that narrative is important is the reason I became a journalist,” says Hannah-Jones. “I understood from a young age that narrative drives policy.”

As we approach a vital election that will largely affect the Black community, Rogers and Hannah-Jones both shared how Black women will likely be the savior of the upcoming elections – something Hannah-Jones is frustrated with. “The work is about us, leaning into our community. I’m inspired by the Black teachers who will never be on a billboard,” says Elem-Rogers. 

Hannah-Jones countered by saying, “I’m not feeling inspired these days. I’m going to be very honest. It’s not that there aren’t inspirational people. But I just feel like we are in a very dire circumstance, and it’s good to come to a place like this and try to get some fortification. But it’s also very depressing because we shouldn’t have to be out here fighting every day like we keep having to fight and we’re forced in that time once again where every four years we get called up to save democracy.”

 While we may not know how far away real progressive change may be for the African-American community may be, “Brewing Change: Coffee Conversations” was the encouraging discourse to become politically engaged in the upcoming election, and to feed back into our local communities. 

Closing out the panel, Robinson shared that in social justice work joy and mental health are paramount. “Without joy, you can’t do anything. Black joy is not the absence of pain, but the presence of aspiration.”



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