Saturday, October 31, 2009

What a feminist bibliophile coffee connoisseur's dreams are made of

The wonderful thing about almost-impossible dreams is that even if it's 100% not feasible (at least not yet), it's still surprisingly fulfilling to daydream about. It doesn't cost a thing to make plans or have ideas.

I have a new pie-in-the-sky dream to daydream about.
The last time I had a dream this pie-in-the-sky (we're talking, like, Balloon Boy altitude here) was two and a half years ago.
During my summer internship in DC, my Smithie roommates and I were daydreaming about a nonprofit based in the Bay Area that would serve mostly (though not exclusively) female victims of domestic and sexual violence. We even drew up some google documents. Lauren even took some time out of her internship on the Hill (during the slow time of August recess) to create some business plans in a binder, and did extensive research on 501(c)(3) certification and the political/lobbying limitations of such a nonprofit classification. We talked at length about the mission statement, and whether it would encompass only direct services or expand into policy advocacy and grassroots activism, and if the latter, what kind of lobbying we could & couldn't do as a (c)(3) nonprofit. (What can I say? We were total nerds like that. This is why I count these women as some of the best friends I'll ever have.)

That dream's not quite as compelling anymore; we all found our passions in slightly different forms of feminism. Both Lauren & Elizabeth are in law school on opposite coasts, and here I am in the middle, the underpaid and overworked grassroots organizer doing my best to stretch the hours long enough to make these red states slightly friendlier - or at least not more hostile - to the idea of reproductive freedom.

So we're all in different places, and I'm not sure what Lauren's & Elizabeth's dreams are anymore. (Are law students even allowed to have dreams?)

While I love my job and I love the politics of Kansas & Missouri (it's exhilarating to work in the same states as Great-White-Hope Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and the always lovely Hunger-is-a-Positive-Motivator Cynthia Davis (R-MO), among other d-bags), it's not perfect. I think it's the flatness. Maybe if I were down near Springfield and Joplin, with the Ozarks closer, it'd be better. But then...I'd be near Joplin. And, well, no thanks.

So a girl gets to daydreaming.

Mostly, I daydream about Denver. There's something about that place that just snuck into my heart and set up camp there, like a really wonderful heartworm. Or maybe some metaphor less parasitic, but it's late, and that's what I've got.

But yesterday, a new and exciting daydream entered the picture.
I happened upon this lovely twitterer, @SugarAndSass. Well, to be accurate, she happened upon me, started following me, and I followed my email notification to check her out.

Eventually, it led me to her blog.
Here's her profile:

Um. Hi, soul mate. What's up?

I sent her a short direct message on twitter (lemme tell you, it's hard to convey the message of "Oh my god, I think you and I may be soul mates. I love your idea, and I think you might have stolen my dream. Tell me more about your dream coffee shop/bookstore/sex ed resource/awesomesauce establishment so that we can geek out over feminist coffee sweet greatness together? Email me at this address." in 140 characters or less. I ended up using 2 direct messages. Totally bad Twitter etiquette [twitiquette?], I know.), and she sent me a long email in response.

After telling me her pie-in-the-sky ideas (notice how I'm using the word "pie" a lot when referring to a potential bakery? so clever, i am), she asked me to share mine.

They're all of 24 hours in the making, but here goes.

Here are my passions, sortakinda in order:
  • Reproductive justice.
  • Specifically: truly comprehensive sex education.
  • Also specifically: abortion access / rights.
  • Also specifically: anti-violence & anti-rape work / working to subvert the rape culture.
  • Also specifically: all of the intersectional oppressions in the above (esp sexuality and race).
  • Books. (Under "religious views" on facebook, I wrote "used books." For real.)
  • Really good coffee. ← this requires, of course, fairly traded and locally roasted beans.
  • Really good local food products. And supporting local businesses in general.
  • Chocolatey baked goods. Creamy baked goods. Pumpkiny baked goods. Fruity baked goods. Sweet baked goods. Savory baked goods. Fancy baked goods. Everyday baked goods. (←both eating and baking. Mostly, eating.)
  • Activism around all of the above, particularly the repro justice related passions. Grassroots, community-based -- both within the community and empowering the community to take their demands up to decision-makers.
  • Transforming this movement/these movements into something emotionally sustainable for the activists within it.
  • Bringing an aspect of healing (personal, community, etc) into social justice & repro justice activism.

In an ideal world, all of these things would come together into one beautiful endeavor that's both successful and immensely fulfilling on every level.
And since we're dreaming here, let's go for it.

At their best, cafés and bookstores that truly focus on what's local can bring the community together. (See, for example, my alma mater café, the Cup and Top Café in western MA.)
And at their best, organizations that want to achieve reproductive justice on a community level are tapped in and can respond to the real needs and wants of their communities, and their communities, in turn, rely on these repro justice organizations.
Way I see it, you've got two ways to gain power and be influential: have lots of money or have lots of people. The former is never going to be the case for most social justice organizations (unless I find a social justice minded heiress to be my endeavor's sugar mama). So community buy-in and trust and loyalty is a must.

That's the coffee portion of it. I love cafés and barista-ing, a love that started with my C&T above and continues with my café here in KC, so of course I'm going to bring that in.

The rest of it isn't so clear yet, and is still kind of a jumble of awesome ideas that probably don't jumble together into a feasible business plan.
But here's what would be lovely:

Smallish, cozy shop. Room enough for a regular coffee shop near the front. Lots of windows for window art by local artists. (Or maybe visiting ones, like my friend em jollie?)
The shop part will be part used bookstore, part coffee shop. Maybe the bookstore would instead be a lending library, with the option to buy?
The rest of the building / space not in use for food service / retail would be open office / workshop space. Workshops for parents and kids on how to talk about sex. Workshops for victims/survivors on how to honor the past and channel it into something positive. Creative workshops with a focus on healing/social justice (maybe with visiting artsy classes by my friend Dana or writing workshops by my friend Tanya?). Action camps for activists to hone their community organizing/activist skills. Workshops on repro justice in general. Sex ed classes for adults. Sex ed classes for legislators (they seem to need it the most sometimes). Speakouts on sexual violence. Speakouts on abortion. Accountability sessions with legislators around repro justice issues that affect the local community.

I could keep going with these possibilities forever, I'm sure.
And I'll probably keep listing them in my head as I go to bed tonight, too.

I really love dreaming about this endeavor.

And apparently, other people like the dream, too.

Within 5 minutes of posting a brief musing on Facebook, 2 people "liked" the status and 2 promised me their business. Within an hour, I had an offer from an old college classmate to be my baker. By the end of the day, I had someone suggest I find a partner or manager (subtly offering to be said partner maybe?).

I don't think I'd ever want to or be able to take the financial risk of opening my own business.


Anne X said...

I support you with one qualifier. It must be open 24 hours. Coz I don't think I'd ever leave.

Anonymous said...

great post. I would love to follow you on twitter.