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Rooted in Liberation
caption: From left, Mikayla Weary, Erwin Weary Sr., and Darnesha Weary are portrayed at their new business, Black Coffee Northwest, on Thursday, October 15, 2020, along Aurora Avenue North in Shoreline.
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From left, Mikayla Weary, Erwin Weary Sr., and Darnesha Weary are portrayed at their new business, Black Coffee Northwest, on Thursday, October 15, 2020, along Aurora Avenue North in Shoreline.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Transcript: Black Coffee Northwest: You’re not ‘gonna run me out of my neighborhood’

This is a transcript of Jenna Hanchard's story about Black Coffee Northwest in Shoreline, Washington. This transcript reflects the radio story in a format that is accessible to D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

JENNA HANCHARD: For generations, Black Americans have asked the question, should I stay or should I go? From the Great Migration to those like James Baldwin and Josephine Baker who sought refuge in Paris, there has always been a discord between Blackness and nationhood.


JENNA HANCHARD: This stolen North American soil was built off of Black bodies for wealth. And Black Americans have always wondered if they could call the red, white and blue land of genocide a home. But if this isn't home, then where is it? That's the question that's weighed on a North Seattle family for the last several years. And for the matriarch of this family, Darnesha Weary, the answer came to her in the way many good ideas do.

DARNESHA WEARY: Two in the morning, I did this. I woke up my husband. I was like, guess what, babe. Guess what. We're going to own a business. It's going to be a coffee shop, and I found it on Craigslist.

JENNA HANCHARD: It's not just a coffee shop. It's one of the Blackest coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest.

DARNESHA WEARY: And I kept telling the community, like, once we get a space, it's on and cracking. I just need you guys to know.

JENNA HANCHARD: My name is Jenna Hanchard, a journalist and storyteller with Lola's Ink, working in collaboration with KUOW for a new series called "Rooted In Liberation." This story is about the Weary family, what happens when the safety of our home is threatened and what happens when we decide to stay.


JENNA HANCHARD: I arrived at Black Coffee Northwest in Shoreline on a Saturday for the soft opening. The line was around the corner. And inside... Hey. How's it going? It's good to see you again on the other side (laughter).

ERWIN WEARY: Hey. Yeah, nice to see you again.

JENNA HANCHARD: I know. I know. ...Erwin Weary, Darnesha's husband, is surprised.

ERWIN WEARY: Well as I look around I see a ton of people. And the good thing you know is everyone is wearing masks so that’s an awesome thing of course. It’s been an amazing day. We just did a soft open today. And we weren’t expecting as many people to show up as they did. And, you know, we're running out of everything.

JENNA HANCHARD: And I think that's because this isn't just about coffee.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We heard about it all the way from Walla Walla, Washington, and we’re like ‘we gotta come down, we gotta support.’

ERWIN WEARY: That is so amazing. Thank you so much. Tell Walla Walla to come on down, man. Give them my love.

JENNA HANCHARD: These customers traveled here because this is about Blackness and where it decides to plant its flag even when many try to burn it.

ERWIN WEARY: That's why we're here. You know, we definitely want people to realize that we are here. You know, Black people represent a big part of America.

JENNA HANCHARD: It took a lot for the Weary family to build a business here, to stay here, and they almost didn't. I wanted to process that with Darnesha and her daughter, Mikayla, so we headed to the back of the coffee shop to catch up. OK, girl. So you quit your job?


JENNA HANCHARD: You were done.


JENNA HANCHARD: Tell me about that. You quit and you got this? I wanna hear the whole thing.

DARNESHA WEARY: The whole thing. Here we are. And my husband's still trying to figure out what happened. (LAUGHTER)

DARNESHA WEARY: That's why I walk around like I don't really know what's happening. We got door decals and signs. And he's like, wait; I don't even know if I agree to this yet. I was like, no, babe. We got a door decal. This is real.

JENNA HANCHARD: The decals say Black Coffee Northwest, grounded in excellence. The coffee is sourced from an Ethiopian roaster based in Renton. And young folks working here are all young Black kids from the community.

DARNESHA WEARY: “They're all kids that we have worked with that I knew have the skill sets. But never, they never succeeded in school out here. They had, well, they’re good students, they just struggled, because they were in a system that was not created for them. But all these kids -- all this planning -- I've done nothing. They're meeting every week, they put together operations plan, employee handbook.

JENNA HANCHARD: One of those kids is her daughter, Mikayla, who she named the president of Black Coffee Northwest.

MIKAYLA WEARY: Just seeing it all come together, it's just unreal. Like, it's a functioning coffee shop. Like, we're here. So it's crazy.

JENNA HANCHARD: And you're the president.

MIKAYLA WEARY: I am. It's weird - yeah, at 17.

JENNA HANCHARD: I first Darnesha and her family two years ago. Mikayla was only 15 years old. I was reporting on a racist incident that happened to Mikayla and her brother, Erwin. It was the first time they were both called the N-word. It was one of the many times their family questioned if Edmonds was a place where they could stay.

MIKAYLA WEARY: I just wanted to be around people who looked like me. I knew I would face those things, regardless of where I went, but it would just probably be more common. Or I'd have a community of people who looked like me who would stand up for me. And so that definitely made me want to move out of Edmonds

DARNESHA WEARY: Man, after that happened to our kids, that was the first time I actually felt unsafe in my own neighborhood. That was the first time I actually felt like my kid could have been killed, and we would be holding a rally and a hashtag and a T-shirt, for my child, who does nothing.

JENNA HANCHARD: And so Darnesha went searching for a place where the faces could look familiar and the soil could feel safe.

DARNESHA WEARY: And I told all my friends. I'm like, we're out of here. I can't stand being here. Like, we're going to Atlanta, child, Texas, Louisiana - anywhere that where Black people - I don't care. I was like, we're out. And so we start traveling heavily. Like, we went to Carolina. I was like, I love it here. I was like, we're never coming back. I almost made Erwin put an offer on a house there 'cause you know I so stuff. We learned that, right? Like...

JENNA HANCHARD: Darnesha came close to leaving the only place she has ever called home.

DARNESHA WEARY: But something kept telling me, like, I grew up here. And a lot of the women or the people that I knew in the area that were Black left, and I didn't have anyone. I didn't ever find community here. And I was creating community with all these kids and families. And I was like, I can't leave. And everyone would say, you ain't going nowhere. Like, this - come on. I was like, no, we're out of here. But we stayed. And then I - one night, it just clicked. Like, why should I have to leave? Like, you're going to run me out of my neighborhood?

JENNA HANCHARD: So she and her family built the place that they needed: Black Coffee Northwest. A haven. A place that she didn't have, a place that her kids and other Black kids could come and be themselves. But just before they could open, someone saw their flag flying high in the distance, and the terrorism that we often don't hear about came to their front door.

DARNESHA WEARY: They had thrown, like, multiple bricks through the windows. And the explosive didn't, like, blow up. Thank God they just caught on fire. And then they took the gas line and put, like, a plant and a whole bunch of debris and lit that on fire and lit the gas line on fire. And so the fire department was able to quickly put that out. Like really trying hard to set the building on fire. And it didn't for a reason, right? And I thank God that it did not. But you really tried that hard to burn it down? We hadn't even sold a cup of coffee. Haters before I even open.


DARNESHA WEARY: Like, why are you mad?


DARNESHA WEARY: Like, you literally tried to burn - not burn it down, blow it up. That's what the fire department said. It would've blown up.

JENNA HANCHARD: Why do you think they're mad?

DARNESHA WEARY: Because they know we're about to change this community 'cause I upfront said this will be a - we will be a catalyst for change. You will come here for coffee, and you will leave with something different. You will leave with a charge to change the community. You will leave having a hard conversation. You will leave learned something because our questions of the day are not going to be, what's your favorite TV show? It's going to be, how are you anti-racist today? Like, those are going to be our questions. Did you vote? You know, are you registered? So we're going to have those conversations here. And this is just going to be the place where people are going to change. And so the folks that don't want that to happen are real mad.

JENNA HANCHARD: You'd think that after that, this family would be on the next plane. But for the Wearys, their resistance is in the opening of the coffee shop doors. It's in their laughter, their joy. It's their flag flying high in Shoreline that says, this is home. I'm so proud of you...


JENNA HANCHARD: And happy for you. This is beautiful, Darnesha.

DARNESHA WEARY: Thank you. I'm so excited.

JENNA HANCHARD: This is beautiful.

DARNESHA WEARY: I don't even know. Like, I mean, we're just like - they're like, how do you feel? I was like, I don't really know. I don't know how I feel. I just - I feel happy and proud. I feel happy for the people. Like, I needed to feel community, and I feel it.