The Empowerful Podcast was created to share the profound stories of movers and shakers who are positively impacting the world. Together, we believe we can amplify that change. We live by the motto of an old African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Welcome to the MiiR Empowerful Podcast New Color Series. The world is full of color, and we're telling stories about them. Stories of people and places we've been shaped by throughout our pursuit of empowering people for a better future.
In honor of our new color, Thousand Hills, we took a deep dive into the untold story of African coffee origins and Black coffee culture with Bartholomew Jones. Bartholomew is the brains behind cxffeeblack, a social movement to promote coffee culture within the Black community and rediscover coffee traditions that are uniquely African. Join us for a conversation about coffee's diaspora history, the growth of Black coffee culture, and how cxffeeblack fits into the greater racial justice movement.
Maurice Henderson (pen name Bartholomew Jones) is a self-proclaimed "coffee and history nerd." From a young age, Bartholomew was intrigued by coffee and the traditions that surround it. As he grew up and dove deeper into the specialty coffee world, he started to notice the lack of Black representation within it. Despite the fact that coffee had come from Africa, alongside the diaspora of African peoples, the Black community lost touch with its ancestral drink.
Bartholomew decided to do something about it. cxffeeblack is his mission to bring Black culture back into coffee culture, by making specialty coffee more accessible. Bartholomew, a middle school history teacher by training, believes in a pedagogical teaching style and runs "brew up ciphers" around the country. These ciphers include coffee cuppings, freestyle hip-hop sessions, and conversations on coffee's past, present, and future. He also features online curriculum on his website to help aspiring coffee enthusiasts and coffee entrepreneurs.
When Bartholomew talks about enjoying coffee black — no sugar, no cream — he isn't just talking about his favorite drink. He wants the Black community to be proud of their "natural, god-given notes" and not attempt to use "sugars and creams" to dull down their Blackness. As he says “America is a place where most things Black are valued by their proximity to whiteness. I think coffee is a great place to start the conversation about why that is.”
Bartholomew is the kind of person whose passion for his work is unmistakable. He deeply believes in the work he is doing and is a natural-born storyteller. We came away from this conversation with a new perspective and strong hankering to go taste the notes of a rich cup of pure black coffee.
Our original inspiration for the color Thousand Hills came from a trip our team took to the coffee-growing regions of Rwanda. Here, alongside the Kula Project, Rwandan farmers are holding onto their coffee heritage and growing some of the richest coffees in the world. Over a week of traveling through Rwanda, our team fell in love with the "halftones, gentle sounds and mellow flavors" of this warm and welcoming place.
Between our travels through Rwanda and our conversation with Bartholomew, we have only scratched the surface of unearthing coffee's true African heritage. This is a journey of learning that we are excited to continue, and we encourage any coffee lovers to join us.