Issachar: Hard Questions at Blackberries
“Much of the future of the inner city will depend upon the women and men of the community who have the vision, spiritual depth, street smarts, and skills to midwife new ways of being church, of pastoring amidst suffering, and of generating alternative neighborhood visions and narratives.”
- Mark Gornik, To Live in Peace
At the Issachar Community, we agree. The future of the city will depend on leaders who understand their communities, and bring themselves wholly into to the development, service, and work needed to be done in their neighborhoods. This is why at Issachar we strive to create a space for young urban leaders to reflect on faith, action, and imagination.
The other day Greg and I took Skye and Krisangela, a couple of our Issachar Apprentices, to morning coffee at Blackberries. This local-favorite coffee shop is owned by an African-American male, and a few weeks prior Krisangela, a young African-American female, was lamenting over the way she felt her first time at Blackberries. She said, “I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but the first time I was in there I felt bad. Sort of like it just wasn’t black enough. Like it didn’t really reflect my culture. It was too quiet. Like it wasn’t black-owned. I was surprised to know it was owned by a black person. I don’t know, it was just weird.” We challenged her, as a young leader and a student of business at Colorado Christian University, to ask herself why that might be?
Walking to Blackberries this time, we re-visited this issue. We challenged Krisangela to keep thinking about her concerns. To reflect on her gentrifying neighborhood (more wealthy white folks moving in), and wrestle with what it might mean for the owner of Blackberries to try have a business in the changing community. As we got closer to Blackberries, we agreed that if the owner was present she would take all her questions to the man in charge. To our delight he was there as we arrived. As we proceeded to the counter I looked at Krisangela and said, “Ask away.” The stream of questions began: “As a young black woman to a black man, I need to know if you’ve achieved your goal with your business.” We witnessed this business student learn more about neighborhood marketplace theory and practice than could ever be learned from a book.
Greg and I watched in awe at the way Krisangela asked hard questions in a polite, yet direct manner. The owner of the coffee shop—a respected and honorable member of the community—had to acknowledge the force of Krisangela’s questions. After twenty minutes or so of conversation, we ordered coffee!
We laughed at the spontaneous opportunity that we stumbled into. We talked about the permission that young leaders must have to ask questions of established leaders in their community. Our Issachar apprentices left that morning a little more informed about what it takes to contribute to the economics and spirit of a neighborhood coffee shop.
As we were leaving Krisangela decided to do something about the environment at Blackberries—the uncomfortable “quietness” she found there. Enjoy the following video of the “cultural presence” (her words), and pray for our apprentices as they discover their voice and calling in our city.
Has lots to learn
Has lots to offer
Has lots to be grateful for.