ZENAT BEGUM

Zenat Begum is a young entrepreneur and community organizer who founded Playground Coffeeshop in a BedStuy storefront space, where her family operated a hardware store for the previous twenty years.  Zenat speaks about the challenges of being a young woman of color starting a business, gentrification, and the coffee shop as a center for social change.

Tamara Santibañez: You own Playground Coffee. But it’s more than a coffee shop, right?

Zenat Begum: Yes. It’s also a community space and a gallery, and a safe space for people of color and trans, femme, queer, whichever. Right now we are focusing a lot more on the community aspect, trying to work with other organizations. We’re working with a few people in terms of how we can better facilitate the programs that we want to do there. At the first community meeting we had we talked about “What are the issues that the people are facing in the neighborhood?” Whether they are commuters, residents, or just passerbys mostly.

T: The coffee shop is in BedStuy.  So what do you see being the issues impacting the community? What do you see being the need?

Z: I think the most immediate issue that the neighborhood is facing is food being a scarcity. Bodegas outnumber supermarkets. There are initiatives that people are taking to build community gardens and trying to get people to consume fresh and local food, but at the same time that’s not accessible to people of color. It’s only created by spaces that are okay for white people to go into. Generally farming, especially in New York, urban farming is a very white thing to do. So educating people, the white people, who run them, it’s really hard to tell them that, “POC that reside here are actually going to be negatively affected if you don’t include them.” Which I’ve learned from being around there my whole life, with my dad.

T: Did you grow up in the area?

Z: No, I grew up in Park Slope. But my dad had a hardware store in the same storefront space for about 20 years.

 

T: Do you feel like people that you talk with are pretty understanding of the role they need to fulfill, as far as making the community feel included in their efforts?

Z: You know, truthfully, I don’t think people understand what is going on there. There are a lot of outsiders trying to help insiders and I think that they need to bridge the gap of understanding that not everyone is as destitute as you think they are, but rather sometimes people do not want to accept the changes from a certain person because of the way they look. So I think they need to stop thinking that these people need agencies to better their environment, and rather understand where they come from, what have they been through? Why they don’t accept change or people that look like you that come into their lives and forefront and spearhead all of this change in the neighborhood.

T: So just to contextualize what we are talking about a little bit, we are of talking about the gentrification that is happening in BedStuy and the people who are being affected as long term residents of the neighborhood, who are largely POC.

Z: Yeah.

T: So you see a lot of non profit groups coming in who are largely white people who don’t understand the area’s history or residents’ actual needs?

Z: Well a lot of the things I’m seeing is – you don’t necessarily see people who are in charge of these programs, you see the people who they send out. So generally, they are kids who are younger than me or a little older than me. I’m trying to build an institution whereas they are trying to create a larger blanket idea, a narrative that is broader to the neighborhood so they think that they are trying to reach out to these people, but I don’t think that they necessarily are.

T: So it’s almost like they’ve decentralized the model of aid, where they are not trying to create a lasting structure – they are trying to impact change without infrastructure or  a foundation.

Z: Precisely. Over the summer I remember, this woman approached me about doing a reading, a literature course at Playground. Which I thought was a great idea, you know, promoting literacy within the neighborhood, without formal education, discussing dense topics. I was all for it, then she’s like, “Oh no, we are just going to go into every school and make sure that they are reading at the level they are supposed to be in.” But then what about the content that they read? Do you not care about that? I think that sometimes people just want to get their numbers up and that’s what the are trying to do in the neighborhood.

T: Yeah, it sounds like they are just operating with whatever government imposed, age appropriate, educational standards they are handed. So much of that is based on standardized testing too, which is widely proven not to be an accurate idea of how people perform or what their strengths are.

Z: Oh yeah, of course. I think that one of the greatest things about BedStuy is there are smaller neighborhoods and communities that have created an alliance with the other people that live in BedStuy. In my block especially, there is the Quincy Street Block Association or next over is the Lexington Block Association. And so these individuals who have lived here long term, whether they are black, brown, white you know, they go and they physically hand people pieces of paper where they are like “Hey, these are the issues that we are facing as a neighborhood. How would you like to help?” So there are organizations that I feel like, whether they are small or not – they are taking charge of the spaces where they live, which is beautiful because then we have things like Community Board Three. Where they determine whether a business gets to open, whether or not it is going to culturally diminish the value of BedStuy, if it’s true to its roots. But there there are also people who, whether it’s like myself or my dad, or people who have lived in BedStuy for so long wanting to have these businesses, just trying to prove to people that whether or not this neighborhood gets gentrified, there is a lot of history involved in their stories and they have a larger impact on the neighborhood then they think, just by existing. That’s it, and the kind of people that they meet. So when you look at small businesses in BedStuy, you can map the change just by discussing with small business owners what they have been through.

T: So how did it happen that you took over the space from your dad and you started your own business?

Z: So, I think late 2015, after I graduated, my dad noticed that his business wasn’t doing so well – so I was there towards the end, having freshly graduated from college trying to help my dad out. And I realized “OK, so I think that it’s time for you to close this business down”, and he had been trying to hold on to it for so long. Overnight I came in and took everything out and was like, “Hey, I’m really serious, I want to open something here.” And so from that moment onwards, it took year from that point, in October of last year we opened – it was a lot of convincing that I had to do to people.

T: With your family?

Z: Yeah.

T: How do they feel about it now?

Z: Um [chuckles], my parents are so religious and so conservative in that they don’t think that me, as a brown woman, would ever be reputable by opening her own business. Your advances in society are determined by your education, not your accomplishments.

T: Can you tell me a little bit about your family background and your religious background?

Z: So my parents are from Bangladesh, my mom and dad were both born there. They had grown up in post war Bangladesh. This is after Bangladesh had seceded from Pakistan and became their own country, so they were definitely living in a time of change and their parents adapting to living in a country that’s the language that they speak. They always tell me “Our country is the only country that has ever fought for its language, and that’s so important. We are Bengalis and that’s our identity.” So I think they kind of brought that over to us growing up. My dad moved here in 1989, he pretended to be a cab driver for a minute, and then he became a construction worker, became a contractor. So true American success story, but often times not taken seriously because of his accent or the way he looked. My mom, she’s a stay at home wife, and she’s always taking care of us no matter what. I really respect her for that, but then seeing her like that and then seeing my dad go off made me realize that I wanted to be the woman that walked around like my dad and was the boss. So my whole life I was like, “I’m going to be the boss, that’s who I am. I’m going to be the leader”. I have two younger sisters who are very much different than me but they look at me as I guess an influencer. I think that I’m the reason why they were able to come out of their shells and accept that we don’t have to look a certain way to be religious, or if I want to exert my womanhood, I can, and I don’t need a man to tell me what to do. Which is really amazing, because it took me a really long time to get there, but then I made it easier for my sisters where they were like, “What are we doing, why are we struggling so hard, let’s just be who we want to be!”.

T: That’s really cool.

Z: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been through the whole headscarf thing, my parents had me wear it for a while, and I pretended like I wore it, then I didn’t wear completely it, and now I am where I am. Post 9/11 they became really conservative, which is weird for me, because that was a time where my mom and dad were receiving death threats. It was really bad.

T: Did your father’s business suffer at that time as well?

Z: I don’t think so, because he was working with the Jewish community of BedStuy, so he was always protected. I think the only thing that negatively impacted him was the recession.  After Home Depot opened up in the neighborhood, he kind of lost his business. My dad and my mom were definitely scared and were always on a list when they would fly. It was really difficult for my parents to deal with 9/11 happening. My mom always tells me the story of 9/11, because we lived across the river, from the World Trade Center, or where it used to be. And I remember the day that she was supposed to pick us up from school, she had looked across and seen the buildings fall.  It was a really traumatic experience for her. So for someone to feel the most American at a time where people didn’t call her American, it really shocks me, because this is a woman who had to get her green card, become a citizen, but then not deemed as an American, or like the antithesis of an American because of the way she looks.

 

 

T: So, back to the coffee shop – you decided to open your own business.

Z: Yeah, I was kind of influenced by working with 8-Ball and being around the people I was, just kind of seeing and taking away from everything that I have done with them, making it my own, and properly representing it to a certain group of people so that it is accessible to them. Being able to take art, music, books, whatever the case may be into my hands, and presenting it into the world that I wanted to. It gave me a lot of creative control which is something that I had never done before. I had to take myself out of my comfort zone and make this place for people to come back to everyday, or want to contribute to or want to throw shows at. I think that alone inspires me.

T: So it was through that introduction to DIY culture that you felt empowered to open your own business?

Z: Yeah, exactly, cause I don’t know shit about business. I went to school for economics but we learned theory.  I was way more intrigued by other concepts than I was Econ.

T: So how did you find it, getting into actually starting and owning a business?

Z: Man, no one takes you seriously when you are 23, trying to open up your business. Like going down to the Department of blah blah blah Consumer Affairs, they’re like “Hmm, is your dad here, is your mom here?” and I’m like “Very funny, I just want to get this paper dropped off and signed.” So just being put in a position where I had to assert authority, it was difficult but at the same time I was like, “If I don’t do it, nothing is going to happen, so I better put on the biggest smile and get this done.” But it was really challenging, in terms of financially putting everything together, getting people to come at the time that they were supposed to show up to build something.

T: It seems like a total crash course in being the boss.

Z: Oh, I think I cried every week. I’m positive. I’m pretty sure I cried every week. It was such a draining process where I kind of thought at a point, “Why am I doing this?” Then once it opened I was like “Oh, this is why I did it all, this is why I felt all of the emotions I had to feel. To get where I am now.”  It has been open for about four months, which is wild to think about because this has been the longest four months of my life compared to the year that I waited to open.

T: So now it’s serving, as you were saying before, as both a coffee shop and a type of community center. What kind of events have you been doing there?

Z: In the past, we’ve done a live music show, a chess night which one of the Grandmasters that lives in the neighborhood, we did an open mic night, we did a few radio shows that were connected to Know Wave. We also had a talk on Standing Rock by this group called the Art Hoe Collective who had a representative come and talk about what it is to be a POC in advocating for a cause like the people of Standing Rock to fight for their land. And then there has been a wide variety of community organization. We’ve done a community meeting, which I mentioned to you before, facilitating all of the programs that we have and getting the proper resources to get the ball rolling on all of our endeavors.

T: How do you find interacting with the community? Do you know a lot of people already, just because of your family’s history in the neighborhood?

Z: Well, there’s people that I know through my dad and being the little girl that was always running around the neighborhood, but there is also just me building a relationship with people that my parents haven’t necessarily ever met. I guess sometimes it kind of, not warms people’s hearts, but gives them hope that there is a little structure to this neighborhood, there is lineage and there are family roots. That makes me happy, when I tell people “Oh yeah, my dad’s business used to be here and now I’m doing it”. I think it’s cool to see that happen rather than someone who has never lived in New York, or is not from New York and doesn’t have the same mission, opening something up and doing it to serve.

T: So what does it mean for you to be a New Yorker? To have pride in New York, what do you think is the core of being from New York that you want to see preserved? Because it’s a place that obviously changes rapidly and people have talked a lot about that in discussions about gentrification. What do you think needs to be preserved?

Z: Sometimes I say that “The only thing that is constant in New York is change.” I think the things that need to be preserved are our cultural roots. People always perceive New York to be super negative, to be standoffish, but New Yorkers are some of the nicest people in the world. They are willing to help everyone and I feel like that’s what it comes down to, depending on, regardless of whatever class you are, try to help out the people in your circle. I don’t know, I guess being true to who you are and having the attitude that you can do whatever you want. What’s great about New York is that we have everything at the palm of our hands and taking that and to put it into good use, being resourceful, helping the people around us.

T: I’d like to hear your thoughts on gentrification a little bit more. Obviously people throw the word around a lot, especially right now. I moved here almost 12 years ago and I remember living in BedStuy then. Whenever I am in that area now I am struck by the change. I hear a lot of people who are New York transplants to areas like BedStuy referencing gentrification and it’s almost as if by mentioning it and mentioning that they are aware of it, they are sort of absolving themselves of the responsibility, right? So what do you think the responsibility is for people who are not from the neighborhood? Do you think it’s to not move into the neighborhoods to begin with? Do you think it’s to be held to a certain standard of interaction with the existing community when they do move in? What do you think would be a positive model for people who are moving in– because if we are acknowledging economic realities that are making people move into neighborhoods like Bed Stuy and Crown Heights, and now the South Bronx, etcetera – a lot of people feel like they don’t have much choice because of the climbing rental and property values. So what do you think would be the right way for people to navigate that process?

Z: I don’t know. Historically speaking, things like the great migration or white flight have occurred where people go into neighborhoods within an urban city and then a few years later they go back to the suburbs. So I think that this is something that happens naturally, it’s always reoccurring, but is it okay? No. I think bottom line, anyone who moves into a neighborhood that is disadvantaged and you’re taking the opportunity of housing away from them, you are a gentrifier. Like a person that comes to New York and wants to live in a lower income neighborhood just so they can feel secure in terms of the money they can make, or how they can pay their rent. I think you simply are a gentrifier. Or thinking about, like Lincoln Center, a very gentrified institution because it knocked down a bunch of project buildings that were there prior to its existence. Looking at the musical West Side Story, thinking about where do those projects go? Obviously those don’t exist anymore. When you think about gentrification, how you are a gentrifier, you have to think about the souls and the people and the personalities that used to live there and how they have influenced and made it easier for you to live there because whether or not they have advocated change in the neighborhood, or wanted to make it safer – they were living there because they had no other option and to be a gentrifier you have many options, but you choose to live in the neighborhood just because it conveniences you. So I feel like that’s something that people have to consider when they move into neighborhoods that are lower income or culturally on the come up or whatever. Areas like Bushwick or how Williamsburg used to be, which was all warehouses and now it is where people live.

To be a transplant, you have to be hyper aware of the surroundings and appreciate the people who have lived there before you and weirdly enough, become active, see how you can help out. Make sure that every time you buy your groceries that a family who is disadvantaged can buy the same amount of groceries as you can. That’s how I always thought about it, but at the same time it’s hard to not implement kind of this savior complex too, because you can’t save everyone. So it’s hard to respond. I guess, you know, be super appreciative that you can live there but at the same time know that they have gone through a lot for you to live there.

T: So what are the things you’re looking to do at Playground in the future? You also have a zine store there, right?

Z: Yeah, so we have a consignment rack, you can sell your item there and if it sells you get money for it and if it doesn’t we’ll give it back to you. Giving people who live in the neighborhood to the opportunity to sell whatever work that they make, regardless of the tier of work it is. As long as you make something and are putting yourself out there. Trying to get people to see anything can be held seriously and to a standard. So I’m using this platform to get people who are underrated to sell their work.

T: Are you getting a lot of people who have not sold their work before?

Z: Yeah, actually just a lot of people who are even making zines for the store, like, “Oh, I’m so happy that this is here, I’ll queue up to make something and I’ll drop it off”. Which is really amazing because I didn’t know that Playground had the power to do that.

T: What’s your experience been like as a woman of color being a business owner?

Z: Um ha, people always come in an ask me who the manager is or if I’m super witty they’ll be like, “They must have really liked you when they interviewed you” and I’m always like, “Yeah, totally, they’re good people, I heard.”

T: You’re like, “They liked me so much they made me the owner.”

Z: Haha yeah right, it’s hard sometimes for people to stomach it. White men especially, because they think there is a larger brain operating the whole thing.

T: Oh my god, they are like “Who’s the man behind the curtain, who could it be??”

Z: Exactly, but it almost feels great when I tell them that I am the owner because they are like, “Whoa, you did this all?” Because there are like kids who study architecture coming into my store being like “Wow, this is very architecturally sound store, like I love what you’ve done, the fixtures…” and I’m like, “ Uh yes, thank you, I just did what I thought was cool”.

T: You were telling me earlier about how you were interested in trying to inspire other young women of color to start businesses, is that right?

Z: Yes. I come from a super conservative family and I was never held accountable for making my own decisions. My parents were always like “You don’t get to think for yourself”. So being able to do this, it just feels amazing to be in charge and be able to tell people, “You can do this too. Of course this was hard, but it’s so worth it.” I want to tell that to every brown girl who has ever felt like she has had to work for a guy, or the amount of times I’ve worked for white men who don’t appreciate me and then being able to turn the tables and own something is I think one of the biggest accomplishments knowing that I’ll never have to work for a man, a white man ever again.  

 

T: What do you think is one of the biggest, or what do you think are the bigger breakdowns in that type of employment? What did you see as being some of the biggest disappointments working for white men, as a woman of color?

Z: Being told that the picture that accompanied my email was really pretty and it was used as a way to get people to respond to emails, and that no one could deny me because I look really good in my photo.

T: So being expected to use your looks as currency to – 

Z: Yeah, pretty much exploiting me so they can increase their revenue. Which sucks, because even at the end, when I quit that job they were really, really disrespectful and did not say a word. You know, I feel men can get away with that kind of stuff and it made me feel really heartbroken because I put a lot of work into that place but at the end I was just a girl who had a pretty face, that was it. Which I’ve been put in a lot of positions before, expected to look really good and be the porcelain object while the item I sell is just a complement to my look.

T: It sounds so antiquated, so retro. But obviously still exists.

Z: Exactly, like I’m just a model standing next to the thing I am selling, which is difficult to stomach.

T: Is there anything that you have experienced in work places that you are really conscious of doing or not doing in your own business model?

Z: I never want to feel like, or for people to expect that just because I am person of color that I’ll be giving people handouts. That’s really hard for some people to understand – that as a woman of color, I’m expected to work 5 times harder, and then I can’t be giving out free things to people, can’t be giving out handouts because then how am I going to grow? I’m just going to be just as disadvantaged as everyone else is if I can’t help my community. That’s one of the biggest things as to use currency – 

T: What do you mean? Do you feel like people expect you to operate as a charity almost or feel entitled to the resources you've accessed for yourself?

Z: Pretty much, and that if I don’t help people of color immediately, or if I don’t give them things for free, or set up organizations – that I’m being disrespectful to the people who have worked hard for me to get where I am. Which is bizarre because, that’s not my responsibility, to help every single person and never make anything for myself, you know? How am I supposed to help my community if I can’t even have the properly have the finances or the foundation to move forward? And I think that that’s what’s wrong with institutions sometimes- they expect POC to just give and give.

T: POC are expected to perform a ton of labor, just in general, whether that be emotional labor or financial.  Sounds like the expectation is you can’t profit, when you are starting to acquire for yourself you’re supposed to give it to other people.  Even though in most cases there’s no massive profit being made, it's not as if you're a CEO maintaining a massive income gap between yourself and your employees.  You’re just trying to run a business and not lose money.

Z: Yeah, exactly.

T: Yeah, that’s interesting. You obviously have a major eye towards community empowerment and wanting to make your business a space for that. What does that look like to you ideally, what would be your ultimate sustainable model?

Z: For me the coffee shop, I want it to do so well, that these events that we are trying to do, we don’t need to take money from people to fund them. Everything is run by the work that we have put in. It’s almost ironic to do this, but the people who now live in BedStuy have a good amount of money and can put a lot of – 

T: You mean the new transplants?

Z: Yeah exactly, the new transplants that live in the neighborhood WANT to help. Using these resources that they’re connected to. Like some of these people work for large television networks, how do we get opportunities for kids that live in BedStuy who want to work as a producer, or go into the music industry? How do we get these programs to come about? Bridging the gap and saying “I actually know someone who I met yesterday, serving them a cup of coffee that could totally help you. Would you be interested in meeting up with them?” That’s how it should work, not like “Oh hey, here is a two dollar coffee, that’s all I can help you with.” It’s making these connections with people, kind of creating a directory for Playground, where people use Playground as a platform to advance their career.

T: Like a real-world networking space?

Z:  Exactly!

T: That’s really interesting because it’s bringing it back around to ideas, or questions about how people who are gentrifying neighborhoods, and changing the landscape of neighborhoods can help enact positive change. Or contribute to the neighborhood that they are coming into, rather than just being a burden or a strain or a force for displacement. To me that seems like an obvious opportunity for a direct way to be impactful, if you are in a position to hire somebody or to recommend somebody for a job, to hire somebody who is outside your usual pool of applicants. Like if you work at an ad agency and you need an intern, look outside the NYU, white upper middle class applicant pool, and hire somebody from your neighborhood…

Z: Exactly, or even just being a small business owner – hiring people who are actually from the neighborhood, hiring people who are of color, giving people those opportunities to make enough money so they can help people in their own family, and their community. I think it just starts with that, employment, being smart about who you want to represent your company if you are a community based project and you want to help people out. One of my missions has been helping POC use this as a way to break the boundary of white baristas, because there is such a thing as black girl and black boy magic, or like brown girl magic, that kind of stuff exists and we need to be seen in all different positions of the world. I think that’s what a lot of new BedStuy small businesses lack, is that they hire and employ white people and then they disadvantage the people who want to go in there and find it is not an inviting space. Which I’ve heard from a lot of people going into Playground and saying, “This is truly one of a kind in the neighborhood”.

T: I’ve been seeing this rise of coffee shops as community centers. I’ve noticed a lot of activist groups and individuals opening them up across the country and using that as a hub for social justice organizing. Why do you think that that model serves that purpose so well?

Z: It all goes back to the root of what Starbucks used to be. Starbucks revolutionized the coffee industry by having people come and sit down at a coffee shop for hours and do work. And then independent coffee shop owners were like, “Whoa, well we do that too, but then offer a better environment. We don’t have to have this corporate anchor.” I think that when that comes about, you essentially start thinking about community and the people you want in there and naturally it’s smart to go that route where you become a community space, because your mission already lies in your business. Thinking about what you want, how the place should look, what kind of lighting you should have, those things are important in how you make someone feel comfortable. When I was in college, I never wanted to be in a library, because I felt like I had to be locked away for hours in the institution and do my work. It made me feel like I was in a prison of my own education. And so being able to go to a coffee shop where you meet so many different kinds of people from so many institutions all around the country, the world, the city. It made me feel amazing, because I’m in the education system, but at the same time I’m networking by being outside my comfort zone. So, I found myself in all of these coffee shops, and I’m like, “What the hell am I doing? I should just make my own.” Even in Playground you don’t have to buy anything to go and sit down for hours, you can just do it, it’s fine. Of course you should help me out, but at the same time it’s a coffee shop, it’s not a bar, there is light, we are open during the day, and it helps people to do work, it motivates people. I think that that is the difference between what a coffee shop is from what a restaurant or a bar is, you are just expected to socialize no matter what. And Playground is one of those places where you are going to have talk to the baristas, they are going to talk to you back, we are going to establish this relationship whether you like it or not.

T: Yeah, and I think that that is a common realization that has been going on now with all of this organizing and activism type of talk and people who had never been engaged before wondering how they can be involved. I think a lot of times the answer is just talking to people, stepping outside your usual sphere of interaction and listening to other people around you. The coffee shop seems like a natural place for that to happen.

Z: Exactly, and for me, I always have some of the greatest conversations with people I have never met. I think it is important sometimes for you to go into these places that are not institutions and find yourself having intellectual conversations with someone. I think that the discourse of the intellect, it transcends when you go into a coffee shop. With the classes and workshops that we offer, there is no prerequisite that you need to have. You can just come into this place and be yourself and offer whatever kind of rhetoric that you have and expect for people to reciprocate that.

T: The classes that you’re doing – I know you did the Marxist series, right?

Z: We are on our fourth instalment of the Marxism course – so, this professor Julio Huato who is an Economics professor at St. Francis College, he and I got to talking one day and I was just talking about how we need to re-identify what these issues are, and talk about the notions of Socialism and Marxism. In a post-Trump world, a lot of people are starting to protest and in the era of alternative facts, you have to be super factual and make sure that you are saying the correct things and distributing this information wisely. And so, a concept like Marxism or Socialism has to be reintroduced, has to have this reemergence and people have to actually understand what they are talking about before they preach these things. After we got to talking, we set up this class. With the help of a lot of people around us we were able to create this peer led discussion of Marxism. So we distribute this text and everybody has to answer these questions and we all just discuss from there. That alone is what our mission is; to deconstruct the formal education system and allow all people of all backgrounds to attend these classes.

T: Do you feel like that that is more necessary now, because so many young people are getting into activism, maybe even before they are at an age where they can enter some sort of formal philosophy program?

Z: Well, exactly. I am fortunate in that I was given a full ride to go to the New School and study Econ, so I understand these concepts very well, but now being able to introduce them where people aren’t so much familiar. Making it known to people that these concepts are not demonized, they are not the antithesis of democracy. Taking away the stereotype, or the stigma that people often attach to it and I think that’s what’s important to me, to help people realize that they can believe in different forms of government.  I also think that it’s highly arrogant and ignorant to assume that these problems have only existed post Trump, because these are things that people have been dealing with forever, being economically disadvantaged. Now that I am in the position to host these classes for free or with a small donation, I just want people to talk- that’s it. Whether or not I’m teaching you anything or if a professor is providing you any sort of contextual evidence, the idea that you are even talking about this on a Sunday night is revolutionary on its own.

T: Anything else you want to say about the coffee shop, or politics, or business?

Z: People should just do what they want to do. I think it’s important now more than ever to revisit all of those ideas you ever talked about in discussions with your friends and put them into play. Especially POC, we need more representation and people need to see POC in a lot more positions, like I was saying earlier. It’s important to me being a business owner, being an example to other people and give everyone the opportunity to open up their own spaces. There should be a chain reaction.