SCA Lectures Podcast #5: Changing Power Structures

Michelle Johnson and Tracy Ging moderate a panel on intersectionality, a term Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined as a cross-section where various forms of oppression exists (she explains the concept in this TED video). Women of color and those who identify outside of the CIS-normative, experience a unique set of challenges that often go unheard. This panel elevates those perspectives while discussing how to remove barriers, build influence, and foster the change needed for greater representation and a more collaborative, compassionate, and creative approach within the coffee industry.

Moderator: Michelle Johnson, Creative Marketing Consultant, Activist, The Chocolate Barista
Michelle Johnson is the creator and writer for The Chocolate Barista, a blog focused on promoting the social welfare of coffee professionals belonging to marginalized communities. She’s the 2016 Sprudgie Award recipient for the Outstanding Achievement In The Field of Excellence for her work through The Chocolate Barista. Originally hailing from Washington, DC, Michelle is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona, where she is a part-time barista and ambassador to the Phoenix coffee community.

Moderator: Tracy Ging, VP of Strategic Development, S&D Coffee and Tea
Tracy Ging is Vice President of Strategic Development for S&D Coffee and Tea, current Chair of World Coffee Research and serves on the Board of Directors for the Specialty Coffee Association. She received the SCAA’s 2016 Special Recognition Award.

Panelist: Meister, Content Specialist, Cafe Imports
Meister’s dual career in specialty coffee and journalism has afforded her the opportunity to communicate with people from all walks of life and at all stages of the supply chain, from novice professionals and new consumers to expert baristas and coffee connoisseurs, as well as producers, roasters, and anybody else who has a minute to spare. Meister works for Cafe Imports as a writer, editor, educator, and erstwhile salesperson; she is also the author of the forthcoming book “New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History,” due out on July 31 with The History Press. Her full name is a poorly guarded trade secret, but you can call her just “Meister.”

Panelist: Jenn Chen, Coffee Marketer, Writer, and Photographer
San Francisco-based coffee marketer Jenn Chen uses compelling words and photography to make specialty coffee companies look stunning online. She believes in the power of creating inclusive digital and in-person communities. Her work has appeared with industry leaders like Acaia, Coffee Quality Institute, and Sprudge. When she is not working, you can find her with ice cream in one hand and a donut in another. You can connect with her at or on social media @thejennchen.

Panelist: Phyllis Johnson, President, BD Imports
President of BD Imports, social enterprise began importing coffees from Kenya in 1999 and expanded throughout the globe, currently a coffee retailer. Long-time advocate, women in coffee production, among few women of color to serve on Specialty Coffee Association and National Coffee Association Boards. A Consultant to International Trade Centre and International Women’s Coffee Alliance volunteer, Phyllis led the formation of chapters throughout Africa and beyond. Among few female CEO antagonist featured in case study taught at Harvard Business School. Her work with IWCA Burundi chapter as mentor and coffee buyer has been highlighted as best practice, empowering women in agribusiness by academia, industry news media, and International Finance Corporation (IFC). A 2015 Harvard Kennedy School graduate and recipient of Barbara Jordan Women’s Leadership Award.

Panelist: Liz Dean, Coffee Professional, Barista Guild of America Executive Council-member 
Liz has been working in the coffee industry for 6 years. Her 1st coffee job was at a Seattle’s Best above Penn Station before becoming a barista at Irving Farm. She then became the manager of Irving Farm’s Upper West Side location – one of their highest volume shops – before stepping up as Director of Retail, where she now oversees operations and staffing for the 7 cafes in Manhattan and one in the Hudson Valley, most of which also have full food menus. Liz is passionate about making sure her cafes are welcoming, inclusive community spaces and neighborhood focal points for staff and customers alike. She considers supporting and advocating for her staff to be one of the most important parts of her job.

Panelist: Tymika Lawrence, Regional Partnership Manager, Genuine Origin
Tymika has worked in coffee for the past 6 years, and is currently on the sales team for Genuine Origin on the east coast. Before that, she was an Account Manager and Educator for Counter Culture Coffee, and started her coffee career at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. She was drawn to specialty coffee for a multitude of reasons but what keeps her enthralled is learning more about how coffee moves through the world and keeping the people who produce our lifeblood centered in her work.

This talk was presented live at the 2017 Global Specialty Coffee Expo, the largest annual gathering of specialty coffee professionals.

The SCA Lectures podcast series is brought to you by Olam Specialty Coffee, connecting roasters to the finest specialty green coffees. Learn more about Olam at

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