Since last December, Howard Schultz (Starbucks CEO) has been involved in partner open forums (Starbucks employee meetings) with discussion about race and racism. Since that time, Howard has traveled to Chicago, New York, Oakland, Los Angeles and St. Louis, and held more open forums with more than 2000 partners (Starbucks calls their employees “partners”), opening up real discussions with partners about their experiences with race and racism.

During the December 10th open forum, one partner said, “We have the chance to learn from the partners who are living that experience every day; and how do we take those lessons back and share both here inside our organization as well as throughout the country about what we can do to better support our partners during social crisis like these…” (See video attached to December newsroom article at 4:19)

Three months later, after that December Starbucks internal meeting, Howard Schultz has been continuing that conversation across the country.

2 - 1 - IMAG5804 sarah - Race TogetherToday (March 14, 2015) I met up with one of my favorite partners, Sarah, and asked her for her thoughts on this. I’ve known Sarah since she was a brand new barista at the Starbucks at 4th and Cherry in 2010. She is now the store manager of the Starbucks that was once the “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea Starbucks,” located at 328 – 15th Avenue East in Seattle. As Sarah chatted about the current race conversation, she said “It’s awesome that we’re talking about this initiative because we (Starbucks) personify the Third Place. We are an appropriate place for this conversation because we are a place where people of different walks of life meet together.” Sarah went on to say, “It’s great that the senior leadership is creating this campaign. Change won’t come from the government. It has to come from everyday people like us.” (Just to be clear, Sarah was just giving me her thoughts and opinions and not speaking on behalf of Starbucks in any official capacity.)

I noticed that if you scroll to the very bottom of the official Starbucks Newsroom story on this topic, you see a link where Starbucks partners can share their own #RaceTogether stories with Starbucks newsroom staff. I want to call your attention to this and if you are a partner reading this, encourage you to share this with others, and share your stories with the newsroom.

You may or may not ever see your neighborhood partners marking cups with hashtag #RaceTogether, but now you know that conversation has begun…