Walking into the Whittier Cafe in the historic Whittier district, despite face coverings and the socially distant atmosphere prompted by COVID-19, there’s an undeniably strong sense of community. Local artwork hung on the walls, the free lending library and a cozy outdoor patio are all part of owner Millete Birhanemaskel’s efforts to make all feel welcome here.
Nicknamed “The Social Justice Coffee Shop,” Whittier Cafe is a known gathering place for political organizers, community activists and others working toward positive change in Denver. A trip to the restroom is like attending a mini-protest, with signs from various marches — “Justice 4 George” and “A woman’s place is in the revolution” — stacked against the wall.
I Am Denver sat down with Birhanemaskel at the height of the protests for George Floyd in June of 2020. We discussed how her African espresso bar became a landing place for movements such as Black Lives Matter, how many have stepped up to support this and other black-owned businesses, and why this moment in time feels different than others.
Check out the video above and please share! The Whittier Cafe is located in Denver’s Whittier neighborhood on East 25th Avenue between North Williams and Gilpin streets.