This is a tale about a year like no other.
A year in which the dragons of disease, injustice, uncertainty, and unwelcome have plagued every village, town, and country. A year in which it seems the whole world has fought those dragons, at times badly and at times with great valor. A year that has unearthed the best and the worst in us; the anger and fear; the compassion and ingenuity.
You might say our battles with dragons at Refuge are small skirmishes compared to the global scope of the onslaught, and we’d agree. Small, yes, but fierce all the same. We don’t claim to have slayed a single one of these formidable foes. Even so, our sleeves are a bit singed and our bodies are weary. But because you’ve come to our aid, we are galvanized to fight another day.
We are going to tell you a tale of the dragons in five chapters:
- Lack of Opportunity – Part One
- Lack of Opportunity – Part Two
- Unwelcoming – Part One
- Unwelcoming – Part Two
Each chapter will describe the scorched earth the dragons leave in their wake, as well as the invigorating, against-all-odds victories we’ve experienced in the fray. Our talented friend, Ross Boone, will take our imaginations on a wild fairy-tale-esque ride with his illustrations. Again, we haven’t slayed these beasts, and we aren’t the only ones plagued by them. But we haven’t given up… and that is, in large part, because you haven’t given up on us!
Let’s begin with Chapter One…
The formidable foes:
Lack of Opportunity
Once upon a time there was a dead-end job. A necessary job where chickens are slaughtered, scalded, de-feathered, beheaded, eviscerated, and chilled. A job that paid the rent and put food on the table—barely—but tricked people into its tempting lair of survival, its exhausting drone of long commutes; a job that numbed minds while it numbed fingers and kept hard workers mute under its spell.
There once was a woman who chose this job because the alternative was no job. She’d fled the dragons of armed conflict in her home country, only to find another dragon here in ours: the dragon of a dead-end job. She did not lack the will to work or the aptitude to learn a new language and skills; she simply lacked an opportunity. She lacked the opportunity to work while also breathing and dreaming.
Lack of workplace opportunity is a fierce dragon. It breathes the fire of unemployment and the stealthier fire of under-employment. When this dragon rears its head, the assets of a community—its people—never get the chance to shine. Combined with the dragon of COVID-19, the lack of opportunity multiplied.
The formidable foes:
Lack of Opportunity
Once upon a time there was a young man who loved learning. He was quick and curious and ambitious. He had dreams of higher education. But his way was blocked, not by poor grades, bad test performance, or cost. The dragon who blocked the way to this man’s future was not imaginary nor was it created by the young man’s failures.
When war and violence shut doors, one of the first to slam is education. War interrupts education. It interrupts dreams. This dragon robs young people of hope.
The formidable foes:
Once upon a time there was a place on a map where the dragon of racism had lived and breathed its fire for well over a century. It was a place where this dragon’s enemies—its Black residents—courageously waged war against racism with weapons of industry, education, and peace. It was also a place that became a refuge for Black people when White people refused them welcome. No wonder this place is known as a haven of protection from dragons. It’s known as The Beloved Community.
When we opened Refuge Sweet Auburn in February, we wanted to understand this place, both its pain and its beauty. We saw evidence of epic gains in the battle against racism. We saw that, despite valiant, often solitary combat, there was still much to win. When we became neighbors, we wanted to join the fight. But first, we had to be learners.
- Ahmaud Arbery, February 23, 2020
- Breonna Taylor, March 13, 2020
- George Floyd, May 25, 2020
Deaths that, like Sweet Auburn’s place on the map, represented something larger. Deaths that reminded us of too many deaths in too many places.
When COVID hit, Refuge Sweet Auburn took an almost lethal blow. But this place on the map gave us the resolve to add our mission of welcome here, to join hands with our brothers and sisters so that no one within our reach is unwelcomed.
In this final chapter, we meet the mother of many dragons: The Dragon of Unwelcome. Fire-breathing Unwelcome has morphed into a thousand phantasmagorias over the years. The basis for this dragon’s existence shifts over time, but the reasons to refuse welcome are staggeringly predictable: the color of one’s skin, the way one worships, the political party one supports, and the countless variations of these.
The twin beliefs that every human is worthy of welcome and that every human is fully capable of welcome are not enough to fight this dragon. The stakes are too high to merely believe in welcome. We must do the work of welcome.
- At a time when there are more displaced people in the world—over 70 million—the resettlement numbers in our nation are at an all-time low.
- Since the refugee resettlement program began in 1982, the United States has resettled more refugees every year than the total of the rest of the world’s refugee-accepting countries. In 2017, for the first time since the program began, we fell far below that total, and those numbers have continued to fall.
- Refugees are not terrorists or economic burdens as some might have you believe. They are assets. Need proof? 87% of all refugees in Georgia are self-sufficient within six months of their arrival in the United States. 1.5 million refugees and immigrants in our country are doctors, registered nurses, and pharmacists. (For more on this subject, read here.)
Every single time you engage with Refuge Coffee—when you give, share, purchase products, volunteer, drink coffee with us, hire us to cater—you are helping us to fight the dragon of unwelcome.