By Vayunamu Bawa
Photo by Vayunamu Bawa
On a sunny San Diego afternoon, a cafe is packed with women trying on headwraps and getting fitted for waist beads. The sense of togetherness here does not happen by chance but is instead cultivated in a space owned by a Black woman who understands the need for a business that is run with the community in mind. Café X: By Any Beans Necessary is a homegrown coffee shop rooted in southeast San Diego and dedicated to advancing communal wealth building. Khea Pollard, a San Diego native, is the brilliant brain behind it. With an MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, two Bachelor’s degrees, in English and Ethnic Studies, respectively, and two good parents, Pollard advises on Public Policy for the County of San Diego by day and works on other soulful activities by night.
Cafe X was born during Pollard’s time as a 2016 Fellow with the experiential learning fellowship, RISE San Diego, where she learned leadership lessons. The RISE fellowship is designed to support leaders in finding solutions for complex problems in urban black, brown, and yellow communities.
Pollard was also inspired by the life and legacy of Malcolm X. As Pollard notes on her website, the phrase “By any means necessary” was used in a play by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre called Les mains sales, or, Dirty Hands. Performed in 1948, the political drama portrayed a faction fighting for a classless society against a Fascist regime during the World War II era as told through the memory of an assassin. Les mains sales used the phrase within the context of eliminating class. Malcolm X later used the phrase in his speech to the Organization of African American Unity. The politics, history, and pure humanity in those words strongly resonated with Pollard because she understood that any and all change begins with the individual and the community.
Café X is a legacy project that had to be created because Pollard realized there was a strong need for it. It was intended to establish a relational, mutually beneficial network with partnering organizations for collective impact such as freedom for member-owners, personal and community wellness, and keeping money flowing within the community. She recognized that cultural context and leverage are critical to structural change. While it is difficult enough to open a business and generate revenue, it is even more so when generational wealth-building is also one of the goals of the business and Café X takes on the challenge of embracing economic development with a value system that is built to benefit the community.
In addition to advancing the community in a natural and respectful way, she wants people to feel both proud and vulnerable when they visit Café X because that is important to her.
“It’s the kind of authenticity and assuredness blended together that keeps me going. If we can get a little bit of that with our coffee, it’ll make a brighter day,” Pollard says.
Intentional event planning is part of what makes Café X a conducive space for authenticity. The Headwrap Meet-Up was a partnership with Runway Boutique L.A. and vendors Alaiyo Waistbeads and Tielle Greene who provided waist beads and tribal face painting. Upcoming events include a Game Night to build community as well as a partnership with O.U.R Afro Entertainment for a special night of performances Valentine’s Day weekend.
Khea Pollard is motivated by the understanding that she has a long way to grow personally and professionally. “The paradox of ‘the more you learn, the less you know’ is real,” she says. “Keeping that and the vision for connectedness in mind, and what a development like this could mean for marginalized communities is more promising than anything monetary that will come out of it.”
She lives by the following mantras: For complete and total freedom, you must make a job, not just take a job; There are no mistakes or ‘wins’—only lessons; and, If you can run a nonprofit, you can do anything. Pollard wants the world to know that she doesn’t quit and neither do her people.