Meet Lisa. She is authentic, eloquent and thoughtful. I am impressed by her strong desire to flip the narrative and found myself moved multiple times during her interview. Her dedication to being an exceptional role model to her siblings, discussion about how to leverage her privilege in the workplace to challenge archaic biases and natural confidence and power are exactly what Bloom stands for. So hot damn, meet Lisa. She’s moving, she’s brewing, she’s roasting them beans…and yep, she’s Blooming.
HOW WILL YOU BLOOM IN THE NEXT YEAR?
I want to focus on extracurricular activities outside of work. I want to take my creativity and artistic side a little bit more seriously. Kind of listen to myself and see where it goes. I’m good at registering my emotional status. I often check in with myself and have gotten good at expressing myself not only with words. In the next year I want to continue to elevate the coffee shop I work at and have it be a safe space for queer and gender nonconforming people.
"I FEEL VERY CONFIDENT THAT I WAS RAISED TO DO NO HARM BUT TAKE NO SHIT."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EXPLORE YOUR CREATIVE SIDE?
When I was younger, I used to sew, paint and make weird collages but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to think that it was silly or childish. I am working with a really intense, intelligent and badass group of women right now who are all super creative and make me inspired to pursue my creativity again.
GREAT. TELL ME ABOUT AN OBSTACLE THAT YOU’VE OVERCOME.
I left a toxic work environment that I stayed in probably a year too long because I thought that they needed me more than I needed them. What I didn’t realize until after I left was that I was completely devaluing myself and letting other people set the tone for my self worth. I never want to let that happen again. I was put into a few positions that made me uncomfortable, positions where I knew I wasn’t set up to deliver my best work because the only focus was turning a profit. We kind of said yes to everything without thinking about the execution and the outcome. We would execute events that were half-assed and they would come down on me very hard. I let them set the tone and felt like I couldn’t advocate for myself. It was the first time I ever felt like that and being silenced was really scary. I remember sitting in Central Park last year when I realized what was going on and I started crying. I knew that I had to quit my job.
YOU TALK ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF, WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE?
It’s really isolating. I recall asking for a raise and being told, “you and I both know that you’re not worth that much.” When you hear those words, even though you know they aren’t true, you start to believe it. I felt like I was being gaslighted a lot. Between the managers being disrespectful and the clientele being demanding and often rude, while I didn’t think that I deserved that kind of treatment, it made me feel like I had blinders on and couldn’t see anything else.
THE BRIGHT SIDE IS THAT NOW YOU’RE IN A ROLE THAT YOU LOVE. I STARTED THINKING BACK TO HOW YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU WANT TO MAKE THE COFFEE SHOP THAT YOU WORK AT, A SAFE SPACE FOR QUEER AND GENDER NONCONFORMING PEOPLE—
—I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can hire and I want to use that to specifically hire people of color, queer people and those who have a harder time finding jobs. I want to advocate for them and make them feel safe in their work environment. I feel very lucky that I am in the kind of position where I can hire. The coffee shop I work at is very well regarded and can open doors for many in the industry. Unfortunately, specialty coffee can pretty much be a boys club—a straight, white, cisboy’s club and I want to do everything I can to flip that on its head.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE INDUSTRY IS LIKE THAT?
Well, I think the world is like that, which is the worst. But I think a lot of it has to do with privilege and opportunities. The two main coffee roasters in Chicago were started by dudes who came from a lot of wealth and had the ability to buy the nicest equipment. Well not everybody’s afforded that. Any time a product is considered “specialty”, it caters to privilege. Coffee, unfortunately, is part of that which is especially frustrating because the workers on the other end of the process, those harvesting the beans, are often people of color working on extremely low incomes and the outcome is white men are getting rich off of that.
WITH REGARDS TO PRIVILEGE AND CONTINUING TO THAT DISCUSSION, HOW CAN WE FIX THESE RACIAL AND GENDER INEQUALITIES? WHERE DO YOU SEE OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE AND INSPIRE THIS CHANGE?
It’s hard because I am not and I do not want to be a savior. I’m not impressed with myself. I’m not doing anything revolutionary. I’m doing the baseline that a White person in a position of authority should do. I can hire which is in a lot of cases a strong foundation. I can hire a trans kid who could then network enough and potentially open their own roaster. It’s lofty but it’s not impossible to get your foot in the door. And I want to be that door for that foot.
FROM WHERE DID YOU LEARN YOUR FEMINISM? YOU ARE ALWAYS POSITING GREAT ARTICLES ON SOCIAL MEDIA THAT ARE INCREDIBLY AWARE AND INTERESTING.
I didn’t have a formal college education. I did a year at a community college and then a year at a trade school. My feminism is self-taught from the Internet and it’s why I love the Internet as much as I do. It can be scary but there are so many good resources. I didn’t sit in a classroom learning about Simone de Beauvoir, I went straight to bell hooks. I was reading constantly and was able to be intersectional almost from the get go. Academic feminism can be different than self-taught feminism.
A turning point for me was the Steubenville rape case. I remember reading an article, almost four years ago in the New York Times. I obviously had been anti-rape long before that but not really, in a way, because I always thought, “Well, who is pro-rape?” At the time, I didn’t understand how insidious rape culture could be. Reading that article, where people were saying, “Well what was that girl doing out that late?” I was just so incensed. Something snapped. That really spoke to me. It scared me. I wanted to go to Steubenville. But then I didn’t because I felt that maybe I couldn’t be involved because I wasn’t a survivor.
Since then, I have learned that in many ways, all women are survivors. I was catcalled for the first time when I was 9 years old and catcalling and street harassment is assault. It’s hard to say that without feeling like you aren’t minimizing other people’s experiences but it’s not easy for any of us. That case inspired me. I’ve been looking at my Facebook memories and that’s when feminism really started for me.
What drove me after Steubenville was fear. I was terrified. I have a seventeen-year old brother and a twelve-year-old sister. I talk to them about rape prevention and bystander intervention equally, if not more so with my brother. I am not going to tell my sister what to avoid. I’m going to tell my brother what to look for. Bystander intervention is key. I feel very confident that I was raised to do no harm but take no shit. If somebody asks you what time it is, you don’t have to tell them. Your body is yours. Do what you have to. If someone calls you a crazy bitch, who cares?
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
I want to be remembered for elevating voices of those who need it and I don’t want to take any credit for that. I don’t care about being remembered as being the nicest but I want people to remember feeling very connected with and comfortable around me. I feel like there is such a pressure on women to be nice, to apologize, to not take up so much space. I’ve been trying to cut the word “sorry” out of my vocabulary. Part of it is Midwestern and part of it is being a woman. Stop saying “sorry” and stop apologizing for existing. I want to be remembered for flipping that narrative, for being strong, for calling out bullshit when I saw it—am I allowed to swear—wait, this isn’t NPR (laughs). I want to be remembered for leaving a positive influence on my brother and sister, because they are the most important people to me in the world. I want to have taught them something. My little brother was talking to my sister the other day and he is so excited to vote for Hillary Clinton at Maine South*.
—THAT’S WHERE I VOTED FOR THE FIRST TIME.
He was talking about how his friends are Trump supporters and he said, “I feel like it all comes down to gender.” And he got there by himself. Obviously my sister and I fostered that in many ways but it made me so proud. I feel like they are my own kids sometimes because of the large age gap and I can say that I really felt so proud that he came to that conclusion by himself.
A KICK BUTT FORUM THAT AIMS TO INSPIRE, COMFORT AND UNITE INCREDIBLE WOMEN (& DUDES) THROUGH DYNAMIC INTERVIEWS