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Kith Community for Playground Coffee
Kith reprises its community initiative, this time highlighting Playground Coffee House - a community space & coffee house owned by Zenat Begum. Located at 1114 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn NY.
We had a conversation with Zenat about her journey, aspirations and the importance of reprsentation. Read the full interview below.
Alani Figueroa: Tell us who Zenat Begum is, where she came from and what her mission is.
Zenat Begum: Zenat Begum is a New Yorker with a passion for her hometown and people. I was born and raised in Brooklyn with a mission to support my community at large with access to resources and tools.
Playground Coffee Shop is no ordinary coffee shop. Aside from amazing coffee, what else does Playground offer?
I try to stay away from words like ordinary. It insists that shape and ideas beyond our imagination are radical. Oftentimes Playground’s public perception is radical because it's unconventional. Desires are needs and Playground advocates for those needs. Playground Coffee Shop is my refuge and now a refuge for many. It was conceptualized in 2015 and brought to life in 2016 during an election that would change our lives forever. Since our brick and mortar opened we have been dedicated to being a resource hub for our neighbors and beyond. After a very impactful town hall in November 2016 our commitment to bringing resources and initiatives has been our top priority. Currently Playground houses initiatives created to serve our community such as Playground Radio, a free online radio station, Playground Annex, our bookstore which stocks title by Black and Brown LGBTQIA authors with a free Take One Leave One Library to rotate and distribute titles for free, Playground Greenhouse, our pilot indoor garden educating folks on growing food in NY, Playground Eats, encouraging healthy and nourishing meals that are made by local chefs and bakers, and lastly Playground Community Fridge network that provides fresh and free produce to its supporting community.
How did a coffee shop evolve into all these different avenues? What is Playground Coffee’s mission?
Playground is an extension of myself and every time I have an idea or a new concept I manage those creations under the umbrella network of Playground. It’s exciting to work with colleagues and friends to expand and add to my understanding of my imagined futures. Playground’s mission is to attempt a discourse on sustainability and innovation in community care by exchanging knowledge and ideas.
Tell us more about the bookshop. What types of books can we expect to pick up at Playground?
Playground Annex is one of the only bookstores in BedStuy. It houses titles of BIPOC LGBTQIA authors that are not even highlighted in larger book retail chains in NY. The lack of literary presence in our community makes it difficult to know where to start but our friends, family and colleagues are some of the most profound voices of our lifetime and by extension our truths can be evident in our collection of how we write our narratives.
What types of educational courses does Playground offer? Do they alternate or are they fixed? Who is leading these courses?
Currently we offer barista training classes, introducing folks to our inhouse blend, history, tasting and espresso pulling. This is our attempt to educate our community in our medium but gate breaking so that it is accessible to everyone and not just those who work in coffee. I lead these classes and feel that my physicality is hyper important in these sessions as white men make up the coffee industry.
How did the addition of your Greenhouse come about?
In the Summer of 2020 we started a network of community fridges to provide free and fresh produce to our community. After noticing issues in being able to stock these fridges due to issues in supply chain and scarcity in resources our Greenhouse became a portal of possibilities. In conjunction with The Cooper Union Garden Project spearheaded by Jasper Kurbs, volunteers put together this structure to set an example of farming in NY.
Why is representation so important to you in your community?
Representation means support and our communities have been neglected by government agencies for way too long.
As a young woman of color, what adversities did you face while opening your business?
Everyday I am confronted by misogyny and racism. These concepts are argued against me and I am expected to absorb the weight of this microaggression. It is the one place where folks are in sheer disbelief that I could be behind Playground.
What advice would you give to other young minorities who dream of opening their own business?
I never dreamt of owning my own business, this was something that chose me. Intentionality is everything, if you are going to create something be sure to ask yourself why it needs to exist and what does it mean for you?
Now let’s get into the coffee! Tell us about your coffee blend.
Our current in-house blend is called Vecinos. The beans are from neighboring countries Guatemala and Honduras which is where the name of the blend comes from. Vecinos in Spanish means “neighbors.” It is a medium roast with notes of caramel, milk chocolate, tangerine, black tea and apple. Enjoy it as a drip!
How old is Playground Coffee? Do you see yourself opening more doors?
Playground is almost 5.5 years old. I wish to be able to sustain our current brick and mortar and remain a staple of BedStuy as a destination to people all over the world.