L!VE CafeDarrel and Reesheda Washington
L!VE CAFE - Open for Business, by Lebo Pooe
On February 5, 2017, fellow self-proclaimed coffee snobs and west side power couple, Reesheda and Darrell Washington, officially opened the doors to their new coffee shop L!VE (Live) in Oak Park, Chicago. After five minutes of rapid conversation with Reesheda, the Washington’s heartbeat for people, the west side, the un-churched and the Gospel is very apparent. One cannot help but wonder why they chose to open a coffee shop. Why not plant a church or start a non-for profit ministry? Having spent many years teaching at Oak Park River Forest High School and serving in an administrative role at a local church, Reesheda is all too familiar with the frustrating bureaucracies of the education and church systems. Thanks to data provided by Brian Jenkins, she also very quickly understood the incredible funding challenges that many black owned non profit organizations face.
“I wanted to teach and impact the lives of people in the community that shaped and raised me without being held back by all the red tape,” said Reesheda. Highly frustrated by not being able to contribute towards transforming their community in tangible ways, Darrell and Reesheda wanted to come up with a plan that enabled them to share transformational truths of Christ, expertise, experiences and network simply by being in relationship. The Washingtons were acutely aware that if they wanted to truly impact the Austin community in a transformational way, they couldn't be bogged down by funding methods that bound them in a different set of red tape.
In November 2014, the Washington’s launched a social media driven funding campaign to raise capital for their coffee shop L!VE. The coffee shop is intentionally located at 163 S. Oak Park, is right on the boarder of the Austin community of Chicago and Oak Park, IL.
From its inception, L!VE has been organically communal, and while it will provide a space for residents of Oak Park to enjoy good coffee and conversation, it’ll also be a space where young African American men and woman can develop professionally as employees, entrepreneurs and community developers/leaders. The Washingtons will also be operating their non-for profit faith based organization called Communities First Association (CFA) from L!VE. The purpose of CFA is to walk alongside community leaders and individuals seeking to transform and develop their communities. CFA boasts a diverse group of professional community developers and coaches for leaders in churches, school districts, civic and non-for profit organizations.
“My whole life has been a dichotomy of living in Austin and Oak Park,” says Reesheda. She hopes that in five years time L!VE will be known as an intersectional creative space where individuals from both neighborhoods can tangibly examine racial systems and socio economic structures that need to be torn down.
The Washingtons hope that frequent patrons of the innovative, grassroots generated cafe and creative space will also come to truly experience the transformational grace of Jesus. That it will be a space where conversations lead people to examine what needs to be torn down, what needs to be built up, and what needs to be refurbished in their lives and communities, as a means for inspiration towards courageous, authentic, and abundant L!VING!
Cafe hours: Mon-Fri 7a-6p, Sat-Sun 8a-5p, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue, L!VE Café!