Starbucks bias training not enough says Oakland-based coffee company founder

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OAKLAND (BCN) The founder of an Oakland-based coffee company will be touring black-owned Philadelphia coffee shops Tuesday and said racial bias training by Starbucks is only a good start to eliminating bias. 

Keba Konte, founder of Red Bay Coffee, will be in the City of Brotherly Love where two African American men were arrested by police April 12 for being in the store for an extended period without buying something.

In the wake of the public outrage about the arrests, Starbucks is closing all company-owned stores and offices Tuesday afternoon to train employees on understanding racial bias and the history of public 
accommodations in the U.S. 

While in Philadelphia, Konte will be holding a conversation on social media about inclusiveness in the coffee industry. The conversation will be on Facebook Live and Twitter. 

Red Bay Coffee is composed entirely of women, people of color and the formerly incarcerated. Sixty percent of the company's leadership is women, Konte said. 

He said, "It's just the right thing to do." 

Red Bay Coffee wants to right the wrongs in the industry. 

But Konte said it will take generations as well as deep changes to reverse the racial bias built into U.S. society. He said the bias such as what happened at Starbucks will continue until the leadership of corporations is as diverse as the communities they serve. 

Not only is diversity the right policy, Konte said, "it's a competitive advantage."

Millennials are very conscious of the ethics of the companies they choose to patronize, he said. 

Since the arrests at Starbucks, support for Red Bay Coffee has grown, with retail store visits up 62 percent and online sales up 110 percent. 

Tuesday's training at Starbucks isn't a solution, the company said, just a first step. 

The day's training will lay a foundation for future efforts to eliminate bias and increase diversity, equity and inclusion, company officials said. 

The two men arrested April 12, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, reached a financial settlement with Starbucks. The company's CEO Kevin Johnson flew to Philadelphia to meet with the pair after the arrests. 

Both groups have committed to communicating with one another as a way to develop actions and opportunities, according to Starbucks. 

Konte said Red Bay Coffee is now working to expand nationwide, hoping to be an example for competitors. This year Konte plans to open stores in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Richmond and Baltimore. 

He said the company's also looking to open a store in Atlanta.