By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Last week, a perpetrator tried to light a fire to a Black-owned coffee shop in Shoreline. According to the owners, Darnesha and Edwin Weary, they received a call that their business, Black Coffee Northwest Café (Black Coffee), may have been the target of an attempted arson.
The Wearys say that they purchased the business three months ago and were just days from fully opening when the attempted arson took place.
“We hadn’t even open for business yet,” says Weary. “We used the space for meetings and gatherings but as a coffee shop we were just about to open.”
“We were contacted around 3:00 am,” says Darnesha Weary. “We got a call that there was a fire at our space. So, we went there but at the time we couldn’t tell if it was arson until we got security footage.”
According to the King County Sheriff’s Office, who is handling the investigation, a city of Shoreline police officer was flagged down by a community member in the 16700 block of Aurora Avenue North, after they noticed that someone attempted to set fire to a closed coffee shop. The deputy checked the building and found smoldering ashes in a planter, burned items scattered on the ground and soot marks up the sides of two walls on the building.
A King County Sherriff’s Office Fire Investigator was called to the scene and determined several incendiary devices were thrown at the back of the building. No damage was done to the interior of the coffee shop, but surveillance video was obtained by investigators. At this time, the surveillance footage is not being released to the public as the investigation is ongoing and investigators continue to follow up on leads.
The Weary family, who has lived in the area for quite some time, believes that this was not an isolated incident and that it was racially motivated, as the Weary’s have been very active in issues of race, equality and social justice. In addition, the Weary’s proudly display a Black Lives Matter sign in the establishment which is located in a neighborhood that Weary describes as “hot.”
According to Weary, Black Coffee, just one of two Black owned businesses in the city of Shoreline, was born out of their activism. As activist representing African American life in a predominately White neighborhood, Weary remembers how episodes of racism have been prevalent in that area for as long as she can remember.
“We have been doing community organizing in the Shoreline area for about 15 years in different locations like city hall, schools, but we never had a permanent space or building to do our work out of,” says Weary. “This opportunity came open, an existing business was leaving, so we bought them out, and it became a coffee café shop as well as a gathering space.”
“The name we chose was Black Coffee Northwest Café, it’s black owned, it’s the first black owned coffee business in this area,” continued Weary. “We are very much loud and proud about being Black owned and why we are there — building generational wealth, breaking down barriers, calling out systems of oppression, that is who we’ve always been and so we knew there was going to be some pushback from this community.”
According to Weary, the area is a microcosm of the political division plaguing our country and says there have been several racially charged incidents including violence over the last few years. However, she says that this most recent incident will not deter them from their calling or as being valued contributing members of a community.
“It’s crazy, it is literally like a war zone out here,” says Weary. “So, we know our business would make some people angry, that’s why we’re called “Black Coffee” and we have our Black Lives Matter [sign]… we’ve been unapologetic since day one.”
“But we just need support,” Weary continued. “We need everyone in the community to know about the work we are doing, the work out here, that there is a Black community out here that is doing it, engaged in it.”
Anyone with information on the incident should call the King County Sheriff’s Office Fire investigation unit at 206-263-2070 and reference case #C20031019, or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at p3tips.org.