‘A place where we can belong’: New cafe at Southgate Centre caters to queer, BIPOC people

EDMONTON — A queer Filipino duo in Edmonton isn’t letting the pandemic sideline their dreams of opening a business that welcomes people just like themselves.

Mavi Az Atolentino and Reika Herradura, both in their early twenties, have often struggled to find places where they felt wanted and like they belonged.

“When we were in high school, we were in the closet, so the only safe space for us was in the school,” Atolentino recalled.

“But what happens after school? Where do we go? Because our homes were also not safe spaces because we had to hide our queerness.”

Herradura added, “We just wanted a place where we can belong in the community and have a safe space as both queer individuals.”

The pair spent a lot of time in coffee shops and cafes, but longed to own their own that catered to queer youth and people of colour.

Now, their Southgate Centre shop that opened Sept. 5 does just that.

“The queer community has very limited options and not a lot of them are accessible. For example, bars. Only 18+ people can access that. What about the youth that need that space?” Atolentino asked.

Intent Coffee offers locally baked goods and coffee farmed by Indigenous women in the Philippines.

The shop has hired six people from the queer and trans BIPOC communities.

Heerradura says the business is unapologetic about its “Filipinoness, and our cultural background and our queerness.”

An extra boost last month from a GoFundMe campaign, which raised $6,000 to cover plumbing and electrical expenses, helped Atolentino and Herradura turn their dream into a reality.

“It’s really, really excellent coffee,” one customer told CTV News Edmonton.

“We are Filipino, so we have to support them,” said another.

The co-owners have plans for the business when the pandemic subsides, but for now, are happy to provide a space where differences are embraced.

“If you see your identity behind the bar, it’s like, ‘Oh, that person is queer. Oh, that person is Black, Indigenous, or a brown person,” Atolentino said.

“Then you feel safer in that space because you are represented.” 

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Nicole Weisberg

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