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Counter Coffee Air Roasters, at 7324 Madison St., has introduced a new blend of African and South American coffee to benefit the Black Lives Matter Foundation. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds of each bag purchased will be donated.

“Everyone is feeling the sentiments of injustice, but the biggest challenge is people don’t know what to do,” said Counter Coffee owner Jacques Shalo. “The Black Lives Matter Blend keeps the concept broad but the connection local.”

An Oak Park resident, Shalo, grew up on a coffee farm in Cameroon where he was hands-on in his family’s coffee business from age 5 onward until his family fled the country to escape a massive effort to capture people for the slave trade. Had the family not relocated, Shalo’s parents could have been enslaved.

“You see, systemic racism, marginalization and disenfranchisement of African people did not start with George Floyd or the countless other black brothers and sisters who have been so brutally murdered recently. This is an adversity that generation after generation have had to endure,” said Shalo on Facebook.

Shalo’s customers connect with his personal narrative and passion. His son, Jeremiah, channeled similar emotion into creating the artwork for the Black Lives Matter Blend. The bag design is inspired by Cameroonian masks and Liberian stamps with ties to the family’s Bamileke tribe.

“Jeremiah took the initiative,” said Shalo. “He hand-drew the fist, researched the stamps and found the masks from our village costumes.”

Counter Coffee’s Black Lives Matter Blend is also sold at Sugar Beet Food Co-op, 812 Madison St, Oak Park. The co-op, too, is donating 25 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the Black Lives Matter Blend to the Black Lives Matter Foundation.

“It’s wonderful to have Sugar Beet involved,” said Shalo. “They’ve sold about 100 bags in a week and just ordered 30 more.”

Shalo is proud of the effort and hopes to be able to make similar donations to an array of justice-focused organizations in the future. He reminds us all that “only love, not hate, will heal our wounds.”

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Article edited to add a link to the Black Lives Matter organization receiving a percentage of proceeds from each bag of coffee sold.

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