When you think of the Chicago community Englewood, the first thoughts that come to mind are usually gangs, crime, and rapper Chief Keef as of lately. Well, as of November 2013, you can officially think of a coffee shop, which is surprisingly a first for Englewood. Kusanya, meaning “come together” in Swahili, is becoming an oasis for the Englewood community that hints of new beginnings.
We had a chance to sit down with owner Philip Sipka. Find out why he said Kusanya belongs to the entire community of Englewood.
Nikki: How long has Kusanya been open?
Phil: Since November 19 (2013), so over two months now.
N: Why open a coffee shop in Englewood a.k.a. “the hood”?
P: Very good question. It all started by people who live in the neighborhood here. We’re a 501c3, our own non-profit, so we didn’t do it for profit purposes. We did it because, we felt like a social gathering place is really important in any community. If any community is ever going to mobilize and do things in a power itself, it needs these kinds of places to do that. It’s the kind of places you take for granted, when you live in another neighborhood.
There’s a lot of people doing a lot of cool stuff, but they don’t know about it. There’s not too many forums to get together, so everybody’s kind of operating in isolation.
N: How has the community responded to Kusanya?
P: Better than we ever expected. At first we weren’t really sure, because the whole goal was to really be an intergenerational/intereconomic gathering place. We wanted everyone from young kids, to senior citizens, those who are in the middle class in Englewood, to those who are struggling a little more. It’s pretty hard to appeal to all those people. That’s a tough process, but what we’ve seen so far has been really good.
N: Is there anything you want us to know about Kusanya?
P: I think the main thing is, that I really want people to know, is that it’s not MY thing. This has been a major community endeavor. I’m here all the time, so it’s seems like I’m the face of it, but there’s a lot of people who has made this happen.
Isn’t this cool?!?! I’ll definitely be having some of my work dates at Kusanya. Also, they have a cool “take a book, leave a book” system that I fell in love with. Check out a few pics:
Kusanya is located 625 W. 69th St. Chicago, IL. Give them a visit and be sure to tell them Nikki sent you!