DES MOINES, Iowa – Freedom for Youth Ministries this week temporarily closed Freedom Blend Coffee after several black employees resigned because the ministry wanted a Black Lives Matter banner put up inside the store to be taken down.
Freedom for Youth Ministries launched in 2003 to serve homeless youth in Des Moines. It expanded to serve elementary, middle school, and high school youth in Des Moines at their main campus on Hickman Avenue and throughout Iowa at different ministry locations. Along with Bible studies and worship services, Freedom for Youth provides vocational training primarily for youth of color.
They launched Freedom Blend Coffee in 2011 to empower high-school youth and young adults through Christ-centered employment training. In 2017, they opened their first store on the west-end of their Des Moines campus.
“This was NOT a case of silencing our employees’ hearts or voices. Yes, the banner was the tip of an iceberg that caused an unexpected storm of controversy despite our good intentions to honor the black community we so deeply love and care for. As many of the news reports and Facebook comments have indicated, many in the community are disappointed and angry that the banner came down. It was never our intention to put the banner up inside the coffee shop…not with that specific language,” Mark Nelson, executive director of Freedom for Youth Ministries, wrote in an email to supporters.
“Freedom for Youth endorses and actively conducts programs that help overcome racial inequity and other barriers every day. Therefore, we share the Black Lives Matter (BLM) goal of racial justice reform. The rest of the BLM movement, however, supports behavior that is counter to the Biblical truths we claim, including God’s perfect design for sex, gender, the family, and marriage. BLM’s core beliefs are antithetical to God’s Word from the beginning. We felt using the name of the organization by itself on the banner implies an endorsement of all of the organization’s objectives, which do not align with our Biblical perspective and values,” he added.
Nelson said the ministry has learned from the controversy and that they will take four steps in response:
- They will hang a banner on the outside of Freedom Blend Coffee that says, “Black lives matter to Freedom.”
- They will soon announce two new board members who are people of color.
- They will seek input from the community on how to serve the community in staff and volunteer roles better. Nelson said that civil rights leader and author John Perkins will also serve as an advisor.
- They will launch a Freedom for Youth graduate task force to help re-launch Freedom Blend Coffee by finding ways to better reflect and serve the community.