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Guess Who Came to Coffee

By Kevin Beerman / May 21, 2019


It started with a cup of coffee.


Settling into a nook at the Kimpton Hotel Allegro last week, we kicked off a new edition of a familiar project: Guess Who’s Coming to Coffee. Usually done with our Radical Creators, these meetups are a chance for members of our community to get to know someone new, to build connections that might otherwise go unformed. Given how much of a hit they’ve been with our Radical Creators in the past, we thought we’d try something new.


So we opened it up.


For the first time, we brought some of our Community Partners together for a chance to forge new and unexpected bonds over a cup of coffee and a few snacks. They didn’t know each other. They didn’t know what to expect.


They came for the coffee, but left with a little more.


Camron Smith, a journalist and sports broadcaster who is one of the hosts of MSG150, was paired up with Jeremy Cragin, a teacher at Chalmers Elementary in North Lawndale. The two shared in their love of sports, but moved to much deeper terrains in what seemed like no time—something they both found meaningful and important.


“You never know what someone’s life journey is and how they impact the world,” Smith said. “I always want to learn—as a journalist—of the origin story of that person and how they became who they are.”


Camron Smith


Getting to know who people are and how that influences the way they work in the world was a broad theme of the day. It was about the opportunity to meet someone new and to learn about how they got to where they are—mistakes and all. Natasha Mijares, who sat down with Corey Richardson, found this to be the day’s most important takeaway.


“We talked about how failure is a part of any process,” Mijares said. “And we talked a lot about being your authentic self.”


Corey Richardson and Natasha Mijares


That level of candor and connection pervaded the conversations, paving the way for unexpectedly fruitful relationships.


“We got to talk, not only about the work we do, but philosophically how we move through space,” Katie Sowa, who met with Morgan Marler, recalled. While both Sowa and Marler work in education in some way, they met for the first time at Guess Who’s Coming to Coffee. “It was lovely to connect with someone who’s doing similar work in the city but doing it a little bit differently.”


Katie Sowa and Morgan Marler


And this was the point: to bring together people who would otherwise never meet for a chance to learn about each other and create new bonds that may ultimately inspire action. No commitment, no expectation, no demand. Just a cup of coffee and a little chat.


“There’s no set agenda—you’re going to meet people and talk about whatever you like,” Cragin said. “Nothing was grounding us to a certain topic.”


Jeremy Cragin

By the end of the day, we brought more than 20 Community Partners together for some coffee, some cookies, and some conversation. As Sowa discovered, though, people often left with something else: a new friend.


“Well, she just invited me to happy hour, so…”