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Last March, James Joyce III was attending Santa Barbara’s annual State of the City event, where local dignitaries toast the successes of the town and look ahead to the future. During a break in the action, an older white gentleman approached Joyce, one of the few black people there. “How do you like having a noose around your neck?” the man asked.
“I gave him the benefit of the doubt he meant my tie,” Joyce remembered afterward, “but I didn’t respond. That’s the kind of ignorance that still exists out there.”
To counteract such cluelessness and to illuminate the experience of Santa Barbara’s black community, Joyce created a cross-racial series of dialogues in 2016 called Coffee with a Black Guy, a riff on the national Coffee with a Cop program. The sessions, where Joyce holds court and keeps the conversations honest and civil, are a chance to share stories, explore hard topics, and, most importantly, “just listen and learn from fellow citizens,” he explained.