James Joyce III | Credit: Erick Madrid

James Joyce III, founder of Coffee with a Black Guy (CWABG), has been contracted by the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) to work and converse with families impacted by recent incidents of racially motivated violence. 

Following the February 16 attack of a young boy at Santa Barbara Junior High during which other students allegedly called him the “n-word” and kneeled on his head and neck while saying, “George Floyd,” members of the community have called on the school district to provide restorative services to families impacted by anti-Black hate crimes. During a school board meeting later in February, dozens of community members called in during public comment, criticizing the board for a lack of transparency and action. Following the meeting, the district reported there have been 12 racially motivated incidents across seven schools. Healing Justice Santa Barbara sent out a petition shortly after this admission, which has garnered nearly 1,000 signatures, demanding comprehensive reports of the 12 incidents, as well as Black-led consultants to create healing spaces for Black children. 

Joyce said he connected with the school district about this position after being asked by a family member involved in one of the incidents to attend a meeting with SBUSD Superintendent Hilda Maldonado and Assistant Superintendent Frann Wageneck. Following the meeting, Wageneck asked Joyce if he knew anyone that could facilitate restorative conversations between the families, and Joyce offered the consulting services of CWABG. 

“Our job as adults is to guide kids and help keep them corrected when they do something wrong,” Joyce said.

“As a trusted local leader, Mr. Joyce allowed for us to take the first steps in the healing process for both the parents and children involved,” Maldonado said. “As we move forward, partnerships such as the one with Mr. Joyce will be critical as we tackle anti-Blackness in our community.”

The conversations will be held in three 90-minute sessions, and the first planning and goal-setting session has already taken place. In the contract approved by the district, the type of dialogue used by CWABG is called “Contact Theory,” which is a psychological approach meant to reduce prejudice between groups through day-to-day interactions and targeted conversations. 

Joyce began consulting in 2017, shortly after he launched Coffee with a Black Guy in 2016. Both CWABG and the consulting services focus on the topics of race, inclusion, and diversity, and they aim to create intercultural understanding through conversations.

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