By Ashlee McNicol
Karen Scott has always believed in caring for the wellness and interests of others. When she was presented with the unique opportunity to open a coffee shop at the building where her husband, Darel, operates his real estate business, she had one condition: she would only do it if she could incorporate her interest in human rights.
This conversation led to what we know today as The Black Cup, located in College Place, Washington. The Black Cup’s mission is to provide the perfect cup of coffee and to be a good neighbor to its customers, suppliers, and the environment. As far as possible, the coffee shop is organic, fair-trade, non-GMO, and from sustainable farming that cares not only for the people involved in providing food and drinks but also the earth and its creatures.
Karen’s interest in human rights paved The Black Cup’s mission and continues to inspire others every day.
About Karen Scott, The Black Cup Owner
Karen was born to an American mother and a Canadian father in California. When her dad finished school, he moved his American-born family to Canada, where Karen grew up. While there, Karen attended school, practiced law, and went to the Supreme Court of Canada until she moved back to the Walla Walla area.
Karen holds a Bachelor of Science Degree with a major in biology and minors in Chemistry and Religion from Walla Walla University. She also attended the University of British Columbia for law school, taking every class she could on the Canadian Constitution and civil liberties. Karen practiced law for about 8 years and had a general practice in the Vancouver area, developing a reputation for representing people who didn’t want to belong to labor unions because of their religious convictions. At the time, she represented more people wanting out of labor unions than any other lawyer in British Columbia.
Karen practiced criminal law, wills and estates, real estate, and commercial law. Her passion was civil liberties, particularly liberty of conscience issues. About 6 months after Karen became a lawyer, a client who had recently lost his job due to his religious convictions retained her. This client occupied the first 5-7 years of Karen’s legal career. They went to the Court of Appeals and applied to the Supreme Court of Canada, which they were finally heard at and won unanimously. That single case was one of a few major cases that changed the law regarding accommodation in the workplace in the entire country of Canada.
After Karen and Darel moved to the Walla Walla area, Darel discovered an international human rights class at Oxford University. Karen applied and was accepted into the program. She went on to graduate with a Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law, one of the most thrilling experiences of her life.
Karen’s human rights beliefs
While Karen had already developed her ideology of what constitutes human rights, her time at Oxford reinforced it. In her Economic, Social and Cultural Rights class, she gained new perspectives, such as the idea that water and clean air are basic human rights because you cannot live without them.
Karen also believes that people have the right to live in a non-polluted environment and to preserve their own language and culture. She is grateful that Canada has recognized the intrusion it’s done on indigenous rights and how these basic rights are starting to be recognized.
“So there are all these different aspects of human rights, and the coffee shop is important because I can help people understand how their consumerism can impact people on the other side of the globe. We need to be careful,” Karen said.
Karen’s interest in human rights goes back to her childhood when she learned about the Reformation. At the time, she didn’t realize it was a part of human rights, but nonetheless she couldn’t believe that people were tortured and killed because of their beliefs. As she grew older and began to understand the idea of a conscience, it started to make sense.
Ever since Karen was young, she has had an interest in protecting the conscience. She believes, “You live according to your belief system, and that makes every person unique. As a Christian, you believe that the conscience is the way God can speak to each individual, so the conscience should be left free with no duress.”
She also added that this is even more important if you are a Christian because Christians believe that you need to be a steward of the earth that God gave us, as well as a blessing to those who are our brothers and sisters.
Karen said, “Everything we do can have an effect for good or ill upon others. Most of us are honest, fair people that don’t want to cause harm to others. Human rights have to do with being a blessing to others.”
However, many people don’t know that even consumerism can defy basic human rights. For instance, if you purchase clothing from factories with unsafe working conditions, you may indirectly contribute to slave labor. Avoiding purchasing clothing made in unsafe buildings sends a message to the owners to improve the working conditions.
How The Black Cup supports human rights
The Black Cup supports human rights by promoting health and better eating habits. The coffee shop even provides vegan options and Kangen Water®. The Kangen Water® club memberships can help reduce the amount of plastic that reaches the ocean through bottled water, something that Karen is very excited about. The Black Cup also provides eco-friendly straws, cups, plates, lids, and napkins to reduce the impact to the ocean and the people who rely on the ocean for survival.
Karen’s vision for The Black Cup is to provide products that support the earth and its people, as well as educate people on consumerism. Eventually, she would like to have human rights petitions available for customers to sign.
Karen doesn’t want to hurt others through her actions so she is careful where the coffee shop’s food, drinks, and supplies are sourced. To the best of her knowledge, she doesn’t work with any suppliers that are involved with slave labor or child labor (unless of course it’s a family farm).
“If you really do believe that everything you do should honor a God of love, then I don’t want to do anything that hurts other people or the environment. I don’t want to become wealthy through the misery of others or misuse of animals or the environment,” Karen said.
If you’re interested in learning more about what you can do to support human rights, stop in to The Black Cup and have a conversation today.
For more tips on keeping a healthy and happy life, like your favorite GMO-free, organic coffee shop on Facebook!