3 Reasons to Get Angry
Hello, dear reader. I'm Lauren. I don't think of myself as especially profound. I don't read as much as I should and sometimes I make bad grades on tests. But occasionally I have some ideas that I think have some value in them, so when Jacob asked me to be a guest writer for his blog I figured why not. So here we are.
I write like I talk: What I lack in eloquence I try to make up for in sarcasm. In all honesty, I'm writing this blog for myself as much as I'm writing it for you as a reader. It's my hope that forcing myself to do something I'm a little terrified of will help me learn a few new things and maybe see some old things in a new way.
Since this is my first post for The Archers Guild, I decided to write about two things that are very dear to my heart: Coffee and guerrilla campaigns to fight the Man.
First, the story:
On September 29, 2014 (National Coffee Day), Highland Coffees announced it would close its doors on Christmas Eve. Highland Coffees is located on Highland Road at the Northgate's of Louisiana State University. It's been an establishment in the community for 25 years. Obviously the shop is often occupied with your average LSU student trying to study, but other patrons of Highland range from businessmen and high schoolers to hipsters and sorority girls. It's truly a melting pot that showcases the diversity of Baton Rouge - and I promise I'm not getting paid by Highland to write this.
So why was it closing? Because the owner of the property and the owner of Highland Coffees were "unable to reach lease negotiations." (Read: the property owner wanted a tenant who could afford to pay a higher lease.)
I'm sure Mr. Property Owner thought this would cause a bit of irritation in the community, but that we simple-minded coffee lovers would eventually move on. Boy was he wrong.
A petition was started on Change.org and reached 3,500 signatures by Monday evening. Next up was the Facebook page which would gain more than 3,500 likes and serve as main mode of communication for the fight to save the iconic coffee shop. We held a community meeting. We organized a music festival. We called, emailed, and shouted at anyone and everyone who we thought could help us.
I don't want to spoil the story, but I'm sitting in Highland Coffees right now and it is very much not closed. I've thought a lot about the campaign to save Highland. I spent almost two months fighting for this place. The community support Highland received was frankly astounding. But why? I think part of the answer lies in one word:
But let me clarify, because I don't mean just any time of anger. I mean righteous anger. This isn't the self-righteous indignation that puffs up its chest and looks down its nose as it revels in its "rightness." This is anger without fear of guilt, emboldened by a deep awareness that something is flat out wrong.
We don't have to look very far to find examples of this. From the story of Jesus overturning tables and driving out merchants from the temple to Martin Luther King Jr.'s unwavering dedication to the Civil Rights movement, history is littered with angry men and women saw an injustice, got angry about it, and then used that anger to accomplish great things.
Personally, I don't like to be angry. There's a lot to be angry about in this world, and honestly it's just uncomfortable. So I often find myself avoiding it. But when anger is justified, when it's right, I think it has a lot of value. So here's my stereotypical blog post in the form of a list, outlining why I think anger is kind of awesome sometimes.
1) Being angry demands a decision
I got a call the day that Highland announced its impending closure asking me if I wanted to be the social media manager for the "Save Highland Coffees" campaign. My initial thoughts were "Seriously? I'm just trying to get through school and work enough to pay my bills, I really don't have time for this..." But honestly, after the countless friendships I'd made through this coffee shop and nights I'd spent there studying, could I really sit by and watch it be taken away? Not a chance.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said,
It may sound silly to someone on the outside, but Highland Coffees matters to me. So I signed on to a team with five other people to fight for a cause we believed in. Sometimes we get angry and then we shrug our shoulders and try to forget about it. But sometimes we get angry and decide to do something about it, and incredible things end up happening.
2) A common enemy fosters community
The people I ended up working with to save highland were mostly strangers. I'd had a class with one of the girls and seen another around Highland a lot (no surprise there), but there's no way I would've spent so much time with these people had we not shared our love of Highland. In a sense, I'm thankful that Highland almost closed because I got to meet some pretty awesome people because of it.
Sometimes it feels like it's hard to get Baton Rougians to care about anything, but SO many people supported Highland Coffees. We closed out our petition with almost 6,000 signatures. Hundreds of people attended The Highlander, a music festival celebrating the shops renewed lease. The story was covered in nearly every local news outlet and even caught the eye of the BBC when they came to town.
3) Anger awakens creativity
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what made the property owner change course and make an effort to work things out. Maybe it was the massive outcry on social media. Maybe it was all of the bad press it earned his realty company. Maybe it was our threats of boycotts that scared away the potential new lessees. What can be said without a shadow of a doubt, though, is that we weren't going down without a fight. As corny as it may sound, we explored every option that offered even a glimmer of hope for Highland Coffees. The free, eight-hour music festival held at Highland Coffees three days after its lease was renewed was put on by a ragtag group of college kids who had no idea what they were doing, and I've never been more proud of something in my life.
So there you have it, the short version of a story about how a group of kids got really angry when someone tried to take away their coffee. A lot of things in this world aren't worth our anger - like the girl who blatantly stole my parking spot last week or the barista who didn't steam the milk for my chai tea latte just right. But some things are worth it. So yes, I'm asking you to be angry sometimes. Ignore the Glad commercial, and get mad. Get riled up. Ruffle some feathers. Say the things that people may not want to hear. Apathy will ruin you if you let it. So don't.
Lauren Cross is a student, photographer, dancer, and, now, writer. She studies mass communication, religious studies, and business at LSU. Recently she helped coordinate The Highlander Music Festival, which you can read more about here.