By Amanda Hart
Photos by Erica Raggett
A new coffee shop recently opened in the Heights, and it’s serving up a lot more than just your daily dose of caffeine. A 2nd Cup and its creator, Erica Raggett, are taking on human trafficking one cup of coffee at a time. They are located at 1035 E. 11th St., and their current hours of operation are Sundays from 8am-2pm and Tuesdays from 4pm-10pm. Free Press Houston sat down with Erica to talk about how A 2nd Cup came to be and what they hope to accomplish here in Houston.
FPH: Who is Erica Raggett? Tell us a little bit about your history.
ER: I was born and raised in Bakersﬁeld, CA. In high school I was involved in a lot of service clubs through school and spent my spring breaks in Mexico with my church, building houses. I’ve always really loved service. I’ve never been able to envision myself in an occupation that didn’t involve serving people or helping the community in some way. I attended Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University) in San Luis Obispo, CA. In my last quarter in school I came across a program called Teach For America. For the ﬁrst time, I learned that a discrepancy existed in the quality of education between students from affluent families and those from low-income homes. In 2005, I moved to Houston with Teach For America and began teaching science to 6th graders at Fonville Middle School. After two years at Fonville, I moved to Philadelphia to work on staff as a Program Director at Teach For America. Missing the students and the more direct impact I felt I had in the classroom, I moved back to Houston and began working at YES College Prep as a middle school science teacher in 2008. At YES, I worked as the Science Content Specialist and became one of the Deans of Instruction last year. As of June, I am no longer working at YES but committing myself fully to the mission of A 2nd Cup.
FPH: When did you ﬁrst become aware of human trafficking, speciﬁcally here in Houston?
ER: In December 2010 I was introduced to human-trafficking through a video from Love146, an anti-trafficking group working out of Connecticut. I was completely taken aback. I had never heard of human trafficking and could not even begin to fathom that slavery still existed in the world, let alone our country and our city. I was shocked and outraged and angry that this could be happening, that human beings could do something so cruel to other human beings. I knew that I could not walk away from this knowledge. I was forever changed and moved from learning what I had learned, and I knew that I had to do something. I began researching what human trafficking looked like in our city and who the major players were in the ﬁght against it. I became involved with a few organizations but primarily volunteered my time with an organization called Redeemed Ministries, where I was exposed to the realities of brothels throughout Houston and worked with survivors.
FPH: Where did the inspiration to open a nonproﬁt coffee shop come from?
ER: I have always loved coffee shops. One of my favorite things to do is to explore and frequent local coffee shops. I love how casual and laid back they are and how they can promote a sense of community just by offering a delicious drink and a comfortable place to meet with friends, family, and colleagues.
As I began learning more about human trafficking in Houston and the local groups ﬁghting against it, I came up with the idea of A 2nd Cup. Why couldn’t I connect my dream of a coffee shop with the ﬁght against human trafficking? I realized that everyone in our city needed to be exposed to the reality of human trafficking. And knowing the kind, generous, passionate citizens of Houston, I knew they would want to help.
FPH: What sort of community outreach will A 2nd Cup offer to help educate our community about the sex trafficking industry here in Houston?
ER: We have already begun to educate the community about human trafficking. We plan to have at least one educational event per month. September holds several awareness events at A 2nd Cup:
9/6 – CAMSA (Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia) will hold an event to highlight the work they are doing in Vietnam and other Asian countries.
9/14 – Children at Risk will reveal some research they have done to identify over 350 brothels in Houston.
9/18 – “Black Gold” will be screened at A 2nd Cup as a joint event with Houston Rescue and Restore.
We are also educating the community about different anti-trafficking organizations in Houston that they can get involved with. We have information about several Houston-based organizations, including the organization’s mission statement, the work done by the organization, how volunteers can be involved, and contact information available to our customers.
FPH: What else can our community do to help you with this endeavor, other than come in for a cup of joe?
ER: We are in fundraising mode to open a permanent location with full business hours and offer more services. So, donations are deﬁnitely a huge help right now. Whether people are interested in giving monthly or in one lump sum, they can go to our website: www.a2ndcup.com and give through Paypal, or contact me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org. We also love our volunteers, and depend so much on their compassion and generosity. To sign up as a volunteer, you can email me at email@example.com.