Freshly brewed community

By: Mark Hancock

Much of that revitalization can be credited to the voices of determined

Hudgens and Dr. Eric Mix, managers of Beans & Leaves Community
Coffee at 4015 N. Pennsylvania, have made it their personal mission to
see the area around N.W. 39th and Pennsylvania transformed as well. They
hope to help make it the next big cultural center in OKC.

to Hudgens, the first step is to make Beans & Leaves a safe,
welcoming atmosphere for everyone, regardless of whether they are part
of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

an environment that’s comfortable,” she said. “We’re starting to call
Beans & Leaves ‘Community Coffee,’ because we believe it’s a hub for
our community — not just the LGBT side of it, but anybody who comes

A local poet,
Hudgens spent time crafting and performing her poems there before she
became a manager. That same aura of creativity inspired Mix to come

“We didn’t
want this to close, because of the space that it’s come to represent,”
Mix said. “It’s a haven for poets, artists, musicians, intellectuals  all sorts of creative people. It’s kind of a light in the darkness, and there are lots of lights in Oklahoma City. But this one is very bright, and we didn’t want it to go out.”

Beans & Leaves filled its social calendar with everything from
music and poetry to songwriters’ circles and open-mic nights, the
managers began to hear from some people who wouldn’t frequent the area
due to fears of crime or simply being harassed. Such conversations with
customers prompted Mix and Hudgens to become more proactive and lead
efforts to renew the 39th Street area.

“This neighborhood needs a new life,” Hudgens said. “The 39th Street revamp committee — that’s not their official
name — meet here monthly. They want this to be a district, kind of like
the Plaza District or the Paseo. We want sidewalks. We want foot
traffic during the day. We want more businesses to want to come in here
and get the negative elements out and cut the crime down and make the
streets more walkable for pedestrians. I want this to be a safe space
for everyone.”

As part
of that effort, Beans & Leaves has started offering on-duty police
free coffee and tea refills for their refillable mugs.

“We want to support them, and usually that helps support us as well,” Hudgens said.

When asked whether the area’s role in the LGBT community has contributed to any neglect from the city, she and Mix were guarded.

hate to say that that’s the reason, but it’s a large possibility,”
Hudgens said. “I wouldn’t presume to know for sure. We are in Oklahoma.
It is a red state, and unfortunately, we do run into a lot of political
issues when it comes to that.”

But both said they are optimistic about the neighborhood’s future.

hope and dream is that the area be cleaned up, because it’s kind of an
urban blight at the moment,” Mix said. “Same thing happened with the
Paseo. Apparently, the Paseo was a horrible den of inequity with crime and drugs, and now, it’s ‘the thing.’ I think the 39th Street District could become the next thing.”

Louis Fowler

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