JACKI LYDEN, host:
Several weeks ago, documentary filmmaker Annabel Park was sitting in her apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, when she updated her Facebook page with a good, old-fashioned rant. Let's start a coffee party, a Red Bull party - anything but tea, she wrote. Let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue, with substance and compassion.
In just a few weeks, fans of the Coffee Party on Facebook mushroomed from a few hundred to over 100,000. And today, Coffee Party chapters are meeting all across the country - and what are they going to do, exactly?
Ms. STACY HAWKINS (Member, Coffee Party): The Atlanta chapter will be holding our kickoff day at Java Monkey in Decatur, trying to bring people into the coffee party so that we can get back to the job of repairing what we feel is a broken government and democratic process.
Mr. CAMERON MOORE (Member, Coffee Party): Here in Colorado, we have seven events scheduled. Five are in Denver and then there are two on the outskirts.
Ms. EILEEN CABILING (Member, Coffee Party): Hopefully, everyone will get to talk, and we're going to create this huge map where we write on a poster board, "coffee" and an issue that seems to be the consensus amongst our smaller groups - and then hold them up to the sky or hold them up to the media, to let them know whats important to us and what matters to us.
LYDEN: From sea to shining sea, thats Stacy Hawkins in Atlanta, Cameron Moore in Colorado, and Eileen Cabiling in Los Angeles.
People are drinking coffee and talking politics today. Annabel Park, the woman who accidentally started it all, gave us some back-story.
Ms. ANNABEL PARK (Filmmaker; Founder, Coffee Party USA): We believed that we need to call on our fellow Americans to actively participate in the political process, in order for us to have a government that really represents the majority of the people.
LYDEN: And so what exactly is happening today, Saturday?
Ms. PARK: Right. Well, this is the National Coffee Day. And across the country in just about every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, people are coming together as a community to engage in a conversation about what concerns them.
LYDEN: Your Web page, and the people joining you, has grown very fast. Do you see this is as a mirror, in any way, of what the Tea Party is doing?
Ms. PARK: I dont know if it's a mirror but I do think that, you know, we are coming from the position - the Tea Party and the Coffee Party -that we dont feel represented by our federal government right now.
LYDEN: And so - but it seems that you would not be making common cause much beyond that, right?
Ms. PARK: Oh, no. I dont know about that. I think it's important for us to actually meet with people who identify themselves as Tea Party members, and sit down and have coffee or tea with them.
LYDEN: The Tea Party people say that they have historical root because of the people who dumped tea into Boston Harbor...
Ms. PARK: Mm-hmm.
LYDEN: ...to protest the forced tax on the importation of tea. Do you feel a lack of historical precedent?
Ms. PARK: Not at all. In fact, after they dumped tea into the harbor, the Continental Congress declared coffee the national drink. And that became the solution to the problem. Right? So we associate coffee with both solutions and working really hard for representation.
LYDEN: Did you know that before you named it the Coffee Party?
Ms. PARK: I had a vague sense that there was a connection to it, but I found out like, the exact details afterwards. But I knew that coffee became the American drink because of things that happened during the Revolution.
LYDEN: Mm-hmm. So I gather this has come about very, very quickly, Annabel. Has it kind of taken over your life?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. PARK: Yes, it certainly has. I was already pretty busy and overextended. I had two documentary projects going at once. So I've kind of had to put a lot of things on hold to focus on this. So yeah, it's definitely been a surprise in my life.
LYDEN: So whats your goal, Annabel? Does the party want to endorse candidates or translate into electoral power?
Ms. PARK: Right. Well, you know, what we're trying to do is go through a process of practicing democracy together. I mean, I think that elections, during campaigns, there are clear ways to participate. But when you're not in the middle of a campaign, it's very hard to figure out how to engage in a political process, in an ongoing way, that's effective and constructive. So we're trying to create opportunities for that kind of effective, ongoing engagement.
LYDEN: Annabel, thank you very much for joining us.
Ms. PARK: Thank you.
LYDEN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News.
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