By Alexandra Black-Paulick
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series looking at violence against women at the intersections of travel. Our series covers machismo and 16 Days of activism from Ecuador. We finish our series with this inspirational story about Becca Stevens, who shows us the magnitude of impact possible from focusing on the solution.
That’s the mantra embedded into the core of Thistle Stop Café in Nashville, Tennessee. This chic rustic café revives southern charm with delicate teacups and floral plates woven into the fabric of the dining experience. They’ve even been known to host special afternoon tea parties complete with finger sandwiches and scones.
While we all take comfort in a cup of chai or savoring the flavors of a panini, enjoying an afternoon at the Thistle Stop Café transcends reminiscing in the historic tradition of putting the kettle on.
This café heals.
Becca Stevens, a 2016 Top 10 CNN Hero, opened the café three years ago as one of several social enterprise arms to support Magdalene, a growing residential program working with women survivors of trafficking, addiction, and prostitution. Thistle Stop, as well as the other social enterprise branches under the Thistle Farms umbrella, employs Magdalene graduates.
“Economic empowerment is a huge part of healing for survivors of trafficking addiction and prostitution. We knew that creating a powerful social enterprise would not just benefit individual women but also help us share the mission with the wider world,” Stevens highlighted.
“When women come into the program, we ask them what are their goals, their dreams. For some it’s simply restoring their relationship with their children, for some it's a particular job, and for others it's a home. All of these things are dependent on a steady income, real skills and the self-worth that comes from providing for yourself.”
“That confidence and satisfaction has incredible, sustaining power in all our lives.”
This is why a cup of tea from the Thistle Stop Café means so much more. At its heart, the café transforms into a sanctuary for employees and community members.
“I believe sanctuary means creating a space where healing is possible. Sanctuary reminds us we are offering hospitality and love without judgment. It makes it a welcoming cafe where workers and customers are valued and safe!” Stevens commented.
“I hope everyone feels love when they walk into the Thistle Stop Cafe. I hope they walk out feeling full and grateful. I hope they know they are cultivating a taste for justice and bring advocates.”
Decadent Dining and Aromatic Teas
Particularly in the American South, the idea of food as comfort creates an entire new genre of dining. Foodies from around the globe pilgrimage here for dishes claiming “healthy portions” and mini-heart attacks disguised as single servings. While absolutely scrumptious, the large greasy dishes can make navigating the restaurant scene daunting for health conscious travelers.
Opting for a lighter, more wholesome menu, Thistle Stop Café features cage-free Willow Farm eggs and fresh, organic produce and herbs from Long Hungry Creek Farm. After all, local food always tastes more vibrant. Despite sidestepping the more traditional heavy plates, you’ll find comfort in these carefully crafted dishes all the same.
A Stevens favorite is the Charlotte Sandwich. The smoked ham, Swiss cheese, apple coleslaw and creole-apple mustard make for a very tempting entrée. Although the egg, avocado tomato stack could give even the best sandwich a run for its money.
Soaking up that long-standing tea tradition, the menu showcases almost 20 different teas. During those sweltering summer days, nothing beats a good Southern Ice Tea.
Ranging from hot to cold to black to white and even a list of different greens, any tea lover will be sure to find their match.
For those hesitant to trade in their beloved coffee for a kettle, don’t worry. Their coffee espresso menu and brew bar covers all the coffee lover’s necessities.
Widening the Circle
Over the last few weeks, the team at The Wayward Post has been highlighting International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women as well as touching on the violence facing some women around the globe. While these issues facing communities in the world speak to the worst of our societies, the resounding message coming out of recognizing such an important day should be one of hope.
We are all striving for a day where no culture allows humans to be bought, sold or victimized.
When contemplating the goal of eliminating violence against women, Stevens commented, “It is so true that if you rape a woman, you break down an entire village.”
“But the same is true that if you heal a woman, the ripple impact heals the entire village. We work one woman at a time to try and restore communities. But if you are going to care about reducing violence against women, it requires caring about the economic empowerment of women and providing jobs to those at risk.”
That’s exactly what Thistle Stop Café and Magdalene strive to do every day.
One of the core foundations in the recovery program centers on welcoming women to the circle. As they heal and grow in their personal journey, they widen the circle helping the message of love and healing expand.
As travelers, we find ourselves in a unique position to widen that circle even farther.
Stevens gave resounding marching orders to all of us, “We love social media advocates. They can share the message that love is the most powerful force for change in the world. They can leave knowing they are part of the story of healing and hope. They can take one of our handmade products and offer it to friends and loved-ones. They can speak their truth about the cost of child abuse, sexual violence, addiction and trafficking on the whole community.”
Because, at the end of the day, love heals.
Despite the challenges and horrors that countless women around the world suffer, the message the heart of Music City belts out is a song of hope. Through teacups, floral patterned plates and homemade delicacies, Thistle Stop Café paints an empowering story of strength courage and, most importantly, love.
Next time you’re in the Country Music Capital, retire your cowboy hat for an afternoon in favor of a cup of tea and a cherry scone. That single cup goes a long way to spearhead recovery and healing in Nashville, Tennessee.
Alexandra Black-Paulick is constant wanderer and social enterprise enthusiast. As the host of the Positive Impact Podcast, she highlights compelling stories of conscious business around the globe. Tackling a variety of issues from India to Haiti to Rwanda and even enterprises addressing issues at home, this show inspires everyday do gooders to continue their unique mission to make a positive mark on the world. These days she is traveling Asia, experience the rich cultures, flavorful cuisines and dynamic scenery this side of the world has to offer.