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How Coffee and hip-hop are bringing free therapy to Chicago

Coffee, Hip-Hop and Mental Health is using new methods to provide and allow a judgment-free zone for Chicago residents to access mental health services.

            The organization was founded in July of 2019 to provide mental health services to underserved communities in Chicago, using the People’s Coffee Shop and hip-hop fundraising events to give free group and individual therapy sessions to residents in need.

          The non-profit adapted their original mission in 2020 to include helping people who are struggling with food insecurity. According to its 2020 annual report the organization fed over 8,704 families, provided 479 people with group therapy and placed 47 individuals into singular therapy. 

“I think that people see the name and it kind of hooks them in. Coffee, everyone loves coffee. Hip-hop, everyone loves hip-hop. And we also, we all understand that hip hop is very emotional. Hip-hop, you know is storytelling, and when you include mental health, it is like, oh mental health is important,” said Sarah McGraw, administrative assistant at the organization. 

“So, I think that the combination between all of those things brings people together, because it is something that everyone shares a common knowledge and a common interest in,” she said.

The People’s Coffee Shop located at 944 W. North Ave. on the second floor of the Lululemon, offers a variety of beverages and food options where a portion of the proceeds go directly back into the organization. On each cup of coffee, there is a handwritten message from the employees that warms your heart like the coffee warms your tummy. The messages range from a personal message to an inspirational quote. 

Coffee cup from the People’s Coffee Shop located at 944 W. North Ave.

“It’s amazing to see how many people appreciate the honesty around mental health and are willing to kind of help us reach our journey in helping people,” said Carli Williams, manager at People’s Coffee Shop.

Coffee, Hip-Hop and Mental Health is in the process of building a larger coffee shop that will offer more resources and a space to host events. This location is planned for a site near the Belmont Red Line stop, in the Lakeview neighborhood. It will be open in the spring of 2022 and will be considered a safe space for people to get mental health resources. 

The organization was founded by Chicago native Christopher LeMark. He discovered the importance of therapy after suffering in silence for many years. He found the need to share therapy with other Chicagoans where therapy is inaccessible. By beginning this organization, he has been able to give therapeutic opportunities to people in underserved communities. 

  “Our goal here is to normalize therapy, that’s our goal right. But in order to do that we have to meet people where they are, that’s why we feed families, that’s why we try and provide clothes, so it’s very, very simple right,” LeMark said on an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show. 

“The beautiful part about this is, meeting people where they are,” LeMark said on the Kelly Clarkson Show. “Most people just want to be seen.”

For more resources and upcoming events, visit

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