AAPI Heritage Month with Cafe Cà Phê: Jessica Nguyen

By Kelcie McKenney
Photos by Travis Young

For Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we teamed up with Catcall magazine to highlight the AAPI team members who make Kansas City’s first Vietnamese coffee shop Cafe Cà Phê possible. Read the intro here, and stick around this week to hear their stories.

What’s your title at Cafe Cà Phê?

Graphic Designer

Where is your family’s country of origin? 


What brought you and/or your family to Kansas City?

My family immigrated from Vietnam to Missouri as refugees. I am actually moving to KC after I graduate from Mizzou.

When did you start working at Cafe Cà Phê and how did you get connected?

I actually reached out to Jackie to see if she needed any help with graphic design for her Lunar New Year event this year. I continued to create more graphics for Cafe Cà Phê after since I wanted to support them as they supported me. Eventually, I ended up on her social media/graphic design team.

Especially being able to drink more Cà Phê Sữa Da (Vietnamese coffee).

Cafe Cà Phê is all about the culture. How do you see your culture fitting in?

I really resonated with Cafe Cà Phê since I am a Vietnamese American woman. Being able to get in touch with my Vietnamese culture more because of Cafe Cà Phê has been a wonderful experience.

How has working at Cafe Cà Phê impacted your connection to the Kansas City AAPI community?

Growing up in a small town in Missouri, there wasn’t any presence of an AAPI community for me to connect with. Cafe Cà Phê has truly helped me open up, accept, and love my culture more with each event they set up. The AAPI community in Kansas City is so welcoming and friendly, and Cafe Cà Phê has made it even easier for all of us to connect and bond.

Can you share something about your culture that maybe our readers wouldn’t know about?

Food is a big way for me to get in touch with my culture since I am a foodie. Phở is super good, but there are so many other Vietnamese dishes that don’t get talked about enough. Bún bò Huế is another delicious noodle soup. So is bánh bao—a steamed pork bun. There are so many things beyond phở and bánh mì. Vietnam is rich with culture and food.

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?

AAPI Heritage Month is important to me as we are able to highlight our voices, culture, and experiences. However, why should this be confined to one month?

We should be able to be recognized and celebrated alongside other cultures every day. 

What are three fun facts about you?

I’m going to backpack in Europe this summer for a month and a half, and I’ve only been outside of the country once. I can’t swim. I am lactose intolerant, but I still eat an obscene amount of cheese every day.

What’s your Cafe Cà Phê drink order?

I like to go for the classic: The Saigon.

What’s your theme song?

“A-O-K” by Tai Verdes

How can we support your community/culture in Kansas City?

Support your local AAPI businesses. Another way to support our community is just by educating yourself on our culture.

Cafe Cà Phê’s brick and mortar is scheduled to open in mid-June. Learn more about their fundraising here.

Kelcie McKenney (she/her) is a writer, editor, and artist who is passionate about feminism, local activism, queer representation, and strengthening community. You can find Kelcie on Instagram with #kcdaddy, where she talks about her three-legged cat Luna, thrift finds, and ways to overthrow the patriarchy.

Travis Young
 (he/him) is a Kansas City based photographer with roots in photojournalism and visual storytelling. He enjoys using film cameras to help him process, celebrate, and challenge his understanding in topics of race, gender, status, and mental health. When not behind a camera, you can find him creating things in 3D, obsessing over your grandmother’s dope Volvo Wagon from the 80’s, or getting lost in some tedious cleaning activity because he is a relentless Virgo.

Photo studio courtesy of Travis Carroll.

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