Many Black wine professionals have expressed sharing a common experience: Coming into a world where not a lot of people look like them. Professional organizations by and for Black people not only provide necessary resources like education, networking and a way to discuss business opportunities, they also create connection, community and a way to nurture people, not just their talents.
These 10 organizations work from different angles to foster a better industry.
Association of African American Vintners (AAAV)
Founded in 2002 by Mac McDonald of California-based Vision Cellars, this nonprofit organization promotes access to viticultural and enological information and opportunity to Black wine professionals as well as provide a sense of community through support, promotion and cooperation. All individuals who work within the wine industry, as well as consumers interested in supporting members of the organization, are welcome to the group, which also produces an annual symposium that promotes education, tasting, professional development and networking opportunities for attendees.
Black Bourbon Society
While this organization is known for consumer events, it also does education and advocacy work behind the scenes. Founder Samara Rivers founded the organization not just to connect people who love this spirit, but to work with brands and facilitate partnerships so that Black people see themselves in the whiskey world.
Black Food Folks
Colleen Vincent and Clay Williams co-founded this group to connect Black professionals in all corners of food, drinks and hospitality. In addition to networking, Black Food Folks hosts webinars, digital talks and events.
Black Girls Drink
Marketing strategist Omolola Olateju started this project to uplift Black women working in positions ranging from winemakers to bartenders, as well as consumers. She uses her platform to amplify their voices and disrupt traditional narratives around who likes to drink what.
Causing a Stir
Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 honoree Alexis Brown founded this organization for the sole purpose of seeing more faces like hers making quality cocktails. Causing A Stir’s educational program goes beyond teaching people how to mix drinks, to look at the historic erasure of people of color in hospitality, with more than 3,000 students so far tuning in.
Diversity in Wine & Spirits
Veteran restaurant professional Lia Jones founded this organization to create a more inclusive hospitality industry. It provides career guidance, grants and scholarships, educational panels and events, and also consults with companies on issues relating to diversity and inclusion.
A former sommelier, Tahiirah Habibi founded The Hue Society as a hub for Black wine professionals. The network allows people to connect to each other and, crucially, a larger community for support, development, resources and opportunities.
Radical intersectionality is the core of this creative content agency founded by Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 honoree Ashtin Berry and Kisira Hill. Its annual conference, Resistance Served, explores Black contributions to food and beverage, and previous participants have included Michael Twitty, Therese Nelson, Carla Hall and Omar Tate, among many others.
Urban Wine Collective
While plans for its first in-person activation this year were sidelined due to the pandemic, this group founded by three Atlanta-based wine professionals continues to use its social platforms to create a community for other wine and spirits educators to network and support each other. A pivot to virtual tastings and informational events will also further their initiatives, which also includes educating Black millennials about wine.
With the mission to drive growth of the Black vintner community across the globe, Urban Connoisseurs works closely with vintners, growers and producers to foster high standards and promote best social practices to support the Black wine community, including scholarship donations, mentorship and internship opportunities. The establishment of the John June Lewis, Sr. Scholarship Fund, in partnership with United Negro College Fund (UNCF), solely supports Black applicants who seek to pursue careers in the wine industry.
Published: June 6, 2020