On March 16, 2020, my life changed irreversibly, and I lost everything I have been working towards for the last five years of my career as an entrepreneur. To be honest, I am tired. Independent restaurant and bar owners are tired. In addition to trying to revive my business, Washington, DC's only full-service Burmese restaurant, I'm now expected to be a skilled grant writer, policy advocate, legal expert, op ed author, community organizer, and radical race theorist. That's IF I want to help ensure this moment in history doesn't just leave a scar, but instead heals centuries old wounds. Somehow I'm also expected, even when our governments cannot, to ensure my mostly Black and brown staff's health and safety during a global pandemic with no end date in sight amidst racial terrorism they also cannot escape.
I would love to write you a long love letter here, make you a compelling pitch, and build enthusiasm for what we at Thamee are doing next. You'll be reading about it soon in the press, and those in the DC area will be able to continue supporting us directly in our philanthropy and social change efforts. This is at least the twentieth narrative like this I've had to write to try to save my woman-, immigrant-, and family-owned restaurant where my mother, Jocelyn Law-Yone, is probably the only chef in America to be nominated for a "Rising Culinary Star" award at age 67. We also just won Guy's Grocery Games.
We've been hard at work, and we're exhausted. Everything you need to know about us and our "pivot" milestones can be found here. Every day since March, I've been using my voice and platform to leverage support for Thamee, and small, woman- and BIPOC-owned businesses everywhere.
As a result, here's what we're asking you to help fund now:
- The BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Beverage School will be an 8-10 week knowledge sharing and training course for BIPOC folks in the hospitality industry. It is our aim to offer this course at a low cost to participants who wish to build their knowledge, skills, and abilities in the fields of Cocktails and Wine in a culturally competent environment. Many cannot afford traditional sommelier courses where their point of view is relentlessly questioned, diminished, or outright silenced. These are the crafts of our ancestors, the ingredients for craft beverages come from the earth, and we are worthy of harvesting the fruits of BIPOC folks' labor for our collective liberation, to build intergenerational wealth, and to ensure we become invaluable in an industry that has too long been dominated by a toxic, white, male-centric culture rooted in patriarchy, sexism, racism, and systemic oppression.
- With your support, we will offer the course for a low entry fee, will fairly compensate BIPOC instructors, and will aim to reimburse course participants 100% of their fee upon completion of the entire course. This will not only significantly lower barriers to entry, but will also incentivize participants to commit to their own learning for the course duration.
- Should we exceed our fundraising goal for the inaugural BIPOC Beverage School, we will also make scholarships available for course materials (books, bar tools, wine and ingredient purchasing stipends, etc.) and the cost of course participation for those who truly cannot afford to pay for this educational opportunity. Because this idea is new to us, we're curious how many of you want to invest, and will proceed according to your generous support.
Thank you for helping us fortify our industry with a focus on radical inclusion, intentional diversity, and accessibility for all. The hospitality business has long been a first job or a second chance for those who lack education as much as it is for scholars, artists, creatives, and others who simply find joy in service.
With your contributions, we will continue our work co-creating a legacy for Black and brown people that we can all take pride in, a legacy that uplifts our stories, our values, our communities, and our lives.
We can't wait until every restaurant and bar in America has a BIPOC in a leadership position, whether in food or beverage, front of house service, or kitchen management. Can we get a cheers to that?