Imagine, every day, walking into your place of business and not seeing one face that looks like you. You get reminded on a daily that you are, in fact, a minority in that field. Here’s the irony: although you “stand out”, those who do not “look” like you, also embrace you, and you embrace them. Which reaffirms your personal theory, everywhere people are people.
Let’s rewind a bit. How can I be the minority, when thousands of years ago, when this industry was created, it was created by a group of people who…*clears throat* LOOKED LIKE ME.
Hello, my name is Jamaal Lemon. I’m a graduate of Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. I’m also employed in the craft beer industry…where African-Americans make up less than 2% of the field. And yes, beer was created by people of color.
Much like many other industries, i.e. tattooing, and rock and roll, contemporary descendants of Africans and/or people of color are not the face of said industry, although they own stock in its origins. Take it a step further, I have been told(to my face) by people of color that, “Man, Black people don’t drink beer and damn sure don’t work in breweries.”
Hence, Ninkasi’s Revenge.
Who is she?
Ninkasi the ancient Sumerian tutelary goddess of beer.
Her father was the King of Uruk, and her mother was the high priestess of the temple of Inanna, the goddess of procreation. She is also one of the eight children created in order to heal one of the eight wounds that Enki receives. Furthermore, she is the goddess of alcohol. She was also borne of “sparkling freshwater”. She is the goddess made to “satisfy the desire” and “sate the heart.” She would prepare the beverage daily.
…and to add to this, dating back to the 5th millennium BC, beer was recorded in the Egyptian written history.
So what does this have to do with Historically Black Colleges and Universities?
My time spent at Claflin as an undergrad were some of the greatest years of my life. Growing up, I was always the only black kid in many circles. Claflin was my first experience being the majority in a very black majority setting, aside from my family.
Ninkasi’s Revenge is proof that the black experience has never been and will never be a monolithic group. Allow this column to be evidence to those who are against or are misinformed of products of HBCUs.
My aim is to shine a light on an industry where we are underrepresented and hopefully provide information on good beer for your future social endeavors. The underlying truth is using beer as a vehicle of inclusion. I want to see more faces that look like me in these settings. The goal is not to get you to drink beer, it’s more of a challenge to never conform and to always know that we are creators of culture.
This particular revenge should be adopted by all and taken to other industries and trades where we may be underrepresented or misunderstood. There are breweries in every town and city across America, including cities and towns that host Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
…and I’m going to help you find them and provide lots of information on great beer in the process.
Photography: Jamaal Lemon • Click for more about Jamaal