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The buzzing Black woman-led whisky brand Uncle Nearest is giving back to historically black colleges and universities across the country.
This week, the top-selling premium whisky brand announced the launch of its HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, a national initiative that will raise a whopping $1 million for HBCUs. Under the program, Uncle Nearest will distribute donations to the country’s top 58 ranked HBCUs to use freely, according to PR Wire News.
HBCUs are in need of critical funding
In addition to bolstering HBCUs with academic funds, Uncle Nearest also hopes to shine a light on their “contributions to workforce diversity and the role they play in economic mobility.”
Currently, HBCUs make up less than three percent of college institutions, but they enroll 10 percent of African American students, producing almost 20 percent of African American graduates. HBCU graduates typically go on to hold high-paying jobs, “making up 40 percent of Black judges, 50 percent of Black doctors and lawyers, and 40 percent of Black engineers,” the press release adds.
Sadly, America’s 100 HBCUs have been underfunded for quite some time. Over the last three decades, the nation’s Black land-grant universities have been underfunded by at least $12.8 billion. This is why funding for HBCUs is critical for the expansion of students’ education and the survival of Black faculty and staff.
In a statement, Uncle Nearest CEO Fawn Weaver gave a nod to stars like football coach Deion Sanders and Beyoncé for casting a “much-needed spotlight on how HBCU programs can compete if they are properly funded.”
“He showed us what one person with influence, shining a light on HBCUs, can do to help,” Weaver continued. “Enrollment in HBCUs grew tremendously after Beyoncé’s 2019 film, Homecoming. I am certainly no Beyoncé, but I have a spotlight on me, and it’s my greatest honor to be able to shift that spotlight where it should be – on our incredible Historically Black Colleges and Universities. When I reached out to share this program, so many of them asked me, ‘What can we do to help?’ I told each of them that I didn’t want them to do anything. It’s our turn to be torchbearers and give back, asking nothing in return.”
Here’s how to participate in the challenge
The HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge kicked off Jan. 16 and will extend through Black History Month and Women’s History Month in February and March.
Here are four ways you can participate in the challenge:
- For every Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned sold at participating bars and restaurants, one dollar will be donated to the challenge.
- Uncle Nearest will donate one dollar for each bottle of whiskey sold at participating online and brick-and-mortar retail stores.
- ReserveBar will sell Old Fashioned Cocktail Kits, featuring a bottle of Uncle Nearest as well as syrup and bitters from Hella Cocktail Co., the Black-owned bitters and soda company. For every kit sold, both Uncle Nearest and ReserveBar will donate one dollar to the challenge.
- During the time period, brand fans can also submit a photo of a homemade Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned at www.oldfashionedcocktail.com. Uncle Nearest will donate one dollar for each image received.
Uncle Nearest pledges $5 million to champion diversity in the whiskey industry
Since launching in 2017, Uncle Nearest has become a hot commodity in the whiskey industry for its bold, sweet and spicy flavor combinations. In December of last year, Dawn Weaver and her team beat sales expectations for the month of October. Uncle Nearest generated over $100 million in sales for the month and by the end of 2023, the brand is projected to double that number.
As Uncle Nearest continues to dominate the whisky industry, the brand hopes to open doors for other entrepreneurs of color to do the same. In 2020, Uncle Nearest teamed up with Jack Daniels’ Distillery to boost diversity in the premium liquor space.
According to BOSSIP, both companies pledged $5 million to help create the Nearest Green School of Distilling. The funds were used to develop the school’s Leadership Acceleration Program (LAP) for apprenticeships. It also helped to establish the Business Incubation Program, aimed at providing resources to African American entrepreneurs entering the spirits industry.
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