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How the Black Is Beautiful Initiative is highlighting injustice

Co. Founder of Weathered Souls Brewing and a member of the Black is Beautiful Initiative, Marcus Baskerville, joins The Final Round panel to discuss how minority-owned breweries are fighting racial injustice and police brutality.

Video Transcript

JEN ROGERS: Welcome back to 2020, a time for change. Our next guest launched the global Black is Beautiful Beer Initiative, bringing together more than 1,000 breweries to raise awareness and money for racial injustice. Marcus Baskerville is the founder of Weathered Souls Brewing out of San Antonio, Texas. And he joins us now.

So, Marcus, you know, a pretty simple idea. You wrote a very moving letter. You basically put out the recipe, the base, the stout. You had other brewers say, come on board. You can tweak it. I've got this label for you, but please donate your profits to local charities on police reform.

You've had an incredible response, so more than 1,000 breweries. There's 8,000 craft breweries in the US, though, and fewer than 1% are Black-owned. Are you surprised at the reaction you had?

MARCUS BASKERVILLE: Definitely humbled by the reaction that I've had. Originally get in the setup. And like you said, you know, there's less than 1% of Black ownership in the brewing industry. And there's even a very minuscule amount of actual people that are in production in the brewing industry.

So I think originally, my original goal was to have around 200, 250 breweries. So to see this transcend to almost 1,100 breweries has definitely been an amazing experience. But what it does showcases is that the brewing industry, even though it is predominantly white male, that it does have the ability to be inclusive. And it does have the ability to support equality.

KRISTIN MYERS: So Marcus, we talk a lot about barriers to entry, particularly for the Black community. I'm wondering what some of those barriers are in your business in the brewing industry. It's not something that I know too much about. So why aren't there more Black brewers out there? And what can we do to increase that number?

MARCUS BASKERVILLE: Yeah, so this actually dials back a little bit further in time, right? So you look at when the craft beer brewing came around in the early '70s, mid '70s.

And at that time, it was not very easy for a Black male or a Black person in general to go into a bank and ask for a business loan, especially if I was to go inside of a bank in 1975 and be like, hey-- or 1980, and be like, hey, I need $100,000 because I want to brew beer for a living. They would've laughed at you out of the bank.

So that's definitely one aspect of it that has kind of trickled down over the years. And so the industry has been predominantly white from the jump. But some other aspects of it is the lack of advertisement and the lack of familiar faces because there aren't a lot of Black people in the industry. You get that myth that it's not inclusive and that, you know, more-- most Black people aren't welcome.

But off of my own experiences and what I've noticed, the brewing industry could be very inclusive. It's just a matter of how you get your foot within, which is not always the easiest aspect.

Like, I know that from personal experiences and friends' experiences, where they've had troubles going into breweries or being misconceived as soon as they walked in, from even, you know, breweries now having issues on getting small business loans to open. So there's a few different effects as to why we don't see a lot of Black people and minorities in beer generally.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: I was struck by the name of your company, Weathered Souls. Tell us a little bit about what's behind that. Is that about your struggle to kind of start a company in the beer industry yourself?

MARCUS BASKERVILLE: So it has two meanings to it, one from our business partner. It was more so of an ode to his grandfather and father, you know, that weathered character that has weathered the storm and been through a lot. For me, it's more so-- I used to be in banking, actually. I used to be a fraud manager for Citibank. Did that for seven years.

And so to transcend into beer on something that, in all honesty, when I was younger, in my college days, I hated beer. I was more of liquor man. So to see myself brewing beer and brewing big beer at that, it definitely makes me a weathered soul in that sense of working through the kinks of life and trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

JEN ROGERS: I love that. We'll have to have you back to talk about your financial career and more beer. And next time, we can have some of the beer. Congratulations on all that you're doing and getting all these breweries to come along with you. Marcus Baskerville is with Weathered Souls down in San Antonio, Texas.