With aspirations of becoming the first Black woman Master Sommelier, it was not until Tahiirah Habibi went through the Court of Master Sommeliers (C.M.S.) testing process – and passed – that she realized how traumatizing and exclusionary it was for her as a Black person. Habibi decided she did not want other Black people to endure these experiences and decided it was time to create the environments she desired in the wine industry.
Establishing The Hue Society
As a foundation, the entrepreneur started The Hue Society after years of working in high-profile restaurants and establishing herself as an award-winning sommelier. “I had lost myself in trying to build this career, and I was just like, I'm not doing this anymore. I'm taking back my power, and I don't want anybody else to go through what I did,” Habibi shares.
The Hue Society was founded in 2017 to provide inclusive educational opportunities to Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. While The Hue Society started in the United States, its aspirations involve growing the organization globally. Part of the organizational structure consists of chapters in different regions, there are four across the United States, and they also established one in South Africa. While the collective is open to all, regardless of enrollment in chapters, the broader purpose of the community is to host events that further connections and disrupt inequitable systems.
“What I understood was that Black people needed to see themselves. I was lonely and miserable, so I stopped working on the floor because I wasn't seeing myself,” shares the founder, who eventually decided to grow The Hue Society even more by hosting in-person events.
Building the Wine and Culture Fest
As The Hue Society's online presence began to build, Habibi wanted to push the boundaries further with in-person events. While the sommelier had the building blocks and fiery passion for dreaming up ideas of how to craft these experiences – putting that into fruition became difficult. It was not the founder's first rodeo hosting events. In the past, she hosted a wine and reggae festival. While the turnout was a success, Habibi was not prepared with the infrastructure to support the unexpected turnout.
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Despite this hiccup, the founder shares, “I wanted to do more Black events. I knew I wanted to expand. I just needed to figure out how that would work and how I would get my vision to happen.”
Consequently, the event curator took her wine event vision to Essence Fest in 2018 and 2019, and the outpour of Black people who craved wine-focused events fueled her even more. However, after lots of reflection, Habibi knew she wanted to dig deeper and figure out a way to make her events more accessible.
For her, she did not just want to host surface-level events focused on wine tastings. As a result, The Hue Society launched the Wine and Culture Fest out of that epiphany. “We can pair wine with anything. I wanted to build a community.”
What to Expect at the Wine and Culture Fest
With a broader goal of decolonizing the wine industry, the Wine and Culture Fest is an act of resistance rooted in Black joy. To kick off, the event attendees will venture to a secret location to embark on a sensory journey to experience South African cuisines and wine. With music central to Black culture, the festival will spotlight D.J. Lord of Cypress Hill & Public Enemy to set the mood as they serve Black-owned wines. Although it might come off as a party and celebration, the undertones are a protest to reject the status quo of neglecting Black wine brands and professionals.
“Everything I do is from a cultural perspective. Wine is just another part of that,” shares the founder.
Another culinary-focused aspect of the event is called R.I.C.E. (Rising in Community Every Day), which will be a day focused on pairing wines with different rice dishes central to the overall Black diaspora. Ultimately, Habibi wants the event to honor culture and advance Black people in the wine industry. The Wine and Culture Fest will end with an award ceremony highlighting Black, Brown and Indigenous professionals and contributors shaping the wine scene.
“I want people to remember how it felt to be drinking the things that they love, dancing to the music that they love, eating the food that they love, 100% percent authentically themselves the way they deserve to be treated every day.”
To stay updated on The Hue Society's journey, please visit their website and follow them on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter). Also, visit their website to learn more about the Wine and Culture Fest and purchase tickets.