Monday, May 23, 2016

Rant: Seeking Diversity At Thirst Boston

Today is the last day of the third Thirst Boston, "... a weekend long cocktail festival focused on education all about cocktails and spirits." I've attended and enjoyed the previous two Thirst Boston conferences and was very curious whether this new conference would share a disturbing commonality I observed during the prior events. Unfortunately, it did.

I'd said that approximately 90% of the attendees and presenters at Thirst Boston are white. That number hasn't changed since the first Thirst Boston back in 2013. Where are the people of color who love to drink spirits and cocktails? Where are the people of color who work in the spirits and cocktail industry, the bartenders, mixologists, restaurant workers, brewers, distillers, brand ambassadors, media, and others? Why isn't Thirst Boston more diverse?

I don't have answers to these questions but I strongly believe the questions need to be examined in greater depth. Have the organizers of Thirst Boston even thought about this issue? If so, what have they done to remedy the situation? If they haven't done so already, the organizers of Thirst Boston need to be asking these questions and seeking ways to bring more diversity to the event. Is it a marketing issue, that they are not reaching out to the right groups and individuals? Are there reasons why more people of color don't want to attend Thirst Boston?

I'm sure there are plenty of people of color who enjoy spirits and cocktails so why aren't they coming to the largest local spirits & cocktail conference in the Boston area?

Thirst Boston certainly isn't unique in this regard. I've attended a number of other spirits & cocktail events during the last few years and there have been few people of color. This is a far bigger issue than a problem at any single event. It is an issue worthy of examination, analysis and discussion. Let us find ways to attract more people of color to these type of beverage events. Let us try to enhance diversity at this drink events.

Maybe the first step is to start a dialogue, to discuss matters and gain the input of any and everyone who might have an insight into this matter. Please contribute to this discussion by adding a comment here and if we get sufficient comments, maybe we can move forward to a different forum to better address these issues and questions.

Unless we ask these questions and talk about diversity, then nothing will ever get done.


Sue said...

I wasn't able to get to the Thirst events this time but totally agree with you on the issue of diversity. The Boston community has a few bartenders of color, several of whom I know and greatly admire. I hope your blog will spark a conversation and hopefully activity to address this issue in terms of attracting more people of color to the spirits/cocktail industry but also, bring more into participating not only in events but in becoming a more active part of the community.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Sue for your comments. I do hope a conversation starts which can lead to greater diversity in our local spirits/cocktails industry. It is an issue in the local wine scene as well.

Jim Rhodes said...

I will use this link to read more about this festival. I don't want to miss it next time.