small businesses

Small Businesses Pour Profits Into Support for ‘Black Is Beautiful' Campaign

Breweries and cideries across the country joining forces to support social-justice reform

NBC Universal, Inc.

It’s a slow, time-consuming process, but it’s worth it.

They put a label on a can, fill it with cider, seal a lid on top and place the can in a box. It will take hours to prepare hundreds of cans, and the owner won’t make a single cent on their sales.

This is the sacrifice hundreds of breweries, cideries and wineries are making in 2020 despite suffering painful financial losses this year.

“Optimism fades very quickly during a pandemic,” said Sean Harris, the owner of Serpentine Cider, in Miramar.

Sean Harris watched his profits disappear for weeks at a time during the last seven months. Jonathan Barbarin watched his nearby Thunderhawk Alements brewery close.

“It was a gut punch losing the biz during COVID,” said Barbarin, one of the first Black owners of a brewery in San Diego.

Despite the struggles, Harris and Barbarin stood inside Serpentine Cider Monday filling cans one-by-one with a new cider called “Black Is Beautiful.”

Despite his struggles, Sean Harris intended to give away every cent from its sales.

“We’re going through some hardships with the business, but it’s nothing compared to what some people go through on a daily basis,” Sean Harris said.

“It’s a discussion that’s long overdue,” Barbarin added.

Sean Harris said “Black Is Beautiful” is an alcoholic beverage that has been adopted and adapted by hundreds of breweries, cideries and wineries across the country to raise awareness about racial injustices and money for racial justice.

“It means a lot more than posting a black square or doing a social media campaign,” Barbarin said. “They’re putting their hard-earned dollars out there to make a change.”

Sean Harris chose to donate his sales to the California Innocence Project, a nonprofit that looks to free wrongfully convicted people and reform the criminal justice system.

“Black people are being prosecuted and convicted with less evidence than we see with white people,” said the California Innocence Project's Jasmin Harris. “African-Americans make up 13% of the nation’s population and they make up 47% of the exonerations that we’ve seen nationwide.”

Jasmin Harris (no relation to Sean Harris) said the California Innocence Project has helped free 34 people since 1999. She said that 16 of them are Black.

“I think this ‘Black Is Beautiful’ collaboration speaks to raising awareness of all of that,” Jasmin Harris said.

“It's a tough time to give away money,” acknowledged Sean Harris, but he knows it’s the right thing to do, despite the struggles.

“Through cider, through beer, we can make that happen," Barbarin said. "I think everyone can do that in their own capacity."

Sean Harris said that cans of “Black Is Beautiful” should be on sale Saturday at Serpentine Cider in Miramar and online.

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