‘Dark Beers Matter’ Spurs controversy

Erica Santiago / Opinion Director


On Sept. 30, organizers for Miami’s Grovetoberfest sparked controversy when the festival announced the name of one of its upcoming beer-tasting events. The event was called Dark Beers Matter – a pun based on the Black Lives Matter movement. To add to the controversy, the event’s Facebook page featured a doctored image from the BLM protests in which protesters are carrying a banner that is photo-shopped to read “Dark Beers Matter”.  

The event was supposed to be hosted by the Wynwood Brewery Company on Oct. 5, but due to immediate backlash via social media the brewery decided not to host the event and claimed they were initially unaware of the controversial name.

In response to criticism and threats to boycott the event, Dark Beers Matter was renamed and a lengthy apology was issued through the Grovetoberfest Facebook page.

Event organizer Tony Albelo explained to the Miami New Times, “I never meant to hurt anyone with the name. It was meant as a joke. Beer is supposed to bring people together, not tear them apart.”

If the event was meant to be a harmless joke then one has to wonder who would have laughed. Certainly not the large communities of Black people being evicted and displaced as part of Wynwood’s new gentrified persona.

As Wynwood gains more popularity as Miami’s “art district,” the area’s Black community is forced to migrate out as they are unable to afford Wynwood’s rising property values. In some cases, residents are given only a moment’s notice to collect their belongings before their homes are demolished right before their eyes.

What’s interesting is that it was most likely the graffiti art created by Wynwood’s original urban Latino and Black community that sparked the idea that Wynwood could be an art district in the first place. Much of Wynwood’s urban graffiti still stands but the artists responsible have most likely been displaced, and possibly face homelessness, in order to make way for artists who can attract Miami’s more hip alternative crowd.

Albelo’s events are often utilized by places like Wynwood Brewing Company to attract young, white potential patrons willing to spend money on the artsy Wynwood experience – which makes the original name for his beer tasting event all the more troubling.

Black Lives Matter is an organization that came as response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Part of the movement’s mission statement is to bring to light “all the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.” Forcing Black citizens out of their home for economic gain is definitely a way in which the community is intentionally left powerless. For Albelo to parody BLM for his event is not only in poor taste, but is a slap in the face to a community that was displaced to make way for the occasion.

The “Dark Beers Matter” controversy paired with the displacement of Wynwood’s Black community illustrates the need for Black Lives Matter. Too often, Black communities are the casualties of gentrification and systemic poverty. For their oppression to be the butt of someone’s joke or a catchy phrase proves that we still have a long way to go in addressing systemic oppression.  

[image from Flickr, resized]

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