Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, the top-selling Black-owned spirits brand in the world, announced the launch of its HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, a nationwide initiative to raise $1 million dollars for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Kicked off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and extending through Black History Month and Women’s History Month in February and March, respectively, the program will raise money to be distributed amongst the country’s top 58 ranked HBCUs to use as they see fit.
Through the HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, Uncle Nearest not only aims to raise money for these institutions, but to shine a light on their contributions to workforce diversity and the role they play in economic mobility. HBCUs make up less than 3% of college institutions, but they enroll 10% of all African American students, and produce almost 20% of all African American graduates. These graduates have gone on to hold high income jobs, making up 40% of Black judges, 50% of Black doctors and lawyers, and 40% of Black engineers. Underfunding of HBCUs leads to lower graduation rates due to student debt and lack of resources, as well as causes understaffing and underrepresentation of Black faculty members.
“Many have opinions about Deion Sanders’ decision to move from Jackson State, an HBCU, to Colorado. I will tell you what I know to be true: Coach Prime put a much-needed spotlight on how HBCU programs can compete if they are properly funded,” says Fawn Weaver, founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest. “He showed us what one person with influence, shining a light on HBCUs, can do to help. Enrollment in HBCUs grew tremendously after Beyonce’s 2019 film, Homecoming. I am certainly no Beyonce, but I have a spotlight on me, and it’s my greatest honor to be able to shift that spotlight where it should be – on our incredible Historically Black Colleges and Universities. When I reached out to share this program, so many of them asked me, ‘What can we do to help?’ I told each of them that I didn’t want them to do anything. It’s our turn to be torchbearers and give back, asking nothing in return.”
The launch date of the Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned Challenge on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, was strategically chosen to spotlight the legacy of HBCUs in the life of one of our greatest American leaders. At the age of 15, following in the footsteps of his father Martin Luther King, Sr., MLK Jr. enrolled at Morehouse College, a historically Black, men’s liberal arts college in Atlanta, Georgia. Both MLK Jr. and Sr. received their undergraduate degrees from Morehouse. The Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned Challenge extends through Women’s History Month as an homage to Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college and the number one ranked HBCU in America.
From January 16 to March 31, 2023, consumers will be able to participate in the challenge in one of four ways:
- For every Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned sold at participating bars and restaurants, one dollar will be donated to the challenge.
- Uncle Nearest will donate one dollar for each bottle of whiskey sold at participating online and brick-and-mortar retail stores.
- ReserveBar will sell Old Fashioned Cocktail Kits, featuring a bottle of Uncle Nearest as well as syrup and bitters from Hella Cocktail Co., the Black-owned bitters and soda company. For every kit sold, both Uncle Nearest and ReserveBar will donate one dollar to the challenge.
- During the time period, brand fans can also submit a photo of a homemade Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned at www.oldfashionedcocktail.com. Uncle Nearest will donate one dollar for each image received.
“As a proud Morehouse Man and member of Pi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, I’m honored and grateful to work for a company where I didn’t need to go to the leader and say HBCUs need our help,” says W. Jay Madison, IV, director of Legacy and Strategic Partnerships for Uncle Nearest. “Fawn came to me and said, ‘We have to do something.’ Every one of my team members immediately embraced the mission of this initiative, and our distributors, retail stores and outlets, restaurant, hotel, and bar partners came on board. One million dollars is just the beginning. We expect to see this program get bigger and even better every year, and our hope is other corporations will join with their own initiatives to support HBCUs.”
For more information on the HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, including a list of participating bars, restaurants, and retailers, and to follow along on the road to $1 million raised, please visit www.oldfashionedcocktail.com.